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Grandmas Special Meat Balls with Gravy (Tefteli) – Тефтели


I remember going to grandmothers house-(where my mother grew up) during the summer time to visit her.  I would only go there in the summer time, New Year’s or Easter because she lived 4 hours away; during my summer break, I would stay there for couple of months.

I remember one summer my grandmother made some special meat balls.  No meatballs that I ever had before could compare.  They were chicken meatballs stuffed with raw rice and stewed in a thick flavorful gravy.  Once the meatballs were cooked, the rice became infused with the spices from the gravy and meatballs. The meatballs were so good that I licked the plate clean every time. Also, grandmother would always make fresh bread to go with meat balls and gravy.   When I was old enough, my grandmother taught me how to make the meat balls.

Not only did I share the recipe with my girls but I also got chance to share the family history behind the meatballs; and now I am sharing with all of you.


Grab some fresh baked bread for dipping and enjoy!

Serves 6


Meat balls:

1 1/2 Lbs. ground chicken or turkey

1 large egg

3 gloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup uncooked rice, washed

1 Tbsp. Heavy cream

1 Tbsp. fresh dill – finely chopped



1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large carrot, grated (through a cheese grater)

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Sweet paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley- finely chopped

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/6 tsp. nutmeg- ground

1 tsp. Cumin-ground

2 bay leaves

4 cups chicken broth

2 Tbsp. olive oil



Grind the chicken by using a meat grinder or use store-bought. Combine together ground chicken, uncooked rice, egg, heavy cream, 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs (dill or parsley), and garlic. Season with salt (about 1 tsp.) and black pepper.



Mix well until all the ingredients well combined.



Water your hands, form the chicken mixture into 1 inch balls and set them on a tray.



Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and carrots; sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and mix well so all the onions and carrots will get coated with flour; cook for one minute. Slowly add chicken broth and stir until smooth and thickened.

In a small bowl, whisk the tomato paste with 1 cup of cold water. Stir in to the gravy tomato paste mixture, cumin, nutmeg, paprika;  add bay leaves, season with salt and pepper; when gravy is thickened and became smooth add the meatballs. Bring the sauce to a boil; reduce the heat down to low; cover the pot and cook on low heat for 25 minutes.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and dill.  Serve with mashed potatoes or simply with fresh baked bread, just like my grandmother used to do.




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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Lea's Cooking 08/23/2012, 10:26 PM

    Awesome recipe Inessa!!! I love the spices you add in this recipe. I haven’t tried nutmeg in meat recipes yet, but I will defiantly try your recipe of tefteli:)
    Thanks Inessa for posting great recipes ♥¸.•*´¯*♥

    • Lea's Cooking 08/23/2012, 10:34 PM

      Oh and the girls are wonderful helpers:) Are they both yours? One looks like you for sure:) I love when my daughter in the mood to help me cook:)

      • Inessa 08/23/2012, 10:46 PM

        Thanks Lea,
        Yes, they both are mine… I know, they are very different , special and unique. They are great helpers, we have lots of fun together. 🙂

        • olga 10/06/2012, 10:12 AM

          hi! I just discovered your website through a friend. Everything looks delicious!

          On this recipe, in your opinion, would you perfer ground turkey or ground chicken??

  • Natasha 08/25/2012, 8:43 AM

    Those looks really good. I am definitely going to try these out. Thanks for the recipe Inessa 🙂

    • Inessa 08/26/2012, 12:07 AM

      You are welcome Natasha. Enjoy 🙂

  • Lena S. 08/30/2012, 9:59 PM

    Hi Inessa, thanks for sharing your awesome recipes. In some of your recipes you use chicken broth or stock, so I was wondering if you make the broth yourself or use store bought? If you use store bought- which brand you preffer?

  • Cheryl 09/13/2012, 7:00 AM

    This sounds like a wonderfully delicious recipe, but I have 2 in the family that refuse to eat rice. Will the rice be noticiable, once cooked?

    • Inessa 09/13/2012, 12:01 PM

      Thanks Cheryl, rice is kind of noticeable but you barely can taste it.. give it a try 🙂

  • Stephany Brisco 09/20/2012, 8:51 AM

    Hello Inessa,

    I’m cooking up these meatballs literally right now as I’m typing. There’s no way these aren’t going to taste good. I noticed in your instructions nothing about the cumin or bay leaf. I’m assuming the cumin went into the tomato paste mix and of course the bay leaf into the pot when it’s all simmering to cook the meat?

    I can’t wait to try more of your Russian recipes! Thanks for sharing!


    • Inessa 09/20/2012, 9:13 AM

      Hi Stephany,
      I am so glad that you decided to make this dish… I guarantee you’ll love them 🙂
      Thank you so much for noticing it, yes, you add them when you add all the spices… I updated the recipe.
      Enjoy the dish 🙂

  • alana 10/26/2012, 9:14 AM

    Cute girls:)

  • Melly 12/02/2014, 8:32 AM

    These were very yummy, thanks for the recipe. Tweaks: I added a bit of grated onion to the meatball mix and used dry parsley instead of dill. Served over rice. Super delish!

  • theresa taylor 04/30/2015, 1:31 PM

    did you use instant rice or reg rice

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