Smoked Lamb Meatballs, made with ground lamb shoulder, are jam-packed with flavor and offer an awesome way to jazz up any pita sandwich!
I didn’t grow up eating lamb. But as an adult I’ve really grown to love and appreciate it’s distinct earthy and slightly gamey, not to mention savory, flavors. And it takes to smoke like a champ! We’re constantly testing out new ways to enjoy lamb, like these lamb lollipops, burgers, smoked chops, or even smoking an entire lamb shoulder (and pulling it like pulled pork for lamb sliders).
Enter these smoked lamb meatballs!
We tested quite a few different combinations of flavors for these lamb meatballs. Some with heat, some without. In this testing we learned that a little bit of heat goes a long way, and really conflicts with the gamey flavors. So we scaled back on the heat to bring forward the natural lamb flavor.
We also discovered that some sweetness, from baking spices like cinnamon, adds the perfect touch. Lamb has such great natural flavors that you really don’t need to add too much to create great meatballs.
Encouraged by few bottles of Lebanese wines we wanted to try, we decided to go with a loosely Mediterranean influenced spread and make pita sandwiches. It’s a great way to stretch your dollar with lamb, and encourages picky eaters to experiment too (our kids love pita sandwiches).
Pro Tip: If you can’t find ground lamb meat, which to be honest is quite rare, ask your butcher to grind up some lamb shoulder for you. We called our local grocery store in advance to ask if they’d grind up a few pounds of meat and they had it ready for us by the time we arrived so we didn’t even need to wait around. It never hurts to ask! The shoulder has a natural balance of fat and lean meat that mimics 80/20 beef where 80% of the meat is lean and 20% is fat.
How to Smoke Lamb Meatballs
- Preheat smoker: to around 250 degrees (F) using fruit wood.
- Prepare lamb meatballs: Mix the ground lamb with all the ingredients and roll into your preferred size meatball (we went with golf ball size to fit nicely inside the pita).
- Smoke meatballs: place on your smoker and cook until the internal temp of the meatballs reach 160 degrees. This should take roughly an hour, depending on any heat fluctuations inside your smoker.
- Test Temperature and Remove: Make sure to always test the temperature of your meat using a good thermometer. We love the Thermapen and also it’s little brother (also much more affordable option) ThermoPop.
How to Prepare Lamb Meatball Pitas
We’ve enjoyed these several ways, including in a simple Pomodoro sauce served with pasta (yum!). But our favorite has been in these pita sandwiches. We just warmed up a pita and stuffed it with some fresh crispy greens, tzatziki sauce, some smoked pickled onions and these fantastic meatballs. The tzatziki is a great option if you do chose to make the meatballs on the spicy side. The yogurt-based sauce has a nice cooling effect on the spicy meat.
Boom. There you have it!
- Smoked Lamb Shoulder
- Smoked Lamb Lollipops
- Stuffed BBQ Meatballs
- Cranberry Meatballs
- Turkey Meatballs with Bacon Paste
Smoked Lamb Meatballs Recipe
Smoked Lamb Meatballs
For the Smoked Lamb Meatballs:
- 1 lb. ground lamb shoulder
- 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons diced shallot, or onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Set smoker to 250 degrees using fruit wood (we used cherry).
- In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients together and mix thoroughly with your hands.
- Form into small golfball sized balls and place on a baking sheet (should yield around 20 meatballs).
- Place the baking sheet with the meatballs on the smoker and cook until the internal temperature of the meatballs reach 160 degrees (approximately 1 hour).
- Remove and serve.
Wine Pairing with Lamb
Greek red wines work well with lamb and these smoked meatballs. Rhone Style French reds would be a nice alternative. And with the pita combination a fruity and crisp rosé would be pretty killer!
We were trying to come up with something fun to pair with a few wines from Lebanon I received. Not having tried any wines from the country before I decided to try all three with the meatballs to see how the range complements with the food. They ranged from a Chardonnay to a Bordeaux Blend.
These were certainly fun to pair and held up well to the meatballs. While hard to find locally, I’ve seen quite a few Lebanese wines at Barbur World Foods here in Portland. Worth a try to check out, or find an alternative in similar blends.
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