This succulent gluten-free meatball recipe is a real crowd-pleaser of a dish and a firm family favorite in our home. Juicy tender meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. They really are comfort food at it’s best.
Often meatball recipes contain breadcrumbs to add moisture and stop them from becoming dry when they are cooked. But I’ve found that using a good quality gluten-free cracker such as Origin Earth Gluten-free Cracker range. They work just as well as breadcrumbs without any compromise on taste. The crackers work by absorbing all the delicious meat juices and help to lock in the delicious meaty flavor.
Gluten-Free Meatball Recipe Ingredients
Ok, so there is a little bit of preparation and some stirring of pots required for this recipe, but once you’ve tried the delicious richness and depth of flavour of the sauce that accompanies the meatballs, you won’t want to go back to a shop bought version again. The low and slow cooking process ensures that the meatballs are tender, the vegetables sweet and that the sauce has a real depth of flavour.
I personally like to use a 50/50 split of pork and beef mince because it provides better flavour and texture to the finished dish. You could use just beef mince if you’d prefer or for a healthier option, why not try turkey mince.
The key to a succulent meatball is to avoid too much handling in the meatball-making stage. It’s a tricky one to avoid especially if you have inquisitive little hands that are desperate to help!! It’s worth avoiding unnecessary handling if you can though as the meatballs will be all the more tender for it.
I tend to make the meatballs in advance and double up on the ingredients so that I have enough to freeze a batch for another day.
The accompanying tomato-based sauce recipe is so versatile and a great one to have in your repertoire. As well as the Gluten-free meatball recipe, I also use it as a base for my Healthy Cannelloni and my cook-from-scratch version of Beefaroni. I also use it as a sauce for vegetable pasta dishes.
Any leftovers can simply be spooned into plastic containers, stored in the fridge, eaten for lunch the following day or frozen for a healthy pre-prepped ready meal.
Gluten-Free Meatball Recipe Variations
Meatballs with Turkey or Chicken Mince
Chicken and turkey are both lower in fat than beef and pork mince so make a good alternative if you are calorie counting. Both are a good source of protein as well as iron, zinc, potassium and vitamin B6. These are all essential for our health and well-being. Swap the same amount of poultry for the beef and pork I’ve used in this recipe and follow the same cooking instructions.
Gluten-Free Meatball Recipe
Gluten-Free Meatball Recipe
- 500 g lean beef mince
- 500 g lean pork mince
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 100 g gluten-free crackers crushed
- 2 eggs beaten
- 100 g parmesan grated
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 small bunch of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano or parsley work well) finely chopped
- For the bolognaise:
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots finely diced
- 2 celery stalks trimmed and finely diced
- 1 Red pepper seeds removed and finely diced
- 1 Green pepper seeds removed and finely diced
- 2 tsp dried herbs oregano or thyme are good
- 1 bay leaf
- 125 ml red wine optional
- 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 500 ml beef stock ensure that stock is gluten-free version
- Salt and freshly milled black pepper
- Extra parmesan and basil leaves to serve
- First to prepare the meatballs: finely chop the onion and garlic then place in a frying pan along with one tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. When cooked, transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Meanwhile place the crackers in a dish or plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or blitz them in a food processer until them until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
- When the onion mixture and cracker processes are complete, place them along with all the other meatball ingredients into a large bowl. The ingredients need to be well combined but not over mixed as this will lead to chewy meatballs.
- Form the meatballs into ping-pong ball shapes and stack them up on a plate until needed. This should make 45-50 meatballs.
- Now time to prepare the tomato sauce: Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a large ovenproof pot. Cook the onions on a low heat for 10 minutes until translucent.
- Add the garlic, carrot, celery and peppers to the pot and cook gently for a further 2 minutes stirring often. Avoid burning the veg as this will give the dish an acrid taste.
- Turn the heat up to medium then add the wine (if using). Allow the wine to bubble away and reduce by one third before adding the herbs, bay leaf, tomatoes, stock cube and tomato puree. Give everything a stir.
- Allow the sauce to come up to the boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and a good grind of black pepper to season.
- Pop the meatballs into the sauce. Don’t worry if some are submerged and others are not at this point.
- Put the lid on and transfer the pot to an oven that’s been pre-heated to 160 degrees centigrade.
- Cook for 1 hour then check the meatballs. Carefully give everything a stir and return to the oven for a further 30-45 minutes. Up to 2 hours if you prefer a thicker tomato sauce.
- Serve with rice or pasta and a fresh salad. Accompany with extra parmesan and basil leaves to be sprinkled on top.
An alternative gluten-free option in place of the crackers is a good quality gluten-free bread. Any leftovers of my Gluten-free Protein Bread would work really well here. It’s preferable that the bread should be a couple of days old and a little stale. 100g will be enough. Blitz the bread in a food processer until it forms breadcrumbs.
These meatballs also work well by adding 50g of quinoa or rice in place of the crackers or breadcrumbs. Cook the quinoa and rice according to the instructions on the packet and add at the same time as the recipe states to add the crackers.
I’ve heard of using oats also and I expect they work well at absorbing all the lovely juices and retaining moisture in the same way as the crackers do.
If you’re short on time you could always blitz the vegetables in a food processer to cut out the chopping time. Just be sure to stir them often when you are initially frying them in the pan to avoid them catching and burning as this will give the overall dish a burnt aftertaste.
If like me, you don’t have a pot big enough to ensure that the meatballs are fully submerged in the bolognase sauce during the cooking then worry not as the meatballs will need a careful stir halfway through the cooking time anyway. For what it’s worth, none of my gang mind a slightly crunchy meatball every now and again. It all adds to the texture in my view.
The recipe freezes really well so it’s great to cook in batches by doubling or tripling the ingredient quantities. Store in portion-sized freezer-safe pots or bags for up to 1 month.
As an alternative to wine you could also add the same quantity of apple juice to the pan before you add the tomatoes and stock to the bolognaise recipe. If you do this, make sure you allow the apple juice to bubble in the vegetable mixture for a couple of minutes to allow it to reduce slightly. This addition adds a fruity sweetness to the finished dish.