Joe’s Special Frittata (Paleo, Whole30)

The breakfast known as Joe’s Special originated in San Francisco at a restaurant called—what else?—Original Joe’s. It always featured eggs, spinach, and ground beef, but other ingredients could be added at the whim of the cook or the customer—onions, garlic, mushrooms, or parmesan cheese.

It was the original San Francisco treat!

My paleo version adds finely chopped walnuts to replace the  texture of the cheese and takes the form of a frittata because I like to cut it into wedges. This also makes a great dinner (brinner!) on nights when you could use a little comfort food. Leftovers are awesome hot or cold, and can be turned into a fun sandwich on your favorite paleo or gluten-free bread.

Joe’s Special Frittata

Serves 4-6 | Total time: 45 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or ghee, plus extra

  • 1 medium onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder or potato starch

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 cups baby spinach

  • 1/2 cup walnuts

  • 6 large eggs

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


Preheat the oven to 400F.


Cook the meat. Heat the oil in an oven-safe skillet (cast-iron is great!), about 2 minutes. Finely mince the onion and garlic; add them to the pan with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is crisp-tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beef to the pan and cook the meat, breaking up chunks with a wooden spoon. When it’s lost some of its pinkness, sprinkle the arrowroot, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper over the meat. Stir to combine and continue to cook until it’s browned. Remove from the heat and set aside until it’s cool to the touch.


Prep the veggies. Coarsely chop the spinach and finely chop the walnuts. Set aside.


Mix the frittata. Crack the eggs into large mixing bowl and whisk, then add the baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a rubber scraper, gently fold in the spinach, walnuts, and the cooled meat. Be careful not to overmix; just blend until the ingredients are evenly distributed.


Cook the frittata. Return the pan to the stove and add another teaspoon or two of oil if it’s dry. Warm it over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to stir, gently scraping the bottom of the skillet to make large curds, about 2 minutes. Shake the pan to evenly distribute the ingredients then allow it to cook undisturbed so the bottom sets, about 30 seconds. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top is puffed and getting brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven, allow the omelet to set for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges to serve.

You Know How You Could Do That?

You can use this technique to make a wide variety of frittata with a few simple changes to the ingredients:

Italian: replace the paprika with 1 tablespoon Italian herb blend; add a handful of fresh basil leaves

Tex-mex: add 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin; replace the spinach with romaine lettuce and add ½ cup fresh cilantro

Chinese: use pork instead of beef; replace the paprika with Chinese five-spice powder; add a small bunch of fresh chives

Thai: use pork instead of beef; omit the paprika; replace the spinach with romaine lettuce; add ½ cup cilantro; add 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 1/2 tablespoon lime juice when you whisk the eggs

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  • tina says:

    thank you so much for this recipe!
    This is PERFECT for me (teacher) and my son (middle school) for back to school this week!
    I don’t get fed, he mostly hates the school lunch, but this is a recipe we will both love, I know it!

  • Hillary says:

    Has anyone tried the pork/thai version of this? Concerned about cooking romaine lettuce. Any tips?

  • Susan Brucklacher says:

    Severe nut allergy. Usually sub peanuts, but they’ll get too soft in this recipe. Wondering whether it will suffer too much by simply eliminating them? Thinking about the crunch factor – celery will add a lot of its own flavor. Water chestnuts too bland. I’m leaning towards lightly sauteed carrots. Thoughts?

    • I would just skip the nuts. They’re not crunchy in the recipe at all—they add a more chewy texture. Carrots will be too sweet and celery will be too crunchy. I think your best bet is not to substitute anything; just omit the nuts.

  • Vicki says:

    Is there any sub for the arrowroot/starch? If a gum, what would be the conversion? This sounds so good and I would love to try it in my keto eating plan.

  • Anne says:

    This turned out to be more of a “meatloaf pie” for us – probably bc I had 1.5 lbs beef and used all of it. This was delicious as leftovers – crumbled a slice up over 1/2 sweet potato and topped w. Mel’s bbq sauce.