Keftedes are Greek meatballs that are juicy, delicious and easy to make. Serve them with some pita, salad and tzatziki for a complete Mediterranean meal!
If you love Mediterranean recipes, especially Greek recipes) as much as we do, you're going to love these classic Greek meatballs. Like moussaka, pastitsio and chicken souvlaki, keftedes is a well known Greek recipe that's bursting with flavor in every bite!
About this Greek meatballs recipe
Keftedes are Greek meatballs and they are made with lamb or a combination of beef and lamb. They are traditionally fried in a pan; however, I'm going to show you how to make them in the oven as well. Like soutzoukakia, these meatballs are juicy and very tender.
These Mediterranean meatballs are moist and packed with fresh delicious flavors thanks to bold spices and herbs such as thyme, cumin, and mint.
Ingredients and substitutions
Ground beef and ground lamb: Since this recipe uses a combination of lamb and beef, and because lamb contains fat, I prefer using lean ground beef for balance. If ground lamb is not available, you can use ground beef entirely. If you don't use beef, you can use all lamb.
Breadcrumbs: Adding breadcrumbs to the mixture makes it moist and soft. You can use homemade or store bought breadcrumbs.
Onion and garlic: Grated onion mixed with ground beef adds a lot of flavor to the meatballs. It's best to use freshly minced garlic and not garlic powder.
Egg: To bring the ingredients together, we use one egg as a binding agent. You can also use flax eggs instead of eggs.
Spices: What makes this recipe different from other meatball recipes is the spice combination. You need dried mint, dried thyme, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper. If dried mint is not available, you can use 2 tablespoons of fresh mint.
Make the mixture
In a large bowl or in a food processor, mix ground lamb and ground beef. Add in bread crumbs and grated onion to the mixture and mix well. Then, add minced garlic, egg, and the spices and pulse until fully combined.
Shape and cook
Shape the meatballs using an ice cream or cookie scoop and set them aside on a baking sheet. If the mixture is too sticky, wet your hands to shape them.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the meatballs for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times so they cook evenly. Serve warm with your favorite side dish.
Follow the recipe to make the meatballs as described above. Instead of cooking them with olive oil, preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and coat them with just a little bit of cooking spray.
Bake the meatballs in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until they are brown and fully cooked. This is a great method for making lots of tasty meatballs when you're feeding a crowd.
Keftedes can be served as an appetizer with some tzatziki sauce, skordalia or Melitzanosalata. These tasty meatballs can also be served as a complete meal with pita or lavash and some traditional Greek salad or Mediterranean salad.
Storage and freezing
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To serve, place them in a pan with 2 tablespoons of water and reheat over medium low heat.
These Mediterranean meatballs freeze very well. You can freeze these meatballs cooked or uncooked:
- If cooked: Once all the keftedes are cooked and cooled completely, place them in a Ziploc bag and freeze them up to one month. Thaw them in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or in a pan.
- If uncooked: Shape the meatballs and place them on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for one hour until the meatballs are frozen. Then place them in one single layer in a Ziploc bag and freeze them for up to one month. Thaw them in the fridge and follow the cooking instructions provided above.
Frequently asked questions
To make tender meatballs that are not dry, grate the onion and add it directly to the beef and lamb mixture. The juice of grated onion gives moisture to the meatballs.
Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to ensure evenly shaped and portioned meatballs.
Yes, you can mix all the ingredients using your hands. Make sure the ingredients are very well incorporated.
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Easy Greek Meatballs Recipe (Keftedes)
- 1 lb ground beef 90% lean
- ½ lb ground lamb
- 2 tablespoon bread crumbs
- 1 onion grated
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil for cooking
- Place the ground beef and lamb in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times so they're combined.
- Add in bread crumbs, onion and garlic. Pulse again for a couple of times.
- Add in the egg, dried mint, thyme, paprika, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Pulse for about 30 seconds until all the ingredients are perfectly combined.
- Shape the meatballs using an ice cream or cookie scoop and place them on a baking sheet. If the mixture is too sticky, wet your hands and then shape them.
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil and place the meatballs to cook.
- Cook the meatballs for about 10 minutes and stir them a couple of times to make sure they're brown on all sides and cook evenly.
- Serve with pita, Greek salad and tzatziki sauce.
- You can use 1 ½ lb ground lamb instead of beef.
- Baked Greek meatballs: Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until they are brown and fully cooked.
- To make tender meatballs that are not dry, grate the onion and add it directly to the beef and lamb mixture. The juice of grated onion gives moisture to the meatballs.
- Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to ensure evenly shaped and portioned meatballs.
- If you don't use a food processor on hand, make sure you mix the ingredients very well in a large bowl using your hands.
- If dried mint is not available, use two tablespoons of fresh chopped mint.
- When cooking the meatballs in a pan, make sure you don't overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding the pan will cause the meatballs not to cook evenly.