Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

These meatballs are the bomb!…… Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs is a recipe I got from Epicurious and Chef Seamus Mullen.

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

Spicy, smokey, meatballs bursting with flavor. Yogurt and cucumber make a cool and refreshing contrast to the the spicy meatballs. Perfect appetizer or main dish. Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs can be made ahead making them a great company recipe.

Lamb chops have always been a secret love of mine. It has an earthy, rich, distinctive taste. Some would say its an acquired taste………I have acquired it. In the past, I have only had chops, and not with mint jelly, but with garlicy, herby sauces….delicious!

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

When I came across this recipe on Epicurious, the picture made it look too good not to make. Never having used ground lamb, I called my local grocery store to make sure they they carried ground lamb……thank goodness they did, otherwise Tim and I would have missed out on a delectable dish.

A slightly labor intensive dish……I do mean slightly. It has numerous components, and it does take time to assemble. Totally worth the time, the best part is…… it can all be made ahead… making it a perfect company dish.

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

Tim had never had lamb before in any form and he liked them very much. I’ll try lamb chops next for him…..yummmm!

Given that spicy is the rule in our house, the meatballs were right up our alley. I had to improvise from the original recipe on the spices. You know you think you have everything for a dish and you start to make it…….wait where is my????

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

So, I improvised pasilla chiles, which are not common in my area grocery stores, I used ancho powder instead. Powdered cumin replaced cumin seeds, and I don’t know if my smoked paprika was sweet or not, but it worked great in the meatballs. Toasting the spices allows the moisture to cook off, and the spice takes on a warm, smoky, earthy flavor…it’s worth the extra effort.

The yogurt is just plain and gives a nice contrast to the spicy meatballs. I used greek yogurt, as it is my yogurt of choice, but plain yogurt will work.

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

Cucumbers are a cool crunchy contrast to the dish. They are easy to prepare, and they look pretty too!

If you have never tried lamb before, or if you are a lamb lover, give Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs a whirl….you will be glad you did!

Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs

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Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs


  • Chile sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons Ancho chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Meatballs:
  • 1/4 small onion, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 45 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
  • 1/2 English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)


  1. Chile sauce:
  2. Toast ancho chili powder, red pepper flakes, and cumin in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.Watching closely so they do not burn
  3. Let cool. Add toasted spices, vinegar, paprika, and garlic to blender and blend until smooth. With motor running, gradually stream in oil and blend until combined. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt.
  4. Meatballs and assembly:
  5. Pulse onion, chopped garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, fennel seeds, coriander, cumin, and 1 tablespoon salt in a food processor, scraping down sides as needed, until finely chopped.
  6. Add egg, lamb, and flour and pulse until evenly combined. Using a small ice cream scoop,form lamb mixture into 1 1/2″ balls.
  7. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high, cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through, 5–8 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towels to drain.
  8. Transfer all meatballs to bowl with chile sauce and toss to coat.
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Toss cucumber in a medium bowl with lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  11. To Serve
  12. Spoon yogurt into bowls. Evenly divide meatballs among bowls; top with dressed cucumber and mint and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.


*Chile sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.

Do ahead: Meatball mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.


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