These Lamb Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Raisins are a 30 minute recipe that is certain to go on repeat in your household over other meatball recipes. It is quick to assemble for a weeknight dinner.
And kids love it. The sweetness from the raisins and cinnamon in the lamb meatballs appeals so strongly to my kiddo that she often has thirds. A winner for sure.
The ingredient list for these lamb meatballs with raisins and pine nuts is pretty simple. In addition to the lamb mince, there are pine nuts, raisins, chopped garlic and herbs, some tomato paste and spices. Eggs and breadcrumbs serve as binders.
Variations and substitutions
- Use gluten-free panko in place of regular panko.
- Fry the meatballs instead of baking. Frying will get you a crispier crust to the meatball, but it will require more oil.
- You can sub in ground beef, although I think this recipe works best with lamb.
- Add in chopped olives.
- Make a vegetarian version with these quinoa balls with raisins and pine nuts.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
This recipe for lamb meatballs with raisins and pine nuts was inspired by a combination of several different Mediterranean dishes. The spiced beef with raisins from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food was a recipe my mother made. That recipe has echoes of picadillo, a Spanish-Cuban dish with ground beef, tomatoes, raisins, and olives that my kiddo has said for years is her favorite food. Finally, these meatballs have echoes of moussaka, which is made, of course, with minced lamb. Adding pine nuts to these lamb meatballs is a given.
Recipe tips and tricks
Tip from the wise quacker: meatballs and meatloaves are great dishes to make if you’re a beginner or it’s a weeknight. There’s a bit of chopping, but most of the effort involves forming the balls or loaves and letting the oven do the work. This is a 30 minute recipe where a beginner cook can shine.
- The starting ratio for how to make meatballs and meatloaves is one pound of ground meat, one egg, and one half cup of breadcrumbs or equivalent.
- Finely chop any add-ins, or your meatballs may have a hard time staying together.
- If you’re using onion or some other crunchy vegetable like fennel or celery, you’ll want to cook it beforehand. But that just adds time and another pan to clean. If a recipe calls for onions, you can substitute finely chopped green onions and garlic, which don’t have to be pre-cooked.
- The mixture should be combined gently with your hands and rolled to form balls. Use a #40 cookie scoop to get meatballs of generally the same size for cooking consistency.
- Make sure you cook the meatballs to the appropriate temperature.
Step by step
Step 1: Combine all of the ingredients for the lamb meatballs in a bowl and mix them together gently with your hands.
Step 2: Scoop the meatball mixture using a medium cookie scoop or with a spoon to form balls of about two tablespoons. Roll into a ball and place in an oiled pan or a pan lined with parchment to help prevent them from sticking.
Step 3: Bake the lamb meatballs for about 15 minutes until they’re browned and the internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
What to serve with lamb meatballs with raisins and pine nuts
- Drain a can of chickpeas and lightly fry them with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper.
- Serve with a pumpkin couscous salad.
- Stuff them in a homemade pita pocket or in a meatball wrap.
- Add a bit of crunch with sliced cabbage or a raw carrot salad.
- Sauce with a creamy lemon herb tahini dressing or sumac sauce.
- Pick a few of the above to use in a Mediterranean grain bowl with lamb meatballs, an easy kidney bean hummus, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, and feta.
- For wine, pick a syrah or a red blend from the Rhone Valley. You want a medium to fuller bodied red with a lot of fruit flavors to complement the lamb and the spices in these meatballs.
Technically they are two different ways of processing meat (i.e. grinding versus fine cutting). But effectively they are the same thing, with “ground lamb” being the more common terminology in the U.S. and “lamb mince” being used elsewhere.
Yes, meatballs freeze well. First blot off any oil with a paper towel and then freeze the lot in a freezer bag with all the air removed. Reheat in the oven or in a steamer.
Egg serves to bind the meatball mixture together, and many of the recommended substitutes call for dairy. I personally would always use egg, but I’d be interested in hearing what others have used successfully.
You’re not alone in having the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap. You can always use parsley. But I’m guessing you know that by now!
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Lamb Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Raisins
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- 1 pound (16 ounces or 454 grams) ground lamb or lamb mince
- ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- ⅓ cup panko
- ¼ cup raisins
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste, double concentrated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/232°C. Pour the oil into a large baking dish.1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- In a large bowl, use your hands to gently mix all of the ingredients except for the oil.1 pound (16 ounces or 454 grams) ground lamb or lamb mince, ¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted, ⅓ cup panko, ¼ cup raisins, ¼ cup cilantro, chopped, 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, double concentrated, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon cloves, 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Use a medium size cookie scoop or a spoon to portion out a golf ball sized amount of meatball mixture and roll it gently in your hands until it is rounded. Place it in the baking dish and repeat with the entire mixture.
- Bake the meatballs for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to turn the meatballs, until the internal temperature is 145°F/63°C. Serve hot or warm.
Are you an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking?