Fantastic gluten free meatballs with great flavor! Cooking without gluten does not have to sacrifice any flavor. Super easy to make, cost effective and a great source of protein. My kids gobble these up and come back for more.
Today I am making the meatballs, simmering them in a simple tomato sauce and serving them on a bed of quinoa.
There are 2 main parts to this recipe. The meatballs and the sauce. If you only want the meatballs, I have separated everything out so you can easily only make the meatballs.
Meat – 1 pound (500 grams) regular ground beef (mince) works perfectly fine. You can mix in about a third ground pork if you have it available.
When I cook for my family of 4, a single 1 pound (500 gram) pack of ground beef from the grocery store is a perfect amount, so that is all I use. I add in pork if I am scaling up this recipe for more people, or making a double portion to freeze for later.
Garlic – My regular readers know my whole family loves garlic! Fresh garlic, diced finely or put into a garlic press. Delicious and I like to use a lot of it. For both the meatballs and the sauce you will need about 6 cloves of garlic.
Rice – ½ cup of plain cooked white rice. This will be our binding agent. Most meatball recipes use breadcrumbs, but of course those contain gluten. Some other recipes call for special gluten free bread crumbs which can be expensive and hard to find. Instead I am using plain white rice which is inexpensive and readily available.
Parsley – Fresh is best. My local store had parsley plants for sale at about the same price as a small pack of fresh picked parsley, so I bought the plant and leave it on the kitchen window sill so I can pick some anytime I need it.
Parmesan cheese – Delicious tangy parmesan goes perfectly with meatballs, I often buy good quality already shredded parmesan for the convenience.
Egg – 1 medium to large egg, helps to bind the meat together.
Onion – 1 large white, yellow or brown onion. Half of the onion for the meatballs, the other half for the sauce.
Canned tomatoes (passata) – 24 oz (700 grams) I am using tomato passata which is widely available where I live. Tomato passata is essentially canned crushed that have been pureed. If you do not have tomato passata in your shops, don’t worry, simply buy canned tomatoes and blend them.
Flexibility is key in the kitchen, and these gluten-free meatballs are no exception! Here are some ingredient substitutions you can try:
Different protein options: Turkey, chicken, or plant-based meat substitutes can all work well in this recipe. Feel free to experiment and find your favorite combination!
Binding agents: For egg-free diets, try using mashed avocado or a mixture of ground flaxseed or chia seeds with water.
Flavor enhancers: Get creative with alternative herbs, spices, or vegan cheese options to customize your meatballs.
Making the meatballs is quite simple.
The step that will take the longest time is cooking the rice, so let’s get that on first. I have a rice cooker at home, so this is quite simple. 1 part rinsed rice, 2 parts water, into the rice cooker. Job done. You can also cook the rice on the stove top.
Turn the oven on to get it preheating, 375 F (190 C).
Finely dice half of the onion, 3 cloves of garlic (use a garlic press if you have one), 3 sprigs of fresh parsley and put them into a large mixing bowl.
Add in the ground meat, and mix well with clean hands to get the flavour distributed throughout.
Next add in half a cup of cooked white rice as shown in the picture below and mix well.
Add in the egg and parmesan cheese, and give everything a good mixing with your clean hands. Don’t worry about using your hands, it really is the easiest way to do it. When everything is mixed together very well, it will look like the picture below.
Using your clean hands again, roll some of the mixture into balls about 1 inch (2 cm) in size. Place the meatballs spaced out evenly on a baking tray prepared with baking paper. See photo below.
Place the baking tray of meatballs into the preheated oven, and let them bake for 20 minutes.
If you are making the sauce as well, now is the time to get that going on the stove top.
In a frying pan add 3 cloves of diced (or pressed) garlic, the other half of the onion, 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil and cook until the onions are soft.
Next add in the tomato passata or tomato puree, and heat until it starts to bubble.
When the meatballs are baked, take them out of the oven and pop them in the frying pan with the tomato sauce as shown in the picture below.
Let the meatballs and tomato sauce simmer, reduce the sauce until you get the consistency that you want.
Once you have the sauce just right, serve the meatballs and sauce on a bed of cooked quinoa, top with extra grated parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.
Expert Tips and Tricks
Having made these gluten-free meatballs numerous times, I’ve discovered some essential tips and tricks for achieving the perfect result:
- Choosing the right gluten-free breadcrumbs: Opt for high-quality breadcrumbs with a good texture. Some of my favorites include those made from rice, corn, or a blend of gluten-free flours.
- Achieving the perfect texture: Don’t overmix the meatball mixture, as this can lead to tough meatballs. Gently combine the ingredients until just incorporated.
- Properly seasoning the meatballs: Adjust the seasoning to your taste, but don’t skimp on the herbs and spices. Fresh herbs can elevate the flavors even more!
- Baking versus frying: While frying adds a nice crispy exterior, baking offers a healthier alternative with less mess. Both methods result in delicious meatballs, so choose the one that suits your preference.
Freezing Gluten-Free Meatballs
These meatballs freeze wonderfully! To prepare them for freezing, place the cooked meatballs on a baking sheet and freeze them for 1-2 hours until firm.
Then, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag, and they’ll keep for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and warm them up in the oven or on the stovetop.
Storing and Enjoying Leftovers
Leftovers are a breeze to store and enjoy! Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For a fresh twist on your leftover meatballs, try adding them to a salad, stuffing them in a gluten-free sandwich, or turning them into a scrumptious meatball casserole.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
You can use several alternatives to breadcrumbs in meatballs to help bind the mixture and provide structure. Some popular options include:
Rolled oats: Finely ground or quick-cooking oats work well as a binder while also adding some extra fiber to your meatballs.
Crushed crackers: Gluten-free crackers, rice cakes, or corn chips can be crushed and used as a substitute for breadcrumbs.
Cooked quinoa or rice: Both cooked quinoa and rice can help bind the meatballs and add an interesting texture.
Grated vegetables: Grated zucchini, carrot, or potato can help hold the meatballs together while also adding moisture and nutrients.
Almond meal or other nut flours: These can serve as a low-carb, gluten-free alternative to breadcrumbs, adding both texture and a nutty flavor.
If you need an egg-free binding option for meatballs, there are several alternatives you can use:
Flaxseed or chia seed “egg”: Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water, and let it sit for 5 minutes until it becomes gel-like. This mixture can replace one egg in the meatball recipe.
Mashed avocado: Use about 2-3 tablespoons of mashed avocado as a binding agent for each egg required in the recipe.
Unsweetened applesauce: Approximately 3 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce can replace one egg and help bind the meatballs.
Silken tofu: Blend about 1/4 cup of silken tofu until smooth, and use it as a binding agent in place of one egg.
Mashed banana: One small mashed banana can replace one egg, but it may add a slight sweetness to the meatballs.
When choosing an egg alternative, consider the flavors and textures of your meatball recipe to ensure the substitute complements the dish.
A healthy alternative to breadcrumbs for meatballs is rolled oats. Finely ground or quick-cooking oats work well as a binder, providing structure and helping the meatballs hold together. Rolled oats are a whole-grain option that adds extra fiber to your meatballs, making them a more nutritious choice compared to traditional breadcrumbs. Additionally, rolled oats are suitable for those following a gluten-free diet, as long as you choose certified gluten-free oats to avoid any cross-contamination.
You have several other options to serve the meatballs and sauce on while staying gluten free.
- Quinoa – According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, quinoa is a good addition to a gluten free diet. However there are some opposing views to this position and the potential for cross contamination during food processing, so be sure that you are familiar with quinoa before using it the first time. My packaging says it is gluten free, and my friend who has a minor gluten intolerance loves it.
- Rice – According to Beyond Celiac, “rice is one of the most popular gluten-free grains for people with celiac disease. Many gluten-free packaged goods are made with rice instead of wheat.”
- Mashed potato – Potato is naturally gluten free
- Mashed sweet potato – Sweet potato is also naturally gluten free
Best Gluten Free Meatballs
- large frying pan
- 1 pound ground beef (500 grams)
- ½ cup cooked white rice
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated or shredded
- 1 egg medium to large size
- ½ onion – white, yellow or brown keep the other half for the sauce
- 24 oz canned tomatoes (700 grams) Or use passata
- ½ onion the other half of the onion from the meatballs
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Cook the rice in a rick cooker or on the stove
- Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C)
- Finely chop the onion, garlic and fresh parsley. Use a garlic press for the garlic if you have one. Place these ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
- Add in the ground meat, and mix well with clean hands to get the flavour distributed throughout.
- Next add in half a cup of cooked white rice and mix well.
- Add in the egg and parmesan cheese, and give everything a good mixing with your clean hands. Don’t worry about using your hands, it really is the easiest way to do it.
- Using your clean hands again, roll some of the mixture into balls about 1 inch (2 cm) in size.
- Place the meatballs spaced out evenly on a baking tray prepared with baking paper.
- Place the baking tray of meatballs into the preheated oven, and let them bake for 20 minutes.
- In a frying pan add 3 cloves of diced (or pressed) garlic, the other half of the onion, 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil and cook until the onions are soft.
- Next add in the tomato passata or tomato puree, and heat until it starts to bubble.
- When the meatballs are baked, take them out of the oven and pop them in the frying pan with the tomato sauce.
- Let the meatballs and tomato sauce simmer, reduce the sauce until you get the consistency that you want.
- Once you have the sauce just right, serve the meatballs and sauce on a bed of cooked quinoa, top with extra grated parmesan cheese and some fresh parsley.