Serves a Crowd

Split Pea "Meatballs" with Pistachio Yogurt

March 15, 2016
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 20 meatballs
Author Notes

The flavor and texture of these vegetarian split pea “meatballs” are so enjoyable that even traditional meatball enthusiasts will be won over. This recipe was inspired by Persian lamb meatballs, which often have cooked split peas or basmati rice as part of the meatball mixture. I decided to eliminate the lamb, and form meatballs using only split peas and basmati. The spice mixture and fresh herbs give these “meatballs” bright flavor, and the egg yolks and flour work to bind the mixture so that the "meatballs" don’t fall apart as they cook. Give this recipe a try, and you will be rewarded with “meatballs” that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. —Josh Cohen

What You'll Need
  • For the Pistachio Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • For the Split Pea “Meatballs”
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pomegranate molasses, for garnish
  1. Add the pistachios and water to a blender, and blend until the pistachios are finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the salt, cumin, lime juice, chili powder, and yogurt. Puree to combine. Taste the yogurt sauce, and adjust the flavor as you see fit. Set the yogurt sauce aside. Please note that it can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
  2. Set a medium skillet over medium heat, and add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Stir the onion regularly until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and onion begin to caramelize. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
  3. While the onion and garlic are cooking, you can add the yellow split peas and water to a medium pot. Set the pot over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the split peas are simmering gently. Simmer the split peas uncovered for approximately 20 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Add the rice to the pot with the split peas and continue cooking, uncovered, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the water should be nearly completely evaporated, and the split peas and rice should both be fully cooked. Set the pot aside until the split peas and rice are room temperature.
  4. Transfer the cooked split peas and rice to a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic. Add the cinnamon, turmeric, ground coriander, chili powder, sumac, salt, lime juice, parsley, and cilantro, and stir to combine. Add the egg yolks, and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to combine.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Form “meatballs” that are a little larger than bite-size. You should be able to form about 20 “meatballs” in total. The mixture will be wet and tacky, and it may be hard to form perfect balls. It will help to either wash your hands regularly as you work, or you can wear rubber gloves and lightly coat the outside of the gloves with oil. Cook the “meatballs” for approximately 10 minutes, until they begin to crisp and caramelize around the edges.
  6. To serve, the pistachio yogurt sauce can be cold, room temperature, or gently warmed, depending on your personal preference. Spoon some of the sauce onto a plate. Rest the “meatballs” in the sauce. Drizzle a little bit of pomegranate molasses over the top. Garnish with a little roughly chopped fresh parsley and cilantro. Serve and enjoy.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Josh Cohen
    Josh Cohen
  • Louise D.
    Louise D.
  • Livetoeat
  • KLM

9 Reviews

Louise D. March 14, 2017
Hi ! I have a child that has gluten allergy (a killing one...) could I use a gluten free type of flour instead of all purpose ?
Josh C. March 15, 2017
Hi Louise D,

You can substitute chickpea flour in this recipe without a problem.
Louise D. March 15, 2017
Great ! Thanks.
Livetoeat April 5, 2016
This recipe needs work. Wondering if anyone from the test kitchen actually made it as written. First, you need AT LEAST 2 1/2 cups of water to cook the split peas and rice. The actual cooking time for the split peas was closer to 30 min before adding the rice, which in no way was ready after 15 min. (What rice cooks from a raw state in 15 min?!) The recipe made 32 "bigger than bite size" balls, not 20. Not a bad thing, just needed an extra cookie sheet.
I tried a second batch with 2 whole eggs (you need the whites to bind it better) and upped the salt to 1 1/2 tsp as the original recipe was a bit bland. Second batch came out way better. The yogurt sauce is key.
Josh C. April 6, 2016
Hi Livetoeat,

Basmati rice takes 15-20 minutes to cook. This recipe was tested multiple times.

Paul Bertolli famously said, "Following a recipe does not absolve the cook from cooking." If you needed 2 1/2 cups of water instead of 2 cups of water to cook the split peas and rice, that's fine. Maybe your pot is a different size or the heat on your stove is slightly higher. If you made 32 meatballs instead of 20, that's also fine, people can have a different interpretation of what "a little larger than bite-size" means. And if you upped the salt, that too is fine, I always encourage individuals to adjust the seasoning to their own personal tastes.
KLM March 20, 2016
I made this tonight and my meat-eating dad was licking the plate clean. Only tweaks: (1) I needed more water for the yellow split peas and rice (closer to 2.5 cups) - just pay attention as it is cooking and you can add hot water in dribbles to keep it from drying out. (2) I needed to use two cookie sheets to cook the 24 balls (I used a small ice cream/dough scooper and it worked perfectly - no mess!) and should have rotated the cookie sheets more quickly as the bottom tray scorched the balls on the bottom. (They were still all eaten!)

The sauce is delicious and clever. Protein packed. Will double it next time.

I served it with rice and this fed 3 adults.

Thanks for the great recipe!
marianne March 20, 2016
Has anyone substituted flax egg for the egg yolk?
PghSherri March 18, 2016
Can the 'meatballs' be frozen either cooked or uncooked?
Josh C. March 18, 2016
They will taste best when they are baked fresh, but you should be able to bake them off and then freeze them (I have not tried this myself, but I believe that it would work fine).