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Recipe for North African harissa turkey meatballs

North African harissa turkey meatballs

My love affair with turkey meatballs continues, as intense as ever, this time under the exotic influence of Morocco and Tunisia. Cumin, coriander, parsley and harissa -- fundamental flavorings in North African cuisine -- turn a basic meatball recipe into something exciting, like a love affair should be. Even if you usually don't eat spicy food, please don't omit the harissa, a fiery hot pepper paste that includes chile peppers, coriander, cumin, caraway and garlic; a small amount, balanced by the cooling Greek yogurt and bland flavor of the turkey, will feel just right. And if you're a hot food lover, go ahead and add a bit more spice to your life  -- I mean, add a bit more harissa to your meatballs!

North African harissa turkey meatballs

North African harissa turkey meatballs

From the pantry, you'll need: ground turkey, plain dry bread crumbs, Greek yogurt, egg, ground cumin, ground coriander, harissa, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.

Makes 12 giant meatballs. Serves 6.


1-1/4 lb ground turkey (I use 93% fat-free)
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I use 0% fat)
1 large egg
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp harissa, or more to taste (I use 1-1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, or 1 large finely chopped scallion (or both)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (silicone liner), aluminum foil or parchment paper, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. With your hands, mix until well combined, with the breadcrumbs, chiles and yogurt evenly distributed throughout. Do not overmix.

Using an ice cream scoop with a release (called a "disher", if you buy at a restaurant supply store), form 12 large meatballs, and place on the prepared baking sheet. (If you prefer walnut-sized meatballs, form them by hand.) Bake in the upper third of the oven for 18 minutes, until just slightly brown. Taste one to be sure they're done; the yogurt will keep the meatballs fairly moist.

Serve with pita bread and shredded lettuce and cucumbers, and a bit of plain yogurt.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Greektown turkey meatballs
Curried turkey meatballs
Green chile turkey meatballs
Chipotle turkey meatballs
Turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs
Quinoa turkey meatloaf
Turkey mole chili

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Asian lettuce cups (or wraps) with spicy ground turkey filling, from Kalyn's Kitchen
New Mexican stew with ground turkey and green chiles, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Chinese noodle soup with ground turkey and pickled mustard greens, from Wandering Chopsticks
Ground turkey pasta bake, from Erin's Eats
Black-eyed pea, ground turkey, and chard stew, from We [Heart] Food

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.


I have never been able to find harissa, but I'm getting ready for a day trip to Atlanta, so I will check their international market.

You know this dish is after my heart and my stomach. Love turkey meatballs and I'm sure the addition of yogurt must add some much needed moisture in the meatballs. Great tip. Thanks!

I was just reading about meatballs that the bread crumbs help to make them more tender.... but I've never seen yogurt added. Is that to help tenderize or just to keep it moist since turkey tends to be lean?

Love the Moroccan influence - wimp about the harissa, though.... Maybe I'll try just a tiny bit.... for me, the hubs loves it!

Pam, if you can't find it, please let me know and I'll be happy to send you some. Really.

Warda, I think you might add more harissa to the basic recipe. I add more when I make these for our family. The yogurt does add moisture, and now I make all of my turkey meatballs this way.

Julia, the yogurt is for moisture, because the turkey is so dry otherwise. I use yogurt in my turkey burgers, too. It's a great trick.

Katie, don't be afraid of the harissa! Try the meatballs with just the tiniest bit the first time. I'll bet that after that you'll put a bit more in. The large amount of yogurt really dissipates the heat.

This sounds so good. It's funny because I read the title in my feed reader, thought, wow that sounds so good, and *then* I noticed it was your blog.

Oh my! these look like a great addition to the lunch-box line up for after Spring Break! I am always on the hunt for new turkey recipes.
thanks for sharing!

Are you using powdered harissa? I've never seen that...only the moist, saucy type found in a jar or at a restaurant. I'll have to see if Penzey's carries it.

Kalyn, that makes me smile!

Kim, I've got lots of turkey meatball recipes on this site. I love them, hot or cold. These harissa meatballs can take the place of falafel in a pita sandwich.

Celeste, no, I'm using traditional harissa paste. You can find more information about harissa by clicking on it in the list of "From the pantry you'll need...." above the recipe.

Thanks Lydia. Going to have to see if they carry that at any of the intl. markets.

Celeste (and everyone): If you're ever stuck for an ingredient you read about on The Perfect Pantry and can't find it or order online, please let me know and I'll happily send you some!

oh yum! These look perfect for me! I adore harissa (it's the chili/lemon balance that gets me), and I can't digest beef so I tend towards ground turkey and pork. This one's getting saved!

Melissa, these meatballs are so much lighter than beef meatballs, but without the dryness of most turkey meatballs. And if you love harissa, bump up the amount a little bit!

I love the flavors in these and have been craving Harissa lately. Can't wait to try them :)

I realize that I don't own a scoop (Disher) and my meatballs would be so much more consistent - thanks for reminding me! and thanks for the yogurt tip!

We made these for dinner last night and they got two enthusiastic thumbs up! My only comments were that we used 1 tsp harissa, and even though we're very wimpy with spicy foods, I'd actually double this next time. And I ended up needing about a full cup of panko breadcrumbs to get a good consistency, but then again, I was hand rolling mine. These made 32(!) normal sized meatballs, so I've got them for lunch today AND a bag is in the freezer! Hooray! We're definitely making these again!

Love harissa! These sound tasty.

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