Moroccan meatballs are flavorful and unique! Featuring ground beef or lamb, spicy and warm seasonings, and a hearty tomato sauce — the Moroccan spice mix adds a kick to both the meatballs and sauce! Serve with couscous for a yummy and filling dinner.
Meatballs can be so much more than traditional Italian recipes that most at-home chefs work from! Hey, I’m not here to knock spaghetti and meatballs — it’s just that this dish is served in so many different ways all around the world. It’s worth trying something new every once and a while.
I’ve already shared dishes like these Persian meatballs called koofteh, this Greek version called soutzoukakia, and Kung Pao Asian meatballs. All use the same premise — combining ground meat with spices and other aromatics — but the results couldn’t be more different.
Today’s recipe is for Moroccan meatballs, otherwise known as kefta mkaouara. They also begin with ground meat, and much of the flavor comes from the addition of a special Moroccan spice blend. You’ll use it in the meatballs themselves as well as in a spicy and warm tomato sauce. I share the other secrets behind this dish down below!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Ground Meat – You can use either ground beef or lamb for this dish. I’ve never tried it with turkey or chicken, but if you’re looking for something a bit lighter, it’s worth a try.
- Yellow Onion – I like to grate my onion instead of dice or chop it. You can use a cheese grater!
- Parsley & Cilantro – Opt for fresh, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro for this dish. It adds brightness in terms of flavor and color! You’ll also use it in the sauce.
- Moroccan Spice Blend – Use my recipe to make it at home, or refer to the recipe card below to make a quick version. You’ll need it for the meatballs and the sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes – For a bit of added heat! Feel free to adjust to your preferences.
- Tomatoes – Use crushed tomatoes or passata for the sauce.
- Olive Oil – To sauté the onion for the tomato sauce.
- Green Bell Pepper – A few veggies never hurt anyone — or any savory recipe. I love the flavor it adds to the overall dish.
- Garlic – You’ll need 3 cloves for the sauce!
- Ground Cayenne Pepper – Just like the red pepper flakes, cayenne adds some heat to the mix. Feel free to omit or replace it with a less fiery seasoning.
- Olives – Pick up some marinated olives from your local market for serving.
- Eggs – Optional, but some chefs serve Moroccan meatballs with eggs, cooked similarly to shakshuka.
- Moroccan Couscous – I love my version. So simple, yet so yummy. Especially when paired with meatballs.
HOW TO MAKE MOROCCAN MEATBALLS
1. Make The Meatballs. Place the ground meat, onion, herbs, and spices for the meatballs into a large bowl. Use your hands to squeeze and mix the ingredients — but, be careful not to over-mix. Form small cocktail-sized meatballs (about 1-2 tablespoons each), then cover them with plastic wrap and set aside.
2. Start The Sauce. Place a Dutch oven or deep pot over medium heat and add the olive oil once it’s hot. Sauté the onion and bell pepper for several minutes, or until the onion turns translucent. Add the garlic and remaining spices and stir. Allow to sauté for 1 more minute.
3. Add The Tomatoes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes (or passata) and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to low and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Cover partially with the pot lid to avoid any splatters!
4. Blend The Sauce. Your vegetables should be soft enough to blend. I typically use an immersion blender to smooth it out—that way, every drop stays right in the pot. Otherwise a blender should do the trick as well.
5. Cook The Meatballs. Add your Moroccan meatballs to the sauce and gently stir. Cook for 10 more minutes, keeping the lid partially on top. Then, add the parsley, cilantro, and olives and stir to combine. Add water if you find that the mixture is too thick. Cook for another 5 minutes and serve as is, with eggs (refer to the recipe card for instructions), or with couscous!
What Are Moroccan Meatballs Made Of?
Moroccan meatballs are made with ground meat, onions, and seasonings — notably a special Moroccan spice blend that includes paprika, cumin, and turmeric. They are served as is or over couscous.
Do I Need A Tagine To Make Moroccan Meatballs?
A tagine is a traditional cooking vessel often found in Northern Africa. It’s typically made from clay or ceramics. That said, the flavor of this dish won’t be affected by what you cook it in (like a Dutch oven or other deep pot). But, if you want to keep things super traditional, a tagine is a great investment!
What Are Typical Moroccan Spices?
I definitely encourage you to make my homemade Moroccan spice mix before preparing this recipe — it’s a great blend to have on hand! Typical Moroccan spices include cumin, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, and ginger.
Moroccan Meatballs (Kefta Mkaoura)
- In a bowl combine the ground meat, onion, herbs and spices. Using your hands, squeeze and mix the ingredients to combine but don’t over mix.
- Make small cocktail size (1-2 tablespoons) meatballs. This mixture should make between 32-36 total. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or deep pot (See Note 4) over medium heat, when hot add the olive oil. Saute the onion and bell pepper for several minutes until onion is transparent. Add the garlic and spices, stirring and saute another minute.
- Add the crushed tomatoes or passata, stirring to combine and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook 15 minutes with lid partially on top to avoid tomato sauce splutter and mess.
- At this point the vegetables should be soft and can easily be broken down using a spoon if preferred. I use an immersion blender to create a smooth sauce.
- Add the meatballs and gently stir to combine and coat. Cook 10 minutes more with lid partially on top to avoid tomato sauce splutter and mess.
- Add the parsley, cilantro and olives at this point and stir. Add some water if necessary (too thick) and cook another 5 minutes. Serve as is or with steamed couscous.
- If serving in a tagine with eggs, carefully move the meatballs to make 4 small wells with the back of a spoon and crack the eggs in them. Cover and continue simmering the tagine just until the whites are firm and the yolk is beginning to set You want the yolk runny). Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
- I peel, then cut the onion in half. Use a cheese grater and grate each onion right over the bowl.
- You can make a quick Moroccan Spice Blend for this recipe with the following:
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Instead of 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne powder, you can substitute 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
- Typically a traditional cooking vessel would be a clay or ceramic tagine.
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.