Pistachio Lamb Meatballs, Chickpeas, Pickled Mustard Seeds


Niman Ranch Pistachio lamb meatballs with lemon kale chickpeas, pickled mustard seeds, yogurt, simple hot sauce, and a mango tango cilantro celery salad is a recipe that speaks comfort and flavor. I’m obsessed with meatballs, for me they are one of the most satisfying meals available.
I submitted that recipe for a March Meatball Madness recipe competition that was sponsored by Niman Ranch and Spiceology. Out of hundreds of submitted recipes, my pistachio lamb meatball recipe was voted into the final eight. With meatballs I’m not sure, maybe it’s the simplicity of how to make them or the complex different ethnic flavors that can be achieved with the right selection of herbs, spices, texture, and flavor.

Niman Ranch Pistachio Lamb Meatballs

Meatball Expectations:

If you think about it, there are so many things we expect from a meatball.
Listed in no specific order, they are:

  • Nothing fancy, that is the point anyway
  • Moist and delicate – they need to hold together
  • Appealing,  sustainable, and nutritional
  • Reasonable priced
  • Mindful prepared and amazing
  • Make us feel good
  • Taste like heaven and hearty

You have to agree that is a lot to ask of a simple meatball and a ton of decisions need to be made before preparation and execution. Something is intriguing about the process of making great meatballs and when properly mixed with spices and seasonings they are so good. Give me pistachio lamb meatballs, cooked perfectly on a sheet pan, finished over medium heat in a skillet for that awesome color and aroma, and I’m in heaven.

Niman Ranch Pistachio Lamb Meatballs

A perfect lamb meatball is not just about the meatball:

A meatball is all about the perfect balance between the layering of flavors and the contrast with all the other components that come with your dish.

  • The quality of the meat you select is important, using meat that has no antibiotics, no hormones, and is raised humanely makes such a difference.
  • The pickled mustard seeds add crunch, sweetness, and sourness (Use leftovers for fried eggs, sandwiches, etc.)
  • The Chickpeas doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice add that acidity and the drizzle of olive oil completes the chickpeas.
  • The yogurt, adds creaminess and a refreshing tartness to the dish.
  • The flavor explosion of the cilantro and celery salad finishes the dish perfectly
  • The simple hot sauce adds another complex layer of flavor (Use leftover for fried eggs, fried rice, or anything that you want to kick up a notch)

Pickled Mustard Seeds and why to blanch mustard seeds:

The pickled mustard seeds add such an awesome layer of flavor to that dish.
Yellow mustard seeds are a versatile spice that you can use to make your food tangy and flavorful and yellow mustard seeds are considered the mildest of all mustard seeds. However, mustard seeds have an inherent bitterness to them. Blanching seems to work the best to remove the bitterness.
I usually blanch my mustard seeds twice, (bring to a boil in water, drain, discard the water and rinse the seeds ). Taste and repeat the blanching if they are still too bitter for you. I’ve tried them without blanching, trust me it’s a waste of time and good mustard seeds.

Pickled Mustard Seeds

There is a difference between hot and spicy:

I love spicy food, but there is a difference between hot and spicy.
I say it over and over again, hot will burn, and spicy will have a mild pleasant heat that adds to a ton of flavor. My simple hot sauce has a perfect mellow kick to it, so you can enjoy all the flavors and ingredients. With the pistachio lamb meatballs, all the layers of flavors and ingredients blend so amazingly well. Please feel free to play with the recipe and the spices. Add more chili flakes if you want some more kick or if you are a garlic fan add more garlic. Cooking should be fun and it is all about imagination, innovation, and flavor.

Mise en place:

Mise en place is a French phrase that means to gather and arrange the ingredients and tools needed for cooking. I agree to look at the ingredient list it is kind of overwhelming, however, I think most of what you need, you have in your kitchen anyway.
In most professional kitchens, it’s all about order and organization. Some Chefs call it their religion, it is a good chef’s DNA it guarantees success in any kitchen and some cooks even have it tattooed on their forearm. In a nutshell, it helps chefs to coordinate labor and material, and transforms the lives of the brigade through focus and self-discipline. So mise en place is something that has its benefits with any recipe and with cooking.
Gather or mise and place the ingredients for the pickled mustard seeds and the hot sauce a few days ahead.  Make the recipes, keep them in the refrigerator and it will make the day of cooking the Niman Ranch pistachio lamb meatballs so much easier.

Pistachio Lamb Meatballs

Niman Ranch:

The Niman Ranch is a network of more than 750 small, independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers. The livestock is raised by small family farmers and ranchers according to the strictest animal handling protocols. Niman defines family farming as a farm or ranch that is owned and operated by a family who relies on that farm as their primary source of income. 
Since families have a personal investment to carry on their farming legacy, family-owned operations have a greater stake in their livestock and their land.
Niman Ranch livestock is raised humanely with no antibiotics and no hormones which is another important factor for me when I select my meat.

Let’s be clear, you don’t have to have to sacrifice flavor by eating healthier meals.

Cooking is all about spices and flavor and it is amazing what spices can do if used right.
A pinch of this and a pinch of that and you will discover that it is all about a few ingredients that can make the difference. Having worked many years in R&D and in healthcare one huge challenge always has been and still is the preparation of sodium-reduced flavorful meals. High sodium consumption can raise blood pressure and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. 
I prefer to utilize herbs and spices that can be used to reduce sodium.

Why Lamb:

I had the choice of creating the recipe using ground beef, ground pork, or ground lamb.
The lamb was the perfect choice for a Middle Eastern-inspired Pistachio Lamb Meatball recipe. In the Middle East beef is limited and pork is a no go and I love lamb. Don’t get me wrong I love beef and pork, properly seasoned blended beef and pork make great meatballs.  Beef and pork lack that certain flavor that lamb has if you want to cook a Medeteteranin inspired dish. Niman Ranch ground lamb is an 80/20 so it has the perfect ratio of fat and meat for a great meatball.

Pistachio Lamb Meatballs

Wash kale, cilantro, and celery in a DYI vegetable wash:

We all know that fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides.
We all know that kale is good for you, but having said that,  here’s the dirty little secret about kale:
According to the EWG, the Environmental Working Group, kale has moved to #3 on the dirty dozen list of vegetables.
I wash all my vegetables in a DIY vegetable wash, and it is very simple to do:
Fill your kitchen sink with cold water. Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda and soak the kale, cilantro, and celery for 15 minutes. The longer you soak the more pesticides you get rid of. Wash the kale, cilantro, and celery thoroughly and rinse under the faucet with cold water and reserve.

Pistachio Lamb Meatballs, Chickpeas, Pickled Mustard Seeds

The Taste

An awesome balance, contrast, and layers of flavors
The perfect dish for meatball lovers.

The Process

Easy to cook, and a very rewarding dish in regards to flavor.
Feel free to sub the ground lamb with beef, pork, or turkey.
Dry Chickpeas need to be soaked in water  overnight

The Verdict

Amazing layers of flavors and a favorite of mine to cook for lunch or dinner.
I love Niman Ranch, their livestock is raised humanely with no antibiotics and no hormones.

Chef’s Tips

Make the simple hot sauce and pickled mustard seeds a few days ahead.
Making the condiments ahead allows the flavors to develop and makes it an easy day of cooking.

Niman Ranch Pistachio Lamb Meatballs

Niman Ranch Pistachio Lamb Meatballs | Chickpeas | Pickled Mustard Seeds

Chef Norbert
Gather or mise and place the ingredients for the pickled mustard seeds and the hot sauce a few days ahead.  Make the recipes, keep them in the refrigerator and it will make the day of cooking the Niman Ranch pistachio lamb meatballs so much easier.
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 people
Calories 1009 kcal



  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 each bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup mustard seeds yellow


  • 1 Lb chickpeas dry
  • 2 medium yellow onion, peeled
  • 2 each bay leaf
  • 1 quart chicken stock low sodium
  • 1 handful kale stems removed and chopped



  • 3/4 cup yogurt plain
  • 1 tbsp water




Make pickled Mustard seeds:

    Blanch the mustard seeds about 1 to 1/2 dozen times, (bring to a boil in water, drain and discard the water) Repeat until the discarded water does not taste bitter
    1/3 cup mustard seeds
  • Combine the vinegar, water, brown sugar, sea salt, and bay leaves in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the mustard seeds, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until seeds are tender and plump. Let cool at room temp and refrigerate
    1/3 cup white vinegar, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp brown sugar, 2 each bay leaf, 1/2 cup water

Make the Hot Sauce:

    Heat oil in a pan over medium, add stemmed, seeded Fresno peppers and garlic, and cook until peppers are bright red and garlic is nicely browned. Cool, add the red wine vinegar. Blend with a hand blender until almost smooth. The sauce should be chunky. Hot sauce can be made 1 week ahead, cover and
    8 each Fresno peppers, 3 each garlic, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Soak the Chickpeas

  • Cover the chickpeas with water and soak overnight. The following day, drain chickpeas and rinse under the faucet with cold water.
    1 Lb chickpeas dry

Wash the Kale, Cilantro, and the Celery

  • Wash the kale, cilantro, and celery leaves with the DIY vegetable wash, rinse under the faucet with cold water set aside, and reserve for the chickpeas and mango tango salad.

Cook Chickpeas:

  • Place the chickpeas in a pot add the low sodium chicken stock to cover the chickpeas by about 2 inches. Add the onions and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 40 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. Skim off any white foam during the cooking of the chickpeas.
    2 medium yellow onion,, 2 each bay leaf, 1 quart chicken stock
  • In the last 5 minutes of cooking, remove the onions and bay leaves. Combine 1 cup of cooked chickpeas and 1 cup of the chickpea broth and blend with a hand blender to a smooth consistency. Add this mixture back into the chickpeas, add the chopped kale. Simmer for a few minutes.
    1 handful kale

Make the Meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 375° In a bowl combine the ground lamb with all the spices, the grated orange zest, chopped pistachio, red wine vinegar, red wine, grated onion, and blend thoroughly.
    1/3 cup white vinegar, 2.5 lb ground lamb, 2 tbsp parsley, 12 tbsp cilantro, 1 tbsp orange zest, 1 cup roasted pistachio, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp anise seeds, 1 each onion, 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp red wine, 1 tbsp paprika powder sweet, 2 each garlic, 1 tsp cumin, ground, 1/2 tsp coriander, ground, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Spray the sheet pan with olive oil. Form the mixture into meatballs of about 1 ounce each and place on the sheet pan.
  • Bake Lamb meatballs in the preheated oven until they are nicely browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Blend the Yogurt

  • Combine yogurt, water, and sea salt in a bowl and blend. Set aside and keep at room temperature
    3/4 cup yogurt, 1 tbsp water

Make the Cilantro Celery salad:

  • In a bowl whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt into a dressing. Just before service, toss cilantro and celery leaves with dressing to coat.
    1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1.5 cup cilantro leaves, 1.5 cup celery leaves


  • Ladle lemon kale chickpeas into bowls and drizzle each with virgin olive oil and plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Finish each bowl with meatballs, yogurt, simple hot sauce, pickled mustard seeds, and cilantro celery salad.

Chef Notes

Sifting Chickpeas. 
Before cooking, it's always good practice to sift through the dried chickpeas to look for stones, etc. Once sifted, rinse chickpeas under the faucet with cold water
Make a DIY vegetable wash.
Fill your kitchen sink with cold water. Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda and soak the kale and lettuce for 15 minutes. The longer you soak the more pesticides you get rid of. Wash thoroughly and rinse under the faucet with cold water.


Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 1009kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 55g | Fat: 64g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 29g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 224mg | Potassium: 1474mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 17g

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate

Keyword Lamb, Meatballs
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