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 mince meat and specifically ground beef. You could use lean beef or low fat beef. If you prefer you can also use a combination of beef and pork mince. The preparation of soutzoukakia can be summarised in three stages. First step is to knead the mince beef mixture, shape into oblong shaped meatballs and cook the meatballs. Traditionally soutzoukakia are fried in a pan, but you could also bake them for a lighter version. The second step is to boil the tomato sauce and the third step is to simmer the meatballs in the tomato sauce to absorb all the wonderful flavours. Soutzoukakia can be served with basmati rice, mashed potatoes or even fries and Greek salad.

Love meatballs? Have a look at my favourite traditional Keftedes and Keftedakia with Lamb recipes, which I am sure will become a family favourite!

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Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

Traditional Soutzoukakia recipe (Greek baked Meatballs in tomato sauce)

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (652 votes, average: 4.94 out of 5)
  • 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
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (if you are a fan of cumin, try 23 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)
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons green olives, pitted (optional)


  1. To prepare the soutzoukakia, knead all ingredients together and leave the mixture in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Shape into oblong meatballs and shallow fry gently in oil till golden brown. Alternatively for a lighter dish, bake the soutzoukakia till golden brown.
  2. To prepare the tomato sauce for the soutzoukakia, sauté the onion in olive oil. Add the squashed garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes until the onions are tender. Add the wine, the tomato juice, sugar, cumin, tomato paste, the bay leaf and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Add the fried/ baked / grilled soutzoukakia in the tomato sauce and stir gently, being careful not to brake them. Leave to simmer in low heat for 15 minutes, enabling the meatballs to absorb all the wonderful flavours from the tomato sauce.
  4. 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

Keywords: Soutzoukakia, Greek Meatballs in tomato sauce, Soutzoukakia Smyrneika recipe

Recipe image gallery:

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


  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

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