Craving some meatballs? These za'atar lamb meatballs are a refreshing upgrade from the standard beef meatball—and they're just as easy to make!
Not everybody likes the taste of lamb. It has a strong, gamey taste that you don't usually get from chicken or beef. But when mixed with the right herbs and spices, lamb can transcend the typical, dull meats we eat.
In our opinion, nothing goes better with lamb than za'atar seasoning. But what is za'atar anyway, and what makes it the perfect combination for lamb? Today, we'll share an amazing za'atar and ground lamb meatballs recipe with you.
What Is Za'atar?
Za'atar is a middle eastern spice blend that can be used in all kinds of dishes. Traditionally, you mix za'atar and olive oil together and dip bread into it for breakfast or as a snack. This middle eastern spice is also used to bake savory breads, such as za'atar manakish, which we have a recipe for as well. Za'atar can also be used to season different kinds of protein—from fish, chicken, pork, beef, and of course, lamb!
Za'atar is an incredibly versatile one-of-a-kind seasoning. You can sprinkle this onto anything and it'll instantly enhance your meals, giving their flavors more depth. At this point, you're probably wondering, what makes za'atar so good? Well, it's these five herbs and spices—thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac.
Thyme and oregano complement each other very well. While thyme has more grassy, woody, and floral notes, oregano is minty, earthy, and a tiny bit bitter. They're both very strong and concentrated herbs so you can really taste them when you add them to your dish.
Sesame seeds are nutty and sweet, they have a distinct taste and aroma to them that are enhanced when toasted. Sumac is what gives za'atar its zing. To some, this seasoning resembles red pepper flakes. It's a bright red spice that originates from the middle east. It is super lemony and is sometimes even used as a substitute for lemon juice. And well, salt is there because every seasoning needs salt.
Now that you know what makes this amazing middle eastern spice work so well, are you excited to make these meatballs? Because we're excited to share the recipe with you. Here's how to make za'atar and lamb meatballs. We even included some tips on how to perfectly cook the meatballs and what you can serve with them.
How To Make Za'atar Lamb Meatballs
Before you can start cooking those meatballs, we want to provide some quick information to help set you up for success. We also included some advice on what sides you can serve along with the meatballs. This advice will help you wow your guests - and even impress yourself when you bite into the final product.
Tips For Cooking The Perfect Za'atar Meatballs
To ensure that you prepare these meatballs in the fastest and most efficient way, follow these tips:
- Sub With Your Choice Of Meat: If your grocery doesn't have lamb, or if you just aren't feeling particularly experimental today, you can make some substitutes. Feel free to switch out the ground lamb for ground beef, turkey, or pork. Whatever protein you choose, the za'atar will still work its magic. You can always try it with lamb another time, and you'll get an entirely different experience.
- Use An Ice Cream Scooper: For easy and even portioning, use an ice cream scooper to measure out your meatballs.
- Roll With Wet Hands: Meatballs can get pretty messy and sticky. To avoid having them stick onto your hands all the time, make sure to run your hands under lukewarm water. This makes the rolling process much more efficient.
- Cook In Batches: Do not overcrowd your pan. If your meatballs are touching, or if they're too close to each other, they won't get an even sear. It might feel like a hassle to cook them in batches but trust us, it's definitely going to be worth it.
What Can You Serve With Za'atar Lamb Meatballs?
You can serve almost anything with za'atar lamb meatballs. If you want to keep things simple, here is what we like to do ourselves. Add a few sliced tomatoes and cucumbers seasoned with salt, pepper, and za'atar seasoning. You can also do a Meditteranean salad with tahini sauce or some watermelons with feta cheese for something refreshing.
To balance out your meal, why not add in some carbs? I mean, what's a Mediterranean dish without carbs? You can use pita bread and turn it into a meatball wrap. Or place your meatballs on top of a pile of couscous, quinoa, or rice pilaf. The options are endless! Without any further ado, let's get right into the recipe.
Za'atar Spiced Lamb Meatballs With Tahini Sauce Recipe
Our za'atar spiced lamb meatballs recipe features a tahini sauce to add some kick. We'll explain how you can go about making each of these components - starting with the za'atar lamb.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Ingredients For Za'atar Spiced Lamb Meatballs
- 1 lb ground lamb, turkey, beef, or chicken
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Zesty Z za'atar seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sumac or substitute with 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/3 cup onion, very finely chopped or 2–3 scallions
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/4–1/2 cup chopped mint, dill, Italian parsley, or cilantro (a mix would be nice)
- 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes (optional)
- 1–2 tablespoons sesame seeds or zaatar to coat (optional)
Instructions For Za'atar Spiced Lamb Meatballs
- In a large or medium bowl, add the ground meat, salt, and za'atar seasoning. Use a fork to mix and toss the ingredients and evenly distribute the seasoning. Once mixed evenly, add the onion, garlic, herbs, and chili flakes, mixing again with the fork.
- Prepare to start kneading the mixture by first wetting your hands. Then knead the mixture a couple of times. If you're using low-fat chicken or turkey, knead two teaspoons of olive oil into the mixture to avoid it from getting rubbery. If you don't have an ice cream scoop, begin dividing the mixture into 4 large balls. Then further divide them into 12 smaller meatballs.
- This step is optional, but if you would like to add some texture to your meatballs, coat them in sesame seeds by rolling them. Or lightly sprinkle with zaatar.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius.
- Heat a large oven-proof skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the meatballs into the skillet, making sure not to overcrowd the meatballs. Do this in batches. Turn the meatballs every 2 minutes making sure to brown each side evenly. Take out the meatballs and place them on a plate, and add the next batch of meatballs.
- Once all meatballs have been browned on all sides. Put all the meatballs back into the skillet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes to allow to cook all the way through.
Making The Tahini
Once your meatballs are baking, you can quickly whip up the tahini sauce. Here are the ingredients needed, followed by the instructions:
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 fat garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup fresh herbs (cilantro, Italian parsley, dill or basil or a combo!)
- 2–3 slices jalapeno (optional)
- 1/2- 1 teaspoon salt ( start with 1/2, add more to taste)
- ½ cup tahini paste, stirred
Place all the ingredients, except the tahini paste, in a blender or food processer and blend until combined but not overly smooth. Then you add the tahini paste and blend until the mixture is creamy. Taste, and add more salt, acid, and heat to meet your liking. You can add more water if you'd like a thinner sauce.
Putting It All Togther
Simply spread the tahini sauce on a plate and add the meatballs on top. Place the veggies or salad on the side of your meatballs. If you're using rice, couscous, or quinoa, place the carbs first, and then the meatballs on top, drizzle the tahini sauce.
More Must-Try Za'atar Recipes
If you liked this recipe, then you definitely have to try the other recipes on our site. They're all incredibly easy to make and ridiculously delicious too, thanks to the za'atar seasoning:
- Za'atar and honey chicken: If you're looking for something sweet and savory, this za'atar and honey chicken will certainly satisfy your cravings.
- Za'atar and cheese manakish recipe: Calling all pizza lovers, you've got to try this traditional Lebanese breakfast bread. It's basically a mini pizza.
- Za'atar roasted eggplant: Need healthier food options? This za'atar roasted eggplant is healthy, hearty, and vegan-friendly.
- Za'tar fish and chips: We've put a fun middle eastern twist to the classic fish and chips dish.
If you can't find any za'atar in your local grocery store, you can buy za'atar online, right here at Zesty Z! We have the most authentic and purest za'atar seasoning. It's low sodium, contains zero fillers, and is pure herby goodness.