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    Moroccan Meatballs (Meatball Tagine)

    Moroccan Meatball Tagine, known locally as “Kefta Mkaouara”, is a classic dish from Moroccan cuisine. It showcases the rich and vibrant flavors of North Africa, with its earthy aromatic spices and herbs. “Kefta” refers to the spiced ground meat, either lamb or beef, that’s formed into meatballs.

    These meatballs are then simmered slow and low in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. Some poached eggs go in between, and then when you open the lid, you are greeted with one beloved dish… Kefta Mkaouara!!

    This Moroccan Meatball Tagine recipe, or Kefta Mkaouara, is a must try. Made with spiced ground meat and a flavorful tomato-based sauce, it's pure comfort food.

    We absolutely love Moroccan food, and never miss an opportunity to try it whenever we are anywhere near a Moroccan restaurant. During our Spain and London visits, we had some of the best tagines and kebabs.

    Back home, we aren’t lucky enough to have any Moroccan restaurants nearby. So we try to recreate these flavorful dishes in our kitchen. Beef Tagine and Chicken Tagine are very popular with our readers, and today we are introducing this Meatball Tagine, one dish we always order whenever it’s on a menu.

    There is something so endearing about this meatball recipe, be it in those perfectly spiced delicate meatballs or that robust amazingly tasting tomato sauce or that runny poached egg that adds a layer of texture and richness.

    Kefta Mkaouara is a great way to enjoy some of the best tastes that Morocco has to offer, right at your dinner table. Whether you cook it in a traditional tagine pot or just a regular pan, it’s a delicious way to bring people together for a good meal.

    It’s typically served with couscous or warm, crusty bread, making it a perfect meal to enjoy with family and friends. The dish beautifully represents Moroccan cooking’s emphasis on bold spices, fresh herbs, and the communal joy of sharing a meal.

    Meatballs smothered with tomato sauce in an earthen ware pot.

    What is Tagine?

    A tagine is both a piece of traditional North African cookware and the name of the stew-like dishes cooked within it. The cookware itself is a distinctive clay or ceramic pot consisting of two parts: a flat, circular base with low sides, and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking.

    The design of the tagine is both practical and ingenious. The conical lid helps to return the steam condensed at the top back into the dish, ensuring that the food remains moist and tender by continuously basting in its own juices.

    Tagines are used to cook a variety of dishes in North African, especially Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian, cuisines. The method is known for slow-cooking ingredients to perfection, allowing the flavors of meats, vegetables, and spices to meld beautifully. Ingredients often include a mix of savory and sweet components, with spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and saffron adding depth and complexity. Fruits such as apricots, plums, and raisins might be added for a touch of sweetness.

    For Kefta Mkaouara, the meatballs are made from ground lamb or beef (or a combination of both) and are seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices. This mixture is shaped into small balls and then cooked slowly in the sauce, allowing the flavors to meld together.

    The sauce typically features tomatoes, garlic, and a variety of spices including paprika, cumin, and a bit of cinnamon or ginger for depth. The dish is simmered gently, often in a traditional clay or ceramic tagine pot, which helps to concentrate the flavors while keeping the meatballs tender and juicy.

    Towards the end of cooking, eggs are cracked over the top of the meatballs and sauce, then covered and left to poach until just set. This adds a rich, creamy texture to the dish, making it even more satisfying.

    Angled view of meatball tagine.

    Ingredients Needed

    For Moroccan Meatballs (Kefta):

    • Ground Lamb or Beef: Both are traditional choices. Lamb gives a more authentic taste, while beef is more readily available here in states.
    • Onion: Grated to mix evenly into the meat, adding moisture and sweetness.
    • Fresh Parsley and Cilantro: Essential herbs that add freshness and a herby brightness to the meatballs.
    • Garlic: Freshly grated for a pungent flavor.
    • Spices: Paprika, cumin, coriander powder, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger powder, salt and pepper.

    For Meatball Tagine Sauce:

    • Olive Oil: Used for sautéing.
    • Large Onion: Diced for a base flavor.
    • Garlic: Finely chopped to infuse the sauce with a strong, aromatic taste.
    • Spices: Paprika, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cumin, Coriander, Cayenne, Ginger.
    • Salt: Adjust to taste.
    • Grated Large Tomatoes: The base of the sauce.
    • Tomato Paste: Adds depth and thickness to the sauce.
    • Water: Used to adjust the sauce’s consistency.
    • Eggs: Cracked into the sauce to poach.
    • Fresh Parsley and Cilantro: For the sauce and as a garnish.

    Moroccan Meatballs Recipe

    1. Prepare the Meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the ground meat with the grated onion, chopped parsley, chopped cilantro, and all the spices. Mix with your hands until just combined. Form the mixture into meatballs of about 1¼ inch and place them on a tray. Chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the sauce.

    Prepared meatballs on a blue plate.

    2. Make the Tagine Sauce: Sauté onion and cook until it starts to turn golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the spices to the onions, stirring well. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute before adding the grated tomatoes. Add the chopped parsley and cilantro, along with the salt. Mix well. Pour in the water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the sauce for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

    Tomato sauce in a pot.

    3. Cook the Meatballs: Add the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Turn them halfway through to coat evenly with the sauce.

    Uncooked meatballs added in to the sauce.

    4. Add the Eggs: Make 3-4 wells in the sauce among the meatballs using the back of a spoon. Crack an egg into each well. Cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny, according to your preference.

    Moroccan meatballs accompanied by crusty bread.

    5. Serve: Garnish with additional parsley or cilantro. Serve immediately with warm, crusty bread or couscous, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Optionally, stir in some green olives for an extra layer of flavor.

    Alpana’s Tips

    • Don’t Overmix: When combining your meatball ingredients, mix until just combined. Overmixing can lead to tough meatballs.
    • Uniform Size: Make your meatballs uniform in size to ensure they cook evenly.
    • Low and Slow: Simmer your tagine on low heat to allow the flavors to meld together and the meat to become tender without falling apart.
    • Adjust Seasoning: Taste your sauce before adding the meatballs and adjust the seasoning if necessary. The spices should be balanced, not overwhelming.
    • Egg Doneness: When adding the eggs, cook them to your preferred doneness. Some like the yolks runny, while others prefer them well-set.
    • Storage: This dish stores well in the refrigerator for up to three days, and the flavors often improve overnight. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
    Meatballs cooked in a well seasoned tomato sauce.

    Everyone cooks Spaghetti and Meatballs, learn how different cultures cook their meatballs. We have Greek Soutzoukakia and Keftedes, Spanish Albondigas, Mexican Meatball Soup, Swedish Meatballs and so many more in our Meatball Recipes collection. Go through all, but save these Kefta Mkaouara for one special night.

    It’s a great introductory dish to Moroccan cuisine. Share it with your friends and family and tell them where you got the recipe from. Spread the love for GypsyPlate…

    Meatball Tagine, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Meatball tagine atop the Gypsy Plate.
    Featured image for meatball tagine recipe.

    Moroccan Meatballs (Meatball Tagine)

    Yield: 4 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour
    Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

    This Moroccan Meatball Tagine recipe, or Kefta Mkaouara, is a must try. Made with spiced ground meat and a flavorful tomato-based sauce, it's pure comfort food.

    Ingredients

    Moroccan Meatballs (Kefta)

    • 1 pound ground lamb or ground beef
    • ¼ onion, grated
    • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • ½ tsp cumin powder
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp pepper
    • ¼ tsp turmeric
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ginger powder (optional)
    • 2 garlic cloves, grated

    Meatball Tagine

    • 2½ Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1½ tsp paprika
    • ¼ tsp turmeric
    • ¼ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp pepper
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp coriander
    • ¼ tsp ginger powder or 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
    • ¼ tsp cayenne
    • salt to taste
    • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
    • 1½ cup grated tomatoes
    • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
    • ¼ cup water
    • 3-4 eggs (optional but highly recommended)

    Instructions

    1. Mix all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl, mixing with your hands until just combined. Make 1¼ inch meatballs and keep in the refrigerator while you prep the remaining ingredients and make the sauce.
    2. Heat olive oil in wide skillet or tagine (if you have an earth ware pot, it's great for this recipe) over medium high heat. Sauté onion until it starts to get a light golden brown. Add in garlic and sauté for a minute.
    3. Mix all powdered spices (paprika, turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, coriander, cayenne, ginger powder) in a small bowl. Add this to the onion and mix well. Add tomato paste and cook for a minute.
    4. Add grated tomatoes, chopped cilantro and parsley along with salt and mix well. Add water, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the sauce for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the consistency of the sauce is to your liking, taste and adjust seasoning.
    5. Add the meatballs. Cover and continue to simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meatballs are just cooked through. Flip them half way through and coat them well with sauce.
    6. Make 3-4 deep wells in the sauce between the meatballs with a spoon. Crack an egg into each well. Cover and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until egg whites are set and egg yolks are done to your liking (typically they are runny).
    7. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serve immediately with warm, crusty bread or couscous with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You can also serve it with green olives stirred in.
    Nutrition Information
    Yield 4 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 504Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 287mgSodium 914mgCarbohydrates 11gFiber 3gSugar 4gProtein 39g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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