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Beef Shawarma Meatballs

Not long ago I had lunch at a little Lebanese restaurant and I discovered some really wonderful new dishes.

Beef Schwarma Meatballs

One of these was shawarma, a meat mixture that is marinated in a spice blend, placed on a spit, and slowly grilled.  It is sliced thin and served with pita and other fresh garnishes.  It is very similar to a gyro but with distinctly different spices.  I fell in love!  The restaurant owner, of course, would not share their recipe for the spices so I had to do some research and testing.  Just from tasting the meat I knew allspice featured heavily in the mix, as did cardamom.  After that I was stumped.

Beef Schwarma Meatballs

After some experimenting I decided to add a little cinnamon and coriander which add an earthy depth and punch up the flavor of the allspice.  My version is not at all traditional.  Without the large cone shaped spit there was little hope that I could create the exact same texture, so I decided on small meatballs.  They are easy to stuff in some fresh, soft pita bread and the outsides get delightfully crusty under the broiler which approximates the texture of the spit roasted meat.  All I added was a cool cucumber and yogurt sauce to go over the top.  Make this when you are feeling exotic and you will not be disappointed!

Beef Shawarma Meatballs   Serves 6

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef, no leaner than 90/10
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 finely diced onion
2 tablespoons strained yogurt

For the sauce:
1 small cucumber, peeled and  seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup strained yogurt
1 tablespoon dry dill
Salt and pepper

Fresh pita bread
Thin sliced tomato
Thin sliced onion
Thin sliced cucumbers

Begin by making the sauce.  In a blender combine the garlic and cucumber.  Blend until very smooth.

Beef Schwarma MeatballsBeef Schwarma Meatballs

In a small bowl combine the cucumber mixture, lemon juice, yogurt, dill, salt, and pepper.  Mix well, then cover and chill for at least an hour.

Heat the broiler and line a sheet pan with foil sprayed with non-stick spray.

Beef Schwarma Meatballs Beef Schwarma Meatballs Beef Schwarma Meatballs

In a large bowl mix the ground beef, garlic, yogurt, spices, lemon juice, and onion until well combined.  With a small disher, about two tablespoons, scoop out the meatballs into the prepared sheet pan.  You should get between 25 and 30 meatballs.  Cover and let the meatballs stand, at room temperature, for thirty minutes.

Once rested broil for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 155 F and are well browned.  Cool for ten minutes, tented loosely with foil, before serving.

Beef Schwarma Meatballs

Serve with the garnishes and sauce.  Enjoy!

Beef Schwarma Meatballs

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16 Responses to “Beef Shawarma Meatballs”

  1. Shenanigans says:

    When I make tzatziki (or at least my version of it!), I shred the cucumber on a box grater, lay it out on a clean dishcloth, liberally salt it and then let it sit for 15 minutes. This draws out the water, so you have to give it a good wring in the sink after, but it keeps your sauce thick (which is how I like it.) =)

  2. Kelly says:

    Shenanigans – The sauce is inspired by a tzatziki, but I wanted something that was thinner, so it would just cling to the meatballs, but not overpower them.

  3. Maria says:

    I love the sauce and I love your new look! Yea!

  4. Brenda says:

    I’m going to have to give this a try. Very interesting spice combination….can’t wait to give it a taste. ;)

  5. Tiffany says:

    Those look awesome! We only recently started using yogurt as a marinade for meat, it makes the meat really tender. I noticed you use it in this recipe too, we will try this, thanks for sharing your research!

  6. Carol Egbert says:

    This looks yummy. I wish you lived next door.

  7. Isabelle says:

    I love shawarma too, but it never occurred to me that I could get a relatively close approximation by making meatballs. Genius!

  8. Eliana says:

    These look heavenly Kelly. Love all the different spices in them.

  9. This looks so good!

  10. Brad says:

    Yum, what a tasty recipe and great pics. Wish I could eat a bowl of your meatbells right now!

  11. Rene says:

    Nice twist — turning them into meatballs. I don’t have a spit either, but I bet these would also be great on a grill pan on the grill. My husband will love these. I will report back!

  12. Yum Yucky says:

    I had already planned to make meatballs tomorrow! This looks like a nice change of pace.

  13. Lara says:

    I made these tonight after Googling things in my fridge that had to go (beef dill cucumber yogurt). They were fabulous and easy! Definitely on my list of things to wow dinner party guests. My apartment smells like a restaurant :) Thanks!

  14. Emily says:

    I was just talking about these tonight with a friend, and then stumbled on a recipe for them. Amazingly delicious.


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