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Ground coriander (Recipe: curried turkey meatballs)

A favorite post from the earliest days of The Perfect Pantry, updated with new photos, recipe and links.


Once upon a time...

Our granddaughter Sabina knows that all good stories begin this way.

Once upon a time, the Sultan Schahriah, who had caught his sultana cheating on him, resolved to marry a different woman every day -- and to have her beheaded on the following morning, so no wife could ever get the chance to be unfaithful to him again.

(Sound familiar? It's the premise of The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.)

Scheherezade, daughter of the Grand Vizier, begged to become his next wife, so she could put a stop to this nonsense. To forestall her own death and the death of any other unlucky bride, she crafted a story-within-a-story so intriguing that, night after night, the Sultan spared her life.

In one tale, she told of a merchant, childless for forty years, who was "cured" by a love potion containing coriander. And though this story was very old (the tales were first published in Arabic in 850 AD, from stories handed down through generations before that), Scheherazade might have gotten the idea from the Chinese, who for thousands of years had used coriander as an aphrodisiac.

Coriander (both the leaf and the seed have the same name; cilantro is the Spanish name for the fresh herb) may have been named after koris, the Greek word for "bedbug", as it was said they both emitted a similar odor. Maybe not, according to some scholars, but I'm one of those people who doesn't like the taste or aroma of fresh coriander (it smells like bedbugs to me), so I like this theory.

Native to western Asia and the Mediterranean, coriander is cultivated in eastern Europe, India, the US and Central America, and it features in the cuisines of all of those regions. After the seeds are thoroughly dried, they're often roasted before being ground with other spices to form the basis of curry powders, masalas, harissa, ras el hanout, advieh, baharat, and dukka.


Like all ground spices, coriander will degrade fairly quickly. Store it in a jar on your spice rack for up to 6 months, or buy in larger quantities and keep in the freezer for up to 18 months, decanting small amounts at a time into your spice rack jar.

Considered one of the "sweet" spices, it finds a home in the kitchen pantries of Mexico, France, Russia, North Africa, Iran, India, and the West Indies.

And it's cooked into dishes like carrot and coriander soup, Indian spiced black-eyed peas, potatoes Anna with cinnamon and coriander, vegetable tartlets, coriander madeleines -- dishes so intriguing that Scheherazade's Sultan would, I'm sure, have loved them.

Curried turkey meatballs

Adapted from Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Ananad. Serves 4.


For the meatballs:
1-1/2 lb ground turkey
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp minced ginger root
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
3/4 tsp kosher salt

For the sauce:
1 medium-large onion, minced (set aside 3 Tbsp for the meatballs)
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 bay leaves
1 small (2-inch) piece of cinnamon stick
1-3/4 cups chopped canned tomato (I use Pomi)
2 tsp minced ginger root
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chile powder (cayenne), or to taste
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Kosher salt, to taste (3/4 tsp or more)
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped


In a large bowl, using your impeccably clean hands, mix all ingredients for the meatballs, adding 3 Tbsp of the minced onion (the remainder will go into the sauce). Do not overmix, but be sure the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Set aside while you make the sauce.

In a deep sauce pan, heat the canola oil. Add the remaining onion, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and saute over medium heat until the onions are golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Cook until the oil comes to the surface, 4-5 minutes, then add 1 cup of water. Continue cooking until the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Then stir constantly for 3 minutes; at this point the mixture will be a bit dry. Add the powdered spices and salt, and the remaining water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 5-6 minutes while you form the meatballs.

Form the turkey into meatballs approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter (the size of large walnuts). Set the meatballs into the sauce, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every 2-3 minutes to turn the meatballs and coat them with the sauce. Uncover the pan and continue to cook the meatballs for 3 minutes. Add the parsley, and shake the pan or gently stir. Serve hot or at room temperature.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Falafel-turkey meatballs with pasta
Thai chicken curry
Curried green tomatoes
Peanut dip
Punjab five jewels

Want more meatball recipes? Get Meatballs, my e-book packed with amazing, crowd-pleasing, family-friendly low-fat turkey meatball recipes with bold around-the-world flavors, plus full-color photos and a few fun videos. With the FREE Kindle Reading App, great meatballs will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Lydia, I don't like coriander - the leaves, I mean - but this one here I like and use... Go figure. :D

I love this in all it forms and no matter what you call it. The meat balls look excellent. The wooden spoon looks gorgeous.

A sandwich made from the leftovers of these meatballs is delicious!

coriander in all it's forms is a must in Indian cooking so I have it always in my pantry. I've often made turkey meatballs spiced with coriander and other Indian spices. Love seeing this here!

Looks wonderful. Any reason not to brown the meatballs before adding them to the sauce?

I'm thinking that these will be a fabulous addition to a superbowl party. I'll probably make them cocktail size and brown them in the oven beforehand.

Professing my love for coriander in all its forms (leaf & seed). I'm into curried foods again after enjoyed some curried Mei Fun take-out the other night. These curried turkey meatballs sound great to make for our Super Bowl gathering---something different to spice things up!

(P.S. Fun story, I was hooked!)

We have a big bag of whole coriander seed in our pantry. Whenever we have a dish that calls for ground coriander, we toast and grind it up right there, seconds before putting it in the recipe. It's the ultimate in freshness.

Oh God I just love anything and everything curry. I must try these.

Patricia, I'm exactly the same -- don't like fresh cilantro, but love dried coriander.

MyKitchen, thanks. I have more wooden spoons than I care to admit to, for now, anyway!

Rupert, I suspected that would be the case. I'm partial to cold meatballs, too.

Meeta, you know I have so much to learn about Indian cooking. Dishes like this are a great place to start.

Jean, Liz: Browning the meatballs isn't necessary, and might result in overcooking them. Unlike beef or pork meatballs that have more fat, turkey is lean enough that it will cook in just a few minutes in the sauce. Also, browning the outside will block some of the great sauce flavoring from seeping into the meat.

Sandie, sounds like your Super Bowl party will be fun. I thought there was a law that you have to serve chili and wings and nachos with football -- nice to know there's some leeway!

Nate, grinding fresh is always the best way. Do you keep your coriander seed in the freezer? That's where I store mine.

Dawn, you can add more garam masala, if you wish, or even a bit of curry powder. Enjoy!

Brilliant woman;). I love good stories!

That picture is making me really hungry!

I love cilantro! Maybe it's a Texas thing...it is a must in pico! :)

I have not used ground coriander much, but these meatballs look delicious! I do love cilantro.

Oh my, these look ridiculously good! I am so hungry now!

Wow those meatballs do look amazingly mouthwatering! And that sauce!

Janelle, she was clever, wasn't she?

Bridget, I'm not sure if it's a Texas thing -- my Canadian husband loves cilantro, too. I can take it in small doses, but the dried coriander doesn't have the same taste to me, and I can use it much more freely.

Veron, you could definitely add some cilantro in place of the parsley here.

Alisa, Noble Pig: these are worth making and freezing, even if you don't want them right this minute!

Yumm!! I rarely find use for my coriander and it ends up getting stale when I do buy it. This looks like a yummy and filling way to put it to use... thanks :D

Making these right now. Followed exactly except left out the parsley cause I don't have it and used a packaged (sundried tomato and olive) tomato sauce cause I do have it. They smell delicious. Made 33 meatballs with my small cookie scoop and used 1/4 cup of blended flaxseed and water instead of the egg in the meatballs. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Glad to find your site, looking forward to the archives.

Reporting back ... mmm really good. My sauce didn't thicken but it was still great. Everyone liked.

I love cilantro. When I first tried it years ago I thought it tasted like soap but now I'll put it on almost anything.

Tried these yesterday, very very delish! thanks for a great and different ground turkey recipe! I used mayonnaise for binder instead of egg for the meatballs...worked very nicely!

I made these yesterday for my family. I followed the exact ingredients. My family LOVED this. The meatballs are so flavorful on their own. Plus extremely moist. Has changed my perspective on meatballs all together. I will probably never use beef again. The sauce is wonderful. Just the right amount of heat. As a good recipe should, you can taste the layers of flavors. Thanks so much this will be a regular in our home.

Made these yesterday- they are delicious. I would make them again without changing a thing.

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