Spicy Cumin Lamb Meatballs

Nothing compares to the flavor of meat the day it was ground, and grinding meat at home allows you to choose your own flavors. Perfect this meatball recipe to arm yourself with an easy dinner solution for any weeknight. With a crisp crust and tender interior, these cumin-scented meatballs feel at home in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian recipes. To use store-bought ground lamb, substitute short-grain rice for the long-grain white rice to get the best texture.

Spicy Cumin Lamb Meatballs
Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 45 mins


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarsely ground Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes

  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed, divided

  • 1 (2-pound) boneless leg of lamb

  • 1 cup cold cooked long-grain white rice

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided, plus more for hands

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 6 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 cup panko

  • 5 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted, divided

  • 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted

  • 2 large green bell peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 5 cups)

  • 2 medium-size red onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

  • 4 small jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 2/3 cup)

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

  • Hot cooked long-grain white rice, for serving


  1. Toss together cumin seeds; Sichuan pepper, if desired; chile flakes; and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Cut lamb into 3- x 3/4-inch strips. Toss lamb strips with cumin mixture in a large bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. Follow instructions for grinding lamb using the grinding technique here, gently folding cold cooked rice into coarsely ground lamb before regrinding in step 5 and omitting step 6 (do not knead).

  2. Preheat oven to 450°F with oven racks in upper third and lower third of oven. Coat a 13- x 9-inch broiler-safe rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with 1 tablespoon canola oil, and line bottom of baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. Stir together cilantro, cream, parsley, egg yolks, olive oil, and 4 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl. Crumble ground lamb into bowl; add panko and 1/4 cup white sesame seeds. Mix with hands until thoroughly incorporated.

  4. With oiled hands, gently roll mixture into 28 golf ball–size (about 1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet in a snug grid formation with meatballs touching on all sides. Sprinkle black sesame seeds and remaining 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds over top.

  5. Place bell peppers, onions, jalapeños, ginger, remaining 2 garlic cloves, remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil, and remaining 2 teaspoons salt on a baking sheet. Toss to coat, and spread in an even layer.

  6. Place vegetable mixture in the lower third of preheated oven and meatballs in the upper third. Roast until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 9 minutes; remove from oven. Continue baking meatballs until slightly firm, about 3 minutes. Remove meatballs, and turn on broiler to low. Broil meatballs in upper third of preheated oven until crusty and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove meatballs, and let cool on baking sheet 5 minutes before serving. While meatballs cool, stir vegetable mixture, and place in upper third of oven. Broil until slightly charred in spots, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve meatballs with rice and roasted vegetables topped with cilantro.

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