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Secret Spice Keftas

Photography by Chay Berger
Food Prep by Leah Hamaoui

You know how some things speak for themselves? They don’t even need an introduction. This recipe falls into that category, and while I’m still going to write an introduction, these are mini showstoppers that will have everyone at the table saying wow!

In the Sephardic world of flavor, cinnamon is a prominent and essential spice. Whether in desserts, savory stews, or even in a cup of coffee, Moroccans throw in a cinnamon stick for some extra depth of flavor. Naturally, it’s also found in most meat dishes.

About a year ago, we were in Los Angeles at my parents, and I was watching my mother make these fantastic and hearty meatballs. She shaped each one and placed them on a lined baking sheet, and I was thinking to myself, Okay, so far so good. Then, BOOM! She delicately inserted a whole cinnamon stick into each meatball. Instead of using cinnamon as a spice, it became a piece of art while releasing its flavor into the meat. The earthy richness of the meatballs harmonizes beautifully with the sweet woody notes of cinnamon, elevating these Moroccan meatballs to new heights. Bottom line: My mother is a genius. Since then, it’s become a regular in our home and a favorite among friends and family.

This is a unique dish that captivates every tastebud. You’re guaranteed to love this new and fresh twist to meatballs. While I highly recommend using fresh herbs whenever possible, I used frozen cubes in this recipe to make it easier for you!

Moroccan Meatballs


  • 1½ lb (680 g) ground beef
  • 2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 Tbsp unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 8 cubes frozen cilantro
  • 4 cubes frozen parsley
  • 12 cinnamon sticks

Preheat oven on high broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix the ground beef with spices and bread crumbs in a medium-sized bowl.

Place onions in the food processor and blend until it reaches a creamy consistency. This step is important because it makes the meatballs moist and juicy. It will look a bit watery, and that’s perfectly okay. Add the creamy onion to the meat mixture.

Blend the mint leaves in the food processor until they’re small and broken up. Add the mint to the meat mixture along with the frozen herbs. Mix everything until well combined. It’s important to make the meatballs right away so the mixture shouldn’t be too watery.

Spray a generous amount of cooking oil on the prepared baking sheet. Take 3 Tbsp of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball. Insert a cinnamon stick almost all the way into the meatball. Place the meatball onto the baking sheet, and using the palm of your hand, lightly flatten it. The cinnamon stick should be half in and half out of the meatball.

Spray each meatball with cooking spray. Place in oven on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Remove the tray and flip the meatballs to the other side. Return to the oven for an additional 8 minutes and remove. Keep an eye out so it doesn’t burn.

Keep in mind that each oven works a bit differently, so if you feel like it needs an extra two minutes, then go ahead!

Let cool or serve immediately.

Serve as an appetizer or as part of the main. This goes beautifully with techinah, Israeli salad, and white rice.


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 884)

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