Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki

  • Yield 4 to 6 servings

The cool yogurt-and-cucumber sauce is a great counterpoint to these beef and lamb meatballs.

Ben Fink

“I prefer these with equal amounts of beef and lamb, but you can use either meat by itself. Great as pre-dinner nibbles, the keftedes are also good for dinner with buttered rice and a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, or tuck them into a pita with shredded lettuce for a Greek-style sandwich.”—Rick Rodgers


2 -- standard cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Greek-style yogurt (see Note)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 -- garlic cloves, crushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Greek Meatballs:
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground round (85 percent lean), or use half ground round and half ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
4 -- garlic cloves, crushed through a press
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil
-- Wooden toothpicks, for serving


  1. To make the tzatziki, peel the cucumbers. Cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Shred on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer to a wire sieve and toss with the salt. Let drain in the sink for 30 minutes to 1 hour. A handful at a time, squeeze the shredded cucumbers to extract more liquid, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic, and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
  2. To make the meatballs, combine the bread crumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let stand until the bread crumbs are thoroughly moistened, about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, onion, garlic,  eggs, mint, oregano, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the meat mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200F. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 18 equal meatballs. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. In batches, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining meatballs.
  4. Spoon the tzatziki into individual ramekins or small serving bowls. Drain the meatballs
  5. briefly on paper towels. Serve the meatballs hot, with toothpicks for spearing and the tzatziki as a dip.
Note: Thick Greek-style yogurt is excellent, but not inexpensive. You can get similar results by draining regular yogurt. Line a wire sieve with rinsed, wrung-out cheesecloth and place in a large bowl, being sure that the bottom of the sieve is suspended at least an inch above the bottom of the bowl. Place 2 cups plain yogurt in the sieve and let stand for 1 to 2 hours to drain the excess whey and thicken the yogurt. You should have 1 cup drained yogurt.

Reprinted with permission from Rick Rodgers' I Love Meatballs (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2011). 



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