This is the best gourmet meatballs recipe to make if you are on a diet – or even if you aren’t. Inspired by the ideas of lamb chops with mint jelly along with Greek gyros (one of Mark’s favorites), these gourmet meatballs combine the bright flavors of spring herbs in a fresh mint sauce with hints of Mediterranean spices to make a delectable, light meal.
A meal that is low carb and gluten free, to boot.
The Inspiration Behind this Gourmet Meatballs Recipe:
Initially, I wasn’t trying to create a guilt free gourmet recipe. The fact that these lamb meatballs with mint ended up being a low carb recipe… well, that just sort of happened. I can’t complain, really. Healthy recipes should be tasty recipes, and if there is one thing that lamb meatballs with mint is, it would be tasty. (Oh, and because these lamb meatballs with yogurt sauce weigh in at less than 2 grams net carbs per serving, I can honestly say that these little guys are truly low carb meatballs!)
As far as the mindful intent behind why I created this recipe, the story goes something like this…
I had lamb meat for the first time at an Outback Steakhouse many years ago. This was waaaaaaay back when the restaurant chain offered a rack of lamb on the menu (and when the menu was a lot less extensive than it is today). The Outback Rack came with a ramekin of mint jelly and a side of rich brown gravy made from the pan juices.
I’ll just get to the point here….
When I tasted this dish, I was in love!
Having lamb with mint soon became one of my favorite culinary flavor combinations, and since I wanted lamb with mint more often than I could afford to go out and get it from restaurants, I needed to learn how to cook lamb at home.
Needless to say, as time went by, I got pretty used to cooking my own lamb chops.
Eventually a third party swooped in and turned this whole lamb-with-mint thing into a love triangle, which made my love affair with lamb even juicier.
It happened the first time I had a gyro…
Ooooooh,… let’s take a moment to talk about the gyro…
Seasoned lamb meat roasted on a spit, slathered with yogurt sauce and all wrapped up in a chewy, pillowy flatbread…. can life possibly get any better? When I introduced Mark to gyros not long after we met, his reaction was pretty much the same as mine was the first time I tried one.
If you’ve never had an authentic Greek gyro, you need to find a place that serves them and try one. Some of the best gyros I’ve ever had were either at street fairs or hole-in-the-wall Greek eateries. The message here is; don’t overlook the least of places because they sometimes have the best of food.
It goes without saying that you need to try lamb chops with mint jelly, too. Just because, you are an adventurous foodie, yeah? I am assuming you are or you wouldn’t have read this far…
Ok, even if you haven’t tried these two favorites, you’ll still appreciate the flavors of Lamb Meatballs with Mint Pesto in Sweet Yogurt Sauce.
This lamb meatballs with mint recipe is a combination of my two favorite aforementioned ways to have lamb; chops with mint jelly for dipping and a traditional Greek gyro. Except that instead of mint jelly, I serve these gourmet meatballs with up with my twist on a classic English mint sauce, which is just a sweet mint pesto recipe that isn’t overly sweet in and of itself, but is enhanced by the mint yogurt sauce that goes with it.
Mint in both, you may ask?
Why, of course! I use the actual herb in the pesto (that green color!), but since lamb meatballs with yogurt sauce wouldn’t be complete without the yogurt sauce, I added peppermint essential oil to the yogurt to keep it healthy and – to be brutally honest – to keep it white.
For the presentation, ya know?
If you add these lamb meatballs with mint yogurt sauce to your fancy Christmas dinner menu this year, you are going to really love the bright green color of the pesto against a snowy white smear of creamy sauce.
If you serve these up in the heat of summer, the dish is low carb and light enough to not leave you feeling weighed down after you eat it.
So practical and healthy!
No need to get your undies in a bundle if you don’t have peppermint essential oil, you can substitute it with peppermint extract, but I highly recommend the essential oil because it is relatively inexpensive (yes, even 100% pure grade peppermint essential oil is inexpensive, which you will want to source out – contact me to find out where I get mine) and the perks of having peppermint essential oil around are many. (For example, use it to keep mice out of your drawers. Spiders hate it, ants run from it, and it naturally opens up your airways when inhaled… which is great news for all you athletes out there!)
And now, a little information for all you culinary nerds.
You know who you are!
The reason why fresh mint sauce pairs so well with lamb:
First of all, let’s talk about what fresh mint sauce actually is.
Many Americans are familiar with serving mint jelly with lamb chops, but there is a distinct difference between mint jelly and mint sauce.
Mint jelly is just what the name implies; mint flavored jelly. You can spread it on bread just like you would any other kind of fruit jelly.
Mint sauce, however, is not as sweet as mint jelly and it is made by chopping up fresh herbs (mainly mint). Typical mint sauces use vinegar as a base, which makes them more acidic. Think of fresh mint sauce more like you would a chutney.
Now as for why mint and lamb pair well together, let’s get a little more scientific, shall we?
When the fat in lamb meat cooks, it releases very unique aromas (mainly due to a lamb’s typical diet of clover and ryegrass). Lamb is a very fatty meat; loaded with branched-chain fatty acids along with stores of a compound of 2,3-octanedione.
Mint is loaded with branched-chain ketones.
Can you see the similarity here?
Branched-chain fatty acids and branched-chain ketones are cousins in the world of food chemistry, so it goes without saying that although their aromas are not identical, they are similar enough to be a scientific match.
(For more detailed information, check out the article Why Pair Lamb with Mint as published in Cook’s Illustrated.)
Why you need to make Lamb Meatballs with Mint Pesto and Sweet Yogurt Sauce:
To put it simply, this is just one darn good recipe and it only takes 30 minutes to make.
Yeah. Easy gourmet recipes in 30 minutes are possible, even lamb recipes!
If you need a budget-friendly lamb recipe, using ground lamb is a great place to start because it is relatively inexpensive compared to a whole rack of lamb or lamb chops. Ground lamb can also be found at most local grocery stores, so you don’t have to go on a wild goose chase to find it.
But, why stop there?
Lamb Meatballs with Mint Pesto and Sweet Yogurt Sauce makes a great addition to your recipe collection if you need fancy dinner menu ideas on the fly, are looking for new healthy dinner ideas, or just want to start out with some easy gourmet recipes to make at home.
I can’t think of a reason NOT to make these meatballs!
Lamb Meatballs with Mint Pesto and Sweet Yogurt Sauce
- Food Processor
- Large Bowl
- Small Bowl
- Rimmed Baking Sheet
- Kitchen Tongs
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp coconut flour
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup flat parsley finely chopped, plus
- ¼ cup whole flat parsley leaves
- 2 tbsp plus 1/4 cup olive oil divided
- 1 tsp fine sea salt plus more
- 1 garlic clove peeled
- 1 lb ground lamb
- ¼ cup whole mint leaves firmly packed
- ¼ cup whole milk plain greek yogurt
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 3 to 4 drops liquid stevia
- a few grinds black peppercorns (from a pepper mill), or a pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- In a large bowl, mix together the egg, coconut flour, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, finely chopped parsley leaves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt. Add the ground lamb and mix everything together well. Use your hands for best results!
- Roll the lamb mixture into balls that are about one inch in diameter. You should end up with around 20 meatballs. Place the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet so that they are evenly spaced. Bake on the top rack in the oven for 12-15 minutes. When done, use kitchen tongs to roll the meatballs around on the baking sheet. This will smooth out any uneven edges as well as coat them in their juices for maximum flavor.
- While the meat is baking; add the mint leaves, whole parsley leaves, the second garlic clove, 1/4 cup olive oil, and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Pulse for about a minute or until leaves are very finely chopped and the pesto is beginning to get smooth.
- In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, peppermint essential oil, liquid stevia and fresh ground black pepper. Mix well until the yogurt is smooth and creamy and the flavors are evenly distributed.
- Smear a spoonful of yogurt sauce onto each plate. Drop a spoonful of mint pesto on top of the yogurt and smear the pesto into the yogurt using light, arcing motions. (Don't overdo it, though! You want to have distinct circles of white yogurt and green pesto covering the plates.). Place 5 meatballs on top of the sauce/pesto swirls, then top the meatballs with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with a grind or two of fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes.