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Iraqi apricot meatball recipe

Iraqi Apricot Meatballs

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4.8 from 4 reviews

There’s a reason this 2,000-year-old recipe is still popular today.

  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x


Units Scale

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 slices of bread (like challah or ciabatta), crusts removed, soaked in water

For the sauce:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp dried mint or ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp sugar (see notes)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp white pepper
  • 1 ½ cups water, at room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) unsweetened dried apricot (see notes)
  • ¼ cup golden raisins (optional, I do not use)
  • cooked rice, for serving


  1. Start by making the meatballs: Put ground beef, parsley, onion, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Squeeze water out of the bread, add to the beef and mix with your hands for a couple of minutes. Shape the mixture into 1½-inch meatballs and arrange on a tray. Set aside.
  2. Use a skillet or a pot that is wide enough to hold all the meatballs in one layer, if possible. Put the skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, and when oil is hot, add onion and sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, mint, cardamom, sugar, salt and white pepper, mix and cook for another minute. Add water, lemon juice and paprika and bring to boil, then reduce the heat and cook on low simmer for 5 minutes. Taste sauce and adjust salt and sugar to taste.
  3. Add meatballs to the skillet and spoon sauce over them. Scatter the apricots and raisins (if using) between the meatballs. Bring back to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce heat to a low simmer (you want to see small bubbles forming in the sauce), cover and cook for 15 minutes. Gently flip the meatballs and cook for another 15 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Serve over rice. 


  1. The recipe calls for dried apricots with no added sugar. They are available at specialty supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. If you’re using sweetened dried apricots, reduce the sugar in the sauce to 2 tsp.
  2. The original recipe included raisins in the sauce, which I chose to omit, but you can add those for extra sweetness.
  3. Store the cooked meatballs in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days.
  • Author: Vered Guttman
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: One-Pot
  • Cuisine: Sephardic