Several years ago, some family friends went to a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef who’s name won’t be mentioned in this post. When they were disappointed that the meatballs were sold out that evening, the chef in question came out from the kitchen and hand wrote the recipe for them. The family friends then made me a copy of this handwritten recipe, knowing I’d want to get my hands on it. I was delighted.
The Best Gluten-Free Meatballs were only a couple of substitutions away.
I made the meatballs almost exactly as written. I used gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of panko, and used beef instead of veal. Other than that, I stuck to it. They were the best meatballs I had ever eaten, and from that day forward, are the only meatballs I’ve made. I always wanted to share the recipe with you all, but didn’t feel like I had changed it enough to publish it here and call it my own.
And then when the #metoo movement happened, this particular celebrity chef was outed as one of the worst. I believe it was Anthony Bourdain that I heard it from first. “It’s ___, and it’s bad”, he tweeted. The allegations that came out after that were horrifying, and any respect I had for this particular chef was gone in an instant. He is a vile human. His email “apology” was insulting, and included a link to his recipe for fucking cinnamon rolls. VILE.
But the meatballs… the meatballs are good. I still make them, and am glad that having this recipe never resulted in him getting a dime from me. And now that IDGAF about sharing a recipe of his that isn’t “mine” enough, I’m sharing these meatballs with you.
Binders? Fillers? Can’t you just roll meat into balls and call them meatballs?
I discussed this on Instagram (where you should be for all the good stuff) but if you missed it: The ingredients in meatballs aside from the meat aren’t necessarily there to keep the meatballs from falling apart. Meat rolled into balls and cooked will more of less hold together. Meat rolled into balls and cooked will also be somewhat bouncy, chewy. That is not what you want in a meatball. You want it to be tender, light, and flavorful. Nobody wants bouncy balls of meat.
In this recipe, some of those non-meat ingredients are dairy and rice crumbs, which are not paleo. That’s why the recipe is called The Best Gluten-Free Meatballs, not The Best Paleo Meatballs.
As always, I don’t know how this recipe will turn out if you substitute ingredients that aren’t listed. I’ve made them with gluten-free breadcrumbs many times and they’ve come out great. If you try them with pork panko or anything else, please report back in the comments!
Shaking your fist at me because this recipe contains dairy and grains? That’s cool, I’m rolling my eyes at you for having an issue with a free recipe on the internet, so we’re even 😉 Anyway, I have a bunch of ground beef recipes that don’t contain either of those things, so you can make those instead.
Oh one more thing: these are incredible made bite-sized and served as a passed appetizer at your holiday party, with a cup of warm marinara on the side for dipping.
Wondering what wine to serve with this? I like how you think. I’d go with a lighter red like Che Fico Nero di Trioa or if you like a bolder wine, my current favorite is the Hushkeeper Cabernet Sauvignon.Print
The Best Gluten-free Meatballs
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 cup Trader Joe’s gluten-free rice crumbs
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound mild pork sausage, (removed from its casing)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the rice crumbs, cream, eggs, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, parsley, and salt. Using your hands, mix in the ground beef and sausage until it’s just incorporated and uniform. Over squeezing / over mixing can result in chewy meatballs.
- Using wet hands, roll the mixture into 20-24 balls, placing them on a rimmed baking sheet as you make them. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.
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I am SO, SO happy you posted this! I’m not on Insta but I do lurk, and I was afraid I missed out. I love making a double or triple batch of meatballs and then freezing them for a quick bowl of happiness. Thanks a million!
Yay I hope you love them!
I made these last night and they were wonderful. I did sub the breadcrums with almond flour and only could find spicy sausage — so I went all the way with Arrabiata sauce and had one spicy dinner! They were fab without the sauce, but then I put them in the broiler with the sauce and some ricotta — my husband said these were the best meatballs he’s ever had. Gone is my all-day simmer recipe. I can even do these on a week night! Simone, you’ve shared another family favorite, thank you.
I made the meatballs using some leftover baguette from your “Paleo Soups and Stews” cookbook that I had in my freezer. The recipe turned out great! Pasta Night in our house is a lot of work: one eats wheat pasta, another eats rice pasta and a third eats zoodles. However, we all agreed that the meatballs were the best! (And I was able to use the rest of the thawed baguette with your Harvest Soup for lunch!) Thanks for the great recipe!
Great idea using the baguette! And yay for agreeing on at least one thing 🙂
Can i ask if you have any ideas to make these dairy free? They sound amazing!
I don’t. You could swap the cream for a dairy-free sub but I don’t have any good subs for cheese.
Thank you so much for this recipe. These meatballs are great. And I love so much that I don’t have to brown them in a pan. Seriously don’t miss having to clean every surface in my kitchen from oil splatter
These look so delicious! Did you make the sauce or is it store-bought?
I usually buy it, mine is never any better than a good quality marinara like Rao’s or the Kirkland brand, which is surprisingly great!
These are amazing! Best meatballs I have ever had
yay! I’m so glad to hear it. Thanks for reporting back 🙂
Maya Bordwell says
can you brown these in a pan and let them simmer in the sauce? or do the rice crumbs work better when baked?
You can totally brown them and then add to the sauce! I love them that way, I just hate browning them for some reason 🙂
I love love loved your comment about rolling your eyes at the complainers for free recipe. This drives me insane. I always thought I had a recipe blog I just wouldn’t take that sh** at all. It’s rude and ridiculous. Also, the people demanding calorie counts and breakdowns and the people who give a recipe 2 stars even though they changed 1/2 the recipe. What is wrong with people?
I am excited to try these meatballs as I have celiac disease and haven’t had meatballs in 27 or more years. I was wondering if you were giving out the recipe for the sauce in the photo pf the meatballs. Reason being, my husband doesn’t tolerate red sauce well. Your sauce looks like its not very tomatoey of that’s a word. Hoping to keep everyone happy!
Hi Erin! I hope you love them! Just FYI I think TJs stopped selling the rice crumbs but regular GF breadcrumbs work.
The sauce is actually pretty tomoto-y, it’s most likely jarred sauce from Kirkland, which is my go-to, it’s the best.
Wow! These meatballs taste soooo good! I confess that used italian seasoning instead of nutmeg (the husband doesn’t like nutmeg and can sniff it out a mile away). I had previously prepared bread crumbs from leftover gluten free bread, and that worked great. I hope to impress my italian mother-in-law with this recipe soon. Thank you for sharing!
I’m so excited to try these! Has anyone tried adding garlic to these? I usually follow recipes as they’re written but I am a garlic lover, and all past meatball recipes I’ve made always call for it. Has anyone missed there being no garlic in these?
Hi Deb! If you’re a garlic lover and can’t imagine meatballs without it, definitely add some. If you use sausage, it will likely have some garlic in the seasoning, but you can always add more for more of a pronounced flavor. I hope you love them!
This sounds so good! Any idea for egg substitute? My 2 yr. old granddaughter is allergic to wheat AND egg and I am always looking for great tasting things to make for her.
I believe Nom Nom Paleo just published a meatball recipe that is egg-free.
Carol Anderson says
1. Love the recipe
2 . Love your writing style
3. Had a great laugh about your reference to the chef in question