A stunning medley of flavors: harissa meatballs served with herby pearl couscous, cooling cucumber, and a whipped feta yogurt dip to finish. This dish is ready in 20 minutes and makes a mouth-wateringly good vegetarian Middle Eastern-inspired dinner that I just know you’ll devour.
This Mediterranean-inspired recipe uses vegetarian meatballs marinated in a harissa sauce and uses my ultra-popular whipped feta recipe. Here, it’s served with pearl couscous, but this recipe would also be stunning served alongside this Greek potatoes with whipped feta recipe, pillowy soft flatbreads, or even served in a flatbread with crispy chickpeas.
Ingredients You’ll Need To Make This Recipe
Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this page for the exact quantities needed to make this recipe. Here are a few notes on the ingredients needed – I’ve also included a substitution section underneath in case you can’t find/don’t like a certain ingredient.
- Meatballs: I used frozen vegetarian meatballs for this recipe – use whatever brand you prefer. I like the Linda McCartney, Richmond, and Birdseye brands personally. If you aren’t vegetarian, you could use any meatball you like – such as pork or beef meatballs.
- Harissa paste: Harissa paste is a spicy, smoky red chilli paste that traditionally hails from Tunisia, and is commonly used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. It is delicious – but it can have a kick to it! I’d recommend using less than the quantity advised if you don’t like spice or are serving this recipe to young children.
- Olive oil: The olive oil is used in the harissa marinade for your meatballs, as well as in the whipped feta. Use a good quality extra-virgin olive oil if possible – it really does make a big difference to the taste!
- Spices/seasonings: A simple blend of smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and oregano helps to deepen the flavor of the meatballs. The harissa paste does most of the talking!
- Lemon: You’ll need the zest and juice of a lemon for this recipe. The lemon is essential for adding that zingy, citrussy flavor to both the harissa meatballs and the whipped feta.
- Garlic: Two minced cloves of garlic add a great depth of flavor and aromatic to the harissa meatballs.
- Pearl couscous: I opted to use pearl couscous – also known as giant couscous or Israeli couscous – for this recipe. I highly recommend cooking your couscous in vegetable stock rather than just water to maximize the flavor!
- Mint and Parsley: Fresh mint and parsley, diced finely, are tossed through the pearl couscous before serving for a fresh, herby addition to this recipe.
- Cucumber: Cooling chunks of cucumber make the perfect addition to this recipe.
- Whipped feta: This whipped feta recipe uses feta cheese, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil blended until smooth and creamy. I use a little more yogurt in this version compared to other versions I’ve featured previously in order to make the whipped feta more of a dressing than a dip.
Other extras that are amazing in this recipe but not completely essential are herby green olives, fluffy warm flatbread, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. A scattering of pickled red onions would also be delicious!
Substitutions and Potential Variations of This Harissa Meatballs Recipe
Here are a few possible substitutions and variations of this recipe if you can’t find/don’t like a certain ingredient:
- If you don’t want to use shop-bought vegetarian meatballs, you could make your own using lentils. These vegan lentil meatballs could be a good option.
- Instead of using pearl couscous to pair with the harissa meatballs, you could use standard couscous, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, orzo, mashed potato, crispy Greek roasted potatoes, or simply serve the harissa meatballs with the whipped feta served with salad in a flatbread with hummus.
- If you are plant-based, you could use vegan feta (the Violife brand is good) and vegan Greek-style yogurt to make the whipped feta instead.
How To Make Harissa Meatballs
Again, the recipe card at the bottom of this page includes the exact ingredient quantities and instructions for making this recipe at home. In this section, I’ve included a few process shots to help you visualize how the recipe should turn out!
Step 1) Prepare the Harissa Meatballs
Mix together your harissa paste, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, spices, and minced garlic in a bowl and add your meatballs.
Stir the meatballs into the marinade and make sure they are evenly coated. You could pop the meatballs in the fridge to marinade for an hour – but I tend to cook the meatballs straight away if they’re frozen and they still turn out great!
Cook your meatballs for 20 minutes (or according to your package instructions) in a baking dish until they’re slightly crispy on the outside and cooked through.
Step 2) Prepare the Herby Pearl Couscous
Making the herby pearl couscous is very simple. Add the pearl couscous to boiling vegetable stock and cook for 6-8 minutes. Drain and allow to cool to room temperature before stirring your finely chopped parsley and mint into the couscous.
Step 3) Make the whipped feta
To make the whipped feta, simply add cubed feta, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and zest, and extra-virgin olive oil to your blender and blend it until smooth and creamy. Add more Greek yogurt for more of a dressing, and less for more of a dip.
Step 4) Plate up your harissa meatballs
Serve the harissa meatballs, herby couscous, and whipped feta with cooling cubed cucumber, flatbread, and (optional) green olives for a flavor sensation.
Storing the Harissa Meatballs
This is a recipe that is just as good served cold as a ‘salad’ the next day as it is hot and fresh! If you are planning on making extras for leftovers, I’d recommend storing the whipped feta separately to the other ingredients and adding a spoonful or two when you’re ready to eat it.
I would not recommend freezing the meatballs if you’ve made them from frozen vegetarian meatballs. However, if you’ve made your meatballs from scratch, you could freeze the harissa meatballs cooked or uncooked for a later date.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing the herby couscous or whipped feta either. This recipe is best served fresh or as leftovers up to 3 days after cooking.
Where can I find harissa?
You should be able to find harissa paste at most major retailers. It’s a red paste most often sold in a small glass jar to help you know what to look for!
What can I use as a non-spicy alternative to harissa paste?
A romesco sauce could be a great alternative to harissa paste if you need a non-spicy alternative for someone who doesn’t like much spice or for toddlers, for example. It has the same delicious red pepper flavor without the heat.
Can I use harissa spice instead of harissa paste?
Yes, you could definitely use harissa spice if that’s all you can find. I would recommend blitzing the harissa spice with some jarred roasted red peppers and a little olive oil to make your own harissa paste!
What’s the best way to blend/whip the whipped feta?
I use my Nutribullet to make my whipped feta – but to be honest, that’s because it’s all I’ve got! I imagine a food processor like a Ninja food processor would also be effective for making whipped feta.
For the harissa meatballs:
- 10 vegetarian frozen meatballs
- 2 tbsp harissa paste
- ½ lemon, zest and juice (we’ll use the other half for the whipped feta below)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
For the herby pearl couscous:
- 80g dried pearl couscous
- 400ml vegetable stock
- 1 handful (~10g) fresh parsley
- 1 handful (~10g) fresh mint
For the whipped feta dressing:
- 150g Greek yogurt
- 100g feta cheese
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ lemon, zest and juice
- ½ cucumber, diced
- Green olives
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Preheat your oven to 350 F | 180C.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the harissa marinade ingredients: harissa paste, olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, smoked paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Add the meatballs and stir to ensure each meatball is fully coated in the sauce.
- Tip the meatballs into a baking dish and cook for 20 minutes (or according to the packet instructions).
- Meanwhile, cook the pearl couscous. Bring 400ml of vegetable stock to a boil in a pan, then tip in your pearl couscous.
- Cook the pearl couscous for 6-8 minutes until it’s tender, then drain and allow to cool before stirring through your finely chopped parsley and mint.
- While the pearl couscous is cooking/cooling, make the whipped feta by blending the feta, Greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. It should be smooth and creamy when done. Adjust seasonings to your preferences.
- If using, cube your cucumber, and warm your flatbreads in the oven for 5 minutes.
- To serve, dish up the herby couscous, harissa meatballs, cubed cucumber, olives, and flatbreads and then drizzle over the whipped feta dressing.
If you would like the whipped feta to resemble a dressing more than a dip, you can add a little more olive oil, yogurt, or even a splash of water to loosen the sauce. If you would prefer it to be a thick and creamy dip, add more feta and adjust until it reaches your desired consistency.
Spreading the whipped feta on the bottom of your plate before topping it with the harissa meatballs and herby couscous is also a great variation of this recipe.
If you’re making extra of this recipe for leftovers, I would recommend storing the whipped feta separately in the refrigerator from the harissa meatballs and herby couscous. You can enjoy this recipe either hot or cold 3-4 days after cooking.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 989Total Fat: 54gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 110mgSodium: 3466mgCarbohydrates: 92gFiber: 8gSugar: 40gProtein: 37g
Nutritional information is not always 100% accurate.