These Harissa Meatballs with Fregola and Lemony Yogurt are packed with flavor and easy enough for a weeknight dinner. Juicy oven-baked chicken or turkey meatballs made with smoky harissa paste, fresh herbs and toasted aromatics. Serve over a quick three-ingredient yogurt sauce with nutty fregola pasta or pearl couscous.
Another homemade meal I’ve found myself craving while away at college is a good, hearty meatball dish. Growing up, my mom would make these oven-baked turkey meatballs with lots of fresh herbs and aromatics. They were pretty simple, but always hit home after a hard track practice. When I came home for winter break, I polished up this North African-inspired Harissa Meatball recipe I’ve been making for a while and it totally cured my craving!
A few tablespoons of rose harissa adds a sweet and smoky flavor while also helping the meatballs retain moisture as they bake. Fresh cilantro and dill add a pop of freshness while chopped medjool dates bring the perfect amount of sweetness to balance out all those strong savory flavors.
Instead of eggs or breadcrumbs, this harissa meatball recipe uses cooked rice as a binder. I used leftover long-grain brown rice, but feel free to use whatever kind you like. Just make sure it’s cooled completely before adding to the mixture.
How to Make Harissa Meatballs
To make baked harissa meatballs, start by sautéing onion, garlic and a few spices in olive oil over the stove. This may seem like an extra step, but it’s the secret to bringing out all those delicious flavors in our aromatics. Once the onion has cooked down a bit, add it to a large mixing bowl and stir in your harissa paste, fresh dill, cilantro, chopped dates, and cooked rice.
Once all your other ingredients are mixed well, stir in your choice of ground chicken thigh or turkey and season with salt. Shape the meatballs with oiled hands and bake on a sheet pan for about 15 minutes or until the centers are no longer pink.
What is Fregola?
I love a baked meatball recipe because it gives me just enough time to whip up some delicious sides while the meatballs are in the oven. I like to serve my harissa meatballs with fregola, which is a types of Sardinian pasta. It’s just like pearl couscous, but a little chewier and has this wonderful toasted, nutty flavor. You may be able to find fregola in some higher end grocery stores, but it’s also super easy to order online.
Cook fregola as you would any pasta: bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil and refer to the package instructions for cook-time. Once tender, drain the fregola and toss with a big glug of olive oil to prevent clumping.
The Easiest Yogurt Sauce…
The final component to this meal is a quick lemony yogurt sauce. It takes just a couple minutes to stir together the yogurt, lemon zest, olive oil and salt and really brings out the flavors in the meatballs. If you avoid dairy like me, I recommend using your favorite unsweetened/unflavored non-dairy yogurt. I like Kite Hill’s Greek-style almond milk yogurt for sauces.
More Easy Dinner Recipes to Try
- One Pot French Onion Pasta
- Blackened Miso Salmon with Creamy Coconut Cucumber Salad
- One Skillet Pesto Chicken and Orzo
- Honey Jalapeño Turkey Burgers with Avocado Cream