Turkish Inspired Meatballs for Passover
Photo: Liz Rueven

Turkish Inspired Meatballs for Passover

When my Turkish friend, Moshe Aelyon, invited me to prepare his grandmother’s recipe for savory, leek infused meatballs, I was hooked even before I tasted them. But I had no idea why this is considered a Turkish Passover specialty.

Passover meatballs with leeks Kosher Like Me
photo: Liz Rueven

I learned that there is a tradition among (some) Sephardic Jews to playfully whip one’s Seder companions with scallions or leeks. This is a reference to the lashes Hebrew slaves surely endured by their task masters. Moshe laughed while sharing how this played out around his family’s Passover table.

I can only imagine the fun kids had while “whipping” each other.

At some tables, everyone gets their own scallion or leek sheath (I also learned that they are not called stalks or stems). At others, one allium, designated as a whip, gets passed from guest to guest. Everyone sings DAYENU to emphasize the list of G-d’s miracles.

Sounds like another creative way to keep the kiddos engaged, right? This was definitely not happening in the Ashkenzi home of my childhood.

Passover meatballs with leeks Kosher Like Me
Photo: Liz Rueven

I also discovered that leeks impart a more subtle and nuanced seasoning than onions. While my Mom taught me to grate an onion into my meat mix, leeks add more complex dimensions of savory/ sweet. They also help to keep the meat moist.

I’ll be demonstrating and hoping to inspire guests to GREEN UP their Passover menus in a zoom class via Temple Beth-El, Norwalk, CT, on Wednesday, April 6, 7:30-9 PM.

We’ll be focused on early spring ingredients, eating locally and creating Shabbat and holiday menus in-step with the seasons. I’ll also help you to steer clear of those tempting (but are they?) boxed Passover mixes lining your supermarket aisles.

On the class menu:

Turkish Inspired Meatballs (recipe below)

Creamy Asparagus Soup (pareve, vegan, gluten-free)

Quinoa Salad with Spring Veggies (pareve, vegan, gluten-free)

Class is free (thank you to the Beth Elles) but registration is necessary. Click here to register and connect via zoom.

For all of you Jewish food enthusiasts out there, consider buying The Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods, by Gil Marks. It is a fascinating and extremely thorough resource about Jewish food history, culture and recipes.

*If this recipe is vaguely familiar, I wrote about it eight years ago here. I felt that the recipe needed to be better organized and re-written. I’m happy to see that my photo skills have improved since that time, too.


  1. These sound so delicious 😋 and I love how you’re drawing attention to the subtleties of flavors. Your post brought me right back to one of our favorite trips ever to Marmaris. Longing for the flavors of Turkey. Have a wonderful class tonight. 💖

    • Great question! I haven’t jumped onto the air fryer train yet so I can’t say. I suggest googling this question to see what comes up. Please share your experience with us if you do try.

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