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"Brand New Funk" Spicy Harissa Meatballs

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These spicy meatballs are off the charts flavorful and make for a great appetizer or main dish. The meatballs are seasoned with tasty Moroccan harissa paste which add slight heat, but loads of complexity.

Though they can be prepared in less than 15 minutes, these harissa meatballs are far from ordinary. They are moist and tender on the inside thanks to the harissa and bread crumbs. Not only does the harissa flavor the meatballs’ interior but honey is added to provide a sweet-heat glaze that is absolutely delicious.

The bold color contributes to the fieriness perceptions, but though these are spicy, that are not hot from a burn your mouth standpoint. The harissa creates a mouth experience without nuking your taste buds.

meatballs sitting on top of hummus on white plate

I’m excited by making this recipe for a lot of reasons including the partnership with Mesquite Country Beef. I am pleased to collaborating with them given the quality of their products. I try to source meat from local companies/ranchers as much as possible to one ensure I’m avoiding antibiotics and hormones and two to support local farmers and ranchers. 

Mesquite Country Beef raises sustainable grass-fed beef and they actually deliver it to your doorstep. I received my mail delivery and made several different beef-based recipes including this spicy meatball recipe. If you haven't had pure grass-fed beef you're missing out big, as the flavor difference is huge!

What Is Harissa?

Harissa is a North African chili sauce that is used as a condiment traditionally in Moroccan cuisine. It’s a complex mix of dried chili rehydrated and blended with garlic, unique spices, and acid (vinegar and/or citrus). Depending in the ingredient harissa can be smoky, earthy, spicy, tangy or all of the above. It’s used similar to ketchup, sriracha, or in some case chili paste.

Mood Music

Like that “Brand New Funk” song by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (aka Will Smith) I like my beef “raw, untouched, and pure.” No hormones, antibiotics, just straight high quality grass fed natural beef.

Ingredients For Spicy Meatballs

For The Meatballs

  • Ground Beef
  • Eggs
  • Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Water
  • Fresh Parsley for garnish

For the Harissa Paste

  • Jarred Roasted Red Peppers
  • Dried Guajillo Chili Peppers
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Coriander Seeds
  • Paprika
  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice

For Harissa Glaze

  • Brown Sugar

How To Make Spicy Meatballs

Make the Paste

Boil or microwave water in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the dried chilis to the water and let soak 10-15 minutes. Feel free to weight the chilis down with a smaller saucer or bowl to keep the chilis submerged.

Remove seeds and stems from the re-hydrated chilis reserving about ¼ cup of the soaking liquid. 

Heat the spice seeds in a skillet for 20-30 seconds to release some of their flavors. Grind the spice seeds in a coffee grinder. Add the freshly ground spices to a food processor along with the other harissa ingredients including the dried chilis and reserved water. Set aside.

harissa paste in shallow white bowl

Prepare the Spicy Meatballs

Add beaten eggs to the ground beef in a large mixing bowl and mix in well carefully not to over mix the meat.

Mix in the panko, water, and about a cup of the harissa paste. Add more as needed.

Mold the ground beef mixture into medium sized balls using your hands. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and place rack in the upper third of the oven.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Add the meatballs to the sheet making sure ample space exists between the meatballs.

Make the glaze by mixing a cup of the harissa paste with the brown sugar.

Bake the meatballs for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, change the settings to broil. Brush each meatball with the harissa glaze and broil for another 5 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve.

Cooking Considerations and Tips

The harissa can be as spicy as you prefer. It will depend on whether you include any of the seeds and/or veins from the chilis.

Nothing beats a good homemade harissa chili paste, but there are many quality pre-made/packaged retail pastes. Feel free to use the ready-made versions to save time.

Be delicate with the meatballs. Don’t over mix them with your hands to avoid tough, chewy meatballs.

Feel free to substitute maple syrup or honey for the brown sugar. The key is adding enough sweetener for a legit glaze that will caramelize during the broiling process.

Combining the water and bread crumbs add moisture and texture to the meatballs.

These meatballs could be used as appetizers or main dish entrees. It’s just a simple matter of what size meatballs you create. Keep in mind the smaller the meatballs then the faster the cook-time, so adjust accordingly. This recipe is based on medium sized main dish ones.

Pair the meatballs with sides like carrots curry, air fryer broccolini, or air fryer Brussels sprouts

meatballs sitting on top of hummus on white plate

Other Boldly Flavored Beef Based Recipes

Nigerian Beef Suya Skewers

Real Texas Beef Chili

Cuban Ropa Vieja

Instant Pot Jamaican Oxtails

Cuban Picadillo

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meatballs sitting on top of hummus on white plate

Spicy Harissa Meatballs

Extraordinary spicy meatballs seasoned w/ Moroccan harissa sauce for an exciting twist on plain Italian meatballs. These are tender & bursting w/ flavor.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: African
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 949kcal
Author: Marwin Brown

Ingredients

For The Meatballs

  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 medium Egg
  • ½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Water
  • Fresh Parsley for garnish

For the Harissa Paste

  • ½ cup Jarred Roasted Red Peppers
  • 6-8 whole Dried Guajillo Chili Peppers
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Caraway Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander Seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Lemon juiced

For Harissa Glaze

  • ¼ cup Brown Sugar

Instructions

Make the Paste

  • Boil or microwave water in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the dried chilis to the water and let soak 10-15 minutes. Feel free to weigh the chilis down with a smaller saucer or bowl to keep the chilis submerged.
  • Remove seeds and stems from the re-hydrated chilis reserving about ¼ cup of the soaking liquid.
  • Heat the spice seeds in a skillet for 20-30 seconds to release some of their flavors. Grind the spice seeds in a coffee grinder. Add the freshly ground spices to a food processor along with the other harissa ingredients including the dried chilis and reserved water. Set aside.

Prepare the Meatballs

  • Add beaten eggs to the ground beef in a large mixing bowl and mix in well carefully not to over mix the meat.
  • Mix in the panko, water, and about a cup of the harissa paste. Add more as needed.
  • Mold the ground beef mixture into medium sized balls using your hands. Set aside.
  • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and place rack in the upper third of the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Add the meatballs to the sheet making sure ample space exists between the meatballs.
  • Make the glaze by mixing a cup of the harissa paste with the brown sugar.
  • Bake the meatballs for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, change the settings to broil. Brush each meatball with the harissa glaze and broil for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Serve.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

The harissa can be as spicy as you prefer. It will depend on whether you include any of the seeds and/or veins from the chilis.
Nothing beats a good homemade harissa chili paste, but there are many quality pre-made/packaged retail pastes. Feel free to use the ready-made versions to save time.
Be delicate with the meatballs. Don’t over mix them with your hands to avoid tough, chewy meatballs.
Feel free to substitute maple syrup or honey for the brown sugar. The key is adding enough sweetener for a legit glaze that will caramelize during the broiling process.
Combining the water and bread crumbs add moisture and texture to the meatballs.
These meatballs could be used as appetizers or main dish entrees. It’s just a simple matter of what size meatballs you create. Keep in mind the smaller the meatballs then the faster the cook-time, so adjust accordingly. This recipe is based on medium sized main dish ones.

Nutrition

Calories: 949kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 64g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 243mg | Sodium: 1952mg | Potassium: 1028mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 2853IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 8mg
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