Greek Lamb Meatballs

5 from 2 votes

Greek lamb meatballs are juicy, crispy, and tender. The best thing about this dish is the aromatic herbs and spices. Not only is this popular Mediterranean dish incredibly flavorful, it’s also very easy to make in bulk!

Stack of greek lam meatballs on a plate.

Greek lamb meatballs, or keftedes tiganites, is a famous Mediterranean dish. Packed with herbs and spices, you won’t miss the flavor in a single bite. They’re deliciously juicy, perfectly tender, and satisfyingly crunchy.

There is a lot of variation in this recipe throughout Greece. I make this recipe with lamb, but it’s also commonly made with beef depending on the chef’s preference. This recipe also makes 36 meatballs and freezes very well, making it a meal prepper’s dream!

These delicious pan fried meatballs are great as both an appetizer or your main course! As a starter, serve with refreshing tzatziki and warm pita on a meze platter. As the main dish, prepare with fluffy steamed rice and a tangy Greek Feta Salad.

Plate with freshly cooked pan fried meatballs.

Greek lamb meatballs

Cuisine: Mediterranean

red pin marks Athens on map of Greece

Alternate names/spellings: 
Keftedes/Keftethes tiganites

Pronunciation:
Kef-TEH-des tee-gah-NEE-tes

Course:
Main dish

Preparation:
Pan fried

Difficulty: Easy 🥄

Description:
Greek lamb meatballs made with ground meat and Mediterranean herbs and spices, rendered in flour and pan fried for a beautiful golden crust.

INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Red Onion – Bright, colorful, and subtly spicy. It adds a great base flavor, as well as texture and body. Yellow or white onions can also be used.
  • Ground Protein – I use lamb in this recipe, but you can also use beef. Some people even like to use a combination of both.
  • Garlic – Finely minced and incorporated with the meat, garlic adds a nice bite and aroma to the entire dish.
  • Herbs – Mint, oregano, and coriander are worked into the meat. They add a very bright, refreshing note to the dish. You can also swap out any of these herbs for basil, parsley, or thyme.
  • Cumin – Somewhat sweet, warming, and nutty, it’s what sets this dish apart from other meatball recipes.
  • Breadcrumbs – They will absorb all the juices and trap them inside, keeping the pan fried meatballs moist.
  • Egg – To bind the meat with all of the other ingredients.
  • Cheese – Use traditional Greek kefalotyri cheese if you’re able to find it. Otherwise, parmesan cheese is perfectly fine.
  • Olive Oil – Working double-time in this recipe, the oil is worked into the meat as well as used for frying.
  • Flour – We dredge, or coat, meat in flour to help give it a delicious, golden crust.

Greek meatballs ready to serve with dipping sauce.

HOW TO MAKE GREEK LAMB MEATBALLS

  1. Grate the Onion.  Grate the red onion, transfer to a sieve, and press to extract any excess water.
  2. Combine the Ingredients. Add the grated onion, ground lamb, garlic, oregano, mint, cumin, coriander, breadcrumbs, egg, oil, cheese, salt, and pepper to a large bowl. Mix using your hands, squeezing until thoroughly mixed. Do not overmix, or the meat will become tough.
  3. Form each Meatball.  Shape the meat into walnut-sized balls, being careful not to pack them too tightly. In a small bowl, roll each meatball in the flour. Shake off any excess flour and place on a tray.
  4. Pan Fry.  Heat olive oil in a deep skillet until it starts to shimmer. Fry a batch of meatballs until golden brown. Remove from the pan, then place on a paper towel to keep warm and absorb the excess oil.
  5. Rinse and Repeat.  Continue frying batches until all of the lamb mixture is used. You should end up with around 36 total.
Closeup of lamb meatballs ready to eat.

Can Greek lamb meatballs be baked instead of fried?

Absolutely! Place your flour-coated rounds on a tray and bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes. Keep in mind that they will not be as crispy if baked.

How long does it take to pan fry meatballs? 

It takes about 7 minutes for a meatball to get golden brown when frying in olive oil.

It is important that the oil is not too cool, or else it will simply be absorbed into the meat. If it is too hot, the crust will burn without fully cooking the inside.

Wait until the olive oil just begins to shimmer, then begin to fry. Keep an eye on the temperature and let it recover between batches if needed.

Why are my pan fried meatballs tough? 

If your meat ends up tough, you’ve likely packed them too tight or you have not used enough of the moist ingredients.

I use olive oil to help with this and only mix the ground meat until everything is just combined.

Can Greek lamb meatballs be frozen and fried later?

Yes.  In fact, I usually set aside half to freeze and fry later on when preparing this recipe.

Be sure to freeze them before dredging in the flour. Allow them to thaw completely before dredging as well to ensure they get a nice coat and fry evenly in the oil.

Greek meatball dipped in sauce.
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stack of Greek meatballs with lemon and mint sprig

Greek Lamb Meatballs (Keftedes Tiganites)

5 from 2 votes
Greek lamb meatballs are a very popular appetizer made with aromatic Mediterranean seasonings and either ground beef or lamb.
Servings: 6
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 14 minutes
Total: 34 minutes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Grate the red onion over a bowl, transfer to a sieve and press to extract excess water. Discard onion water.
  • Transfer grated onion to a large bowl along with the lamb, garlic, oregano, mint, cumin, coriander, breadcrumbs, egg, oil, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix using your hands and squeeze mixture until thoroughly mixed.
  • Set up small bowl with flour. Shape meat mixture into walnut size meatballs (See Note 2) and roll in the flour to coat. Gently shake excess flour off and place on a tray. Repeat and you should end up with 36 meatballs.
  • Heat olive oil in a deep skillet until it just starts to shimmer. Fry the meatballs for 7 minutes and brown all over in several batches. Remove and keep warm on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Serve with tzatziki sauce, warm pita for an appetizer on a meze platter or as a main dish with steamed rice and a Greek Feta Salad.

Notes

  1. A traditional Greek kefalotyri cheese is preferred if you can find it.
  2. After rolling the meatballs and before rolling in th eflour, I often times save half the batch to freeze. Later, when ready to use, thaw and dredge in flour before frying.
  3. You could also bake these on a tray after dredging in the flour in a 400°F oven for 18-20 minutes if you do not want to fry. They will not be as crispy though.

Nutrition

Calories: 1188kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 112g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 621mg | Potassium: 441mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 172IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made these for a family get together last weekend and everyone loved them! I flattened them into patties so they wouldn’t roll off my tray driving there, but otherwise the recipe was fantastic. Will definitely make again Kevin.