Lentil Lamb Meatballs and Lemon Rice

My lamb meatballs recipe makes an easy Mediterranean-inspired dish that will knock your socks off. You get lentil lamb meatballs, vibrant lemon rice, and mint pesto all in one recipe. Have this complete meal on your table within an hour!

close up: lentil lamb meatballs over lemon rice with mint pesto and fresh mint

Today’s lamb meatballs recipe is made with simple, accessible ingredients and comes together in a breeze.  To bulk up the meatball filling I added cooked lentils and the result was a tender and flavorful surprise!

These intoxicatingly savory roasted meatballs are cooked together with lemony, herbed  jasmine rice to create a fabulous one-pan meal. And then, when it doesn’t seem like it can get any better, these smoky citrusy flavors are complimented with a sweet, cooling, and zingy mint pesto. This is a flavor combination like no other!

extreme close up: lentil lamb meatballs over lemon rice with mint pesto and fresh mint

For more luscious lamb recipes from the Silk Road, check out this Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Dates, Lamb Vindaloo Curry, and this Lamb Stew (Dal Gosht ).

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ground Meat – I prefer the robust, distinctive flavor of lamb for this recipe. If needed, you can substitute with 80/20 ground beef. 
  • Lentils – You can usually find cooked/steamed lentils in a can or vacuum-sealed package at the supermarket. They are often located with the tofu in the vegetarian section. Alternatively, check out my post on How to Cook Lentils (or refer to my quick tip below) if working with dried. 
  • Salt Kosher salt does the best job of enhancing flavor without being overpowering. 
  • Cumin – Adds a smoky warmth to the meatballs. 
  • Red Pepper Brings just a little kick of fiery heat to the mix. 
  • Turmeric – Emboldens the dish with its pungent, earthy flavor. 
  • Olive Oil Use your favorite vegetable oil if needed.
  • Jasmine Rice – Fragrant, delicate jasmine rice is the ideal choice, but basmati can work also. Avoid long-cooking rice like brown or wild. 
  • Mint Leaves – Infuses the mint pesto with a sweetly cooling and aromatic flavor. 
  • Parsley Leaves Offers a dazzling dash of deep green along with a fresh, peppery taste. 
  • Garlic Enhances the pesto with a sharp, pungent heat.
  • Golden Raisins Add an element of fruity sweetness. Regular raisins will work too.

Tip From Kevin

Use Pre-Cooked Lentils!

You can either use 1 cup from a 15-ounce can of lentils (use the remainder in a soup) or you can also find cooked/steamed lentils in vacuum-packed bags in the vegetable department of most markets now, typically in the vegetarian section with the tofu, etc. The brand I use is Melissas Lentils Steamed (9 Oz). Use the entire package.

How to Make Lamb Meatballs and Lemon Rice

  1. Prepare the Oven. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Make the Meatballs. Drain, rinse, and transfer the cooked lentils to a large bowl. Add in the ground beef or lamb, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, and turmeric and mix to combine. Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, then shape them into meatballs. I like to use an ice cream scoop for this step.  
  3. Roast the Meatballs. Use a tablespoon of olive oil to grease a 9×13” baking dish. Arrange the meatballs in 2 rows of 4, leaving plenty of room between them. Transfer to the oven and roast, uncovered for 20 minutes. 
  4. Add Spice & Rice. Mix the lemon zest and turmeric with 2 cups of warm water. Sprinkle 1 cup of rice around the meatballs, then pour the liquid over the rice. Tightly cover the casserole dish with foil and return it to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes.  
  5. Make the Mint Pesto. Use a blender or immersion blender to puree together the mint leaves, parsley, garlic, golden raisins, olive oil, and salt until smooth. 
  6. Fluff & Serve. Carefully remove the foil and use a fork to fluff the rice. Serve your lamb meatballs over a bed of lemon rice with mint pesto drizzled over the top.
overhead: two lamb meatballs over lemon rice with mint pesto on a white plate with a fork

Frequently Asked Questions

What are lamb meatballs made of?

In this recipe, we use a simple combination of ground lamb, cooked lentils, and spices. These lamb meatballs are seasoned with a simple, potent combination of cumin, red pepper, turmeric, black pepper, and salt, giving them a bit of a kick. Not a ground lamb lover? No worries, this can easily be made using ground beef, too.

Unlike many meatball recipes, lentil lamb meatballs require no eggs and no breadcrumbs as binders. They are easy to make and naturally gluten-free.

What to pair with lamb meatballs?

This recipe for lentil lamb meatballs with lemon rice and mint pesto makes a complete meal all by itself. However, if you want to mix it up a bit, you have plenty of options. Here are a couple of ideas for inspiration. 

– Start your meal with a fresh salad like Lebanese Fattoush or Chilled Moroccan Carrot Salad
– Instead of lemon rice, try Persian Saffron Rice, Lebanese Rice Pilaf, or plain Jasmine Rice.
– Pair this dish with a vegetable dish like Steamed Carrots with Yogurt Dressing or Aloo Masala (Spicy Potatoes)
– Serve with condiments like Muhamara (Red Pepper Dip), Skordalia Recipe (Potato and Garlic Dip), and Pudina Chutney (Indian Mint Chutney).

Can lamb meatballs be pink in the middle?

Some sources will tell you yes, and some will say no. Lamb chops and similar cuts are commonly eaten medium rare, but ground meat is more debated.

To keep you and your family safe, I recommend using a thermometer to test your lamb meatballs. Regardless of the color, if they have reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F or higher, the harmful bacteria have been destroyed and are safe to eat.

close up: two lamb meatballs over lemon rice with mint pesto

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extreme close up: lamb meatballs over lemon rice with mint pesto
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Lentil Lamb Meatballs and Lemon Rice

Hearty lentils help bind these savory beef or lamb meatballs, seasoned with warm spices they're baked with lemon rice, top with mint pesto!
Servings: 4
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes



  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lemon zest only
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

Mint Pesto

  • 3 ounces mint leaves (about 2 cups)
  • 1 small flat leaf parsley leaves only
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Drain and rinse the lentils. Mix with ground beef or lamb, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes and turmeric. Form into 8 large meatballs (I use a ice cream scoop).
  • Grease a 9×13″ casserole dish with the tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange the meatballs with plenty of room in 2 rows of 4. Roast 20 minutes, uncovered.
  • Mix together 2 cups water, lemon zest and turmeric. Sprinkle 1 cup rice around the roasted meatballs, pour liquid mixture over rice. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  • In a blender or cup with immersion blender, puree the mint leaves, parsley, garlic, golden raisins, salt and olive oil until smooth.
  • Remove foil and fluff rice. Serve plated with lemon rice, 2 meatballs and the mint pesto spooned over the meatballs.


  1. You can either use 1 cup from a 15 ounce can of lentils (use remainder in a soup) or you can also find cooked/steamed lentils in vacuum packed bags in the the vegetable department of most markets now, typically in the vegetarian section with the tofu, etc. The brand I use is Melissas Lentils Steamed – 9 Oz. Use the entire package.


Calories: 837kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1550mg | Potassium: 786mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 974IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 6mg

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 dishes
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): lamb lentil meatballs with lemon rice


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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