Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

Delicious, packed with Mediterranean flavours and covered in a rich and thick tomato sauce! This traditional soutzoukakia recipe was introduced to the Greek cuisine in the beginning of the 20th century and has its origin from the city of Smyrni or modern day Izmir. This is a hearty Greek dish, perfect for a big family meal!

Which spices to use in Soutzoukakia Smyrneika?

The secret ingredient that makes these meatballs (soutzoukakia) unique is nothing else than cumin. Cumin is a very fragrant spice that will soak through the meat and infuse it with its unique aromas. But be careful to use in moderation as it can be a little overpowering!

Traditionally soutzoukakia are made with beef mince. If you’d like them to be on the healthier side you can use lean/low fat beef. If you prefer you can also use a combination of beef and pork mince.

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe ingredients

How to make this Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe?

Soutzoukakia are prepared in three stages. The first step is to prepare your soutzoukakia meatballs mixture. Start by placing all the ingredients for the soutzoukakia meatball mixture in a large bowl. Knead them with your fingers until all the ingredients are combined and evenly spread throughout the mixture. Finally place the mixture in the fridge for about 1 hour in order for the spices to soak through the meat!

Now its time to shape your soutzoukakia. Grab a fistful of the mixture and shape using the palm of your hands into oblong meatballs. If you want to be precise get your scale out! Each Soutzoukakia meatball should weigh approximately 70 grams (2.4 oz).

You can cook your soutzoukakia in one of two ways. You can go traditional and shallow fry them or go healthy and bake them. I personally prefer to bake them as they turn out lighter, less fatty and with less calories without compromising on the taste! 

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce) - preparing the meatballs

Preparing the Soutzoukakia Sauce

The second step is to prepare your soutzoukakia tomato sauce. While the Soutzoukakia are baking, pour some oil into a deep frying pan and heat it up.

Tip: use a pan  that comes with a lid! You’ll thank me later when there is less tomato splatter in the kitchen to clean!

Start by frying your onions until translucent then stir in add the tomato paste, cumin and a bit of salt and pepper. Continue to fry until the aromas from the spices start coming through. Finally add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes. This pre-cooks the aromatic spices and releases all their hidden flavours and aromas. 

Pour in your wine to deglaze the pan and let it simmer for a bit until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the remaining tomato sauce ingredients, cover with the lid and let it simmer over low heat until it just starts to thicken.

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce) - preparing the sauce

Its now time to bring the Soutzoukakia and the sauce together! Using a tong, gently place each Soutzoukakia meatball in the sauce and stir using a spatula until the sauce has covered them fully. Turn the heat down to low, cover with the lid and let it simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste your sauce and add salt and pepper to suit your taste!

Tip: Remember to stir it occasionally and if it looks too dry add half a cup of water and stir. You don’t want them to burn! 

What to serve your delicious Soutzoukakia with?

Soutzoukakia can be served with basmati rice, mashed potatoes, fries and Greek salad. Also don’t forget your extra crusty bread!

Love meatballs? Then these delicious meatball recipes are made for you!

  1. Traditional Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)
  2. Greek Lamb meatballs (Keftedakia with Lamb)
  3. Greek Meatballs in tomato sauce (keftedes giouvetsi)
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Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

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  • Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
  • Prep Time: 70 min
  • Cook Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 people 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Cuisine: Greek


An authentic Soutzoukakia recipe as introduced to the Greek cuisine in the beginning of the 20th century. These baked meatballs are infused with the aromas of cumin and soaked in a tasty and rich tomato sauce, making them the perfect comfort food!



For the meatballs (soutzoukakia)

  • 800g ground beef (28 ounces)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon of ground cumin (if you are a fan of cumin, try 34 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 5 slices of stale bread soaked in red wine and squeezed dry or 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the tomato sauce

  • 3 cups tomato juice (passata) or tinned chopped tomatoes (800g or 28 oz)
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. To prepare the soutzoukakia, knead all meatball ingredients together and leave the mixture in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Once done, portion your meatballs and shape them into oblong meatballs about 70g/2.4oz in size. You can shallow fry gently in oil till golden brown or for a lighter dish, bake the soutzoukakia in the oven at 200C/390F till golden brown.
  3. While your Soutzoukakia are baking, its time to prepare the tomato sauce. Start by sauté the onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin and a bit of salt and pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Add the squashed garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes until the garlic has cooked and its aromas coming through. Finally add the wine, the tomato juice or your tinned chopped tomatoes, sugar and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the Soutzoukakia sauce starts to thicken.
  4. Its now time to bring your Soutzoukakia together! Gently place the fried/ baked soutzoukakia in the tomato sauce and stir gently, being careful not to break them. Cover your pan with a lid and let them simmer on low heat for 30 minutes so the meatballs absorb all the wonderful flavours from the tomato sauce. While they are cooking give them a taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.
  5. If the sauce starts to thicken too soon, add a splash of water and stir through.
  6. Serve the soutzoukakia (baked meatballs) while still hot with some rice or mashed potatoes and lots of tomato sauce. Enjoy!!


  • Serving Size: 1 portion
  • Calories: 433kcal
  • Sugar: 7.5g
  • Sodium: 773.6mg
  • Fat: 18.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 13g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 24.7g
  • Fiber: 4.4g
  • Protein: 35.6g
  • Cholesterol: 134.6mg

Are you a Greek speaker? You can read this delicious recipe in Greek here Συνταγή για παραδοσιακά Πολίτικα Σουτζουκάκια.

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  1. Hello,
    I would like to try this recipe but I am not sure if it requires ground cumin or whole cumin seeds?

  2. Hi,

    I have young children at home. What’s a good sub for the red wine?

  3. This is fabulous! Made my kitchen smell like a wonderful Greek restaurant I remember during my days living in Worcester, Mass years ago. Easy to make. I love your website. Thank you for all your hard work!

    Sterling, Colorado

  4. HI, ai love these and going to make tonight, but IS it 1 tablespoon cumin or teaspoon, the recipe says tablespoon , it seems alot

    • Hi there! It depends how strong you like it. I have always used 2-3 teaspoons which is about 1 tablespoon but appreciate that not everyone likes strong flavoured cumin taste 🙂 I have adapted the recipe to state that!


      • Thanks eli, i neednt hav worried about goo much cumin, husband a daughter liked it, said it smelt and looked great snd he was right, it was fab delicious

  5. Is the 1/4 cup olive oil for frying the meatballs in or does it get mixed into the meat mixture? A little confused

  6. Love this recipe. If you don’t want to use wine Instead i soak the bread in milk and squeeze the bread before adding

  7. What temp. do you bake these at and for how long?

  8. Francine

    How many sousou in one portion

  9. Can you make ahead and freeze this dish? It looks wonderful.

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