These Spiced Meatballs with Tahini and Pomegranate tick all the boxes. They’re delicious, dead-simple, and can be prepared ahead of time. They’re perfect as bite-sized appetizers or can be served as a main course served alongside a salad of choice and some roasted sweet potato. Did I mention they’re Whole30 and Paleo compliant? See, all boxes ticked!
I’ll try to avoid food politics by refraining from associating these meatballs with a specific country, but let’s just say that they’re inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Most of the flavours come from using freshly-toasted and ground whole spices. Don’t worry, it’s super easy to do! But the real secret is to use a combination of turkey, veal and beef for the meatballs. There’s just something about the mix that gives it a really unique flavour. You can of course substitute chicken for turkey and lamb for veal or beef. I encourage you to experiment with different blends to see which you like best. But maybe try making it this way first? That way you can blame me if things go south 😉
Whatever combo you choose, promise me you’ll resist the urge (and misguided advice) to add any fillers to the mix! It always saddens me when I read a recipe for meatballs that calls for some sort of filler – be it bread crumbs, bread soaked in milk, flour, or rice. I am of the firm opinion that not only are these fillers entirely unnecessary, they make for a less flavourful finished product.
The only downside of not using fillers in a meatball is that the meat mixture will have a tendency to be on the flimsy side when handling and forming into balls. However, I can safely say that with a bit of practice, you too can master the subtle art of rolling ground meat into ball shapes. And yes, I realize there is no eloquent way of avoiding sexual innuendos when talking about handling meat balls. Thank you very much!
Goodness, Gracious, Great Spiced Meatballs
If you’re going to go down this path of filler-less meatballs, you might as well be prepared. Here are a few pointers that will help you achieve greatness in flavour and texture when making these Spiced Meatballs or any other ball-shaped meat!
Don’t Over-Work the Meat
When you first start mixing everything with your hands you will notice that it will be very loose. Don’t worry, as you continue to work the mixture everything will start to firm-up. Once you get to the point where the meat holds its shape in your hand, stop! Over-working the mixture will result in a firm finished product.
Oil Your Hands
Once you’ve perfectly mixed the meat, it’s time to start forming balls. To avoid the mixture sticking to your hands, rub a bit of olive oil or avocado oil between your hands. Ideally, you will want to use whatever oil you are cooking with. Best to pour a bit of the oil into a small bowl before you get started so that you don’t accidentally grab the bottle of oil with your meat-laced paws.
Toast & Grind Whole Spices
There’s a time and place for powdered spice and this ain’t it. Do yourself a favour and take the extra steps of purchasing whole spices. Just be sure to toast them in a dry pan and grind by hand in a mortar and pestle!
Add a Splash of Water
Adding a splash of water to the meat mixture sounds counter-intuitive but it helps to soften the meat and makes for a much juicier finished product. Better yet, try adding a splash of carbonated mineral water! I learned this tip from my mother who claims that, “all of Russia knows about it!” Mama knows best!
Remember the part about preparing ahead of time? It also happens to be a requirement. These Spiced Meatballs are flavourful to the max and part of the reason for that is because I allow them to marinate overnight. Feel free to prepare a double batch and freeze half for an emergency. If stored properly in a freezer-proof bag, the mixture will last six months. Simply thaw and form into balls before cooking.
I hope you like this recipe and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!
Spiced Meatballs with Tahini and Pomegranate
(makes approx. 18 meatballs )
1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/2 lbs ground veal
1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 medium-sized onion (grated or chopped using a food processor)
2 large eggs
1 tsp dry coriander seeds
1 tsp dry cumin seeds
1 tsp dry minced garlic
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp dry mint
2 tbsp water (or substitute carbonated water of choice)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil – for frying and for garnish
1 pomegranate – for garnish
Homemade Tahini Sauce (see recipe here) – for garnish
fresh parsley leaves – for garnish
lemon wedges – for garnish
- Add cumin and coriander seeds to a dry skillet and toast over med-low heat until fragrant (approximately 4-6 minutes).
- Transfer toasted spices to a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.
- To a large mixing bowl, add turkey, veal, beef, grated onion, eggs, coriander, cumin, dry minced garlic, chili flakes, dry mint, water, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until the meat starts to holds its shape.
- Preheat 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick or stainless-steel skillet set over medium heat. Taste-test the mixture for seasoning by frying one meatball (approximately 5-6 min per side). Adjust seasoning if required, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to cook, line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and portion-out golf-ball-sized servings (I aim for heaping tablespoonfuls). Rub a bit of oil between your hands and start forming into meatballs.
- Preheat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large, non-stick or stainless-steel skillet set over medium heat. Fry meatballs in batches (approximately 5-6 minutes per side). Lower heat if you notice anything is burning. *Tip: I strongly recommend setting a splatter guard over the skillet.
- Transfer cooked meatballs to a paper-towel-lined tray and cover with foil until ready to serve.
- To serve: spoon a generous amount of tahini sauce onto a plate and top with a small pyramid of meatballs. Garnish with pomegranate arils, fresh parsley, lemon wedges and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.