Heartbeet Kitchen
Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce
May 13, 2016 (last updated January 23, 2021) in Beef, Pork & Lamb · Dairy-Free · Dinner · Gluten-Free · Paleo · Winter · 23 Comments

Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce {paleo}

Meatballs…… sound so rough and tough, burly if you will. Not always the prettiest spectacle of meat, and with balls in the title, they tend to evoke a childish giggle. But really they’re quite the hero, something you can make once and hack your way around several meals throughout the week, even breakfast.

If there is such a thing as a feminine meatball, THIS would be it – bright and lemony, with cardamom and pine nuts, nestled in garlic tahini sauce, served over a rice/quinoa pilaf. I posted my first batch on Instagram a few weeks ago, and can’t stop making them. Adapted from this recipe to be gluten-free (dairy-free, paleo too) and with fewer ingredients so they’re ready in 25 minutes, these Moroccan inspired sparklers are too good not to share.

I’ve learned throughout trials in the meatball department that you don’t need breadcrumbs to bind them together, or keep them soft. It’s all in the egg, just adding it to the meat and gently mixing with your hands. They’re tender and juicy, and able to handle the sear of a hot skillet, which by the way, I’m smitten with my copper Falk pans. Sturdy as all get out, they heat up super quick, and they’re quite easy on the eyes.

Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce

I know some people aren’t particularly fond of lamb’s earthy flavor, which is why using vibrant herbs, cardamom, and lemon in this recipe really help to soften that. While they’re certainly not traditional and you can’t compare them to grandma’s red sauce beauties, they’ve become my favorite meatball – hands down. Especially with that garlic tahini sauce, and a few pine nuts in each bite.

For the love of something different, delicious, and worthy of a weeknight savior, I suggest you get on this meatball train.

And speaking of trains…. I’m lost in New York right now finishing up an exciting project with Cake in A Crate, which has been in the works since December. I can’t wait to share more about it, but know that inspiration came from my Salty Chocolate Date Caramels and Peanut Butter Scotcheroos, my favorite bars (a Minnesota/midwest thing) growing up. If you want to catch a few behind the scenes clips, I’m sharing those on Snapchat, @HEARTBEETKITCHN (no e at the end).

Happy weekend, everyone!


Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce

Yield: 5
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Lamb meatballs made with lemon and cardamom, served in a creamy tahini sauce.


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil


  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • about 1/4 cup warm water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the lamb, onion, garlic, beaten egg, fresh herbs, lemon zest, pine nuts, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Mix everything together using your fingertips. You want to get all the ingredients evenly distributed without compacting the meat.
  3. Form about 10 meatballs from the mixture. You can do this several hours ahead of time if you want, but be sure to cover the meat completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Cover the bottom of a heavy pan with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until hot.
  5. Work in batches so you don't crowd the pan, and brown the meatballs on all sides for about 4 minutes. Add more oil as necessary.
  6. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Or you can continue to cook them on the stovetop, but it takes longer to get them cooked all the way the way through.
  7. Meanwhile make the sauce by mixing the tahini garlic, lemon juice and salt, then adding enough water to make a thin sauce. Salt it to taste.
  8. Serve the meatballs hot from the oven, nestled in the sauce. Garnish with more pine nuts, herbs, atop rice, quinoa, or even orzo pasta.


adapted from this recipe, blog: The View From Great Island


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23 thoughts on “Lemon Cardamom Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Garlic Tahini Sauce

  1. Madeline

    I always feel a bit gross when I announce I’m making meatballs, but they ARE so so good and versatile! I love how you added lemon and pine nuts AND tahini here. Tahini is currently one of my favorite things in my kitchen!

  2. robyn holland | sweetish.co

    you had me at feminine meatball. all of this sounds so marvelous. i can’t wait to make them… i might try ground grass-fed beef in place of the lamb, just cause it’s stinking hard to find sometimes, or maybe a combo of the both? love you and your stuff my friend! xo (ps. excited to see your exciting project with cake in a crate!!)

  3. Christine DesRoches

    Your recipes are the ones that my husband looks over my shoulder at and says, “you should make that” and I certainly have to agree. The Moroccan flavors here are totally speaking to me (I’m on a bit of a kick since my visit there last week!). Enjoy NYC Amanda! <3

    1. amandapaa Post author

      Christine, I am catching up with and will leave a comment on your blog later today, but your trip to Morocco – lovely! i can’t even imagine all the good food you ate. and you were in nyc?!

  4. Alison @ Food by Mars

    Girl!! It was great hanging out and stuffing our faces with Moroccan food and vegan ice cream. Come get lost in NYC more often, please!!

    And these lamb meatballs have me drooling even though I’m so stuffed right now. I’m getting some ground lamb and getting this done. Beautiful pans, btw!

    Xoxoxo miss you already!

  5. jaime / the briny

    amanda, oh my god. these are my favorite photos of all time. just absolute dreamy beauty. and i can’t even get over the combination of flavors here–simple, elegant, but still zippy and zesty. loooove what you did here (i’ve been so looking forward to seeing this recipe)!

    p.s. meatballs (however ri-dick-ulous their name) are my weakness, in the very best way. xoxo

  6. Liz @ Floating Kitchen

    Feminine meatballs – I like the sound of that. Even though it did make me giggle a little bit. I haven’t made meatballs in ages, but darn it, I think I need to change that ASAP. These are damn sexy.

  7. Cassie

    Meatballs are something I can overdo so easily! They are just waaaaaaay too delicious and savory to resist! The tahini sauce sounds absolutely incredible! I would love to get more tahini from my supermarket now :)

  8. Jo Romero

    I tried this recipe – we love it – especially the flavour of the cardamom with the lamb – it seems to lighten up the meat. Gorgeous recipe!

    1. amandapaa Post author

      Yay! I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I thought the beautiful spices made the lamb a little less “lamb-y” as well. Thanks for sharing your results, Jo. xo

  9. Sarah @ Snixy Kitchen

    Amanda, I have looked at these photos for a week before having time to sit and read your post and each time they make my heart pitter patter. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful meatball in all my life. And the combination of flavors is stellar. Love love love them.

  10. Mary Lynne

    I have tried the tahini sauce a few times and each time the tahini will get Thicker instead of thinner when I add the water!!! I ve made sure it’s warm. But still. Help!!!


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