Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous

Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous // The Stylist Quo
Moroccan food is one of my all-time favorite–the heady spices, the herbaceous freshness, the rich sweetness of dates as they dance around citrus infusions.. Ahh, I could go for a tagine pretty much everyday. Especially during seasonal transitions (and those in the South know that we often go from winter to spring in two days.. then back to winter in another), a filling batch of these North African-inspired meatballs draped over fluffy couscous is just what I crave. Hearty but not too heavy, warm and spiced yet bright and light, tender meatballs in lieu of über-braised beef stew or whatever else might spend six hours in your Dutch oven during the depths of winter…? Perfection.

These Moroccan meatballs are one of the dishes that O requests on a regular basis, but I simply hate rolling meatballs on a, well, regular basis. Despite being a fairly simple dinner, the outside, intellectual thought of diving my hands into squishy ground beef, albeit infused with spicy ginger and fresh cilantro, is unappealing to me. In the moment, though, as the tomato-kalamata sauce simmers on the stove next to me, I’m a changed woman. When I take that first bite, I sigh and mentally add Moroccan meatballs to next week’s meal plan.

Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous // The Stylist Quo

Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous // The Stylist Quo

You’ll love this dish because it’s elegant yet down-to-earth, fit for company but perfect on an ordinary weeknight, filling yet fresh. Despite the slightly more exotic flavors, the individual ingredients are simple to find, relying mostly on the sweet playfulness of cinnamon in dressing up ordinary flavors. You’ve never had such tender meatballs, I promise you, and there’s even a vegan option! Lately I’ve actually made this recipe with meat for O.. whilst subbing in ground seitan for ground beef and a flax egg for an, uh, egg-egg for me, making it totally vegan, yet just as satisfying, complex, and delicious. Check it out–it’s a perfect way to eat more of a plant-based diet around someone who demands meat (I’m looking at you, hubs-to-be).

Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous // The Stylist Quo
Speaking of, we’re finally tying the knot in only about 40 days now! If you’ve noticed a bit of a drop off in regular posts, that’s why. I’m not sure if you know this but……. weddings are a lot of work. So… bear with us. These days I’m lucky to actually make dinner from scratch–I have a tendency to work until it’s dark without a thought to dinner, and then O says, “I guess we can go out”, and 30 minutes later, I’m sipping a margarita with a top-knot and crazy eyes. It’s hot.

Luckily, it’s too late for him to back out now. Not that he’d want to anyway. I make the best Moroccan meatballs.

Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous
Cook time
Total time
Flavorful, tender meatballs simmered in a spiced tomato-kalamata sauce, served over bright couscous dotted with dates.
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
Serves: 4
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ½ cup pitted and chopped briny olives
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Meatballs:
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • ¾ pound ground beef
  • ⅓ cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Couscous:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped dried dates
  • 1 cup quick-cooking couscous
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. If baking the meatballs, preheat the oven to 350ºF. If frying, ignore this step.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and ground oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.
  3. If baking, place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the meatballs about 15-20 minutes, or until almost browning...
  4. If frying, In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed.
  5. Now, to make the sauce! In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. If you baked your meatballs, once they've finished cooking, transfer them gently to the saucepan with the sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes. If you fried your meatballs, transfer them to the saucepan with the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked through completely. Meanwhile, make your couscous!
  7. Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the dates followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  8. Divide up your couscous into individual bowls, spoon meatballs and sauce over couscous, and garnish with fresh parsley. Nom nom!
Adapted from Melissa d'Arabian of the Food Network



    • says

      Thanks girl! I really think you’d like it, AND they make great leftovers. I know the last thing you want to do right now is make elaborate meals from scratch every single night!


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