When most people think of meatballs, they think Italian: tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic – and maybe a heaping plate of pasta. And don’t get me wrong – there’s a time and a place for a bowl of Italian meatballs (minus the heaping plate of pasta, of course!). But nearly every culture has some form of a meatball. Spanish speaking countries have albondigas, the Greeks have keftedes, and anyone who has ever been to Ikea is probably familiar with Swedish meatballs.
They are made with different meats, from pork to beef to chicken to fish, they have different spices and flavorings added, and are cooked myriad ways – fried, baked, steamed, boiled – you name it! The main similarity is that there is meat and it’s made into a ball.
So, if you like certain flavor combinations from a particular culture, I would encourage you to try your hand at turning it into a meatball. I am partial to Thai flavors because I find Thai dishes are very well balanced. Take this recipe, for instance: spice from the chili, salt from the fish sauce, umami from the cilantro or parsley. Many Thai dishes include lime or lime juice, which adds sweet and sour flavors too – and I bet a quick splash of lime juice would really be good on these meatballs!
And the best part is that meatballs are pretty much the perfect Paleo food. It’s meat! In a ball! Of course, many traditional meatball recipes call for breadcrumbs or rice in order to help bind the meat together and keep it moist. I’ve simply substituted arrowroot flour for bread crumbs to keep my meatballs perfectly Paleo – and arrowroot flour would work perfectly well in other meatball recipes that call for breadcrumbs, too.
One note about the garlic, chili, and salt paste: there’s no doubt – a mortar and pestle work best because, along with the salt, the rough surface of the mortar (the bowl) helps grind up the ingredients. But there are a couple of other ways you could accomplish this if you don’t have a mortar and pestle. If you have a garlic press, press the garlic first and then use the edge of a wooden spoon to mash together the garlic, chili, and salt in a bowl. A food processor would work too, but that’s kind of a big hassle to go through for this little bit of paste. Whatever you do, the point is to get it as close to a paste-like consistency and get the three ingredients really mashed together.
I chose turkey for this meatball, even though turkey isn’t really popular in Thai cuisine generally, because turkey has a light flavor and is more readily available than ground chicken. If you prefer ground chicken, you could definitely use that instead, and pork might work as well. Beef, however, would have too much of a strong flavor itself, so stick to lighter meats.
Finally, I’ve given you a choice of cilantro or parsley, mostly because there are a good percentage of people out there who dislike cilantro. I, personally, am not one of these people. I love cilantro! So if you like cilantro, I’d say stick with that. But if you are a cilantro hater, feel free to use the parsley so you can enjoy your meatballs!
I often eat these meatballs all on their own and I love bringing them in my lunch for days when I’m in the office. But for a more rounded out meal, pair them with cucumber or zucchini noodles (gotta love that spiralizer!). I dress my “noodles” with a bit of olive oil, lime juice, and just a touch of salt and top them with the meatballs for a Paleo Thai version of spaghetti and meatballs!
(Make this next: Paleo Turkey Pesto Meatballs)
- 1 ¼ pound ground turkey
- 1 egg
- 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 scallion chopped
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- With a pestle and mortar, mash the garlic, chili and a pinch of salt until it forms a paste.
- In a bowl place the ground turkey, egg, cilantro, scallion, fish sauce, arrowroot flour, chili garlic paste and pinch of salt and black pepper.
- Mix until combined.
- Form into 1 inch balls.
- Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, brush with olive oil and bake for 20- 25 minutes.