Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

5 from 4 votes

Soutzoukakia are football-shaped Greek meatballs baked in savory tomato sauce spiced with cinnamon, clove and herbs. Make this baked meatball recipe for a delicious main dish entree or for a mezze platter.

close up: soutzoukakia smyrneika served on white dinner plate

Greece is a popular tourist destination for many reasons, one in particular being the incredible cuisine! Sharing delicious dishes from a mezze platter over great conversation (and glasses of ouza) is a fantastic way to spend an evening with friends or family.

Mezze typically includes smaller items such as olives, spanakorizo or salad, and appetizers like kolokithokeftedes (fried squash patties). 

However, entrees can be shared too! It’s a perfect opportunity to sample a variety of main dishes such as pasticcio, Greek souvlaki, and lamachun, without filling up on just one.

Fried or baked Greek meatballs would be a great addition to an entree meze!


Cuisine: Mediterranean / Greek

red pin marks Athens on map of Greece

Alternate names/spellings: smyrna meatballs, soutzoukakia smyrneika

Preparation: Baked or fried

Difficulty: Easy 🥄

Ground beef or lamb meatballs covered in rich, cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce

greek lamb meatballs covered with tomato sauce and feta cheese

Shopping for the Ground Meat

You don’t need expensive cuts of beef, lamb and pork to make soutzoukakia. In fact, the best cuts of meat for meatballs are those with higher ratios of fat, which are also typically the least expensive.

Whether you’ll be using lamb, beef, pork, or something else, be sure the blend you use has at least 15 percent fat, and 20 percent is even better.

For beef meatballs, ground chuck is a great choice. Chuck is 15 to 20% fat, so it holds together well, keeps the meat moist and has a deep, rich beef flavor.

For ground lamb meatballs, cuts from the shoulder and leg are best. These cuts of lamb are also a great choice for making other ground lamb recipes like Lebanese kafta kebab and kawarma (lamb hummus).

overhead: ingredients in food processor bowl to make homemade tomato sauce

overhead: uncooked soutzoukakia smyrneika

The Secret to Moist Meatballs

  1. Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Dried herbs tend to absorb moisture from the ground meat
  2. Don’t over mix, and be gentle when combining the ingredients. The more it’s touched, the drier the meatball mixture becomes. This can lead to tough, dry Greek meatballs.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture before shaping it into balls. It just needs to chill briefly, about 15 to 20 minutes. It helps prevent the mixture from falling apart.
  4. Keep your hands wet.  Set a bowl of water nearby and wet your hands occasionally when rolling the soutzoukakia. This prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands.
  5. Bake them in sauce to keep them extra juicy and tender!
soutzoukakia in white casserole dish

Soutzoukakia FAQ

What size should soutzoukakia be?

Technically, the meatballs could be any size, but most often, they’re made with 2 to 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) of meat mixture.

Can you bake raw meatballs in tomato sauce?

It’s possible and perfectly safe to bake raw meatballs in sauce! While the sauce does touch the raw meat, it all bakes together to a food-safe temperature of 155°F. 

The soutzoukakia are safe to eat when the inside of the meatball is no longer pink and registers an internal temperature of 155°F. Any sauce in the pan with the baked meatballs is also safe to eat.

To reduce the risk of becoming sick from bacteria, any sauce that comes in contact with raw meat that will not be cooked should be discarded.

Greek beef meatballs on white plate, one in front is sliced open

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close up: soutzoukakia smyrneika served on white dinner plate

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

5 from 4 votes
Soutzoukakia are football shaped Greek meatballs baked in savory tomato sauce spiced with cinnamon, clove and herbs. Perfect entree or mezze!
Servings: 6
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 55 minutes


Tomato Sauce



  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves chopped


Tomato Sauce

  • Add all tomato sauce ingredients except fresh mint, parsley, bay leaf and olive oil to a blender and purée until smooth.
  • Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Pour in blended tomato sauce and the fresh mint, parsley and bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of water, stirring to make sure the bottom does not scorch, and cook another 10 minutes. Sauce will reduce and thicken.


  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Grate remaining red onion half and add to a large bowl with the ground beef or lamb. Add remaining meatball ingredients and mix well by hand. Refrigerate to firm up, 15 minutes (optional).
  • Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of meat mixture into wet hands and shape into football shaped meatballs. You should have between 12-16 meatballs.
  • Place in a greased baking dish and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Top with tomato sauce and bake another 10 minutes. Top with feta cheese, chopped mint and serve.



  1. Feel free to use lamb as a substitution for the ground beef.
  2. Juice from onion and grated onion all go in the mix.


Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 119mg | Sodium: 1089mg | Potassium: 1176mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1888IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 221mg | Iron: 7mg

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: appetizers, main dishes
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
extreme close up titled image of baked soutzoukakia


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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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Panagia ( Greek for “Hail Mary )- Kevin as I have followed you for a meaningful time now… I have melted at the very thought of preparing These Meatballs as I enjoy the delight they indeed bring to my guest….
    Thank you for sharing the “wow moment” This offered us a truly intimate “wow”…..Long overdue and rocking with spice…

  2. 5 stars
    I loved this! We used ground lamb. Only change was a splash of wine when cooking the sauce and we cooked the sauce longer as well as the meatballs. Also smells delicious. Served with rice and naan.
    Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    Loved the warm spices. I cooked the sauce a lot longer to let the spices really marry together, Once the meatballs were just about done I let them simmer and finish in the sauce. This recipe would be fantastic with lamb!