Paleo Hawaiian Meatballs

2013-03-11
When I think of Hawaiian flavors, quite a few things come to mind: the Dole Pineapple Plantation’s insanely delicious pineapple ice cream, tuna poke, fresh fish, and home-cooked meals at Katie’s Kaneohe Bay home.  When I came across the original recipe for these meatballs in the Penzeys Spice Catalog, I was immediately inspired.  Not only am I a huge fan of meatballs, but the sauce is also made with pineapple.  Taylor and I are not normally fans of fruit flavors with protein, but the pineapple sauce ended up being a perfect pairing to the meatballs.  By using fresh pineapple and omitting the brown sugar from the original recipe, the resulting sweetness is not cloying.  The coconut aminos and vinegar also add a tanginess that complements the ginger in both the meatballs and the sauce.

Nervous about picking out a pineapple that is juicy enough?  Don’t be!  No matter which one you pick, if you turn it upside d0wn for a few days – it will be perfectly juicy!  The juice will evenly distribute throughout the fruit instead of staying at the bottom.

The meatballs in this dish are extremely juicy and flavorful, even though I used a very lean ground beef.  The almond meal, full-fat coconut milk, and egg make the meatballs fluffy and delicate.  Also, the process of browning them in a nonstick skillet before baking gives added texture and flavor, in addition to slightly cooking the onions.  You could skip that step and bake them in the oven, but you wil have to bake them much longer.

When I made my version of the pineapple sauce, I not only eliminated unnecessary sugar, but also decided to caramelize the fresh pineapple in the nonstick skillet that was used to brown the meatballs.  Just as cooking a pineapple on a grill creates a delicious texture and flavor, cooking the chunks of fruit in the coconut aminos and vinegar creates a tastier sauce.  You can serve the sauce on the side, or drizzled on top.  I have served these on top of a salad, and on their own.  They are also delicious with a side of my Cauliflower Rice.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef, 93-7 (I used Ms. Laura’s Antibiotic and Hormone free beef)
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 cup Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white, slightly beaten
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 cup full-fat unsweetened coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen Brand)
  • 1-2 tbs coconut oil
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cubed
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar (rice or balsamic vinegar would also work)
  • 3 tbs coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (for sauce)

Instructions

  • 1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, almond meal/flour, onion, eggs, salt, ginger, and coconut milk
  • 2. Mix ingredients thoroughly with hands, then let the meat rest for a few minutes
  • 3. Wet your hands with a little water, then form meatballs into 1-2 tablespoon balls, and place on large dish or pan
  • 4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • 5. Heat coconut oil in large nonstick pan on medium/med-high heat
  • 6. Place meatballs in skillet, making sure not to overcrowd the pan
  • 7. Brown the meatballs on each side, then place them on an aluminum foil-lined baking pan
  • 8. Once all meatballs are browned, place the pan in the oven to finish cooking – about 15 minutes
  • 9. Reheat the skillet that you browned the meatballs in, and add the pineapple, coconut aminos, and vinegar
  • 10. Cook pineapple until heated through, then turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes
  • 11. Pour pineapple and juice from skillet into a Vitamix or blender, then add the cayenne and ground ginger
  • 12. Blend on HIGH for 1-2 minutes or until smooth and all ingredients are evenly distributed
  • 13. Serve meatballs with sauce drizzled over the top, or serve the sauce on the side
  • 14. Enjoy!