Balls! (Meatballs, That Is)

Meatballs are the most playful food you can pile on a plate. (And it’s pretty fun to say “balls,” too. Am I right?! Of course I’m right. Try it: Balls!)

Meatballs can be so cute and round and friendly — and despite their humble appearance, they’re often packed with flavor explosions like spices and seeds, or doused in a luscious sauce that inspires licking the plate.

Today, I’m making 15 different kinds of meatballs to do a taste test for Well Fed 2.

Yes, you read that right. FIFTEEN varieties that are like a world tour of Japan, China, Thailand, Morocco, Lebanon, France, the United States. Vietnam, Greece, Mexico, and Italy. I’m going to be an international meatball-rolling maven! (Let’s show ’em why they call me Mr(s). Worldwide!)

In case you’d like to roll in solidarity with me, here are three meatball recipes guaranteed to be tastebud- and family-pleasers. Let the rolling begin!

Moroccan-Meatballs-thumb-e1336665872986Moroccan Meatballs

Tender lamb meatballs cloaked in a perfectly-spiced tomato sauce. Why not make them just a little more luscious with a few pistachios?!


Juicy pork meatballs with just the right touch of tangy mustard and savory caraway seeds.


merguezmeatballs-e1332977019322Merguez Meatballs

Spicy but not hot, these lamb meatballs were inspired by the Merguez Sausage sold in Moroccan medinas.

Print this recipe
Oven-Roasted Cauliflower Rice

I recently hosted a dinner party for 12 people and wanted to serve cauliflower rice. But the idea of figuring out how to sauté, like,...

Read More
Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

There are good reasons for me to eat sweet potatoes – like these science-y ones in this blog post about women's health and carbohydrates, or...

Read More


  • Stephanie says:

    Moroccan meatballs are definitely my fav. Tomatoey goodness!

  • Liz H. says:

    I love qofte, which are Albanian meatballs. Many recipes use bread crumbs, but my paleo version is:
    1 lb. ground beef or pork
    3 T. sauteed minced onion
    2 minced garlic cloves
    pinch red pepper flakes
    1.5 T turkish seasoning (Penzey’s)
    salt, black pepper

    Combine all, form into egg-shaped balls, sautee in fat until crispy on the outside, and cooked through.

    They are often served with pita bread (which I obviously skip), shredded cabbage, sliced onion, sliced cucumber and picked peppers. The cabbage and onions are dressed in white vinegar, salt and sugar (again, omit or reduce sugar as desired). I make a big salad with the vegetables on the bottom and the qofte on the top. YUM!

    Alternately, I serve them with braised cabbage (per Nom Nom Paleo) as a side dish. The flavors complement each other really well!

  • Bridget says:

    My best meatball trick is bake them in mini-muffin tins! 🙂

  • Alexandra says:

    I used to love meatballs in barbeque sauce, but I still haven’t found a paleo sauce I like. I lived in Kansas City for a few years and I’m probably too picky.

    I use an ice cream scoop to make mine. I’m not just picky, I’m impatient.

  • NJ Paleo says:

    I make a version that my kids LOVE! Half grass-fed ground beef, half grass-fed spicy sausage. What they don’t know is that I grate zucchini and hide it in the meatball mixture too (hee hee). Almond flour and egg hold it all together (and since I never measure anything each batch is a bit different).

    I’m thinking your Czech meatballs might be right up my alley!

    I’m thinking that 15 types of meatballs might just be a level of heaven!

    • Liz H. says:

      I also combine ground meat and hot sausage for Italian-style meatballs! It’s such an easy way to add a bunch of flavor!

  • Elizabeth says:

    My favorites (I could never pick between the 2) are:

    and Bora Bora Fireballs. Soooo delish!

  • Wendi says:

    My family loves the Czech Meatballs. They eat them faster than I can take them off the baking sheet! Thank you for the recipe, I love your cook book.

  • Isla says:

    My favorite meatballs were porcupine balls that had rice mixed in with them in a tomato based sauce. The only paleo meatballs I’ve tried are with chopped apples, onions, sage and made with ground turkey. Kind of holiday flavors. The Merquez meatballs sound fantastic. I need some spice at the dinner table!

  • Cathy M says:

    My fam loves the Czech meatballs, with red sauce over spaghetti squash. It’s the only time we treat the spaghetti squash like spaghetti, but it is a hit everytime I make it.

  • I stumbled upon a recipe once for asian meatballs…It literally whipped up a yummy “dumpling” like filling minus the dumpling dough. I don’t remember all of the ingredients at the moment, but it contained turkey meat, sesame oil, carrot, scallion, soy (so I guess coconut aminos would work now?) and there was also a great sauce to dip them in….maybe you could completely paleo-ize these? I sure miss them!

  • Karla says:

    The Czech meatballs send me into raptures whenever I eat them. Last time I made them I wondered if anyone had ever tried stuffing the mix into sausage casings, because I bet they’d make a grand breakfast food. (They already were a breakfast food for me, but some people don’t like the idea of eating dinner for breakfast.)

  • Emily says:

    You have the best balls, Melissa. 🙂 I’ve tried them all, but yours reign supreme.

    My 8- and 4-year-old boys also enjoy saying “balls”. We can’t get enough ball jokes in this house.

  • Sue Kuras says:


  • Stompy says:

    15 kinds of meatballs!?! I hope they all pass the taste test & are in well fed 2!

  • Those Morrocan meatballs are so good!!! Cant wait to get some more lamb. The best!

  • Vermonster says:

    I don’t have an exact recipe here, but I like venison meatballs. I ground venison through the meat grinder with bacon (venison is very lean and needs extra fat to keep it moist) and sprinkle in rosemary, sage, dry mustard, s&p, shredded leeks, and a little beef stock or water. Delish…

  • Clair says:

    Any good chicken ones coming?

    • Mel says:

      Yes! I think there are two chicken plus a bunch of pork that can be made with chicken, too! Taste testing tonight: 14 varieties and 6 dipping sauces!

      • Clair says:

        Yay thanks. I’m about to do my first Whole 30 (then Paleo) and I’m trying to find recipes my daughter will also eat (rather than cooking more than one meal) – chicken and mince.

  • Christa says:

    My favorite is Swedish meatballs…especially the kind that is made around Christmas. They are spiced with both a bit of cinnamon and cardamon. Makes them taste sooo much better 😀

  • Roz says:

    I paleo-ified a Japanese meatball recipe from Everyday Harumi. shiitake mushrooms, shallots minced in food processor, kneaded into ground pork. form meatballs, dip into japanese 7 spice. bake or fry until done. meanwhile make a teriyaki style sauce with coconut aminos, freshly squeezed orange juice (can immerse the rinds for extra orange infusion), thick slices of fresh ginger, peppercorns (cloves/cinnamon optional — probably not super authentic, but tasty!) simmer until syrupy (coats the back of a spoon) serve with the meatballs, kimchi or pickled carrots/daikon, plenty of lettuce for wrapping, green onions.

    I haven’t tried it using chinese 5 spice — the blend from penzey’s is pretty potent. I bet the japanese meatballs would also be good with the sauce from the Char Siu recipe in well fed!

  • Tricia says:

    How about Russian meatballs. Maybe with a stroganoff sauce using coconut milk instead of cream?

  • Annette says:

    We love your merguez meatball recipe.

  • Amy says:

    I *LOVE* the Czech meatballs. I use extra mustard for dipping sauce and eat them with cabbage sauteed in coconut oil. Really, meatballs are so versatile and delicious. I’m excited to try some new versions in your next cookbook!


  • regan says:

    I made your Czech meatballs for a party recently and people were, no kidding, pushing each other out the way to get to them. Even the smallest kids (who were the pickiest eaters) loved them! I can’t wait for more meaty ball recipes!

  • Lisa says:

    Your Moroccan Meatballs are the favourite in our house

  • Julie says:

    I made the mistake of planning a hen party during week 2 of my first Whole 30, but thank heavens for your Moroccan meatballs! Along with a veggie tray, fresh fruit and nuts, I had great refreshments that made even better leftovers, because I always overdo the quantity. My guest who were co-workers were begging me to bring a snack tray in the next day, and I was actually planning to eat the meatballs for lunch, but when I came downstairs the next morning, the hubster was enjoying them for breakfast. Thank you!

  • Janis says:

    I really like your Czech meatballs too! Serve with sautéed cabbage and onions. Mustard and mayo sauce! Yum! Thank you so much for that recipe! Makes me feel like I’m transported back to my family’s old country……or something like that!

    • Mel says:

      Love this! That’s how I always feel, too — like international recipes take me on a mini adventure to that country. YAY! Thanks for letting me know you like them!

      • Janis says:

        I know! That’s how I feel too and I think that’s why I love your cookbook so much is that we get to taste some exotic flavors and interesting spice combinations from around the world! The experience makes you wish that you were in that country. Thank you again for your recipes!