Lamb Meatballs with Tahini ~ Kefte

These lamb meatballs with tahini, a Palestinian specialty also known as kefte, are spiced with cinnamon and allspice, cooked on roasted potatoes so the juices infuse the potatoes with flavor, and finished with a tangy, garlicky, tahini sauce.

A white plate with striped edges filled with potatoes and lamb meatballs with tahini

Kefte. It literally translates to meatballs, and there are no shortage of different types of meatballs in the Middle East. But these Palestinian lamb meatballs drizzled with garlicky tahini sauce are definitely contenders for best kefte. The cinnamon- and allspice-scented lamb meatballs are roasted atop potatoes, so their aromatic juices dribble onto the potatoes during roasting and infuse them with flavor, and then the whole shebang–potatoes AND meatballs—is drizzled with tahini sauce and sprinkled with buttery toasted pine nuts. Did we mention that it can be prepped almost entirely ahead of time and cooked in a single baking dish? Yes, Dorothy, you can both impress AND take time to mingle with your dinner guests.–Angie Zoobkoff

*NOTE How To Make Certain You Have Sufficient Tahini Sauce

We’re a little smitten with this recipe’s tangy tahini sauce. It pairs beautifully with the rich lamb meatballs. But it also pairs beautifully with ample other things. We could list them all. Or we could just let you use your imagination. To make sure that you have plenty of sauce for drizzling, we recommend doubling the tahini sauce recipe.

Lamb Meatballs with Tahini | Kefte

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 40 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
3/5 - 1 reviews
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  • For the potatoes
  • For the lamb meatballs | kefte
  • For the tahini sauce
  • For the pine nut topping


Make the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Slice the potatoes crosswise into circles 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Toss them in a 9-by-13-inch (23-by-33-cm) baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the potatoes with the olive or vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to evenly coat. Spread the potatoes in an even layer in the baking dish (it’s ok if they overlap). Roast until almost but not completely tender, about 40 minutes.

Make the lamb meatballs | kefte

While the potatoes are cooking, in a food processor, combine the lamb, onion, parsley, garlic, pepper flakes, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper and blitz until evenly mixed, 2 to 3 minutes. (Grinding the meat again in this way ensures a better texture.) Using your hands, shape the meatballs into 2-inch (5-cm) ovals that are tapered at the edges.

Pour the extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl and, using your fingertips, lightly coat each lamb meatball with oil to smooth it. (At this stage, you can place the lamb meatballs in a baking dish, cover, and stash them in the fridge for up to several hours.)

When the potatoes are tender, place the lamb meatballs in a single layer on top and roast until the meatballs are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. You can test this by cutting into one or waiting for a thermometer to register 160°F (70°C).

Make the tahini sauce* (see *NOTE above)

[Editor’s Note: Before making this tahini sauce, read the *NOTE above and consider doubling this tahini sauce so you have leftover to drizzle, dabble, and dribble over anything and everything. It’s THAT spectacular and versatile.] In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and salt. Slowly stir in the water, a little at a time, until the sauce reaches the consistency of a very runny honey. (Different brands of tahini varies drastically in consistency. You may need to add a little more water, a few drops at a time, to achieve the desired consistency.)

Make the pine nut topping

In a small skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the pine nuts and cook, stirring or shaking the skillet frequently, until golden, 3 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Serve the lamb meatballs

Once the lamb meatballs and potatoes are cooked, drain off any excess fat that was released during roasting and spoon the tahini sauce over the top. Scatter with the pine nuts and chopped parsley. Serve immediately straight from the baking dish or transfer to a platter.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I really liked this dish. The flavor profile was delicious although it’s not my usual style to use cinnamon and allspice with lamb. I thought potatoes were an interesting touch with Palestinian food - most Middle Eastern recipes seem to use rice, bread, or perhaps pasta as the starchy component. Tahini sauce is delicious with the rich, fatty lamb. Pine nuts with butter seemed to me to be gilding the lily with all the other rich, creamy roasted things in the dish, but why not?

I put the potatoes on an oiled baking sheet because I prefer them crisp, although I may have outsmarted myself because they ended up a little too dark (but still very tasty).

We served the lamb meatballs with a chopped Middle Eastern salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and parsley. This would make a really nice meal for guests as it was interesting, unusual, delicious, and the prep can all be done ahead of time.

The end result was a wonderful burst of flavor. Lamb is the perfect meat to carry the flavors of onion, garlic, allspice, red pepper, cinnamon, and parsley. We could taste each ingredient along with the lamb. Add the tang of the tahini sauce, crunchy nuttiness of the pine nuts, and creaminess of the potatoes—wow, what a dish!

My food processor is apparently not a full-size one because once I put in the lamb, there was no room for anything else, so I mixed it all by hand. The meat wasn't as finely ground as it probably should have been and the onions and garlic weren't as minced as they probably should have been. But some of us loved it just the way it was.


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  1. I made this tonight. I only had a pound of ground lamb which was just fine for the two of us. But I did adjust the spices and use the full amount of potatoes. By the way, I didn’t have enough Yukon gold so I mixed it with a sweet potato. Actually, I liked the sweet potatoes better. They carmelized a little. I thought this was too much work for the payoff though. I probably won’t make it again even though I liked it.

    1. Alene, we completely respect that each recipe isn’t for everyone. Glad it turned out well enough for you to really like it, though, and we always love when someone tweaks a recipe to suit their preferences or their pantry.

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