Cumin Spiced Meatballs with Roasted Garlic Aioli

By Amanda Paa – Updated January 23, 2021

How do you define a great meatball?

In my mind, they’re a lot of things. Seared and browned on the outside, giving way to a juicy, fluffy interior. They aren’t laden with tomato sauce because you miss the robust flavors, in this case cumin that is freshly ground with your mortar and pestle and a smattering of cilantro. Good meatballs are salted from the inside out, not an afterthought.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs {gluten-free}

And the quality that gives a perfectionist like me fits – a round shape instead of domed, with a flat bottom.

That’s a lot of requirements, and I had yet to discover a way to make them like this at home. It was time to turn up my meatball game.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs with Roasted Garlic Aioli

With a blank canvas of grassfed beef, my meat of choice, I got started. I feel it’s juicier than grainfed animals, with less saturated fat, but on average 3x more omega-3 fats (and vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C). This is because omega-3s are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of plants, which also results in natural flavors of fresh herbs from their pasture diet. And most importantly, they’re happy cows, who are getting to live a life dotting green hillsides instead of corralled in crowded feedlots.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs + tips on how to make meatballs that stay roundCumin Spiced Meatballs {gluten-free}

Perhaps the thing I’ve struggled with the most in perfecting the meatball was finding a gluten-free binder that didn’t make them too dense. Too many eggs and they were chewy, gluten-free bread instead of breadcrumbs and they were soggy, and tapioca starch made them gummy. Taking a tip from Chef Dan” Tobias-Kotyk, I turned to crushed tortilla chips. Not noticeable to the eye, the Jackson’s Honest organic blue corn tortilla chips disappeared into these cumin-spiced flavor bombs, giving them just the soft bite I was looking for.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs with Roasted Garlic Aioli {gluten-free}

I tried several ways to get them to stay round — boiling then baking, pan searing then baking, but in the end, the winning combination was this: freezing, then pan-searing in a smoking hot skillet and a quick 5 minute bake to finish. You can finish them on the stove too, but I found it more difficult to get them to cook through evenly.

A few other tips:

  • You can avoid over-mixing and tough, rubbery meatballs by gently kneading the raw meat with your hands, then forming then forming with a cookie dough scoop + a light roll in between your palms.
  • Taste test! Fry half a meatball before you form them all to make sure you’ve got enough salt. The flavors should sing in your mouth.

And because I think everything is better with a dipping sauce, I whipped up a semi-homemade roasted garlic aioli. I used this real food mayonaise, then blended in lemon juice, and sweet, roasted cloves of garlic.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

They’re well-seasoned, juicy and tender, ready for a party or snuggled up against roasted spaghetti squash for a full meal. I think I’ve found my meatball groove, and hoping these little guys make it to your table too. xo!

Cumin Spiced Meatballs!

Many thanks to Jackson’s Honest for sponsoring this post, a company I regularly use in my kitchen and am so happy to partner with. And thank you for understanding that I carefully choose the brands I work with that help make this site possible. All opinions are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links, which I make a small amount of money from should you purchase something.

Cumin Spiced Meatballs with Roasted Garlic Aioli

serves 8 people as an appetizer, 5 people for a meal

1/4 cup finely crushed Jackson’s Honest Blue Corn tortilla chips (30 grams)
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 teaspoon teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 pound ground grassfed beef, 85/15 fat percentage (don’t go with 90/10, you need the fat!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Aioli:
4 cloves garlic + 1 tablespoon olive oil, placed in a small dish and roasted in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup mayo

In a small bowl, mix together egg & tortilla chips. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, crush the cumin and coriander into a powder. (You could also use pre-ground spices, just use 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon coriander.) Set aside.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. To a large bowl, add the meat and garlic. Sprinkle salt and ground spices evenly oven mixture, as well as fresh parsley. Gently knead about 5 times with your hands, then stir in egg/tortilla chip mixture. Use your hands to knead through about 6-7 times.

Heat a skillet and fry a small portion to test if you need to add more salt and adjust if needed. When happy, using a 1 1/4 inch cookie dough scoop to make portions, then roll lightly in your palms to make them round. Do this with 5 meatballs and set pan in freezer. Continue with remaining meat, putting on the sheet pan each time you are done with 5 meatballs. Let them freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When ready, heat olive oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add meatballs, cook, shaking pan, for about 6 and sear on all sides. Then slide into oven to finish for about 5-8 minutes. The meatballs should still be a little pink on the inside. Continue this process to finish all meatballs.

For aioli, squeeze garlic out of their papery shells. Then add all ingredients to a small food processor and blend. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as needed.

Did you make this?

tag @heartbeetkitchen on instagram and hashtag it #heartbeetkitchen

September 24, 2015


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  1. Gigi

    These are simply the best meatballs I’ve ever made! The spices coupled with the blue corn chips make these completely addictive, the aioli is beyond perfection, and both are so delicious cold too!! I may never dream of a meatball in red sauce ever again…

  2. Barry

    The best meatballs I have ever made. Delicious.
    What is the purpose of freezing them first?
    The aioli was very good, but next time I might cook the garlic at 350 instead. I thought it got a hair burnt.

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Barry! Glad you liked them. Purpose of freezing first is so that they keep their round shape while searing.

  3. Steph @ Steph in Thyme

    What a great idea using tortilla chips as a gluten-free binder! I never wouldn’ve thought of that. Brilliant! And that aioli…heavenly.

  4. Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    I’ve got to try the corn chip idea, it sounds way to perfect! I too struggle with the gf binders!! Thanks for the tips!!

  5. Celeste

    Wow, these look delicious! I never would have thought to use tortillas as a binder, I bet the flavor is perfect.

    • Amanda Paa

      it really does work well! thanks for stopping by Celeste.

  6. Chandice

    What a gorgeous post! The recipe looks amazing too, can’t wait to try them out!! :)

  7. Elle @ Only Taste Matters

    Tortilla chips as a binder? Brilliant! LOVE it!

  8. Raia

    I never would’ve thought to use corn chips in meatballs, but I’m sure it tastes great. :) I love the herbs, too!

  9. Alison @Food by Mars

    These look so flavorful and juicy!! <3 I've never thought of using tortilla chips like this – so creative, Amanda!

  10. lindsay

    you are quite genius friend. I love the binder here and i love all things in this meatball. HUge fan! thank you for perfecting it for us! <3 gorgeous

  11. Kathryn

    Using tortilla chips as binding? So smart! I usually use gluten free breadcrumbs when I make meatballs but I’m excited to up my game now and explore the world of tortilla chips. Love the flavours you’ve used here so much.

  12. Hannah | The Swirling Spoon

    Um, tortilla chips as a binder. WHOA. Going to have to try that. Also, your tip for getting round meatballs makes all kind of sense to me! Super post!! xx

  13. Heather

    These look so delicious! My boyfriend makes fun of how much cumin I add to food, so these are right up my alley.

    • Amanda Paa

      cumin is so under-used i feel like! glad you use it liberally :)

  14. Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    I love using whole cumin seeds instead of ground cumin in my cooking. The flavor is so much stronger! Your idea to us tortilla chips to keep them together is genius! I see these making an appearance in my Mexican Tortilla Rice Bowls soon. ;)

    • Amanda Paa

      those rice bowls sound delicious!

  15. Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps

    My one requirement of meatballs, that crusty exterior, which these absolutely have. For a meatball, these couldn’t get any prettier, and that’s hard to do! :) Plus, I love that you used tortilla chips as a gluten-free binder, smart!

    • Amanda Paa

      i like your style, girl. :) and you’re right – meat is not the easiest to photography, but i’m working on it!