Chinese BBQ Pork Meatballs with Snap Peas (Paleo, Whole30)

This recipe is like an order of Chinese spare ribs that have been thoughtfully deboned, chopped, and rolled into an amiable, no-chopsticks-needed meatball. The classic Chinese BBQ sauce is usually based on soy and hoisin sauces. This recipe uses just one dried date, a handful of spices, and nut butter to recreate that sticky, tangy-sweet sauce.

Ready faster than take-out can be delivered, it’s super satisfying and very healthy—but you can keep the ‘healthy’ part a secret, if you want.

Chinese BBQ Pork Meatballs with Snap Peas

Serves 2–4 | Total time: 45 minutes | Hands-off time: 15 minutes

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 medium sweet onion

  • 1 dried medjool date

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/3 cup coconut aminos

  • 1/4 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons sunflower seed or almond butter

  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Snap Peas:
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

  • 1 pound snap peas

  • 2 teaspoons ghee

  • garnish: a few scallions


Preheat the oven to 450F.


Prep the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, salt, ginger, coriander, and black pepper. Mix well with your hands, then moisten your hands with cold water and shake them off. With the 1-tablespoon scoop, measure rounded tablespoons of meat, roll it into balls, and place them in the 2-quart baking dish.


Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. While it warms, dice the onion. Add the onion to the pan with a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 5–7 minutes. While the onion cooks, pit and coarsely chop the date, then smash and peel the garlic; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, Chinese five-spice, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Add the spices to the onion in the pan and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, date, and garlic; stir-fry about 1 minute. Add the coconut aminos, water, sunflower seed butter, rice vinegar, and sesame oil; stir to combine. Simmer 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a pint-size Mason jar and purée the sauce with a stick blender (or in a food processor or blender).


Make the magic. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the whole lot is beginning to caramelize.


Make the snap peas. About 5 minutes before the meatballs are ready, heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sesame seeds and stir-fry until golden, 3–5 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a plate to cool and return the skillet to medium-high heat. Wash the snap peas and toss them into the hot pan. Stir-fry until tender, 2–3 minutes. Add the ghee and some of the sesame seeds; toss to coat. Taste and add a little salt and pepper. Thinly slice the scallions and remove the meatballs from the oven.


To serve, divide the snap peas among individual serving plates and top with meatballs; sprinkle with more toasted sesame seeds and the sliced scallions.

You Know How You Could Do That?

Replace the ground pork with ground chicken.

Cookup Tips

Prep the sauce and store it in the Mason jar in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, roll the raw meatballs and follow the directions, starting with “Make the magic.”

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