Greek Chicken Meatballs in Lemon Cream Sauce
Delicious Greek chicken meatballs in a creamy dreamy lemon sauce. These meatballs are tender to the core! Nestled in a rich and creamy lemon sauce, they are perfect to serve over pasta, quinoa, or fluffy rice!
Warm, hearty and deliciously creamy!
These tender, seared chicken meatballs are rolling around in a creamy lemon sauce that has a nice little zing! They’re warm and comforting but still offer a bright and beautiful lemony flavor that doesn’t leave you feeling heavy. Don’t be surprised if you catch the fam eating right out of the skillet while the sauce is still warm and tangy.
It’s the perfect transitional meal to take us from summer right into fall or from winter into spring. I’m not quite ready to let go of all the summer flavors, but with the gloomy weather we’ve been having lately, I’m ready for warm bowls of food again. Greek chicken meatballs totally fit the bill.
What do you need to make the Greek chicken meatballs?
- Garlic + herbs: minced garlic, chopped parsley, and dried oregano help add flavor the meatballs. You can use fresh or dried herbs for this recipe. Keep in mind you need roughly double the amount if you’re using fresh herbs.
- Lemon zest: brightens up the meatballs and adds just a fresh flavor to them
- breadcrumbs: are used for binding. I prefer to use Panko breadcrumbs because they melt right into the meatballs and you don’t even realize they’re there.
- Feta cheese: adds tang and aids in binding the meatballs as well. Before this recipe, I had never added feta cheese to homemade meatballs, and I love the flavor they add.
- An egg: Acts as a binder to hold everything together.
- Ground chicken: I prefer to use ground chicken breasts, but I would think if you like chicken thighs, you might want to use ground thighs here. They would certainly add more flavor and retain extra moisture as well!
How to portion chicken meatballs:
Once you’ve made the meatball mixture, divide it into 24-28 portions. I like to use a cookie scoop so that the meatballs are all the same size. Doing this also cuts down on the guesswork for cooking the meatballs because they cook up in roughly the same amount of time when they’re the same size.
What if the meatball mixture sticks to my hands?
If the meatball mixture sticks to your hands when you’re rolling them, just spray the inside of your hands with a little cooking spray before grabbing the meat mixture. This should keep the mixture from sticking to your hands!
How to make Greek chicken meatballs:
- In a bowl, combine everything but the meat mixture along with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. I use a fork to mix all the ingredients together.
- When the ingredients are mix, add the ground chicken and mix until just combined. You don’t want to overwork the meat mixture or you’ll be left with tough and dry meatballs. Portion the meatballs using a cookie scoop into roughly 1 ½ tablespoon portions.
- Add a drizzle of oil to a hot skillet and cook the meatballs for about 5-7 minutes or until they cook all the way through. You want to flip them so that they brown evenly on all sides. Be sure to not overcrowd the pan or they won’t brown!
TIP: At this point, you can allow the meatballs to cool and freeze them for later. If you plan on making this midweek and don’t have the time to fry the meatballs the day of, just freeze the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment. When frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe bag.
Ingredients for the lemon sauce for Greek chicken meatballs?
- Butter: Butter plays a two-part role in the sauce. We’ll use a little bit to sauté the garlic and flour in and the last tablespoon is added at the end to add creaminess and a little bit of luster to the sauce.
- Garlic: sautéed in butter it adds so much delicious flavor to the sauce
- flour: just a tablespoon is used in this recipe to help thicken the sauce
- Chicken stock: is the base of the creamy lemon sauce
- Green olives: briny green olives are the perfect pairing to the bright zingy lemon sauce. Capers would also work if you aren’t a fan of green olives
- Egg yolks: the egg yolks I know are an unusual addition to a cream sauce. They help emulsify the sauce and make it extra creamy and delicious! Trust me, I was super scared to try it too, but I have a foolproof method for you below!
- Lemon juice + zest: help flavor the sauce
- Nutmeg: Add a depth of flavor that works beautifully with all the lemony flavor in this recipe. Freshly grated works best!
The secret to perfectly smooth lemon sauce:
- Cook the flour: Add a knob of butter to the skillet and allow the butter to melt. Saute the garlic in the butter until fragrant. Then, add the flour and whisk. You want to let the flour cook for 30 seconds to get rid of the raw flavor. Then, slowly drizzle in the chicken broth with one hand while you continue to whisk with the other hand. Once the stock is completely incorporated, allow it to reach a simmer and then let cook for a few minutes until it thickens just a tad bit.
- Combine the yolks and lemon juice: While the sauce is thickening, you want to add the lemon juice to a bowl along with the egg yolks and whisk them to combine. Then, once the sauce is thickened, add a tablespoon of the sauce from the skillet to the lemon egg mixture as you whisk. Adding the hot liquid to the eggs and lemon juice will help temper the yolks so that the sauce doesn’t break later. You’ll repeat the same thing a total of three times or until you’ve added a total of 3 tablespoons of the liquid to the yolk mixture.
- Finish the sauce: With the skillet on the lowest heat setting, stir the yolk mixture into the skillet. Once combined, kick the heat up to medium and continue to stir and cook the sauce for 4-6 minutes until it thickens to your liking. Keep in mind it will thicken quite a bit when it cools, so you don’t want to thicken it too much at this point if you plan on serving it later! Stir in the lemon zest and the nutmeg. Then, add the butter and green olives to the sauce and stir to combine. Place the meatballs back into the pan and allow them to just heat through. Serve warm over buttered orzo, or with fried bread on the side.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Greek Avgolemono Soup
- Rustic Chicken Piccata Meatballs
- French Onion Chicken Meatballs
- Cajun Chicken Meatballs in Cream Sauce
- Swedish Meatballs
- Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon EACH: lemon zest AND chopped parsley
- ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup grated yellow onions
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano (a little more if it’s fresh)
- 1 ¼ pound lean ground chicken
Lemon Olive Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons salted cold butter, cubed
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
- ½ cup green olives (or use ¼ cup capers!)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest + ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- MEATBALLS: In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix together all the ingredients except the ground chicken. You also want to add 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. When the ingredients are combined, add the ground chicken and mix until *just* combined. Just be sure you don’t overwork the meat. Roll into 24-28 meatballs using a cookie scoop or about 1 ½ tablespoon each.
- COOK: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a little oil. Add the meatballs to the skillet but do not overcrowd. Cook in batches if they don’t all fit. Sear the meatballs for 5-7 minutes, flipping to brown all sides evenly, until the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Remove the meatballs to a plate.
- SAUCE: Add 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet along with the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and whisk. Once the flour cooks for 30 seconds, slowly drizzle in the chicken broth with one hand while you continue to whisk with the other hand. Then, allow the sauce to reach a simmer, and continue to cook for 3 minutes or until the sauce thickens a bit. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and let the sauce hang out. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and egg yolks. Once combined, add a tablespoon of the sauce from the skillet into the egg mixture while you whisk it. Repeat this step two more times (so a total of 3 tablespoon of sauce should be added to the yolks.) Then, with the heat on the lowest setting, add the yolk mixture to the sauce you have on the stove. Kick the heat up to medium and stir the sauce and allow it to cook for 4-6 minutes or until it thickens to your liking. Then, stir in the nutmeg and lemon zest. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. Add the last tablespoon of butter to the sauce and allow it to melt in slowly. Add the green olives to the sauce along with the meatballs. Let them heat through for just a minute or two until warm. Serve with fried bread, over buttered orzo, or rice!