Gluten Free Meatballs are every bit as delicious as their gluten stuffed sibling. Ingredients include all the usual suspects but instead of using breadcrumbs, toasted oats have been substituted, making these Meatballs Gluten Free!
When removing a key ingredient like breadcrumbs, it is important to find a substitute that brings the same (or more) components to the dish. I’ll explain. Oftentimes, a dish that has been altered to suit a particular eating style, lacks the same flavor, texture, and overall appeal as the original dish.
This recipe for Gluten Free Meatballs is different. By removing the breadcrumbs, the source of gluten, you remove the ‘meat juice absorber’ as I call it. You also remove flavor, especially if you typically use parmesan or herb flavored breadcrumbs, as I do. Reintroduce the flavor in the form of toasted rolled oats and dried herbs. These Gluten Free Meatballs will be loved by all, whether on a GF eating regime or not.
- Ground Beef: Preferably grass fed and / or organic.
- Onion: whole yellow, white or sweet.
- Oats: rolled oats, preferably organic.
- Egg: whole.
- Parmesan cheese.
- Oregano: dried.
- Thyme: dried.
- Olive oil.
Remove the outer layers of the onion. Grate it into a bowl. Juice will come out of the onion, that’s ok.
In a skillet or pan, dry toast the oats. This means do not add any fat to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, move the oats around the pan to ensure even toasting. When golden brown, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put them in a food processor to grind into a finer texture.
Add everything, (ground beef, egg, toasted oats, cheese and herbs) but the oil, to the bowl containing the onion.
Mix well together by hand or a wooden spoon. When well mixed, use a scooper ( I used a 2 ¼ inch scoop) to form balls. Use your hands to not only press them well together but to shape them too.
In the same skillet or pan you used for the oats toasting, add the olive oil and begin to cook the Gluten Free Meatballs over a medium / high heat. Cook until they have a slightly crispy, brown exterior and they read 160 degrees F.
Dry them (remove the grease) on kitchen towel. They are ready to be eaten.
Use any type of ground meat in this recipe. Pork, lamb, venison, turkey, or chicken. If using a particularly lean meat such as venison or poultry, consider combining them with a fattier ground meat, like ground beef.
Fresh shallots (same volume as a large onion) or fresh garlic (use half to a full bulb depending on how much you like garlic) can be used instead of onion. Grate them for maximum flavor release. Or use 1 tablespoon of onion powder or 3 tablespoons of dried onion flakes instead of a large fresh onion.
Rolled or quick oats are best, preferably organic and of course, gluten free. Other gluten free alternatives include gluten free crackers, potato chips or pretzels. You can also buy gluten free breadcrumbs.
Egg is needed to help bind everything together, use 3 tbsps mayonnaise instead if preferred.
Omit parmesan cheese if desired. Its inclusion adds to the flavor. Use any other type of cheese.
Herbs have been added for appearance and taste. If there are other herbs you prefer, go for it!
Uses for Gluten Free Meatballs
These Meatballs can be included in many different recipes. Make a creamy savory sauce, throw in some Gluten Free Meatballs and you have yourself – Swedish Meatballs!
Make them a little smaller and use them for little Meatball appetizers. Swap out the thyme and oregano for Chinese five spice seasoning and serve them with sweet chili sauce.
Add them to your favorited pre made (or homemade!) marinara sauce, cover in mozzarella cheese (fresh and grated) and serve with spaghetti, like I did.
Gluten Free Meatballs are a delicious option for an Everyday Meal! Other options that are quick and easy enough to serve through the week are BBQ Meatloaf, Spinach Ricotta Ravioli, and Chicken and Peas.
Store these Gluten Free Meatballs in a container with a tight fitting lid. Line the container with some paper towel to catch any residual grease. Refrigerate for up to 5 days. Freeze cooked meatballs for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
This mini food processor was just the right size for grinding up the toasted oats. A full size food processor works just as well.
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A Tip From Me
When removing a key ingredient from a classical recipe, such as removing regular breadcrumbs from Meatballs, ask yourself what purpose does that ingredient serve? In this recipe for Gluten Free Meatballs, the breadcrumbs act as a ‘meat juice absorber’ and add flavor. Knowing what the ingredient does, helps you determine a suitable substitution. In this case, the oats are toasted (because toasting them adds more flavor than not toasting,) and then ground up in the processor to resemble breadcrumbs. The finer texture of these toasted oats, means they will absorb more meat juice (due to an increase in the surface area of the ground oats.). Dried herbs were also added to boost flavor.
Understanding the role each ingredient plays helps understand how they can be substituted.
I’ve got answers – hopefully!
- How lean should the ground beef be? I recommend for Meatballs using an 80/20 blend, the 20% of fat will provide flavor and juiciness. The toasted oats will do their job of holding onto as much of the fat as possible.
- Why did my Meatballs fall apart in the sauce? Usually Meatballs that do this have not had a crust form on their surface and have been removed from the skillet too soon. Having a little bit of crust ensures they are solid and won’t crumble either in the sauce or in your hand if served as an appetizer.
- Why did you not use gluten free bread and soak it in milk? Using this method for making Meatballs provides the Meatballs with moisture through the milk. I would rather have a fattier blend of ground beef and gain the moisture from the beef fat rather than from milk. Also there is more flavor in toasted oats than GF bread, so my choice will always be oats as a GF alternative.
Use a digital, instant read thermometer to ensure your Meatballs are cooked to 160 degrees F every time and not overcooked which can easily happen.
This is the temperature set by the USDA for ground beef.
Gluten Free Meatballs
- 1 lb ground beef 80 / 20 blend preferably grass fed / organic
- 1 onion (large)
- 2 oz rolled oats
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- Remove the outer layers of the onion. Grate it into a bowl.
- In a skillet or pan, dry toast the oats. This means do not add any fat to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, move the oats around the pan to ensure even toasting. When golden brown, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put them in a food processor to grind into a finer texture.
- Add everything, (ground beef, egg, toasted oats, cheese and herbs) but the oil, to the bowl containing the onion. Add salt and pepper, about ½ tsp each.
- Mix well together by hand or a wooden spoon. When well mixed, use a scooper ( I used a 2 ¼ inch scoop) to form balls. Use your hands to not only press them well together but to shape them too.
- In the same skillet or pan you used for the oats toasting, add the olive oil and begin to cook the Gluten Free Meatballs over an over a medium / high heat. Cook until they have a slightly crispy, brown exterior and they have an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
- Dry them (remove the grease) on kitchen towel. They are ready to be eaten.