Recipe for Keftes (Tamarind-stewed Meatballs)


It’s been a year since I’ve shared this recipe with The Nosher, a place many go to for Jewish recipes, resources, and beyond.

When Lori, my partner’s mother, introduced me to this holiday dish 10 years ago, I noted the similarities of it to their stuffed grape leaves, yebra, which is also draped in this sweet and tart tamarind sauce called ou, pronounced OO-r.) There are a lot of Persian influences in Aleppian-Jewish cuisine when the sweet and savory meet. And I’m not mad at it.

While this gets served at the holiday table, we find any excuse to treat ourselves when I visit the Pizzarellis. “I want to be extravagant today. You down?” And always, they are. Lori prepares the sambousaks (muenster-stuffed pastry dotted with sesame seeds) and I get to working on this dish, solely because I make it the way Aunt Sara used to and they’re not sure how I’ve nailed down the flavors based on description alone, but I’m honored. Truly.


Tamarind-stewed meatballs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jewish, Syrian
Servings 90 walnut-sized meatballs


for the meatballs

  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1.5-2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup unsalted matzo meal plus extra in a bowl for rolling
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baharat or allspice
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper more or less to taste
  • 1 cup fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro, dill or mint finely chopped

for the sauce

  • drizzle of olive oil for the pot
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or more for extra heat
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp good quality tamarind
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • juice from 1 lemon about 3 tbsp
  • kosher salt to taste
  • sugar to taste (optional)


for the meatballs

  • Combine all ingredients and with wet hands, loosely and gently form walnut-sized meatballs. I place them on baking sheets.
  • Roll each meatball in matzo meal.
  • Brown them on all sides for a few minutes in a heated pan coated with a little bit of vegetable oil. Brown them in batches as to not overcrowd the pot. Set aside.

for the sauce

  • In a heated pot with a long drizzle of olive oil, add your Aleppo pepper. Once the oil has turned a reddish color, add the allspice and the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir and let simmer for a few minutes before adding the meatballs.
  • Add the meatballs and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste the sauce to see if it needs anything more. The meatballs should plump up a little when done, and the sauce shall be thicker.
  • Serve with rice that also consists of orzo or vermicelli, potatoes, and/or salad
Keyword High Holidays, Rosh Hoshanah, Shabbat

I’m spending some time recipe developing and photographing for others these days (and getting paid to do so whattt!?) But I’ve also been super busy trying to feel better all around. The good news is, I am now seeing a neurologist that cares deeply, spends two hours chatting with me, and wants to get to the source of all the nerve pain I’m experiencing. I could practically jump for joy considering my last neuro was, well, incompetent and only wanted 5 minutes of my time. At least now I have some hope that I can *maybe* rid myself of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Which would be great news for all that follow me because I’ll get to taste food from both sides of my mouth! (Did you know food tastes differently from one side to the next?) It’s been a full YEAR since I’ve been able to fully enjoy eating, and I can’t wait!

Much love, and a warm hello to my new followers! So happy you’ve made your way to me.

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