Lamb is a staple in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Its bold flavor is a refreshing change from ordinary ground beef and this spice-packed recipe brings out the flavors you’re looking for if your meal preps have lacked oomph lately.
These juicy lamb meatballs are stuffed with onions and savory Indian spices and herbs, then sautéed in ghee until they’re caramelized on the outside and packed with a tantalizing medley of flavors on the inside. Served with creamy chickpeas and a drizzle of yogurt sauce, here’s an exotic, aromatic dinner that’s gut friendly, too.
They are also the perfect make-ahead dish or meal prep protein. You can prepare the meatball patties then freeze for up to three months. All you need to do is thaw them completely in your refrigerator before cooking. You can even double the recipe for another tasty dinner down the road!
Why we love these ingredients
Asafetida [also known as hing] is a type of powdered gum resin that adds a strong onion-garlic flavor to Indian dishes. It’s also a common remedy for indigestion and gas. Research shows asafetida can increase the activity of digestive enzymes. Specifically, it increases the release of bile from your liver, which helps digest fats.
Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is popular in the culinary traditions of the Middle East and India. It is often used along with herbal remedies in Ayurveda, a centuries-old form of alternative medicine practiced in India. Ghee is a good source of butyrate, a fatty acid that has known anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that the butyrate present in ghee can soothe inflammation within the body.
Coriander is a fragrant, antioxidant-rich herb that’s shown to help lower blood sugar, fight infections, and promote heart, brain, and skin health.
Turmeric has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help alleviate digestive issues such as bloating and gas, as well as improve overall digestion and gut health. Additionally, turmeric can stimulate the production of bile in the liver, which aids in the breakdown and absorption of fats.
Ginger contains compounds such as gingerols and shogaols that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help alleviate digestive problems like nausea, bloating, and indigestion. Ginger has also been found to speed up the process of gastric emptying, leading to a faster and more efficient digestion of food.
Some pro tips to get you started
Look for asafedita in Indian or health food stores, in the spice section of your supermarket, or online. If you can’t find asafetida, you can substitute onion powder.
In Indian cooking, ghee is often used in lieu of olive oil. Many health food stores and supermarkets now carry ghee, so it’s much easier to find.
Chana dal is baby chickpeas that have been split. It looks and tastes like small kernels of sweet corn and is one of the most popular ingredients In Indian cuisine. It’s delicious, nutritious, and easily digested.
To ensure light and fluffy meatballs rather than dense and heavy ones, try to handle them lightly and minimally, both when working the spices into the meat and when shaping them.
A simple yogurt sauce makes the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Check out our recipe below.
Indian Style Lamb Meatballs with Fresh Herbs & Spices
Prep time: 45 mins
Cooking time: 45 minutes
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 cup dried split chickpeas (chana dal)
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp ghee, divided
- 1 tsp grated garlic
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 serrano chiles, stemmed and finely chopped
- 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- Yogurt sauce [recipe below]
- In a medium saucepan, combine the ground lamb, chana dal, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes or until the dal is just tender. Drain well.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the grated garlic, ginger, chile powder, coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric, and asafoetida powder. Stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a food processor.
- Add the cooked lamb and 1 1/2 tsp of salt to the food processor. Process until the texture is mostly smooth, stopping to stir and scrape down the sides as needed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the finely chopped onion, chiles, mint, cilantro, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp of salt.
- Shape the lamb mixture into 16 (3-inch-wide) meatballs, making a 2-inch-wide, 1/2-inch-deep circular indentation in the center of each one. Place 1 heaping tsp of the onion mixture in the center of each meatball. Press the lamb mixture together to seal the filling inside and shape into a ball. Flatten slightly into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day. (Alternatively, transfer the frozen meatballs to plastic freezer bags and thaw when ready to cook.)
- Heat 2 tsp of ghee in a large nonstick skillet over high heat until bubbling but not smoking. Add 6 meatballs and cook until fully browned on one side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Flip and cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to drain slightly. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
- Serve the meatballs with yogurt sauce and enjoy!
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper until smooth.
- Stir in the chopped mint, cilantro, and dill.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve chilled with the Indian-style lamb meatballs.
- Note: You can adjust the amount of spices to your liking. Also, you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the yogurt sauce for some extra tanginess. Or, you can also add a teaspoon of honey or sugar to balance the tartness of the yogurt, if desired.