Grilled Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce and Onion Salad

  • Active Time 25m
  • Total Time 4h 35m

Serves 6

Quintessential taverna fare, these flavorful meatballs -- Turkey’s answer to American hamburgers -- are grilled quickly over charcoal, then served tucked into warm pita bread with sliced tomatoes and onions and a garlicky yogurt sauce. The onions are traditionally flavored with sumac, a slightly sour, peppery ground spice used in many Middle Eastern cuisines.


  • For Sauce:
  • 4 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • For Salad:
  • 1 pound red (Spanish) or white onions
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sumac, optional
  • For Meatballs:
  • 2 pounds ground (minced) lean lamb or beef
  • 2 yellow or red (Spanish) onions, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus salt to taste
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 6 pita breads, warmed


FOR SAUCE: Line a large sieve with cheesecloth (muslin), place it over a bowl and spoon the yogurt into the sieve. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours to drain off the excess water. You should have 1 1/2-2 cups drained yogurt. Add the garlic, olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice to the drained yogurt. Stir well and fold in the mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a broiler.

FOR SALAD: Cut any large onions in half and then thinly slice all of the onions. Place the onion slices in a large sieve or colander, add the salt and toss well. Let stand for 15 minutes. Rinse the onion slices with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a bowl and add the parsley and the sumac, if using. Toss well and set aside.

FOR MEATBALLS: In a bowl, combine the lamb or beef, grated onions, garlic, eggs, thyme, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix with your hands until the mixture holds together well. Form into 12 ovals about 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, and thread them onto metal skewers.

Brush the meatballs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the skewers on an oiled grill rack or a broiler pan and grill or broil, turning to brown on all sides, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Remove the skewers from the grill or broiler and slip the meatballs off the skewers. Cut the pita breads into halves and tuck a meatball into each half. Serve at once. Offer the yogurt sauce and onion salad at the table for guests to add to taste.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Owen. All rights reserved.

RecID 2122

nutrition information per serving

667 calories; 26g total fat; 136mg cholesterol; 1930mg sodium; 57g carbohydrates; 4g fiber; 49g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

Sign Up for Newsletters Here

Get recipes, private sale alerts and more goodies, oh joy!