Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce (Kabab Karaz) 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Dinner in Minutes Nov 2, 2016

This is a version of what has been called "the crown jewel of Aleppian main dishes."

The meatballs are easier to manage and tend to hold their shape better when you cook them on skewers, even if you're using a grill pan on the stove top. Feel free to cook these on the outdoor grill, if you like.

The original recipe calls for 2 pounds of pitted, frozen (or fresh) sour cherries, some of which get pureed and pressed for their juice. Here, we started with bottled sour cherry juice and added chopped, tart dried cherries to the meatball mix.

Instead of or in addition to the flatbread or pita, you could serve these with a pilaf or salad.

Where to Buy: Aleppo pepper and 7-spice blend are available at Mediterranean markets and some kitchen shops, such as La Cuisine in Alexandria. In her cookbook, Marlene Matar suggests an acceptable substitute for Aleppo pepper: 1/4 cup sweet paprika and 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 2 cups sour cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or more as needed
  • 2 ounces dried tart cherries
  • 12 ounces ground lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Aleppo pepper or 7-spice blend (see headnote)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, for garnish
  • Leaves from 4 stems flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  • Lavash or pocketless pita bread (see headnote)


Combine the sour cherry juice, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes, until slightly syrupy. Turn off the heat.

While the juice mixture is reducing, coarsely chop the dried cherries and place them in a mixing bowl. Add the lamb, the black and Aleppo peppers, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon and the remaining teaspoon of salt in a wide mixing bowl. Knead for 30 seconds (in the bowl), then divide the mixture into 36 equal portions. Form each into a ball (about 1 inch wide) and thread onto 6-inch skewers.

Spray a grill pan with cooking oil spray and place over medium-high heat. Once the pan is quite hot, add the meatballs and cook for about 7 minutes or until browned on all sides, turning the skewers as needed.

Toast the pine nuts in a separate small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned. Coarsely chop the parsley leaves.

Carefully slide the meatballs off the skewers and into the sour cherry sauce, stirring gently to coat. Cook for a few minutes over low heat while you cut the flatbread into triangles and arrange them around the edge of a serving platter.

Taste the sauce; add a little salt, as needed. Spoon the meatballs and sauce into the center of the platter. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts, the parsley and a light dusting of cinnamon. Serve hot.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria" by Marlene Matar (Interlink Books, 2016).

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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