MMM: Cuban Meatballs

These meatballs were inspired by the pastel palette and tropical rhythms of Cuba. Tender and lush with sweet raisins, briny black olives, and savory blanched almonds, these Cuban Meatballs are like a mini vacation for your taste buds. Served with pan-fried plantains, they’re a meal-time alley-oop.

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

cuban meatballs

Cuban Meatballs from Well Fed 2

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

  • 2 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 2 tablespoons raisins

  • 2 tablespoons green

  • pimiento-stuffed olives, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • pinch ground cloves

  • 2 tablespoons warm water

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

    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 oven to 400F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.


Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook until lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside until cool to the touch.


In a large mixing bowl, place the almonds, ground beef, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, garlic, raisins, olives, salt, cinnamon, oregano, pepper, and cloves. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the water, cream of tartar, and baking soda with a fork until combined. When it fizzes, add to the meat and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes or up to overnight. (Chilling makes the balls easier to roll. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the chilling step.)


Moisten your hands and a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon or scoop with cold water and shake to remove excess. Measure out the meat and roll into a ball between your palms. Line up the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart. Slide the meatballs into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Serve Cuban Meatballs with pan-fried plantains or crispy plantains with garlic sauce on the side; diced avocado with lime juice is nice, too!

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