Chicken Meatballs with Lemon Rice is a Mediterranean skillet dinner, both hearty and light. Tender ground chicken meatballs simmered in lemon broth are served over sticky basmati rice for a sumptuous bright dish.

If you love these Chicken Meatballs With Lemon Rice, you will also love this Greek Chicken Orzo-Giouvetsi KotopouloChicken Skewers Orzo Bowls with Lemon or Buttermilk Chicken Thighs With Lemon Garlic Orzo!

Chicken meatballs on lemon rice in a plate with a lemon wedge and utensils.

Why this recipe sings

Our chicken meatballs and lemon rice is a delicious, simple dinner. The dish is ready in 45 minutes, delivering maximum flavor. The tender meatballs are seared in olive oil and cooked in a tasty lemon sauce. Then, they are served over basmati rice with generous amounts of sauce. 

I have a secret to tell you. Lemon rice is a popular dish in the USA. However, in Greece, we don’t typically make “lemon rice.”  Let me explain. Greeks cook plain rice (πιλάφι, pilafi) served as a side. The rice becomes lemony by adding the sauce of the main dish on top.  There are recipes for lemon risotto, including parmesan and other ingredients, but I would call them more Italian than Greek. 

The lemon broth is ladled over the rice and chicken meatballs. The result is scrumptious, comforting, and satisfying. Eat like a (modern) Greek. Enjoy! 

Here is what you need

Ground chicken, lemons, bowls with tomatoes , rice, broth, an onion and a garlic head, herbs and spices on a wood table.

For the chicken meatballs

  • Ground chicken.
  • Canned chopped tomatoes, well-drained.
  • Lemon zest.
  • Onion and garlic.
  • Dried thyme
  • Ground mustard.
  • Breadcrumbs.
  • Fresh mint leaves.

For the lemon sauce

  • Rosemary leaves.
  • Garlic.
  • Ground mustard
  • Lemon juice.
  • Broth.

For the rice

  • Basmati rice. Or your favorite kind.
  • Butter.

You also need

  • Sea salt, and freshly ground pepper.
  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Chili flakes. For serving.

Detailed measurements and instructions can be found on the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

How to make this recipe

Prepare the meatball mixture

  • Add the onion and mint to a food processor and pulse until all is chopped well but not mushy.
  • Add meat, onions, and the rest of the ingredients to a large bowl. Knead the meatball mixture well, but don’t overdo it. You want it to be fluffy and moist. Add more breadcrumbs if needed (be mindful of the amount).
  • Cover and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm.
  • Form the mixture into meatballs like a large walnut and spread them on a sheet. Pop the sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up the meatballs.
Chicken meatballs lined up in a black baking sheet on a table.
Pop the meatballs in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm them up.
Four meatballs in a cast iron skillet cooking.
Work in batches of three or four meatballs. It will be easier to flip them.
  • Place a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Sear the meatballs for 3 minutes pers ide. Don’t disturb them once you place them on the pan. It is better to wait till they form a crust and brown and then turn them over. Chicken meatballs are fragile and might break. Work in batches of three or four meatballs tops.
  • Transfer meatballs to a plate when they are done browning.

Make the lemon sauce and finish cooking the meatballs

  • In the same skillet, add the chopped garlic and rosemary leaves. Stir and saute while scrapping the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Their culinary definition is fond, which brings so much flavor to the sauce.
  • Add the broth, lemon juice and ground mustard. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium.
  • Add the meatballs back into the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until meatballs are fully cooked.
Chopped garlic and rosemary leaves in a cast iron pan.
Saute garlic and rosemary together for a minute or two.
Meatballs and broth in a cast iron skillet.
The meatballs finish cooking in the sauce and become super moist and delicious.

Make the rice

  • Feel free to cook the rice the way you love. I still cook it like my mother used to. She loved toasting it with butter before adding water or broth.

Here is my mom’s rice:

  • Rinse the rice with water to remove extra starch.
  • In a pot, add the butter over medium-high heat. When it melts, add the rice and toast until translucent, about one minute. Add the broth, stir, and cover the pot. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the stove as it is.
  • Let the rice cook in the hot broth for 15 minutes.
  • When time is up, fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Meatballs and rice in a bowl with a spoon over them pouring sauce over them.

Serve meatballs over the rice, with a generous amount of lemon sauce all over. Add chili flakes if you like.

What to serve with chicken meatballs

Great side dishes for this recipe are a traditional Greek lettuce salad- maroulosalata, horta -wild greens with lemon and olive oil, or delicious cauliflower steaks. Add a rustic bread for wild dipping in the lemon sauce!

A bowl with chicken meatballs and lemon rice with lemon wedges and utensils. Partial view if a cast iron skillet with meatballs and lemon sauce.

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Chicken meatballs on lemon rice in a plate with a lemon wedge and utensils.

Chicken Meatballs With Lemon Rice

by Jenny | The Greek Foodie
Chicken Meatballs With Lemon Rice is both a hearty and light dish. Tender chicken meatballs in a lemon sauce are served over rice for a sumptuous bright dish.
5 from 10 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Mixture rest time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Servings 6
Calories 660 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the chicken meatballs

  • 1.5 lb ground chicken preferably from thigh
  • ½ cup canned chopped tomatoes well drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 5-6 spearmint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the lemon sauce

  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 4 cups broth chicken or vegetable

You also need

  • 2 cups basmati rice or the rice of your preference
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions
 

Prepare the meatball mixture

  • Add the onion, garlic and mint to a food processor and pulse until all is chopped well but not mushy. Tranfer to a large bowl.
  • Place ground chicken, and the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Season with one teaspoon sea salt and half a teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
    Knead the meatball mixture well, but don't overdo it. You want it to be fluffy and moist. Having said that, add more breadcrumbs if it feels too loose.
    Cover and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm.
  • Form the mixture into meatballs like a large walnut and spread them on a sheet.
    Pop the sheet in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up the meatballs.
  • Place a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Sear the meatballs for 3 minutes per side. Don't disturb them once you place them on the pan. It is better to wait till they have a crust and are browned. Then, turn them over with a slotted spatula.
    Chicken meatballs are fragile and might break.
    Work in batches of three or four meatballs tops.
    Transfer them to a plate when they are done.

Prepare the lemon sauce

  • In the same pan, add the chopped garlic and rosemary leaves.
    Stir and saute while scrapping the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. They are called fond and bring so much flavor to the sauce.
    Add the broth, lemon juice and ground mustard.
    Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium.

Finish cooking the chicken meatballs

  • Add the meatballs back into the skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until meatballs are fully cooked.

Make the rice

  • Make basmati rice as suggested or your favorite kind.
    Feel free to cook the rice the way you love. I still cook it like my mother used to. She loved toasting it with butter before adding water or broth. See the recipe notes for my mom's rice method.

Serving suggestion

  • Add a cup of cooked rice and three to four meatballs in a bowl. Pour two to three (or more!) tablespoons of the sauce all over. Enjoy!

Notes

Here is my mom’s rice:
  • Rinse the rice with water to remove extra starch.
  • In a pot, add the butter over medium-high heat. When it melts, add the rice and toast until translucent, about one minute. Add the broth, stir, and cover the pot. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the stove as it is.
  • Let the rice cook in the hot broth for 15 minutes.
  • When time is up, fluff up the rice with a fork and serve.
 
Nutritional Info – Please remember that the nutritional information provided is only estimated and can vary based on the products used.

Nutrition

Calories: 660kcalCarbohydrates: 70gProtein: 28gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 876mgPotassium: 811mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 524IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 116mgIron: 5mg
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Chicken Meatballs With Lemon Rice Chicken Meatballs With Lemon Rice

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