Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)
Learn how to make Greek Meatballs or Keftedes. These meatballs are scented with spices, loaded with grated onions and garlic and fresh parsley, so they’re flavorful and perfect to stuff inside pitas and top with tzatziki!
Can you tell I’m ready to dive headfirst into fall with all the comfort food?
I know, not everyone thinks of Greek food as comfort food exactly, but it’s the smell of the spices in the air that makes this meal a great for the fall. Fall is meatball season for me. I love finding new meatball recipes from around the world and putting my little twist on them. If you can toss ingredients into a bowl and stir, you can make these meatballs.
These Greek meatballs are quick and easy to make and how you serve them is entirely up to you. You can go the mezze platter route and put out hummus, pita triangles, tzatziki, a Greek salad, fresh olives, and meatballs and serve it that way or roll these greek meatballs into a pita and top with tzatziki and thinly sliced onions and tomatoes.
Whenever I’m formulating a new meatball recipe, I know one thing will remain pretty constant. I always turn back to my grandmothers and moms age-old trick to keep meatballs tender and moist. All you need is a couple of slices of torn bread soaked in a splash of milk for a few minutes, and I’m telling you, you’re going to be surprised at how much moister and tender these meatballs are. I’m convinced that grandmothers around the world should get credit for Ross’ ‘moist maker’ sandwich slices dipped in gravy because that’s essentially what the bread pieces do here for us. There’s one other trick to keeping Greek Meatballs tender and the juices locked in; I’ll share as we keep going.
If it’s not already obvious, I’m kinda meatballs crazy. Just take a look at all the different meatball recipes I’ve made, and you’ll be convinced. There’s Swedish meatballs, chicken parm meatballs, gyro patties, chicken piccata meatballs, Cajun-style ones, General Tso’s meatballs, honey-chipotle chicken meatballs, cheese-stuffed meatballs, firecracker chicken meatballs, chipotle butter chicken meatballs, and the list goes on and on!
What do you need to make Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)?
- white bread (brown will work too)
- grated onions
- chopped parsley
- minced garlic
- an egg
- ground beef/lamb
- oil, for frying
What if I’m gluten-free, can I use gluten-free bread to make meatballs?
Yes, a couple of slices of gluten-free can be used in place of the regular bread. You’ll want to tear it into small pieces and soak it in milk just the same way.
How to make Greek meatballs:
- First, grab a large bowl. Tear the bread into really small pieces, like ¼ – ½ inch squares or so. Pour the milk on top and allow the bread to sit and soak for about 5-10 minutes. This will soften the bread and be the ‘moist maker’ portion of our meatballs. Once the bread is soaked, we’ll add grated onions, chopped parsley, garlic, and egg, and all the dried herbs and spices and combine. My trick to making meatballs extra tender is to combine everything before adding the meat, that way, all the ingredients are well mixed, and you don’t overwork the meat!
- Once the ingredients are mixed, add the meat and continue to mix until *just* combined. Then, if you have time, allow the meatball mixture to sit covered in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, so the flavors develop further. To make the meatballs, grab a measuring tablespoon and spray it with cooking spray. Then scoop a tablespoonful of the meat mixture, then roll it into balls. You’ll end up with anywhere between 28-34 meatballs. Place them on a clean surface until ready to cook.
- Heat a generous glug of oil in a skillet until it’s hot. Then, dip and roll the meatballs in a small bowl filled with flour and coat them evenly. Shake off any excess flour and place the meatballs in a skillet about 2 inches apart, so they sear and not steam. The key is not to overcrowd the pan. Let them cook for roughly 4-6 minutes total, flipping them every minute or two, so they brown on all sides. Remove the cooked meatballs to a plate. And continue to cook them in batches.
What if the metaball mixture starts sticking to my hands when I’m rolling them?
If you find the meatball mixture sticks to your hands are you’re rolling them, wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and then pour about a ½ teaspoon of oil in the palm of your hands and rub both hands together. Then, when you grab the meatball mixture, it should only stick to itself!
I find that it’s helpful to line a baking sheet with wax paper, then portion out the meatballs using a scoop onto the baking sheet. Once I’ve used up all the mixture, I wash my hands thoroughly, dry them off, and use the oil method to roll them. The assembly line process makes it a lot easier than scooping and rolling each individual meatball. You could also enlist someone else’s help and do just a portion of the work! 🙂
Why do we dip Keftedes in flour before frying?
Dipping the meatballs in the flour mixture before frying them plays a two-part roll. The first thing is that the flour barrier creates a moisture seal inside the meatballs, so all the juices say locked in, that way your meatballs aren’t dry! The second thing is that the flour crust adds a nice textural element to each bite.
Can I make a batch of keftedes and freeze them?
Once you cook the meatballs allow them to cool, you can pop them into freezer-safe bags or even in a container and freeze them for up to 3 months. Just allow them to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, and they’re ready to eat!
How do you suggest serving Greek meatballs?
- Over baby spinach with tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, feta, drizzled in tzatziki sauce to make a greek meatball salad
- As a mezze platter – which I like to think of it as a Greek-style charcuterie board complete with hummus, briny olives, flatbread, tabouli, sliced veggies, crackers, and dips. This would be great to put out during the holidays if you’re hosting any parties or get-togethers!
- As a bowl over quinoa or vermicelli rice pilaf
- As a wrap. Roll these meatballs up in pita bread and top with tzatziki with tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. Try my 2-ingredient flatbread recipe if you’re looking for a homemade version!
- On the side with my marinated feta Greek Salad
Regardless of how you choose to serve these Greek Meatballs, I hope it brings you as much comfort as it brings us!
- 2 slices of white bread, torn into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons milk
- ¼ cup EACH: grated onions (squeeze out excess liquid) AND chopped parsley
- 4-6 cloves minced garlic (less if you don’t like garlic)
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon EACH: salt AND dried mint (double if fresh)
- ½ teaspoon EACH: black pepper, ground cinnamon, AND dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ¼ pound ground beef and lamb (see notes)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- Oil, for frying
- PREP: In a large bowl, pour the milk over the bread and press down with a spoon or your fingers so that the bread soaks up all the milk; let sit 5 minutes. Add the grated onions, chopped parsley, minced garlic, egg, dried mint, salt, black pepper, ground cinnamon, dried oregano, and nutmeg to the bowl and mix until well combined. Then, add the ground meat and gently mix until *just* combined. If time permits, I suggest covering and refrigerating the mixture for 1-2 hours (or as long as you can) so the flavors develop further.
- MEATBALLS: Using a tablespoon measure or a cookie scoop, measure out meatballs, you’ll get anywhere in the ballpark of 28-34 meatballs. Roll them into balls and place on a clean surface until you’re ready to cook.
- COOK: Place the all-purpose flour in a small bowl. Heat a large frying pan with enough oil to cover the bottom surface. Dredge a batch of 8-10 meatballs in the flour one at a time, dust or shake off the excess flour, and place the meatballs in the skillet. Let cook for 4-6 minutes or until cooked through flipping them every couple of minutes to cook them all the way through and brown all sides evenly. Then, remove the cooked meatballs to a clean plate. Repeat with additional batches.
- SERVE: You can serve these Greek Meatballs in homemade naan bread, and serve along with my marinated feta salad and homemade hummus! You can even serve this over my Lebanese rice pilaf and drizzle with tzatziki!
- You can use all ground beef or ground lamb for this recipe but I like to use a combination of the two. I typically use ¾ pound ground beef and ½ pound ground lamb.