Moroccan Meatball and Egg Tagine

TagineFor breakfast or dinner, a meatball tagine hits the spot. Warmly spiced tomato sauce and meatballs are simmered together then topped with runny baked eggs that give the dish a creamy texture. Deeply flavorful and packed with protein and antioxidant-rich herbs and spices, a meatball tagine is immensely satisfying.

Traditionally called Kefta Mkaouara (meatball tagine with tomato and eggs), this Moroccan meal is traditionally cooked in a tagine, an earthenware pot with low sides and a cone-shaped cover. But have no fear; a wide saucepan with a lid works just as well.

The abundance of herbs and spices in a meatball tagine are what really make the dish sing. The meat and sauce are spiced, but not spicy (unless you’re generous with the cayenne). Cinnamon and turmeric are the big hitters here, with their powerful healing properties.

So grab a spoon and dig in. When you get to the bottom, you’ll be licking the bowl clean. For a vegetarian version of this delicious meal, try Shakshuka.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour 15 minute



  • 4 eggs

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter (30 ml)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (2.5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (a pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (a pinch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne (a pinch)
  • 28-ounces (790 g) of whole canned/boxed tomatoes in their juice (broken up with your hands or a food processor) or 28-ounces canned/boxed diced tomatoes in juice or 2 lbs. (about 1 kg) fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled into 1/4 cup (60 ml) hot water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (60 ml)


  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb (or a combination of the two) (450 g)
  • 2 tablespoons grated or very finely chopped red onion
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (2.5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (a pinch)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne (a pinch)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley (30 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (30 ml


In a wide (11 or 12 inch/30 cm) saucepan or dutch oven with a lid, heat the olive oil/ butter for the tomato sauce. Add the garlic and sauté a few minutes. Add the spices and mix well then add the tomatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes, covered.

Step 1

While the sauce is simmering, use your hands to combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Shape the mixture into small meatballs about 1- inch in diameter.

Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce along with the 1/4-cup of saffron water. Cover and gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 2

Crack the eggs into the sauce. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.


Top with the finely chopped parsley and cilantro.


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42 thoughts on “Moroccan Meatball and Egg Tagine”

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  1. I waited tables in a palestinian restaurant for years and shakshuka was a menu staple. I still make it for breakfast all the time, no meatballs, but it always has peppers: fresh and/or roasted sweet peppers. and sumac instead of saffron. It is like chili…..every home cook has their own variation. And delish any way!

    1. Thanks so much for mentioning sumac as a sub. for saffron. I haven’t had this spice in a while and am eager to have it again!

  2. This looks DELICIOUS! I’m totally making this for one of our dinners next week. =]

  3. The meatballs and sauce look wonderful, but not everyone likes runny eggs. The eggs could also be scrambled with the meatballs and sauce piled on top. Not exactly shakshuka, maybe, but delicious just the same.

    1. You can just leave the eggs in the sauce a little longer so that they firm up to however you like them.

      1. Cool, thanks! So I could freeze individual portions of just the meatball and sauce part and add the eggs in when ready to eat….

  4. I just ordered some real saffron. I think I want to try this. 🙂

  5. Eggs + tomato sauce (spicy, no less) = major hesitation.

    Somebody tell me why this combination will be life-changing for me and I might be convinced enough to try it 🙂

    1. This is similar to “Eggs in Hell,” which Mario Batali has a recipe for (a quick search will find it). Eggs in spicy tomato sauce is absolutely delicious; add meatballs and bam, even better!

      1. I had major hesitation before trying many of the foods I now love, such as shrimp, asparagus, brussels sprouts…and many others. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t taste good. It’s not going to make you sick. A LOT of people love this dish, and you could be one of them, though you’ll never know without trying 🙂

    2. Yeah, surprisingly delicious. The eggs add a creamy body to the tomato sauce, and it’s a savory delight.

  6. I do wish, when sites post recipes like this, they would add a link to a printable text version. It would save so much time from having to copy and paste the text portions to a usable simple printable page that I can put in my recipe binder.

    1. I cut, copy the whole recipe, paste it onto my document and then click on the photos I don’t want, delete, and make the one I do want to keep smaller. It’s not that much messing with the document and pretty fast with my now “outdated” computer. Hope that helps.
      I’m seriously thinking of this for lunches this week, however, I don’t have saffron nor sumac. May have to go across the street to see if the local New Seasons Market has one of them.

    2. try using evernote for capturing recipes from various websites. it makes it very easy to edit the content that you want and deleting the rest.

  7. Looks yummy! However, do you not need to brown/partially cook the meatballs first? Little concerned about raw/undercooked meat…yuck.

    1. 30 minutes should be more than enough time to fully cook the meatballs in the sauce. I like to brown the meatballs first for extra flavor, but it’s certainly not necessary for health reasons.

    2. Beef and lamb are routinely eaten rare as in burgers, so long as you trust your source. If you don’t like your burgers rare and prefer them well done, then you can elect to brown them first.

      Having said that, simmering for 30 minutes is plenty of time to cook through 1″ meatballs.

  8. Although I am an idiot, it would have helped if the four eggs were not listed under the meatball ingredients. I added them to the meatball mixture as instructed, and of course the mix became too runny to make into balls. So I just threw everything together and it’s simmering now. Won’t look pretty, but it should taste ok.

    1. I was confused by that as well. Thanks for posting as I was about to make the same mistake.

  9. We made this last night and it was awesome. We also roasted a few marrow bones and mixed the marrow into the sauce for some added yum. It looked just as pretty as the pictures!

  10. I made this today (sans saffron – I’m not made of money!!!) and it made the house smell fantastic and tasted great. For the WIN!

  11. I made this recipe and the meatballs came out dry ! I followed the instructions to a T. What happened ?

  12. It’s -55 wind chills here today and this was exactly what I needed. It was amazing! My son claims it’s like a dance party in your mouth. Served it on top of zucchini noodles. The meat was tender and packed with flavor, the sauce at the bottom of the bowl too good to waste (drank it!), and the egg added a creamy contrast to the dish. Outstanding!

  13. If you found the meatballs turned out dry, then do fry them before adding to the sauce. In a little ghee is fine, but ground lamb is fatty enough you may not need it. We made this a lot in Morocco–of course, there, everyone scoops it up with bread. It’s great with roasted sweet potato “fries.”

  14. Made this for lunch today despite initial protests from my children. It was delicious, and I’ve been requested to keep making this, please! Definitely a hit with my family, and will become a firm favourite, I feel!

  15. To keep meatballs moist, it’s best not to use ground beef that is too lean. I like the 20% fat beef, and when I make this dish this weekend, I’ll be using a mix of lamb and beef and what the heck, maybe some ground pork too! I may still briefly saute the balls in butter just to give them a more flavorful “crust.”

  16. Making this tonight. Hope it taste as good as it looks. Will post update after we eat.

  17. Okay here is our update: Dinner is done. My kids took one look at the egg on top of their meatball and said I am not eating that !!!! I said take one bite and if you don’t like it you can make a salad. I am pleased to say they both (ages 11 and 13 )cleaned their plate and asked if there was left over’s to take to school for lunch.

    THANK YOU MARK. I have a hard time pleasing them. We had to go gluten and wheat free for the sake of my daughter who has severe eczema and Seborrheic dermatitis and acid reflux since birth. I refused to put her back on med’s and searched for a cure due to all the side affects and they were not working anyhow . Probiotics took care of the acid reflux and removing all gluten and wheat from her diet took care of the rest. She is no longer ashamed to go to school now as she no longer has white flakes falling from her hair or red rashes on her skin.

    Mark you have saved not only my daughter, but also myself. I suffer from IBS on a daily bases and cutting out all grains is doing the trick.


  18. Yet another excellent recipe! I made no modifications, except I had no saffron. But, this dish was so good I can’t even imagine it being better!
    I’ve prepared more than a dozen recipes on this site in the past 3 months, and each and every one has been so delicious. I don’t even want to go to restaurants now. @Worker Bee , You Kick Ass!

  19. I made this last Sunday for men watching football play-off games. The only substitution I was forced to make was regular onion for the red, as I had no red onion. This is really a delicious dish, and everybody raved. I so love intriguing people about Primal eating by knocking their socks off with outstanding food!

    Feeling deprived? I thought not . . .

    Thank you ~

  20. This dish is fantastic! It has become a weekly meal in our household, due to the simplicity, nutrition and delicous taste.

    Thank you!

  21. I know this is an old recipe post, but I come back to this a lot (also the lemon brisket) It is so flavorful and now that it’s fall and starting to get cold, definitely the perfect time for it. Thanks MDA.