These spicy meatballs are boldly flavored with garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne.
The sauce is really good and you'll want every last drop of it, so make sure to serve these meatballs over rice or cauliflower rice.
I make lots of meatballs. I find them delightful! Little morsels of meaty goodness that the kids love and the adults don't object to. Plus, ground beef is very affordable. Even grass-fed ground beef.
As a result, I have lots of meatball recipes on this website (these cheese-stuffed meatballs, for example, are awesome). But this recipe is definitely one of the best.
These delicious, middle-eastern-style meatballs are boldly flavored with garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne. The meatballs and the sauce are very flavorful! They keep well in the fridge for several days, and you can even freeze them. No wonder I make them so often!
Here's an overview of what you'll need when making these spicy meatballs. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below.
For the sauce:
Olive oil: This is by far my favorite oil to cook with. It's so flavorful!
Minced garlic: Mince it yourself, or use the stuff that comes in a jar.
Kosher salt: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Spices: Paprika, cumin, and cayenne. Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish.
Pomi chopped tomatoes: This is my favorite brand. If you can't find it, you can use petite-diced tomatoes.
For the meatballs:
Lean ground beef: I use a mixture of 85% lean and 15% fat. Leaner than that is not very flavorful.
Kosher salt and spices: Onion powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.
It's so easy to make these spicy meatballs! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by preparing the sauce: Cook the garlic and spices in olive oil, add the tomatoes, and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
While the sauce simmers, mix the meat and spices, and form the mixture into 24 meatballs.
Add the meatballs to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Note that I recommend using Pomi Chopped Tomatoes in this recipe. This Italian brand is sweeter and tastier than local U.S. brands. You can find it on Amazon, at Whole Foods and in a growing number of supermarkets.
Another good brand that's easier to find in supermarkets is Cento Chunky Crushed Tomatoes.
However, if you can't get Pomi or Cento tomatoes, you can use diced tomatoes instead. Petite diced tomatoes are best, or use regular diced tomatoes and give them an extra chop.
Frequently asked questions
I like to use lean ground beef (85/15) in this recipe. You could probably use extra lean, but I don't think it will be as flavorful.
I don't add an egg or breadcrumbs to these meatballs. I find it's unnecessary. The meatballs come out perfectly tasty and juicy with no egg and with no breadcrumbs.
I find that even without a binder, simply mixing the beef and spices gently with my clean hands helps the mixture stick together.
In fact, adding too many fillers can backfire on you and cause meatballs to fall apart.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- You can use ground lamb instead of ground beef. Ground chicken can also work, but make sure to use ground chicken thighs and not chicken breast, which is too dry.
- Smoked paprika is a good alternative to sweet paprika in this recipe.
- You can add ½ teaspoon dried thyme or oregano to the beef mixture.
The sauce is amazing. In days past I would have served this saucy dish over brown rice. These days I serve it over cauliflower rice, and it's just as good! It's also excellent with mashed cauliflower.
If you have any leftovers, they keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for about 3 days.
Reheat them gently, covered (to prevent splatters), in the microwave on 50% power. You can also freeze these meatballs for up to three months.
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- 1 lb. 85% lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Make the sauce:
- In a wide, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, while you're preparing the meatballs.
Make the meatballs:
- In a medium bowl, use your hands to gently mix the meat and the spices. Divide the mixture into 24 equal portions (each weighs about 20 grams) and shape them into small, 1-inch meatballs.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then lower the heat back to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the dish with cilantro and serve.