Spiced Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

Photo: Christopher Testani
Prep Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 10 mins

Yogurt turns surprisingly velvety when cooked with cornstarch and egg yolks. Serve it over meatballs seasoned with cinnamon, cumin, and cilantro—and you've got an updated Turkish kofta for your beef dinner. Top it with red-pepper flakes and sumac (a lemony Middle Eastern spice) for an energetic lift.


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 6 large cloves garlic, 3 minced, 3 sliced

  • Coarse salt

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 1 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef

  • 1 large egg, plus 3 large yolks

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving

  • 1 ½ cups plain whole-milk yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • Cooked rice, for serving

  • Ground sumac and red-pepper flakes, for serving


  1. In a large straight-sided skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add onion, minced garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add cumin and cinnamon and cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor; process to a paste.

  2. In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup broth; let stand 5 minutes. Add beef, onion paste, whole egg, and cilantro; mix with your hands to combine. With lightly dampened hands, form mixture into 28 balls, about 2 tablespoons each.

  3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Working in batches (do not crowd pan), cook meatballs until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes a batch. Transfer to a plate; pour off fat from skillet. Return meatballs to pan; add 3/4 cup broth and sliced garlic. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer just until meatballs are cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate with a slotted spoon.

  4. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks and yogurt. In another bowl, whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup broth; whisk into broth in skillet. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then strain through a sieve into yogurt mixture, stirring to combine. Return to skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until just bubbling and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 minute; season with salt. Add meatballs to sauce and heat through. Serve over rice, sprinkled with sumac, red-pepper flakes, and cilantro.

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