North African Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Date Pearled Couscous

My toddler has been a fan of this meal since she could eat real food. I hesitated on feeding it to her for the first time because of the spices, but I went ahead and tried it. She was in love and to this day she still eats more of this than anything else. Yep, North African meatballs (aka Moroccan Meatballs, or as we call it, Kefta)…. just about the only food my toddler will eat. So after making them 50,000 times, I think I’ve perfected the recipe to exactly how we like it. Also, I used my tagine but a large, deep saute pan with a lid would work just as well.
The couscous is out of this world. Normally my husband isn’t a fan of sweet/savory pairings, but even he was going for seconds. I added approximately half water and half orange juice to a pot, along with some dates and cooked the couscous in it. The OJ gives it a light hint of citrus (VERY light) and the dates give it a punch of sweetness. You could use regular couscous or pearled, but I prefer pearled because of the texture. If you don’t have OJ, you could use all stock (whatever kind you have) or water.
Mixture of cilantro and parsley
Roll the meatballs
Brown them very well in a pan, try not to turn them too much
Spice mixture for the sauce
Saute the onions and then add the spices
Add the tomatoes and other sauce ingredients
Add the meatballs to the sauce and cover
Check on it, spooning sauce over it
Here it is, a family favorite in our house. I sprinkled on extra herbs.

North African Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Date Pearled Couscous
Serving Size = 2 – 3

  • 1 lb ground beef (80/20)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • Cinnamon, just a pinch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro


  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt/Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice (optional)
  • Pinch of cayenne, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1, 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 tablespoons tomato sauce (could also use tomato paste, about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  1. Place a large, deep saute pan or tagine over medium heat. Add a touch of oil (EVOO).
  2. Mix together all of the ingredients for the meatballs, except the beef. Once blended, add the beef and mix with hands as little as possible, just until combined. Roll into golf-ball size meatballs. Once done, add to pan and brown on all sides, turning as little as possible. Remove from pan, drain off excess oil and add a bit of EVOO.
  3. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to soften, then add the spices, zest, and mix. Cook about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of water to deglaze a bit, then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and cover, cook until the meatballs cook through (about 20 minutes), turning once. I also reduce the heat a bit to keep the sauce at a simmer.
  4. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, start the couscous.


Roughly chop the dates
Measure out the couscous
Finished result

Orange and Date Couscous
Serving Size = 2 – 3

  • 1 cup pearled couscous
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • Pinch of salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the OJ, water, salt, and dates to a boil. Add the couscous, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 8 – 10 minutes.
  2. Serve the meatballs and sauce over or next to the couscous.