Braised Spicy Lamb Meatballs (Or Goat)

Spicy lamb meatballs are easy to make and so delicious I can eat the whole batch-especially if they’re cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. This is my favorite spicy lamb meatball recipe. If you love spicy food like I do, make sure to try this one.

Spicy lamb meatballs cooked in a pan.
Everyone will love the meatballs braised in tomato sauce.


You’ll need ground lamb or goat, breadcrumbs, egg, herbs like cilantro, green onions, and a few spices. The heat can come from a few different places-feel free to experiment. I like a combination of cayenne and crushed red pepper flakes for a bold flavor.

After the meatballs are formed, the best way to cook them is to braise them in a tomato sauce until tender. While you can bake the meatballs like you would beef or pork, lamb meatballs are more lean and benefit from slow cooking until tender.

Spicy lamb meatball ingredients: ground lamb, spices, egg, cilantro, scallions, breadcrumbs and garlic.
Spicy lamb meatball ingredients.


First you combine the ground meat, scallions, herbs and spices in a large bowl.


I like spiced lamb meatballs with cumin, coriander (fennel can be good too) and grated garlic. The meat mixture is mixed by hand, and it’s a good idea to use gloves as it’s spicy.

Once the meat is mixed I let it rest overnight for the best flavor but you can cook it right away.

It’s important to cook a small piece to test the seasoning and adjust as needed until it tastes perfect to you. Once you’re happy with it, roll the meatballs out with lightly oiled hands, brown in a pan, add a can of tomatoes and simmer until spoon-tender.

Cooking meatballs in a carbon steel skillet.
Cooking meatballs in a carbon steel skillet.

You can also fry the meatballs in a pan, just make sure to undercook them a little. They’re pictured below with yogurt sauce and a salad from my yard using: caraway leaves, creeping bellflowers, bee balm flowers, purslane and lambsquarters.

Chef Alan Bergo
Chef Alan Bergo, The Forager Chef

This recipe is by James Beard award-winning Chef Alan Bergo, the Forager Chef and author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora. Learn more about Chef Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at


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A pan of spicy lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce
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Braised Spicy Lamb Meatballs

Spicy grass fed lamb meatballs braised until spoon-tender in a simple tomato sauce. Makes about 28 small, bite-sized meatballs.
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Spicy lamb meatballs
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 296kcal
Cost: 10


  • 2-3 quart sauce pot
  • 1 baking sheet
  • 3 quart mixing bowl
  • Parchment paper


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin or coriander
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated or finely minced garlic
  • ½ cup sliced scallions or red onion
  • ½ cup sliced cilantro or a mix of herbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 32 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • olive oil or cooking oil for rolling out the meatballs



  • Mix the breadcrumbs, egg and mayonnaise.
  • In a bowl combine the ground lamb and remaining ingredients, including the breadcrumbs mixture.
  • Cook a small piece of the meat mixture. Taste the seasoning and judge whether you think it needs more salt, herbs, or heat. Adjust with a pinch or two of what's needed, mix again, and cook another small piece. Repeat this until the meatballs taste great.
  • Refrigerate the meat mixture overnight for the best flavor.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Roll out the meatballs using lightly oiled hands. You can make them different sizes, but 1/2 oz meatballs (1 tablespoon) are a good size for appetizers. For entrée portions, I use 2 oz meatballs or larger.
  • Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Tomato Sauce

  • Squeeze the seeds from the tomatoes into a sink or a bowl and discard. Put the tomatoes and their juice from the can in a blender.
  • Mix the meatballs in a 2-3 quart pot with the tomato puree, bring to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes – 45 minutes, or until the meatballs are spoon tender. Double check the seasoning of the sauce for salt, pepper and spiciness and adjust until it tastes good to you.
  • Serve the meatballs with something to catch the sauce like soft polenta, pasta or mashed potatoes. They can also be served as an appetizer with toothpicks.


Sauteed Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce 

The other dish pictured in this post is made by quickly sauteeing the meatballs to medium. 
Yogurt Sauce
  • 1 cup thick Greek yogurt
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) grated cucumber, squeeze of water
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or a mix of herbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, double check the seasoning for salt, pepper and herbs. Quickly brown the meatballs in a heavy pan in a little oil, which should take about 4-5 minutes. The meatballs should be pink inside and are safe to eat undercooked, just like beef. 


Serving: 3oz | Calories: 296kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 737mg | Potassium: 534mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 807IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 3mg