Democracy Dies in Darkness

By Julia Turshen

These spiced meat patties are inspired by merguez, the North African sausage flavored with lots of spices, garlic and harissa. When served with a cooling yogurt sauce and bright cabbage salad, they make a complete meal fit for outdoor entertaining, especially when tucked into pitas. While the patties use a mixture of ground beef and ground lamb, you could make them with all one or the other.

Storage: Refrigerate the cooked patties, yogurt sauce and cabbage salad separately for up to 3 days.

Adapted from “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen (Chronicle, 2016).


measuring cup

Servings: 4–6 (makes 24 small patties)


Time Icon
Total: 1 hour 15 mins
  1. Step 1

    Make the yogurt sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, garlic and salt. Set the mixture aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe, or cover and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 1 cup.

  2. Step 2

    Make the cabbage salad: Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice the cabbage, transferring to a large bowl as you work. (Discard or compost the core.) Add the parsley, dill, vinegar, olive oil and salt, and mix well to combine. The salad can sit at room temperature while you make the merguez, or be covered and refrigerated until needed.

  3. Step 3

    Make the merguez patties: Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, gently mix together the beef, lamb, harissa, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika and salt. (Overworking the meat can make it tough.) Divide the mixture evenly into 24 portions (about 1 1/3 ounces each) and shape each into a small patty, each measuring about 1/2-inch thick, placing them on the pan as you work.

  4. Step 4

    Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, set it to 450 degrees. If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter with charcoal, light it, and when the coals are white-gray with ash, pour them onto the charcoal grate, adding more charcoal, if necessary. Put the lid on the grill, making sure the vents are open all the way. When all of the coals are gray and hot, about 15 minutes, your grill should be medium-hot. (Use a grill thermometer, or test the heat by holding your hand, palm-down, about 4 inches from the grate, making sure that nothing flammable, such as clothing, is near the heat. If you can hold it there for about 4 seconds, the heat should be at medium, or about 450 degrees. Pull your hand away from the heat before it gets painful.) Make sure the grill grates are clean.

  5. Step 5

    Place the patties on the grill and cook until the undersides are browned and release easily from the grates, 2 to 3 minutes. If they’re sticking, the crust hasn’t quite formed yet. (Just give them a moment.) Flip each patty and cook until browned on the other side, about 2 minutes more.

  6. Step 6

    Transfer the cabbage salad to a large serving platter and arrange the grilled patties on top. Drizzle with the yogurt sauce and serve immediately, with pitas for stuffing, if desired.


Mix of ground beef and ground lamb >> 1 1/2 pounds of one or the other.
Vegetarian? >> Use plant-based ground meat.
Vegan? >> Use plant-based ground meat and also substitute nondairy yogurt for regular yogurt.
Red wine vinegar >> lemon juice.
Red cabbage >> green cabbage or kale.
Parsley and dill >> all one or the other, or any tender herbs, such as cilantro.


No grill? Just broil the patties on a sheet pan under high heat or cook in batches in a skillet over high heat. Either way, cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.

Nutritional Facts

Per serving (4 patties, scant 3 tablespoons yogurt sauce and about 3/4 cup salad), based on 6

  • Calories


  • Fat

    44 g

  • Saturated Fat

    16 g

  • Carbohydrates

    10 g

  • Sodium

    1083 mg

  • Cholesterol

    114 mg

  • Protein

    29 g

  • Fiber

    2 g

  • Sugar

    5 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen (Chronicle, 2016).

Tested by Becky Krystal.

Published June 27, 2024

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