Xi’an-Inspired Cumin Lamb Meatballs, paired with Chinese sesame sauce. This rich and delicious meatball dish is quick to make and gorgeous looking. Perfect for your holiday table and everyday meal !

Xian-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe

Xi’an-Inspired Cumin Lamb Meatballs

The flavor of this dish is inspired by Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC. A few years back when Nate and I first visited this unassuming little shop in Flushing, Queens we were super impressed by their food. The noodles were hand pulled and boiled per order and the lamb was thin sliced and braised in hot chili oil with tons of spices like cumin, Sichuan flower peppercorns, chili peppers …etc. The flavor is complex, rich, and full of character.

Xian-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe

These Xi’an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs are my reinterpretation of the dish, reminiscent of the wonderful spice blend I experienced at Xi’An. I ground whole star anise and whole Sichuan flower peppercorns into fine powder. These two spices add distinct flavor to Xi’an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs. I highly recommend that you have these two spices in the pantry.

If you can’t find them online or in your local Chinese grocery stores, check out teeny tiny spice company’s Xinjiang flavor dry spice (link in recipe below). It has the best (and most fragrant) flavor available on the market.

Xi'an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe

How to make juicy meatballs

A few tips I’ve found very helpful to make the most juicy meatballs without using dairy, egg(s), or bread:

  • Fat content: use a combination of ground meat – for example pork with lamb – for flavor complexity and extra fat. In the recipe below I used ground lamb only (70% lean; 30% fat). A slightly higher fat ratio will help keep the meatballs moist.
  • Don’t pack too tight: When forming the meatballs, try not to pack them too tight. Grease your palms with a little olive oil. This will help keep the meat from sticking to your hands.
  • Add coconut milk cream: Instead of using buttermilk and egg(s), try coconut milk cream instead. I used only the top cream part of a full fat coconut milk can and it adds extra moisture to the meatballs.
  • Baking time: baking time depends on the size of the meatballs. For ground lamb meatballs, it’s best not to overcook them. The baking time in the recipe below is based on a little less than 2-inch diameter meatballs. Please adjust baking time for larger or smaller meatballs. You want the center of the meatballs just cooked (juicy but not dry).
Xi'an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe

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Xi'ian-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe

 

5 from 12 votes
Xian-inspired cumin lamb meatballs recipe
Xi'an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Oven baked Xi’an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs, paired with Chinese sesame sauce. This rich and delicious meatball dish is quick to make and gorgeous looking. Perfect for your holiday table and everyday meal ! 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian-inspired Paleo
Servings: 24 meatballs
Calories: 83 kcal
Author: ChihYu
Ingredients
Lamb meatballs
  • 1.5 lbs ground lamb 70% lean; 30% fat
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • ½ tbsp Sichuan flower peppercorn powder grinded from whole peppercorns
  • ½ tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp star anise powder grinded from whole star anise
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk cream
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 large shallot finely chopped
Chinese-inspired peanut flavor sauce:
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seed butter sunbutter
  • 1 tbsp tahini sesame paste
  • 1 clove garlic grated
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1.5 to 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp water add more if desired
  • Small dash of five spice or clove powder
Other:
  • 2-3 bulbs scallions sliced diagonally
  • Mixed green or your choice with dressing olive oil, rice vinegar, little salt
  • Red pepper flakes optional decoration
Instructions
  1. Meatballs: Mixed ground lamb with all ingredients under lamb meatballs. Taste test by pan-frying a small bite of seasoned ground lamb. Adjust seasonings to your liking if need be. Slightly grease your hands with olive oil and form approximately 24 meatballs (little less than 2-inch diameter). Try not to pack the meatballs too tight/dense.*
  2. Bake: For a little less than 2-inch diameter meatball, bake at 400F. First side 8 minutes and flip side 4 minutes. The center of the meatballs should be juicy, just cooked but not dry.
  3. Sauce: In the meantime combine sauce in a separate bowl. Mix well until creamy smooth. The consistency should be light and smooth not dense. You can also slightly heat up the sauce over stop top if preferred.
  4. Serve: swirl the sauce over a large serving bowl. Place meatballs on top. Decorate with chopped scallions, mixed leafy greens, and sprinkle with red chili pepper flakes. Serve hot and immediately.
Recipe Notes

How to keep meatballs juicy:

  • Fat content: use a combination of ground meat - for example pork with lamb - for flavor complexity and extra fat. In the recipe below I used ground lamb only (70% lean; 30% fat). A slightly higher fat ratio will help keep the meatballs moist.
  • Don’t pack too tight: When forming the meatballs, try not to pack them too tight. Grease your palms with a little olive oil. This will help keep the meat from sticking to your hands.
  • Baking time: baking time depends on the size of the meatballs. For ground lamb meatballs, it’s best not to overcook them. Please adjust baking time for larger or smaller sized meatballs. You want the center of the meatballs just cooked (juicy but not dry).

 

The Chinese-inspired peanut flavor dipping sauce: The consistency should be light and creamy smooth not thick/dense. This will help moist the meatballs in the mouthfeel during serving.

 

For an alternative all-in-one spice blend that will go well with any lamb dishes (including this one) and lamb chops, try teeny tiny spice company’s Xinjiang Flavor Dry Spice Jar.

Nutrition Facts
Xi'an-inspired cumin lamb meatballs
Amount Per Serving (38 g)
Calories 83 Calories from Fat 55
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6.1g 9%
Saturated Fat 1.9g 10%
Cholesterol 18mg 6%
Sodium 137mg 6%
Potassium 82mg 2%
Total Carbohydrates 1g 0%
Protein 6g 12%
Vitamin A 1%
Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 1.1%
Iron 4.5%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Make these for dinner !