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Mmmmm. Moroccan Meatballs

Think eating healthy is boring? Think paleo is dull? Think taking care of yourself is no fun?

Think again, my darlings. And make yourself some Moroccan Meatballs.

Morocco has long been on my list of must-visit countries. Twisty alleys, markets crowded with vendors, scampering trained monkeys… I need to see it all.  The country sits in the northwestern corner of Africa, and the influence of Arab and Moorish invaders can be tasted in traditional Moroccan cuisine. Lucky us! Spices like aromatic cinnamon, cumin, and paprika are prevalent, along with herbs like mint and parsley. These meatballs are seasoned with essential Moroccan spices, then simmered in tomatoes that cloak them in a sauce that tastes like mystery and adventure.


Moroccan Meatballs

Prep 15 min. | Cook 1 hour | Serves 6-8 (about 36 meatballs)

Ingredients:
Meatballs:
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb

Sauce:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, crushed (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium tomatoes, diced (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
garnish: 1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Directions:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the parsley, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper with a fork. With your hands, crumble the lamb into the bowl and knead until all of the ingredients are incorporated. (For details on the science of mixing meatballs, read this.)

2. Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess. Measure a level tablespoon of lamb and roll into a ball between your palms. Line up the meatballs on a baking sheet until it’s time to put them in the sauce.

3. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or pot. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and stir about 1 minute. Add the water, tomato paste, and parsley, mixing to dissolve the tomato paste.

4. Bring the sauce to a boil, then gently place the meatballs in the skillet, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 40 minutes covered, then remove the lid and cook an additional 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Sprinkle each serving with a few teaspoons of chopped pistachios. Bonus points if you serve them on top of cauliflower “couscous.”

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77 Responses to “Mmmmm. Moroccan Meatballs”

  1. Kat says:

    Melissa, these were great! I love the spice combo with the cilantro- and the sauce came out perfectly. Next time I'm making double batch so I can freeze them for later. :) Thanks!

    • jamie says:

      where do you see cilantro in the recipe? are you subbing that for the parsley? they are such diff tastes and I love them both so I’m confused on which one to use!

      • Mel says:

        I always use parsely, but you can sub cilantro instead. Both taste great. My husband hates cilantro, hence the parsley — but cilantro is often used in Moroccan food.

  2. Michelle Sharma says:

    Love the idea of swapping out the rice! I'm going to remember that for some of my other favorite recipes as well! We cook a lot of Indian food and am looking forward to finding a way to enjoy it without all the carbs from the rice.

  3. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hey, Michelle! Have you tried cauliflower "rice"? It's a great substitute for the grain. I have a recipe here: http://theclothesmakethegirl.blogspot.com/2009/09/eat-your-vegetables-cauliflower.html You can easily make it plain without the dried fruit and spices if you want it as a base for curries, etc.

  4. Anonymous says:

    These are great. I've adapted it to a paleo/dino-chow meatloaf too.

  5. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Oooo, that's an awesome idea, too! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Cari/Burdnurd says:

    YUM!! I made these tonight. I ate mine over the Cauliflower FousCous Pilaf… wow!! I made a double batch simply because I didn't feel like figuring out what to do with the other 1/2 pounds of my proteins! I think next time (which there definately WILL be) I'll add a little jalepeno or some Rotel for a little extra kick!

  7. Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Cari! I'm glad you liked them. I hadn't made them for a while then I cooked up a batch for New Year's Eve, and was, like, "Yowza! I forgot how freakin' good these are!"

    Love the idea of a little jalapeno in there!

  8. [...] Meatballs (without the sauce, we just made up the meatballs, baked them, and then stuck them in the freezer [...]

  9. Lena says:

    My husband is Moroccan and I make this for him ALL the time with one addition, eggs. Once the dish is ready, I crack a few eggs on top and let the sauce cook them until the yolk is cooked. For those who love eggs, this is a nice addition to the dish.

  10. Amanda says:

    I made this last night with a few variations (I didn’t have cilantro and I used one can of tomato puree instead of tomatoes and tomato paste.) I served it over sauteed cabbage that I cooked with onion and garlic in olive oil. It. Was. Ah-maze-ing.
    It will be a weekly staple in this house! YUM!
    I can honestly say that while many Paleo/dino chow/whole 30 meals are very tasty, I often miss things like potatoes, rice, and bread. It’s been a slow transition. This was the first meal where I did not miss anything. The sauteed cabbage with onion and garlic was so delicious, it trumped rice AND pasta! Nom nom nom…

    • Mel says:

      I’m glad you liked them! It’s one of my favorites, too… and it’s pretty easy to swap ingredients in and out without ruining the flavor. I don’t always use cilantro, either.

      The cabbage bed is one of my favorite Whole30/paleo tricks. I hear you on missing potatoes, rice, and bread — but it gets so much easier. I’ve been eating this way for two years and it gets less difficult every day.

  11. Angela says:

    Made these for dinner tonight along with the suggested garlicky green beans and some roasted squash, and it was magnificent! I’m making your vampire-fighting pork stew tomorrow and really looking forward to it :D

    Thank-you!

    • Mel says:

      Thank YOU for letting me know you like them. That vampire-fighting stew is a winner, too. Enjoy! And, ya know, sleep soundly knowing your safe from blood suckers ;-)

  12. Mary says:

    How long would you bake them for and at what tempature..

    Thank you

    Mary ( a newbie to paleo :)

  13. Mel says:

    To bake the meatballs separately from the sauce, place them on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Happy New Year!

  14. [...] all the walking around Excel and the riverside will help with whatever damage does get done. M: Moroccan Meatballs with cauliflower [...]

  15. Carrie says:

    These look fabulous! I’ve been looking for a no-sugar cocktail-type meatball recipe for a while…this totally fits the bill. I’m loving all of the ingredients in that sauce!

  16. Oh man, these look great! I have been on the search for more protein snacks. I could make a big bunch of these on Sunday and snack all week! :)

  17. Terran says:

    I made these last night and there was absolutely no conversation at the dinner table because everyone was too busy chewing! I served it with the fouscous (made with dried apricots and pistachios) and it was a hit. I’m pretty sure my 7-year-old is going to turn into a meatball! Thank you so much for making my family’s transition to Paleo easier!!!!!

  18. Jen Mac says:

    This was pretty good but I thought it needed some jazzing up. I’m not on a paleo diet so I don’t know if my additions work or not.It’s probably not even morroccan anymore ;) To the sauce I added 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup of green olives with 1/4 tsp of ground allspice and a dash of cayenne. I topped it with a pistachio, cilantro, mint pesto with lemon zest. Wicked tasty!

  19. Jen Mac says:

    This was pretty good but I thought it needed some jazzing up. I’m not on a paleo diet so I don’t know if my additions work or not.It’s probably not even morroccan anymore ;) To the sauce I added 1 cup of raisins and 1 cup of green olives with 1/4 tsp of ground allspice and a dash of cayenne. I topped it with a pistachio, cilantro, mint pesto with lemon zest.And served with crusty whole wheat sourdough bread. Wicked tasty!

  20. Justine says:

    Hi Melissa

    I am making these again tonight for the second time in as many weeks. Absolutely beautiful! I serve them with steamed zucchini spaghetti. This recipe and also your ‘Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat’ recipe are by far my favourite meals since (happily) going Paleo 6 weeks ago. I am so enjoying feeding my body properly and your recipes are such a joy to create and enjoy.

    I bought your book a couple of weeks ago and am finding it is my regular ‘go to’ book now as your recipes are so easy and are so damn tasty! Thanks for writing a fabulous book!

    • Mel says:

      Right on! Congratulations on making the switch to paleo — so great!

      Thanks for buying Well Fed. Glad to know it’s making your meals tastier!

  21. [...] Dinner I’ve got Cooking Club tonight and I’m making Moroccan Meatballs for our Countries of the World theme. I’m also making Braised Cabbage for my family to eat [...]

  22. [...] Moroccan Meatballs with roasted Brussels sprouts [...]

  23. DrM2011 says:

    These sound wonderful…can I make them with ground beef, turkey, or pork? Even if I could find lamb in my neck of the woods, I don’t think I could bear to eat it. Thanks!

  24. Jannine says:

    I just made them with beef as well. They are delicious! I subbed Rogan Josh instead of the cumin and paprika… it is very tasty.
    Thanks for another great recipe, Melissa.

  25. Maggie Cain says:

    These were quite good, a great base from which to experiment, like so many of your recipes. It was a hit with the whole family, and I didn’t even have time to make cauliflower rice to put it on. I just heated up a leftover side of roasted turnips and we were set for dinner.

  26. [...] all-time favorite recipe from The Clothes Make The Girl: (if you do not have her cookbook Well Fed yet, GET [...]

  27. Alexis says:

    I’m going to try this tonight! Also, where are those little sword picks from?… they are amazing for entertaining!

  28. Toni says:

    This is the most amazing thing I have ever eaten!

  29. Theresa says:

    All I can say is – WOW! Just got your book about 2 weeks ago, and can’t wait to make EVERYTHING…. The Best Chicken receipe was great; this one was a solid winner. Love anything with lamb in it, and the flavors in this were absolutely amazing. The husband and I switched to Paleo over the summer; I’m currently doing about 80 Paleo/20 nonPaleo (but organic, with no preservatives, chemicals, additives if I can help it…) We feel so much better and have lost weight without trying! (He has lost 40+ pounds; I have lost 25…)
    An added bouns: my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is under control for the first time in YEARS. The doctor just looked at me at the check-up; shook his head; and said “what do you call this again?! I’m going to look into it for all my thyroid patients!” Our daughter (who will be 5 years old in January) also has the disease, so really glad we’re putting her on the path to healthy eating far before I ever was.
    I also really like the conversational tone of your book; your personality really comes through. I think it’s so fun that we must be about the same age (I will be 44 on January 1). Two of my favorite bands are Social D AND Duran Duran, as well. You couldn’t move in my teenaged bedroom without seeing a picture of Simon LeBon (ha!)
    In any event, keep up the good work and I look forward to following you in the future!

    • Mel says:

      Hi, Theresa! So glad you dropped by to comment… thank you! I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying Wel Fed. Congratulations on your weight loss and improving your health. That’s SO great.

      I had my thyroid removed (due to a nodule) in 2008, and eating paleo has definitely helped me manage my health since then.

      When I was a teenager, by bedroom door and two closet doors were COMPLETELY covered with photos and posters of John Taylor – like they were wallpapered with his face. I still listen to them on most of my morning runs around the lake — love the new stuff and the old.

      Keep me posted on how you’re doing!

  30. Ilissa says:

    I want to make this dish and I have everything on hand except tomatoes. Can I use crushed tomatoes and just omit the water and tomato paste?

    • Mel says:

      That should work just fine. You’re basically trying to make a pretty thick sauce for the meatballs, so just let it simmer until most of the water has evaporated.

  31. Jenny V Root says:

    Great dish. Like the ingredients and presentation. will try it soon, looks delicious.

  32. sarah says:

    These are great! Any thoughts on making them in a slow cooker…high vs low and time? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Your biggest problem with the slow cooker is that the sauce won’t caramelize and thicken, but if you don’t care about that, it will work fine.

      You’ll still need to make the sauce on the stovetop, then transfer the sauce and the uncooked meatballs to the slow cooker. I recommend you cut the water down to 1/2 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

      let me know how it turns out!

  33. sarah says:

    Thank you! It’s too late for tonight, but I will report back next time! sarah

  34. [...] I still plan to make this week: Moroccan meatballs, Crock-pot pork loin, beef stir fry, buffalo chicken, spaghetti squash with chicken sausage and [...]

  35. Mel says:

    I just made this tonight and put it over garlicky cooked spinach:

    OH. M. GEEEE!!!!

    Today is my 28th day of Whole30 and If I had known about your book earlier (and this recipe) I think my first week would have been MUCH easier! So glad to have found this site/your book/this recipe/you!

  36. [...] would a paleo meal be without something from Well Fed? I followed this recipe (http://www.theclothesmakethegirl.com/2009/03/05/mmmmm-moroccan-meatballs/) exactly. And it was AMAZING. Like, the tomato sauce along is so good. I may make it just as a soup [...]

  37. Kristi Cooke says:

    You know, your unique, delicious-yet-healthy recipes ROCK, Melissa. My biggest dilemma is which meatball recipe to try tonight. Think I will pick up some lamb and cauliflower for my next meal. Thanks for sharing!

  38. [...] Moroccan Meatballs. These take FOREVER but are so worth it. Make on a Sunday (not a Monday like we did). [...]

  39. [...] Moroccan meatballs with steamed cauliflower and Honeycrisp apple slices [...]

  40. Neens says:

    Can you make these with ground chicken instead? My family is not big on lamb and we don’t eat beef. Would it be the same amount of cook time? Any help would be appreciated!

  41. [...] Moroccan meatballs with spaghetti squash. (This was my first time making or eating spaghetti squash and while it was not a good combo with this recipe (I blame Eric for making that call), I actually liked the spaghetti squash. It’s a strange vegetable but I had some for lunch yesterday with sausage, peppers, and a tomato sauce, and it was pretty yummy.) [...]

  42. [...] Moroccan meatballs and strawberries [...]

  43. K says:

    How is 1/2 cup parsley equal to 2 tbsp.? 1/2 cup should be 6 tbsp.

    • Mel says:

      The 2 tablespoons refers to the amount you should end up with AFTER it’s minced. 1/2 cup to start, then mince until it equals about 2 tablespoons.

  44. Kathryn says:

    I have a confession: I don’t follow a Paleo diet. I do love cooking, though, and am always looking for tasty recipes, regardless of source.

    I was pointed in your direction by a friend, and this was the first recipe of yours I tried. While I’m not sure I followed the recipe exactly (used canned tomatoes (I don’t like fresh ones, so I don’t have them around), halved it, and ran out of paprika), it was AMAZING, and I used the leftover sauce to poach eggs.

  45. [...] Moroccan Meatballs (with beef instead of lamb) and my first attempt at cauliflower rice. [...]

  46. [...] decided to try something from yesterdays Whole30 Daily e-mail. Moroccan Meatballs. It was neat, I’ve never made my own meatballs let alone my own sauce! Below are the [...]

  47. [...] (Moroccan meatballs, seriously this cookbook has been essential so far) [...]

  48. [...] my favourite meal for the past six months: Moroccan meatballs with creamy mashed potatoes (no, none of this cauliflower nonsense!) and green beans tossed with [...]

  49. [...] Moroccan meatballs [...]

  50. Sarah says:

    These were great- thanks for the simple recipe. I braised my balls ;) before placing them in the tomato mixture. Served on quinoa. (I know, I know.)

  51. [...] to The Clothes Make the Girl for this fabulous [...]

  52. [...] is the most amazing meatball recipe ever, Well Fed came up trumps again, the recipe can be found here so there is no point me writing it all out again [...]

  53. Rory says:

    My husband wants to use ground pork. I see you’ve given the green light to beef, chicken and turkey, what about pork?

  54. Erin says:

    I made these last night, made a few little tweaks, like sauteing 2 strips of bacon in the pan before adding onions, & tomatoes. I had ground elk on hand so that’s what I made my meatballs out of. Definitely needed the extra fat. I also left out the cloves, added a little cinnamon and some dried currants. These were amazing!! Thank you for the idea.

  55. […] (you can find the recipe on her blog, The Clothes Make the Girl, here) […]

  56. […] 41. Moroccan Meatballs If you love Moroccan food you’re in luck because there are plenty of Moroccan foods that you can fully enjoy while you are doing Paleo. The unique blend of ingredients is specific to the Moroccan region, and here we see paprika and cumin used in both the meatballs and the sauce that goes with them. Lamb is getting the nod for the meat, and if you’ve ever had Moroccan lamb shanks you’ll know that lamb goes great with Moroccan seasonings. These don’t have any vegetables in them, so be sure to have a salad with it, perhaps a Moroccan themed salad to make it a fully Moroccan meal. […]

  57. Melindy says:

    I made this recipe tonight and loved it! Hubby liked it as well. Made it with a mix of beef and lamb. I’ve not really had Moroccan food, but the spices reminded me of chili (which I love), so it was all good. I’m so happy to have a meatball recipe with out a binder. Will make these again for sure!

    • Mel says:

      My new cookbook Well Fed 2 has 15 (!) meatball recipes with no binders… you might want to check it out if you like meatballs as much as I do.

      Happy cooking!

  58. […] meatballs I did on Sunday following the recipe on the clothes make the girl (or Well Fed, Paleo Recipes for People who Love to Eat. The only 2 things I did differently was […]

  59. […] Whole30Challenge Day 11 The Ultimate Paleo Guide: Pairing Herbs and Spices Paleo on a Budget Yum: Moroccan Meatballs  Great focus, great form Sarah K! This entry was posted in Uncategorized, WOD. Bookmark the […]

  60. […] This weekend we have our Valor Triathlon kick off party (thank you Towpath)! And I plan on bringing Moroccan Meatballs. […]

  61. […] totally healthy…even if you don’t give two poo’s about Paleo eating. (Her Moroccan Meatballs showed up at our family Thanksgiving, and even my not-even-close-to-Paleo relatives snapped them […]

  62. jennifer says:

    these sound delicious. I will make them with chicken or turkey. My kids love meatballs, are these kid friendly, meaning not too spicy?

  63. jennifer says:

    just typing another post so I can check that I want to receive follow up comments. Thanks for the recipe!

  64. […] Moroccan meatballs and strawberries […]

  65. […] Moroccan meatballs with spaghetti squash. (This was my first time making or eating spaghetti squash and while it was not a good combo with this recipe (I blame Eric for making that call), I actually liked the spaghetti squash. It’s a strange vegetable but I had some for lunch yesterday with sausage, peppers, and a tomato sauce, and it was pretty yummy.) […]

  66. […] Moroccan meatballs with steamed cauliflower and Honeycrisp apple slices […]

  67. Hala says:

    Making these right now for my W30 Week 2!! Thanks for all the amazing recipes, Melissa! :)

  68. Lulu says:

    Made these last night for guests—no leftovers. Simmering another batch for dinner tonight! Love the Fouscous too!

  69. Joan says:

    This awesome recipe was referenced on Day5 of Whole30, where I am now. I had been looking for finger-food like meatballs-without-binders- and you have given this to me on a platter! I’d tried cauli mash with heaps of butter and parsley years ago. I enjoyed it but my 40+ non-paleo, potato-addicted, picky son would have complained. However, this has possibilities! He loves Moroccan after a visit, and this should disguise its ‘cauli-ness’… and nourish both of us! Sneaky! ;) Loving the Whole30 adventure

  70. Leeeah says:

    Had to comment – made these this evening (with the bonus points fauxcous) and it was great – and I’m not even a big fan of lamb. What kicked butt? Serving it with a cup of mint tea. The perfect pairing.

  71. Susan S says:

    Can I use olive oil instead of coconut oil? These sound amazing! And judging from the comments – they are. Can’t wait to try them this weekend!!

    • Mel says:

      Taste-wise, it’s just fine to use olive oil… but it’s healthier to use a saturated fat — coconut oil, ghee, lard — when cooking at higher temperatures. The fat in olive oil can oxidize at high heat, which can lead to inflammation. But the flavor will be just fine, so up to you!

  72. […] on my recipe roundup blog the other day?  A famous cookbook author commented on my blog!  The Moroccan Meatballs were awesome.  You should try […]

  73. […] Mmmmm. Morrocan Meatballs by The Clothes Make the Girl […]

  74. Mary says:

    Oh my, so delicious! I made it with ground turkey. I was especially excited that I had all the ingredients in the house and got going great guns….. Then saw the 40 and 20 minute cooking times- groan! The pressure cooker saved the day! I cooked up the onions and friends, added the spices, water and paste, gave it a good stir, then plunked the meatballs in and topped with tomatoes- no stirring and under pressure for 5 or 6 minutes. I was shocked that the meatballs didn’t fall apart; indeed they were really packed tightly (if that makes any sense). When I bake meatballs in the oven they are always fall apartish. I served them with the Cauliflower fouscous – what a great pairing!

  75. Debbie says:

    Yum! Can’t wait to try these! Alas my oven/stove has broken on my very first week of Whole30! I’ve been using only my BBQ, slow cooker and electric wok. Would these work in a slow cooker? Is tomato paste Whole30 compliant? TIA :)

    • Mel says:

      This recipe is Whole30 approved and yes, tomato paste is always Whole30 compliant.

      You can make these in a slow cooker, but the sauce won’t thicken and caramelize. It will still taste good, but it won’t look like my photo.

  76. Annie says:

    Melissa–I think I’ve told you this before, but Well Fed has changed my life! Thank you for all of the great recipes and ideas! I love cooking ahead all week– makes it so much easier.

    Just made your butternut squash recipe and it was to die for!

    Anyway, I’m NOT a fan of tomato sauce. Is this one more like a light, chunky sauce? Any ideas how I can make something different to take to a potluck? I’m definitely making the lamb meatballs.

    Thanks for everything!

    • Mel says:

      I’m so happy our recipes are helpful… yay!

      If you cook these meatballs long enough, the sauce really cooks down until it’s a coating on the meatballs. It’s not really chunky at all. However, if you don’t like the taste of tomatoes, you probably won’t like this sauce. You can make these meatballs without the sauce — just roll the balls and bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes. Serve them with the Moroccan Dipping Sauce in Well Fed.

  77. Annie says:

    You rock, Melissa! Would Sunshine Sauce go with them??? :)

    • Mel says:

      I think those flavors would really clash — the Sunshine Sauce has an Asian profile that won’t mesh well with the more Middle Eastern seasonings in these.

  78. Annie Smyth says:

    LOL. I think you’re right and I’m sorry to drive you crazy. I’m not a super confident cook at this point and I’m so nervous about this potluck! I think I’m gonna do the tomato sauce but use more chopped tomatoes and skip the paste. Then make cauliflower rice with the olives, scallions, cucumber. Sound ok? :-)

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