MMM: Bacon-Jalapeno Burger Balls


What do you say to juicy beef meatballs with bacon and jalapeños dropping dimes on dinner?! I say you can eat these all day long… especially when they’re topped with Awesome Sauce. That’s right: Awesome Sauce.

This recipe is part of March Meatball Madness; get all the recipes right here.


Bacon-Jalapeño Burger Balls w/ Dill Relish & Awesome Sauce

Serves 2-4 | Prep 10 min | Chill 20 min | Cook 25 min | Whole30 compliant

  • 4 strips sugar-free, nitrate-free bacon

  • 1 tablespoon grated onion (about 1/4 medium onion)

  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

  • 2 tablespoons warm water

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 cup minced dill pickle

  • 1/4 cup minced raw tomato

  • 1/4 cup minced raw onion

Awesome Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil Mayo

  • 1 tablespoon Kickass Ketchup

  • 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

  • dash cayenne pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

NOTE: Why cream of tartar and baking soda? Traditional ground meat recipes are usually tenderized with breadcrumbs. I use a cream of tartar/baking soda combo to keep the meat light and juicy, with a nice, crisp exterior.


Preheat the oven to 425F and cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.


Cut the bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch wide pieces. Place the chopped bacon in a large, cold skillet, turn the heat to medium-high, and fry the bacon until it’s crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Pour the grease out of the skillet, leaving whatever clings to the pan, and place it back on the heat.


Add the onion and jalapeño to the pan and sauté until the jalapeño is soft, 2-3 minutes. Set the pan aside until the veg are cool to the touch.


In a large bowl, place the ground beef, salt, pepper, paprika, bacon, and the vegetables from the skillet. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the water with cream of tartar and baking soda. Pour into the bowl with the meat and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate at least 20 minutes and up to overnight. Meanwhile…


Make the relish. Mix all the minced ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.


Make the Awesome Sauce. Mix all the ingredients together in another small bowl and refrigerate until it’s time to eat.


Remove the meat dough from the fridge. Moisten your hands with cold water and shake to remove excess. Measure a rounded tablespoon of meat and roll into a ball between your palms, then gently flatten it a little bit so it’s almost like a mini burger patty (that will make it easy to top with relish later). Line up the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Slide the meatballs into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until browned and cooked through.


Serve immediately, topped with a little relish and a drizzle of Awesome Sauce.

NOTE: Dave wanted me to tell you that you can make Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries at the same time as the meatballs so you can have an entire “junk food that’s not at all junk food” meal. Same temperature, same timing… no wonder burgers and fries are a classic combination.

Print this recipe
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  • Mom says:

    Please make dinner for your mommy tonight! Yummy-ness!

  • Kelly says:


  • Lauren P. says:

    I’m so excited for these meatball posts! Your Czech meatballs are on the menu this week and the Thanksgiving meatballs were on last week’s menu. Yay! Thanks for all of the awesomely easy and delicious recipes!

  • wendy says:

    How did you know I fried 4 bacon strips last night and was wondering what to do with them?

  • AJ says:

    this is brilliant and sounds delicious – can’t wait to make this recipe!

  • Natalie says:

    Melissa, I made these last night. Absolutely delicious! Thanks for the inspired meatball recipe! 🙂

  • Fishne says:

    Mel, do you think it’s possible to substitute the “cream of tartar and baking soda” with “baking powder”? Please let me know! Thx

    • Mel says:

      Baking powder will produce the same leavening action but almost all baking powder contains corn starch, so it’s not paleo. If you’re not worried about that, then yes, you can sub baking powder. Use 1 teaspoon per pound of meat.

  • Susie says:

    Thanks for the great meatball recipe! Please make an easy print function for your website so I can save paper!

  • Paula says:

    Are cream of tartar and baking soda Whole30 compliant?

    • Mel says:

      Yes! Baking SODA and cream of tartar are OK for Whole30 — baking POWDER is not. This recipe is Whole30 approved, and I will always tell you in the recipe if it’s NOT Whole30. Note that this is listed as Whole30 approved at the top of the recipe… I try to remember to always let you know.

  • Paula says:

    Thank you, Mel. Making these tonight as bangers. So, is the Sweet Potato “Waffle” in WF2 not whole30 because it’s a waffle?
    I love both of your cookbooks. Good food, good times!

    • Mel says:

      Yes 🙁 The ingredients are all Whole30 approved, but Melissa and Dallas thought it could be a trigger food for people with a sugar demon, so they decided to play it extra safe and not give the “waffle” a Whole30 approval. Big bummer!

  • Ellen says:

    Totally addictive. With one pound of meat and 2 people there should be leftovers, right? Not..

  • Lisa says:

    Wow, amazing! I had reservation about the relish but I was wrong. Everything together is perfect and totally works. My only complaint is that I want to eat ALL of them!

  • Joan says:

    Do you think it’s possible to put these in the crockpot?

    • Mel says:

      It’s certainly possible to cook them that way, but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t guarantee what the results will be. I suspect if you can get them into the crockpot in a single layer, they might still get some browning — but if they’re piled on top of each other, they will not brown on the outside and probably would be sad looking.

      If you want to try it, I’d guess they’d take about 4-6 hours on low — half that time on high.

      They only take 20 minutes to bake in the oven — I’m curious why you want to make them in the slow cooker?

      • Joan says:

        Well…they were on my menu for this week and plans got changed. We are going on a trip and will have a mimi kitchen in our suite, just no oven, so I was thinking of throwing these In the crockpot in the morning so they’d be ready at the end of our day of fun. I’ll try it and let you know.

  • Kenny says:

    If Jalapeno is the word in the title that pops out to you first you may want to use a whole jalapeno otherwise an amazing recipe.

  • Linnlee says:

    Mel,if I totally despise mayo
    (like I can’t think about it too long or I will gag), is there a substitute that will still work well for the awesome sauce?

    • Mel says:

      There really isn’t. It’s a creamy, mayo-based sauce. If you don’t like mayo, you won’t like Awesome Sauce either, so just skip it.

      • Linnlee says:

        I made them for dinner tonight…and they were devoured by all! Thanks for sharing your talents with us! I just got Well Fed, and I love it!

  • Kara says:

    I’ve been cooking your recipes for a while now and every time I try something new I think it’s the best thing I have ever eaten! These meatballs are incredible and my three little kiddies devoured them. My six year old even asked me if I could make the awesome sauce for dinner every night (she would eat your mayo by the spoonful out of the jar if I let her!). Thank you so much for sharing your easy to make but extremely flavourful food!

    • Mel says:

      That’s such a lovely compliment… thank you! I’m really glad you and your family are enjoying the recipes. Tell your 6 year old that I like to eat the mayo right out of the jar, too 😉

  • Kristen says:

    O. M. G. Amazing!! I used 1 egg instead of baking soda and cream of tartar. And made burger patties on the BBQ (recipe made 4). I also put smoked Balderson cheddar cheese on the burgers.

  • Christina says:

    Tasked with bringing an app to a BBQ today and chose these to make for the first time! Was thinking of making it a meatball bar for those who don’t like raw onions and including mango salsa as on of the toppers.. Thoughts?

  • johanna says:

    O…M…G….these are most wonderfully fantastic!!! Finally got around to making them tonight to take on a trip, doubled the recipe and used 1-lb bison and 1-lb organic pork… didn’t even bother with the condiments (AIP) they were awesome-licious all by themselves!!! Another winning recipe–thank you!

  • Marwood says:

    Your recipes are *awesome* and I own both your books! I’d love to try out the recipes from your site also without the extras at the top and bottom printing out. Is it possible to add a print function to some of your recipes? Many thanks!

    • We’re working on a site re-design that will allow for printing of recipes — give us a few months 🙂

    • Caathleen says:

      If you use, you can print any article, with just the article and no ads.
      Also, you can copy and paste the recipe part into any .DOC or PDF.
      Have you tried Evernote? It lets you select just what you want and make a page for it on you computer. Hope that helps.

  • Tes says:

    Hi, I’m new to paleo. I bought your first well fed book for my iPhone. Loved it, can’t put it down when I started reading it. Started cooking your recipes 8/5/14 ( best chicken thigh, sauté veges, spaghetti squash, kale salad, best stir fry sauce.. etc). I totally cut down on all bad carb, sugars, dairy, etc that’s not paleo. I felt like crap on my first week. I have my kids supporting me all the way

  • Sonya says:

    My only complaint about this is that the recipe for Awesome Sauce needs to be tripled. It’s so awesome that I’m practically eating it with a spoon by itself!

    Seriously…..damn good recipes here! Love the ketchup, too! Thanks so much!

  • Cathy says:

    Today I made the Bacon-Jalapeno burgers, sweet potato fries and the awesome dipping sauce and everything was delicious! I was very worried about the homemade mayo because I tried it once before and I failed. This time I took the egg and lemon juice out about 2 hours before I blended them and went very slow with the 1 cup of oil – it came out awesome. Thank you for all the tips!! Doing a whole 30 so love all your tips for that too!

  • Kate says:

    I’m making these with parsnip and sweet potato fries asap!!!

  • Shavonne says:

    Why not just Dd baking powder as opposed to the cream of tarter/baking soda?

  • Amber says:

    Hiya, just wondering if they reheat well. I’m looking for some new ways to utilize hamburger for my low-carb life for my lunches at work. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Yes! Meatballs reheat really well. If you’re going to reheat them in the microwave, you might want to make them a little bit bigger than the recommendation in the recipe so they don’t dry out when you reheat. If you’re going to reheat on stovetop or oven, then any size is good.

  • cait c says:

    It’s like every recipe of yours we try is better than the last. Basically, the only paleo food my husband eats has to come from your blog or the two Well Fed books (more like Well Used now). We need another cook book! Oh, and leftover Awesome Sauce and relish on sweet potato fries…perfection

  • Leah D says:

    Mel, would almond meal (not almond flour) achieve a similar result to the breadcrumbs, or the baking soda/cream of tartar? I don’t have cream of tartar, and I want to make these balls PRONTO!

    • The cream of tartar is to provide a little acid for the baking soda, so rather than almond flour, try 1/2 teaspoon cider or red wine vinegar with the baking soda. That should do it! (If you have pickled jalapenos in a jar, you could also use that liquid instead of vinegar or even pickle juice.)

  • Staci says:

    These are in the oven now! And I can’t believe how awesome the Awesome Sauce really tastes! Yum!

  • Kiera says:

    Do you think these would grill well? I’m all about the grill these days…

    • 100% yes. Preheat a gas grill with all burners on high and the lid closed, about 15 minutes. Thread the meatballs onto skewers, leaving a little breathing room between them. Place on the grill grates and cook 4 minutes, then flip the skewers and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, until browned and sizzling.

  • This sounds lovely and really tasty. Thank you for sharing this.


  • Heather says:

    I can attest to the fact that these are DELICIOUSSSS! I’m not kidding when I say I was on the verge of quitting whole30 because I was just so tired of food without the usual flavor I am used to (I’m on day 22!) but I remembered that I had saved this receipe and decided to give it a try. I’m SO glad I did! the depth of flavor is amazing and the amount of spice in the balls is perfect. I doubled the awesome sauce recipe so I could put it on ERRRRYTHANG! You are a godsend! Thank you!

    • Hooray! Your Whole30 is saved! I’m so glad.

      Hang in there — you’re in the home stretch. I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe. Food shouldn’t feel like punishment 😉

  • Lindsey says:

    Do you know if I can make these ahead and freeze them? We are doing a massive meal prep day next week and want to put these on the menu!

    • Meatballs freeze and defrost really well! Cook them through, then cool and pack in freezer bags or containers in a single layer. When you’re ready to eat, defrost in the fridge and reheat either in the oven or on the stove top (or microwave).

  • NatPatBen says:

    Made these today and SO MAD that I didn’t double the recipe!

  • Annie says:

    Made these a few weeks ago with parsnip fries. DE-licious! I have WF and WF2 and have been using your recipes for years. I really appreciate how good they are and how well you explain things. Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Molly says:

    I love the combination of flavors here. Such a nice, bright, happy recipe that makes me feel like i’m not giving anything up. Thank you! I cooked the meatballs as suggested and they were overdone for my taste. I think next time I will watch them more closely and get them to about medium well, then let sit for a few minutes, as I would a burger. They had great flavor, but were more of a burger patty than a true meatball. My family loved them, and they were great sliced up in a veggie hash on day 2. Nothing ever goes to waste when eating paleo!

  • Mel says:

    My kiddo is going to love these! Thanks! Just wanted to let you know that when I use your print link (I’m on Chrome for Windows 10), it overshadows with the bar at the left with all the social media links on it and makes the recipe hard to read. Not sure if you were aware of the issue, and whether it’s just this page or a website issue in general. Thanks for all your great work, my favorite dressing is still the Southwest Cumin-Lime Dressing — I give that link out all the time. 🙂

  • Christine M. says:

    This is a terrific recipe. Everything was delicious – the burger balls, the relish, the awesome sauce. Served it with a side of parsnip fries. Will be making it again (and doubling the recipe) for sure. Love your recipes!