Cumin, Sumac, and Chili Lamb Meatballs

Juicy lamb meatballs seasoned with a Turkish spice blend make for a delicious sandwich filling or appetizer.

Cumin, Sumac, and Chili Lamb Meatballs

All meatballs should be as easy to prepare as these are - there's no spattering oil, no time-consuming browning on all sides in a pan, no draining of fat on paper towels. Instead, you just preheat the broiler, mix the lamb with the seasonings in a bowl, shape into meatballs, and broil until done! The recipe below puts the meatballs in a sandwich setting, combining them with sumac-pickled onions, a yogurt-tahini sauce, and some other accoutrements inside of a fluffy pita bread. The sandwich makes for a great lunch or dinner, but these meatballs can easily be adapted as an appetizer - just serve them with the yogurt-tahini sauce for dipping!

The seasoning blend is based on the classic Turkish Adana Kebab seasoning, with sumac for tartness, cumin for earthy spice, and Urfa chili pepper for heat. Some of the seasoning blend is combined with the lamb, while more is sprinkled on top before broiling for extra flavor. You'll be amazed at the way the spices cut through the gamey fat of the lamb to create a perfectly juicy, savory meatball, with none of the mess!

Spices used in this recipe

Peppercorns, Black, Grinder
Sumac, Ground
Cumin Ground
Salt, Kosher
Urfa Chili Pepper


Pickled Red Onions

Yogurt Tahini Sauce

  • 1 medium clove garlic, grated on a Microplane
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice, or to taste


  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, grated on a Microplane
  • 1 ½ tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin, divided
  • 3 tsp. Vanns Sumac, divided
  • 1 ½ Tbs. Vanns Urfa Pepper
  • 3 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt, divided
  • 4 pieces pita, laffa, lavash, or naan bread, to serve
  • Pepperoncini or pickled sport peppers, to serve
  • Small handful chopped parsley, to serve


  1. Make the pickled onions: put the sliced onion in a small saucepan along with a pinch of kosher salt and just cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute, then remove from heat and drain, keeping the onions in the saucepan.
  2. Add the peppercorns, sumac, ground cumin, kosher salt, and cider vinegar to the onions. Add enough water to just cover the onions. Bring to a boil and cook for three minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, before transferring to a non-reactive container. Onions will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.
  3. Make the yogurt-tahini sauce: stir together the tahini, yogurt, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. The mixture will become quite stiff. Add the lemon juice and stir until mixture loosens. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt as desired.
  4. Make the meatballs: preheat the broiler on high with an oven rack three inches below the heat source. In a medium bowl, mix together the lamb, garlic, 2 tsp. Kosher salt, 1 tsp. Ground cumin, 2 tsp. Sumac, and 1 Tbs. Urfa pepper. Use your hands to gently mix until all spices are evenly incorporated.
  5. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and form twelve 1 ½-inch meatballs from the lamb mixture, rolling them gently between your hands to form even shapes. Space the meatballs at least 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.
  6. Combine the remaining ½ tsp. Ground cumin, 1 tsp. Sumac, ½ Tbs. Urfa pepper, and 1 tsp. Kosher salt in a small bowl and stir until evenly combined. Sprinkle over the meatballs on the baking sheet.
  7. Broil the meatballs until browned and internal temperature is 160°F, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from broiler and allow to cool slightly.
  8. To assemble a sandwich, smear a dollop of the yogurt-tahini sauce across the middle of your bread of choice and top with three meatballs, pickled onions, chopped pepperoncini or sport peppers, and chopped parsley. Wrap up and enjoy!


Serves 4 as a main dish.

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