Lamb Meatballs with Jeweled Rice

three lamb meatballs on top of jeweled rice and yogurt on a small grey plate.

Spiced lamb meatballs subtly sweetened with raisins sit atop fragrant, yellow-hued jeweled rice with pops of pomegranate and herbs in this flavorful Middle Eastern-inspired dinner! (gluten-free, dairy-free option)



For the Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Jeweled Rice:

  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup shelled raw pistachios
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp butter or ghee
  • 1/2 medium onion, dicecd
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

For the Yogurt:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I like whole milk)
  • juice from 1/2 medium orange


To Make the Meatballs:

  1. In a large bowl combine all meatball ingredients. Use your hands to mix, if needed. 
  2. Roll mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs (about the size of a golf ball).  You can place them in the refrigerator while you prepare the rice.
  3. Place a cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 425°F. Once hot, place the meatballs in the skillet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Broil on high for 1 minute to get a nice brown color on the top. Remove from oven. 

To Make The Jeweled Rice:

  1. Crumble the saffron threads between your fingers into a small bowl. Add the hot water and seep for at least 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. 
  2. In a dry skillet (or the pot you will use for the rice) over medium heat, toast the pistachios and almonds until golden and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat the ghee or butter in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add spices and rice and continue cooking until fragrant and toasted, another 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Add saffron mixture and broth, lower heat, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and rest 10 minutes with the lid on.
  5. Fluff with a fork and stir in orange zest. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in pomegranate, raisins, toasted nuts, mint and parsley.

To Serve:

  1. Stir together yogurt and freshly squeezed orange juice. 
  2. Plate rice and serve with hot meatballs and yogurt sauce.


  • Lamb can seem intimidating if you've never cooked with it before, but I promise it's not! My biggest rule for cooking with lamb is to make sure it's fresh! If it smells very strongly, don't use it! I like to use the grass fed lamb from Belcampo. (Use code livelytable10 for 10% off your order!)
  • If you can't find lamb, you can use ground beef or pork, or a mixture of both.
  • If your raisins are dried out, soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes and drain before using.
  • If you don't have saffron, you can substitute turmeric in the rice. Use 1/2 tsp ground turmeric when you add the remaining spices and add the 1/4 cup water with the broth.
  • Almost any dried fruit or nuts can be used in jeweled rice, so don't be afraid to substitute what you have on hand! I used golden raisins and pomegranate arils in this recipe, but feel free to use dried cranberries, apricots, or currants. You can use all pistachios, all almonds, or even pine nuts if you'd rather. 
  • Basmati rice is the best for jeweled rice, but if you can't find it, you can use another long grained rice.
  • For a dairy-free version, use oil instead of butter or ghee in the rice and use your favorite non-dairy yogurt.
  • If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can use another oven-proof skillet or a rimmed baking sheet.

Keywords: middle eastern lamb meatballs, jeweled rice with pomegranate, lamb meatballs with jeweled rice