The clean, fresh flavors of a Greek sandwich — lemon, tomato, cucumber, onion and spiced meat wrapped in flatbread — are so ubiquitous that they can feel somewhat cliched, but the authentic gyro experience is a thing of true beauty. In a perfect world, one would find an amazing Greek restaurant that cooks the meat on a vertical spit, basting the rotating roast in its own delicious juices. The cook would then carve off thin slices of the meat and roll them up in a warm pita with crispy vegetables and tangy tzatziki. It would be “sauce dripping down your chin” bliss.
Until you have that restaurant nearby, these not-quite-rotisserie-style spiced meatballs absolutely hit the spot. Lamb provides that stab at authenticity, but they’d be great with beef or even chicken. Tangy tzatziki is the classic pairing, so this sauce is loaded with lemon — you can adjust to your liking by starting with a small amount and adding more based on your preference. Have some harissa waiting around in the refrigerator? Go on and give your flatbread a slather of chile paste for a kick of heat.
This dish is simple, it’s tasty, it’s a blast to eat and it’s ready to go in 20 minutes flat. (Disclaimer: even though it’s not the restaurant version, sauce will likely still run down your chin. Be prepared.)
Greek Meatballs with Lemon-Dill Tzatziki
Total Time: 20 min
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4 servings
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground lamb or beef
1 clove garlic, finely grated
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh dill
1/2 small onion, finely chopped or grated
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the tzatziki:
1/2 medium seedless cucumber, shredded
1 6-ounce carton plain 2-percent or whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh dill
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Salt and ground black pepper
4 flavored flatbread, such as garlic or onion
2 small vine-ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
To prepare the meatballs, combine the meat, garlic, oregano, dill, onion, and some salt and pepper. Mix and shape into meatballs that are about 1 inch across. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Cook the meatballs, tossing occasionally, until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes total.
While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the tzatziki: Combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
To serve, top each flatbread with sliced tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers and meatballs. Top each with tzatziki. Serve with lemon wedges.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works on digital production for FoodNetwork.com, CookingChannelTV.com and Food.com in NYC by day and develops recipes at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Twitter & Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.