Baked Meatballs was one of the first recipes I learned to make gluten-free out of necessity. Spaghetti and meatballs is a staple in my home, much like any other American family. However, my motivation to create a gluten-free meatball recipe was driven from two places.
First, having to remove meatballs from my family’s dinner plate because of my son’s diagnosis seemed like I was letting wheat win. For years, my son suffered at the hands of wheat and for years, I unknowingly served it thinking I was providing my family with balanced meals. I felt deceived and angry, but I also felt determined to not allow this lifestyle change to eliminate the comfort foods we all love and grew up with.
Second, I make a pretty mean meatball. I know that many people can say their family’s meatball recipe is the best and it’s true. That is part of the fun of meatballs. Meatballs embody family, comfort, and getting together at the dinner table. I know my husband is psyched when he comes home from work and we have spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. Plus, I know he thinks mine are the best and that shouldn’t change just because we are gluten-free.
To be honest, perfecting this recipe was not a creative endeavor. My task was to play around with the timing and ratios of ingredients until I felt like I had a gluten-free meatball recipe that nobody could tell was gluten-free. I used tricks I had used prior to going gluten-free and I used my new tool belt of gluten-free tricks I have collected so far. Also, I know the “real” way to make meatballs is in the frying pan, but I always thought that was a hassle. Baking them is much easier and I don’t think I compromised the taste. Here is my run-down of perfecting a gluten-free meatball.
- Use good meat. As you may have read in my review of US Wellness Meats, I am a big fan of grass-fed/finished beef. I think it tastes better and I feel comfort knowing the animals were treated well using sustainable farming practices. Also, no lean meat here. I typically use 85% or 15% fat beef, no leaner.
- Instead of wheat breadcrumbs, I use a 50/50 gluten-free Italian breadcrumbs and almond meal mix. I utilized this strategy in my Fried Turkey Cutlets recipe. I usually premix the breadcrumbs and almond meal and keep them in fridge so they are ready to go. I like 2 brands of gluten-free breadcrumbs: Aleia’s (contains dairy) and Ian’s (dairy-free).
- Add moisture and flavor. I get a moisture and a flavor boost by adding sautéed shallots and garlic, and fresh parsley.
Before I get started with the recipe, I would like to clarify my choice of photo. Any meatball recipe you come across might have some hefty meatballs on top of a bed of spaghetti, but I thought I would include a picture of my family’s new leftover meatball lunch favorite. We use Udi’s hotdog rolls (they are a little bigger compared to the usual hotdog roll). Yum! I recently had a gluten-free guest at our home that hasn’t had a meatball, let along a meatball sandwich, in a long time. I know this was a treat. Enjoy!
- Cooking spray (I like coconut oil spray)
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil (for high heat) or olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 lb ground beef, 85% lean (grass-fed/finished if possible)
- ¾ cup 50/50 combination of gluten-free breadcrumbs and almond meal
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste (approximately 1 tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray foil with a cooking spray (I usually spray the pan and then wipe it with a paper towel. You only need enough to prevent light sticking).
- Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté shallot and garlic on low until tender. I usually add a dash of salt. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl add the egg, beef, breadcrumbs/almond meal, parsley, salt, pepper, and cooked shallot and garlic.
- Mix all the ingredients together with you hands until you have a uniform mixture.
- Roll the meatball mix into approximately 1.5-inch balls and place them on the baking sheet spread apart so they aren’t touching.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until they are just slightly pink on the inside.