Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with
Sizzling Red-Pepper Butter 

A gem of a recipe from the Eastern Mediterranean kitchen, these succulent meatballs bathe in a sauce that will have you scraping the bowl. I have seen similar recipes for whole lamb shanks or chunks of shoulder, but meatballs cook more quickly. They are browned first, then simmered in broth, but the magic happens just before serving when yogurt and a beaten egg are whisked in to thicken the juices. Sizzling red-pepper butter provides a final flourish. Serve with bulgur or rice pilaf, or with egg noodles.

From Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner by Janet Fletcher (Ten Speed Press).


  • 1 pound ground lamb

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup finely minced yellow onion

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon medium-hot ground red pepper, such as Aleppo or Maraş pepper or hot paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds

Make the meatballs:
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Shape into 24 balls, dipping your hands in cold water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs. They should fit in a single layer. Fry gently, turning the meatballs with 2 soup spoons so they brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour off and discard any fat in the skillet and wipe clean with paper towels.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the broth. Stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet and simmer until they dissolve. Return the meatballs to the skillet, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook 10 minutes, then again remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon to a plate.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, garlic, dill, and mint.Slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot broth to warm the yogurt, then pour the yogurt mixture into the skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sauce visibly thickens and just begins to simmer. Add salt to taste and several grinds of black pepper. Return the meatballs to the skillet and turn to coat them with the sauce. Cover and simmer gently until hot throughout, about 2 minutes.

Divide the meatballs and sauce among 4 to 6 warm bowls. Put the butter in a small saucepan or butter warmer and set over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the red pepper and cumin and swirl the pan until the butter foams and sizzles and the pepper’s aroma rises. Drizzle each portion with some of the red-pepper butter. Garnish with chopped dill and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6