Turkish Spiced Meatballs with Pomegranate Yogurt Sauce

Makes about 42 meatballs
  • Active time: 30 min
    Total time: 9 1/4 hrs (includes yogurt draining time; without draining, 1 1/4 hrs)
Italian and Swedish meatballs, step aside. These Turkish meatballs are so juicy, light, and flavorful—not to mention easy—they'll be rocking your party world this holiday season. And you've got to admit that hors d'oeuvre offerings can't get more festive than the accompanying pomegranate yogurt dip. If you can find labne (thick, Middle Eastern yogurt), use it. Strained whole-milk yogurt comes closer to the flavor of labne than Greek yogurt, but if you're short of time, Greek yogurt is a fine substitute.

This recipe is part of our Gourmet Modern Menu: New Year's Eve Party. Click here to view the full menu.

Published in Gourmet Live 12.05.12


For Pomegranate Yogurt Sauce:

  • 2 cups whole-milk yogurt or 1 cup labne or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish (about 2 tablespoons, or to taste)

For Meatballs:

  • 2 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 pound ground lamb (preferably shoulder) or ground chuck
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes (see Cooks' Notes)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • Decorative picks


Make Sauce:

  • Put yogurt in a paper towel–lined sieve set over a bowl and keep covered and chilled 8 to 12 hours.
  • Boil pomegranate juice in a small heavy saucepan until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 10 minutes. Keep warm off heat, covered.

Make Meatballs:

  • Soak whole slices of bread for 30 minutes in a mixing bowl filled with water, then fold and squeeze gently to remove as much water as possible.
  • Pulse onion in a food processor until finely chopped, then add parsley and pulse again until finely chopped. Add lamb, bread (torn into pieces), allspice, red-pepper flakes, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pulse, stopping and scraping down sides, until combined. (Do not overblend.)
  • Roll level tablespoons of meat mixture into balls (about 42), arranging them on plates or on another sheet pan.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line a large, rimmed sheet pan with foil.
  • Heat olive oil and vegetable oil together in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until oils shimmer (put one meatball in to test; it should sizzle). Brown meatballs all over in batches of 10 to 12, turning occasionally with a spoon or shaking skillet (lower heat if oil begins to smoke), about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer, as browned, to lined sheet pan.
  • Once all meatballs are browned, transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake until meatballs are cooked through (cut one open to look, or use an instant-read thermometer; it should register 160°F), 10 to 15 minutes. Drain briefly on paper towels.
  • Spoon drained yogurt into a small serving bowl and drizzle with pomegranate syrup, then swirl it in briefly with a spoon. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds over top. Spear each meatball with a toothpick and serve yogurt alongside for dipping.


  • Although we call for supermarket-style hot pepper flakes, if you want to be really authentic, substitute Turkish Maras or Urfa pepper, or Syrian Aleppo pepper.
  • Meatballs can be formed 1 day ahead and kept chilled. They can also be cooked 1 day ahead then chilled once cooled completely. Reheat in a 350°F oven until warmed through, about 10 minutes.
  • Yogurt can be drained 5 days ahead and kept chilled, covered.
  • Pomegranate syrup can be made 5 days ahead and chilled, covered. Rewarm until pourable.
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