We don’t typically eat a lot of red meat in our home. Our “meaty” protein intake revolves around turkey, chicken, seafood and fish. But thanks to a recent sale at Publix, ground lamb is starting to show up in our dinner rotation every now and then. Like ground turkey and chicken, lamb has a subtle, light flavor and absorbs flavor well. Its fat content is higher than chicken or turkey, so to create a nice balance, we pair it with something acidic or vinegary. Baked Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki sauce is that perfect pairing that our whole family gets excited about!
Is Ground Lamb Healthy?
We follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to manage my daughter’s Crohn’s Disease. This diet involves eliminating most complex/starchy carbs and eating mostly unprocessed fruits, veggies, nuts, some cheeses and high quality animal protein. Lamb is a rich source of high-quality protein and can be an excellent component of a healthy diet. It contains all 9 of the essential amino acids and many other vitamins and minerals including:
Vitamin B12. Important for blood formation and brain function. Animal-derived foods are rich in this vitamin, whereas vegan diets lack it. Deficiency may cause anemia and neurological damage.
Selenium. Meat is often a rich source of selenium, though this depends on the feed of the source animal. Selenium has various important functions in the body.
Zinc. Zinc is usually much better absorbed from meat than plants. It’s an essential mineral important for growth and the formation of hormones, such as insulin and testosterone.
Niacin. Also called vitamin B3, niacin serves a variety of important functions in your body. Inadequate intake has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Phosphorus. Found in most foods, phosphorus is essential for body growth and maintenance.
Iron. Lamb is rich in iron, mostly in the form of heme iron, which is highly bioavailable and absorbed more efficiently than non-heme iron found in plants.
Check out this article from Heathline for even more information about lamb.
How to prepare Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki
In the recipe below, we simply made lamb meatballs and popped them in the oven on a sheet pan. Easy peasy! For a little more flare, you could skewer the meatballs and cook them over a grill pan or an outdoor grill. Who doesn’t love food on a stick?! We have also just formed the ground meat mixture into patties to create lamb burgers. Top them with the tzatziki sauce and some feta and you will have the perfect mediterranean burger! Any way you cook them, keep these 3 tips in mind:
DO NOT skip the tzatziki sauce. It is the key to what makes a lamb meatball special.
DO make the tzatziki first and allow it to sit in the fridge for as long as you can. This will allow all those yummy flavors to incorporate.
Do not overcook your lamb. Overcooking will result in a dried out meatball. Ground lamb should only be cooked to 160 degrees, keeping in mind that the meat will continue to cook slightly even after you remove it from the oven/heat source.
How to serve Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki
To create a complete meal, serve your meatballs alongside some mediterranean inspired veggies. Try these fun ideas:
Toss some veggies right onto the sheet pan with your raw meatballs. The veggies will roast in the lamb juices, and they turn out so delicious! Try:
Zucchini or Yellow Squash
Baby yellow potatoes
A simple Greek salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion and dressed simply with lemon, olive oil salt and pepper.
Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad- This is my go-to side dish and in my opinion, an essential component. Just toss all of the ingredients below together and allow them to marinate for at least an hour if possible. The vinegar mixed with the tzatziki and lamb just makes the most perfect combination!
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine, white or apple cider vinegar
Between the creamy homemade tzatziki, the juicy meatballs or the veggie sides, it’s hard to choose our favorite meal component! No matter what your favorite, this Mediterranean inspired meal is the perfect combination of fat, salt and acid.
**Important** Make the Tzatziki Sauce first. Refrigerate and allow the flavors to incorporate at least while you make the meatballs or up to 4 hours.
For the Tzatziki:
1/2 seedless/English cucumber- peeled, any seeds removed, finely shredded
1 cup fresh mint or parsley leaves- loosely packed and chopped (I use a combo of both)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
For the Tzatziki:
Peel, de-seed and finely shred the cucumber. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
With the back of your knife, smash the garlic clove into a paste.
Mix the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and spices with the yogurt.
Important! Make sure you are using a thick consistency Greek style yogurt. Regular yogurt will be too watery, especially after you add the lemon juice and olive oil. If using SCD legal yogurt, you may need to strain the yogurt first.
Squeeze as much water out of the shredded cucumber as you can and stir it into the yogurt mixture.
Refrigerate while you make the meatballs and longer if possible.
For the Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Finely chop the red onion and (if desired) saute until the onion begins to soften. (This step isn’t necessary, but I like the flavor of the sauted onion in meatballs.)
Finely chop the garlic clove and mint/parsley leaves.
Using your hands, gently mix all ingredients with the lamb.
Form into meatballs, but do not overwork the meat. We make the meatballs smaller which results in 20-24 meatballs.
Add any cut and salt/peppered veggies to your sheet pan if desired. This is a SUPER delicious way for an easy side dish.
Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes depending on the size of your meatballs. The lamb should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees and veggies should be done to your liking.
Serve warm with tzatziki sauce and any other veggie sides. See post for suggestions.
The veggies on the sheet pan roast in the lamb juices and make a very delicious side dish!
Tomato, Cucumber and Onion salad is my FAVORITE accompaniment to this dish! In my opinion, it creates the perfect combination! You can find a quick recipe for these vinegary marinated veggies in the post.
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