Spiced Lamb Meatballs In Pita With Quick Pickles

I tried to pack as much flavor as possible into these spiced lamb meatballs. I use cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, dill, and chopped dates to season the lamb. The chopped dates add the perfect amount of sweetness to the spiced meatballs. 

In my opinion, the best meatballs have a starch that acts as a binder - usually breadcrumbs. I felt that breadcrumbs wouldn’t fit the theme of this dish, and decided to use rolled oats instead. The oats work so well that I've been thinking a lot about other ways to use them in future recipes.

My favorite part of this recipe is the quick pickles. They add a bit of tang and crunch to the tender meatballs and pita.


(16 small) Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons Kosher salt 
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Tomato sauce

  • 1, 14-ounce can tomato sauce 
  • ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ⅓ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Kosher salt & ground black pepper

Quick Pickles

  • 1 English cucumber, cut into 1-inch rectangles 
  • ½ large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped


  • 6 pieces pita bread
  • Yogurt or tzatziki


Step 1

Toss the cucumbers, red onion, salt, sugar, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and dill in a large bowl. Chill for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

Step 2

 In a large bowl mix together the following ingredients:

  • Ground lamb
  • Large egg
  • Rolled oats
  • Chopped dates
  • Chopped dill
  • Cinnamon 
  • Cumin
  • Cayenne 
  • Kosher salt & ground black pepper

Using your hands, take about 1 tablespoon of mixture and shape it into meatballs. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Brown the meatballs in batches - about 1 minutes per side. Set the meatballs aside and add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. Sauté the onions until softened and season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the cinnamon, cumin, and red pepper flakes - stir together and cook for 1 minute to bloom the spices.

Add the tomato sauce, and honey - season with salt and pepper. Transfer the meatballs into the sauce and bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cover with a tight fitting lid - cook covered for 25 minutes.

Step 3

Warm the pitas in the oven. To assemble, stuff each pita with 3 meatballs, and a small amount of sauce - top with the quick pickles and yogurt. 

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