Youvarlakia Avgolemono: a Greek meatball soup

I made this soup last year during the High Holidays. When I was thinking about what to make for Rosh Hashanah, I looked back to what I did last year—traditions make the holidays, whichever holidays you celebrate. At my house, the honey cake (in my previous post) is a tradition of long standing. This soup was so good last year I had intended to make it again sometime sooner than now, but I forgot about it. So, a new tradition? Hmm… does twice makes a tradition! At any rate, this soup is very nice; it’s flavorful and homey as well as somewhat exotic~ with the lovely avgolemono sauce.

An irrelevant side-note: did you notice the word avgolemono ends in ‘mono‘ just as many of the Japanese cooking techniques I have on this blog (see my side-bar): agemono, yakimono, nabemono, mushimono, tsukemono, gohanmono! Synchronicity!

I’ve updated the recipe I used last year, adding U.S. measurements—it is difficult to buy 1.1023113 pounds of ground beef here, a volume measurement for the rice, and specifying the amout of water. A Greek acquaintance’s recipe suggests adding ¼ pound ground pork, a bit of dried mint and oregono, a clove of garlic, and seasonal vegetables. Those additions sound good and I would have added them had I found her recipe before I proceeded with mine.

Youvarlakia Avgolemono
(alternate spelling: Giouvarlakia?)
From a recipe I found online
serves 4


  • 1 pound ground beef (≈ 500 grams)
  • 6 Tablespoons raw Arborio rice (≈ 500 grams)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and pureed
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 lemons, zest only
  • 1 egg
  • 1 fresh bayleaf
  • 6  cups water (≈ 1.4 kilograms)

Mix the minced beef, uncooked rice, pureed onion, zest of 2 lemons, salt and pepper with the whole raw egg in a bowl. Mix well and form little walnut sized meatballs by hand. Press the rice firmly into the meat.
Boil the water in a pot with the bay leaf. Slide the meatballs into the water so that they can simmer in the water, on medium heat, for about 30 minutes to ensure that both meatballs and rice are cooked.
Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the avgolémono gently, check and correct the salt and pepper, add the parsley and serve hot with bread.


  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Juice of the 2 lemons above (in soup recipe)
  • 1½ cups stock from cooking the meatballs (≈ ¼ kilogram)

This is an unusual way to prepare avgolémono—this is the only recipe that directs the cook to separate the egg and beat the whites and yolks separately. This method makes the sauce lighter. I did not do it this year, and wish I had. My Greek friend adds 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch to stabilize the sauce. I haven’t tried that but she is an excellent cook.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are stiff.
Beat the egg yolks and add the lemon juice and the slightly cooled down stock to them bit by bit, stirring constantly.
Fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
Now add this sauce to the main dish and fold it in carefully but do not allow it to cook any further.


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Honey Cake Ikayaki: Pan-fried Squid Patties

8 thoughts on “Youvarlakia Avgolemono: a Greek meatball soup

  1. Ha!

    Doesn’t really classify as a soup with us – at least not the standard (thick) version you’re displaying in the picture. Greek soups are generally thin; in this version avgolemono is a dressing rather than a soup. Not the best looking of dishes, but very tasty!

    Now I’m out of depth here, but I think the mint-oreganon-garlic variation is highly eccentric, and I’m almost sure bayleaf is wrong. Also, you can use dill in addition to or even instead of parsley.

    As for the spelling, “giou” is the official transliteration and “you” is the actual sound (as in the English pronoun). But the word is Turkish actually; Turkish spelling is yuvarlak.

    • Oy!

      Interesting about the thickness of the “soup.” From the online recipe I started with, the picture wasn’t very clear so I wasn’t sure what to aim for—the original poster didn’t specify how much water, but she noted “You can add soured cream if you find it too thin for your taste.”

      So your comment made me think of the egg and lemon avgholemono chicken soup (Αυγολέμονο ΣΟΥΠΑ) I used to make. It was thin. I bought a used Greek cookbook (published: MCMLXX 1970) just after we got married. I knew nothing about cooking. But the author was Greek, and she had Greek recipe names, so I thought it would have real Greek recipes.

      So I found the book, and I’m not sure if this qualifies as serendipity but there are 2 page markers in it from the last time I used the book:
      p. 57:
      Little Meat Barrels Soup beef or lamb; parsley and spearmint; simmered
      ΣΟΥΠΑ ΓΙΟΥΒΑΡΑΑΚΙΑ (soupa youvarilakia)
      p. 133:
      Greek Meatballs with Sauce beef, lamb, or veal; parsley and optional garlic; fried
      ΓΙΟΥΒΑΡΑΑΚΙΑ ΜΕ ΣΑΑΤΣΑ (youvariakia meh saltsa)

      Now that I see those recipes, I do remember making them. The one is a soup (thinner than the one I’ve posted), and the other is meatballs with a sauce as you describe. There are stains on the pages because I’m not the neatest cook.

      We had a third generation Greek American friend who kept up with his grandparents from Greece, aunts and mother all cook recipes from “home.” He was also much involved in the Greek Orthodox Church—the bake sales, the church dinners that the older women cooked. When he’d come to dinner I’d ask if this or that tasted like home. Maybe he was just being polite, but he enjoyed the food. I know his wife copied some of the recipes. So the book probably has recipes that you would recognize.

      BTW, I copied out the letters from the book and I may not have them right. The typefaces are quite different. (the “Αυγολέμονο” is from Google Translate because I got tired of copying the letters)

    • Oh, thanks for the link with the picture. It’s too long ago for me to remember how either recipe (from C2) looked.

      And I used Google Translate on the link and I even learned something:
      “…after the water boils pour in (if you put before boil minced meat may be scattered and giouvarlakia to dissolve).”
      My water wasn’t boiling, and so my “giouvarlakia to dissolve” which probably also thickened my soup…

      The dill is because it is “Not the best looking of dishes”
      ~~for color in the picture~~

    • Hi Sally–

      My husband chose that bowl as a gift, all by himself!

      The recipe is apparently not quite right because the soup is too thick.
      It’s possible that I didn’t have the water hot enough. Some of the meatballs did sort of almost disintegrate and the rice made it thicken?
      And from Panos’s link in C4, I should have used 2 quarts of water.

  2. Hi Tess,

    That’s really good. I agree with Panos on the bay leaf, we don’t really do it. Avgolemono is more of a sauce and the Greek soups tend to be clear, but with a lot of sauce when in comes to youvarlakia!

    I made the red sauce one recently if you want to have a look, it should be like your youvarlakia me saltsa recipe. (

    I am off to explore some of your Japanese stuff!
    Great blog! :)

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