Pan-Fried Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce – [Keftedakia Greek Recipe]

These aromatic and flavorful pan-fried Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce are flavored with garlic, fresh mint, and parsley. They have a perfectly crispy exterior with soft and tender insides! Serve with fresh pita, cucumber salad, and a sprinkling of feta for the perfect weeknight meal.

Keftedakia [Greek Recipe] is the name used when this recipe for meatballs is pan-fried or deep-fried while Keftedes is the name used when the meatballs are instead baked in the oven. Which preparation you chose is up to you – both are equally as amazing.

A metal platter filled with a Greek-inspired feast of  Greek Meatballs [also called Keftedakia or Keftedes], Tzatziki Sauce, Hummus, Greek Salad, and and soft, warm fresh pita slices.

This family-friendly dinner idea is perfect for getting kids (and other picky eaters) to try something new — that fried crispy outer crust is just too appealing to pass up! Meatballs have always been a “gateway” food in our family and this Greek Meatball recipe is certainly no exception.

What is Tzatziki Sauce?

Tzatziki is a Greek yogurt sauce used in traditional recipes. It is combined with fresh mint, grated cucumbers, and fresh lemon creating a yogurt sauce that is cool, tangy, and refreshing. Tzatziki is naturally gluten-free so long as the yogurt you select is gluten-free. Be sure to check your yogurt packaging.

Ingredients And Tools

Thick Greek-style yogurt is the perfect choice for this recipe but it can be a little expensive. You can get similar results with regular yogurt that has been drained. You can do this by lining a mesh sieve with paper towels or cheesecloth [paid link] by placing it over a large bowl so that the sieve is suspended at least an inch above the bottom of the bowl. Place 2 cups of yogurt in the sieve and let it drain for a couple of hours or up to overnight to remove the excess liquid and thicken the yogurt. You will end up with 1 cup of yogurt once it is fully drained.

** You can find the full recipe ingredients and instructions on the printable recipe card below.

Main ingredients for the Meatballs

  • Ground Beed [minced beef] – 85% lean is best for this recipe. You can use a leaner cut of meat but the meatballs will be a little drier and less tender. See the recipe variations section below for how to use a different combination of meats, swap out the beef or lamb for chicken or turkey, or how to even make this meal vegan!
  • Eggs – I use free-range, farm-fresh organic eggs from a friend’s local farm. The eggs act as a binder to help hold the meat together. See the variations section below on how to make this recipe egg-free.
  • Breadcrumbs – I prefer fresh breadcrumbs that I pulse up in the food processor [paid link]. I save heels of bread for this purpose and store them in the freezer. it takes just a heel or two and a few minutes on the counter to defrost enough to whiz up in the machine. If you prefer panko, those will work well, too. See the recipe variations section on how to make this recipe gluten-free.
  • Milk – I use whole milk, but 2% or skim also works well with this recipe. The milk works with the bread and eggs to form the binder for the meatballs and helps keep them soft and moist. See the recipe variations section to see how to make this recipe dairy-free.
  • Onion – I prefer sweet Vidalia onions, but yellow or white onions will work well in this recipe. If your FODMAP diet requires you to omit onions, you may omit the onions without substitution. If you prefer to add the onion flavor, the FODMAP diet suggests green onions like leeks as a substitution.
  • Garlic – Freshly minced garlic provides the most flavor as compared to prepared minced galic, but if prepared minced garlic is what you have in your pantry, go ahead and use that in place of the fresh garlic. If your FODMAP diet requires you to omit the garlic, you may omit it from the recipe without substitution. If you prefer to add a substitute for garlic, the FODMAP diet suggests chives as a viable alternative.
  • Mint – Here you want to look in the produce aisle or your kitchen garden for spearmint, not peppermint. The mint offers a very pleasing and authentic flavor to these meatballs. As a substitution, remember 1 tbsp freshly chopped mint = 1 tsp dried mint.
  • Cinnamon – ground cinnamon adds a unique, subtle flavor to the meatballs that are pleasing to the palate. Be sure not to skip this secret ingredient. It makes the dish!

Main Ingredients for the Tzatziki Sauce

The tzatziki sauce is a cool and refreshing addition to this meal. The tanginess of the Greek yogurt cuts through the fattiness of the meatballs and refreshes the palate. This sauce takes a few minutes to make but it’s worth the extra effort!

  • Greek Yogurt – The yogurt is key to the success of this sauce. Greek yogurt has less sugar, more protein, and a much thicker consistency than regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also FODMAP diet-approved. If you are wanting to go dairy-free with this recipe, see the variations section to see how we can make this yogurt-based sauce dairy-free.
  • Cucumbers – regular or English cucumbers both work well in this recipe. I use whichever one I have on hand at the time.
  • Lemon Juice – fresh lemon juice and zest is preferred over bottled lemon juice which can have an odd chemical flavor.
  • Mint – Again, you want to look in the produce aisle or your kitchen garden for spearmint and not peppermint. The mint offers a very pleasing and authentic flavor to the sauce. As a substitution, remember 1 tbsp freshly chopped mint = 1 tsp dried mint.

Tools

A glass bowl containing the ingredients for  Greek Meatballs; beef, onions, garlic, parsley, egg, herbs & spices. For a full list, visit the recipe card.

How to Make Fried Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce [Keftedakia]

The aromatic blend of fresh mint, dried oregano, and ground cinnamon has guests begging for more. The cinnamon really makes this dish so be sure not to skip it. I prefer a combination of ground beef and lamb for a more authentic Greek Keftedakia recipe but you can omit the lamb altogether and use strictly minced beef as well.

These fried Greek meatballs are also great as a pre-dinner nibble, tasty appetizer, or tapas small plate.

** You can find the full recipe ingredients and instructions on the printable recipe card below.

  1. Grate the cucumbers for the tzatziki sauce and set them aside to drain for 30-minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. While the meatballs finish in the oven, proceed to step 3.
  3. Finish preparing the tzatziki sauce and set it in the refrigerator to chill until the meatballs are finished.
  4. Remove the meatballs from the oven and drain. Serve with tzatziki.
  5. See below for more serving suggestions.
A glass bowl containing the ingredients for  Greek Meatballs; beef, onions, garlic, parsley, egg, herbs & spices. For a full list, visit the recipe card.
Tzatziki Sauce Ingredients.

Storage tips

  • Store: For making meatballs ahead or storing leftovers, meatballs should be cooled completely and stored in an air-tight container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat: To reheat meatballs, you can use the microwave, conventional oven, or air fryer.
    • Microwave, heat at 50% power in 30-second intervals until heated through.
    • Conventional Oven – Heat in a 325-degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
    • Air fryer – heat at 400 degrees F for 9 minutes or until heated through.
  • Freeze: After the meatballs are fully-cooked, be sure to allow them to cool completely. Flash freeze on a silicone or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet [paid link] until frozen through. Remove from sheet to a freezer-proof container or zip-top freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost and reheat as directed above.

Variations on Greek Meatballs [Keftedakia]

  • Greek Beef Meatballs– That’s this recipe! For Greek beef meatballs follow the recipe below.
  • Greek Chicken Meatballs [or Greek Turkey Meatballs] – Replace the beef with an equal amount of ground chicken or turkey. Since chicken and turkey are naturally a little less flavorful than beef, you may find you need to add a little extra salt and spices to amp up the flavor. Do this by adding the seasonings and making a small meatball and cooking it off and tasting it. Adjust the seasonings as needed and repeat until you achieve your desired flavor.
  • Greek Lamb Meatballs – Replace the beef with an equal amount of ground lamb. Follow the rest of the instructions and ingredients as described.
  • Beef and Lamb Meatballs [Gyro Meatballs] – Replace half of the beef with an equal amount of ground lamb. Follow the rest of the instructions and ingredients as described.
  • Greek meatballs with feta – add 4 oz of crumbled feta to the meatball mixture and lightly mix it in (at the end). Proceed with the recipe as directed.
  • Gluten-Free Meatballs- For the meatballs, replace gluten-free panko with the regular panko breadcrumbs. The yogurt in tzatziki is naturally gluten-free but be sure to check your yogurt packaging to be sure.
  • Dairy-free Meatballs – For the meatballs, simply omit the milk and replace it with water or stock like beef, vegetable, or chicken.
  • Dairy-Free Tzatziki Sauce [Plant-based Tzatziki Sauce] – For dairy-free tzatziki sauce, start with a coconut milk-based vegan yogurt (not coconut flavored dairy-based yogurt) in equal amounts this recipe, and follow the instructions for the tzatziki sauce as described. If you cannot locate dairy-free vegan coconut milk yogurt, both Target and Whole Foods sell a plant-based, dairy-free tzatziki sauce that you could use for this recipe.
  • Egg-free Meatballs– Eggs act as a binder in the meatballs holding them together while they cook. If you chose to omit the egg, the milk and breadcrumbs will still work well at helping the meat keep its shape. You may need to be a little careful while turning the meatballs to make sure they retain their shape.
  • Vegetarian Meatballs – For a great base recipe, check out these vegetarian meatballs from Dishing out Healthy. I would then omit the Italian seasoning [paid link] and add the Greek seasonings described below in the recipe below.
An overhead show of Pan-Fried Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce.

FAQs

Can Keftedakia be frozen?

Absolutely! For this purpose, I like to make a double batch and freeze them after they are cooked (and cooled). These are great for lunch with a piece of pita bread and toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, Kalamata olives, and feta with a light drizzle of olive oil.

Can Tzatziki Sauce be Frozen?

Yes and no. There is no reason why tzatziki sauce cannot be frozen, however, it will not have the same consistency once it’s thawed out again. If you chose to freeze your tzatziki, it will keep in u003cstrongu003ethe freezer for about 3 monthsu003c/strongu003e before ice crystals form and freezer-burn set in.

Is Tzatziki Sauce Gluten-Free?

As long as the yogurt used is gluten-free, the tzatziki will also be gluten-free.

Can I make greek meatballs using frozen meatballs?

Using frozen meatballs can be a great timesaver in a pinch. However, do note there will be a flavor variation. Most frozen meatballs are flavored for Italian food with oregano, basil, and parsley as the aromatics. For Greek meatballs, fresh mint and oregano is used which does impart a slightly different flavor from the frozen Italian-style meatballs.

Other Serving Suggestions for Keftedakia

If you are looking for more ways to serve these greek meatballs, you can try any of these serving suggestions:

  • Greek meatballs with rice – buttered long-grain, white rice.
  • Greek meatballs in tomato sauce with white rice and toasted pine nuts
  • Greek meatball soup with lemon and orzo
  • Greek Meatballs with Rice Pilaf with toasted pine nuts.
  • Gyros wrap with hummus, cucumber salad, red onions, and kalamata olives. Top with tzatziki sauce and a crumbling of fresh feta for the perfect Greek street food.
Greek charcuterie platter containing Greek meatballs, hummus, pita triangles, greek cucumber & feta salad, and tzatziki sauce.
KD Email Graphic
Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce 8
Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce 6

Pan-Fried Greek Meatballs With Tzatziki Sauce – [Keftedakia Greek Recipe]

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
These aromatic and flavorful fried Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce are flavored with garlic, fresh mint, and parsley. They have a perfectly crispy exterior with soft and tender insides! Serve with fresh pita, cucumber salad, and a sprinkling of feta for the perfect weeknight meal.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Tzatkiki Set-up Time 1 hr
Course Appetizer, Dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Servings 6 servings
Calories 360 kcal

Equipment

  • Knife
  • Teflon or cast-iron Skillet or Enamel-Coated Dutch Oven
  • Box Grater
  • mixing bowls
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Fine mesh sieve

Ingredients
  

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 English Cucumber hot house cucumbers or substitute 1 large standard cucumber
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt fine, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt plain
  • 1 Lemon juice freshly squeezed tastes best
  • 1 tbsp mint freshly chopped, spearmint
  • 2 tsp Garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper more or less to taste

Greek Meatballs

  • 20 oz Ground Beef (1.5 lbs), 85% lean ground beef or a combination of ground beef and lamb.
  • 1 cup Bread Crumbs I use panko but plain bread crumbs are also fine here. Gluten-free can get a little gummy.
  • 1/2 cup Milk or water or beef stock
  • 1 cup Onion grated
  • 4 tsp Garlic minced
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Mint chopped
  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt fine
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon gives a warm flavor to the meatballs
  • Olive Oil for the skillet

Instructions
 

Tzatziki Sauce

  • Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove seeds, if necessary. Usually, with an English cucumber, this is not needed. Shred into a bowl using the large holes of the box grater.
  • Transfer the cucumber to the wire mesh sieve and toss with the salt. Hang the sieve back over the bowl and allow it to drain for 30 minutes. The salt draws out excess moisture leaving the concentrated flavor of the cucumber. You can skip this step, however, this may result in tzatiki sauce that is runny from the excess water.
  • Once the allotted time has passed, squeeze the cucumbers with your hands or wrapped in a tea towel to remove any additional water and transfer them to a medium bowl. Add the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic paste, and ground black pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days for the flavors to meld.

Greek Meatballs

  • Combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. mix with your hands until combined and all the liquid as absorbed into the breadcrumbs.
  • Shape the meat mixture into 18 equal meatballs. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook the meatballs until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. If working in small batches, you may opt to keep these warm in the oven while the other batches cook.
  • Drain the matballs on paper towels. Serve warm.

Notes

Storage tips

  • Store: For making meatballs ahead or storing leftovers, meatballs should be cooled completely and stored in an air-tight container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheat: To reheat meatballs, you can use the microwave, conventional oven, or air fryer.
    • Microwave, heat at 50% power in 30-second intervals until heated through.
    • Conventional Oven – Heat in a 325-degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
    • Air fryer – heat at 400 degrees F for 9 minutes or until heated through.
  • Freeze: After the meatballs are fully-cooked, be sure to allow them to cool completely. Flash freeze on a silicone or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet until frozen through. Remove from sheet to a freezer-proof container or zip-top freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost and reheat as directed above.

Variations on Greek Meatballs [Keftedakia]

  • Greek Beef Meatballs– That’s this recipe! For Greek beef meatballs follow the recipe below.
  • Greek Chicken Meatballs [or Greek Turkey Meatballs] – Replace the beef with an equal amount of ground chicken or turkey. Since chicken and turkey are naturally a little less flavorful than beef, you may find you need to add a little extra salt and spices to amp up the flavor. Do this by adding the seasonings and making a small meatball and cooking it off and tasting it. Adjust the seasonings as needed and repeat until you achieve your desired flavor.
  • Greek Lamb Meatballs – Replace the beef with an equal amount of ground lamb. Follow the rest of the instructions and ingredients as described.
  • Beef and Lamb Meatballs [Gyro Meatballs] – Replace half of the beef with an equal amount of ground lamb. Follow the rest of the instructions and ingredients as described.
  • Greek meatballs with feta – add 4 oz of crumbled feta to the meatball mixture and lightly mix it in (at the end). Proceed with the recipe as directed.
  • Gluten-Free Meatballs- For the meatballs, replace gluten-free panko with the regular panko breadcrumbs. The yogurt in tzatziki is naturally gluten-free but be sure to check your yogurt packaging to be sure.
  • Dairy-free Meatballs – For the meatballs, simply omit the milk and replace it with water or stock like beef, vegetable, or chicken.
  • Dairy-Free Tzatziki Sauce [Plant-based Tzatziki Sauce] – For dairy-free tzatziki sauce, start with a coconut milk-based vegan yogurt (not coconut flavored dairy-based yogurt) in equal amounts this recipe, and follow the instructions for the tzatziki sauce as described. If you cannot locate dairy-free vegan coconut milk yogurt, both Target and Whole Foods sell a plant-based, dairy-free tzatziki sauce that you could use for this recipe.
  • Egg-free Meatballs– Eggs act as a binder in the meatballs holding them together while they cook. If you chose to omit the egg, the milk and breadcrumbs will still work well at helping the meat keep its shape. You may need to be a little careful while turning the meatballs to make sure they retain their shape.
  • Vegetarian Meatballs – For a great base recipe, check out these vegetarian meatballs from Dishing out Healthy. I would then omit the Italian seasoning and add the Greek seasonings described below in the recipe below.

Other Serving Suggestions for Keftedakia

If you are looking for more ways to serve these greek meatballs, you can try any of these serving suggestions:
  • Greek meatballs with rice – buttered long-grain, white rice.
  • Greek meatballs in tomato sauce with white rice and toasted pine nuts
  • Greek meatball soup with lemon and orzo
  • Greek Meatballs with Rice Pilaf with toasted pine nuts.
  • Gyros wrap with hummus, cucumber salad, red onions, and kalamata olives. Top with tzatziki sauce and a crumbling of fresh feta for the perfect Greek street food.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 25gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 133mgSodium: 951mgPotassium: 529mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 297IUVitamin C: 7mgVitamin D: 1µgVitamin E: 1mgVitamin K: 15µgCalcium: 144mgFolate: 41µgIron: 3mgZinc: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.