A few years ago I spent some time in the Mission district of San Francisco. While there, I experimented with a lot of Mexican and Latin American ingredients and found a few that I still use on regular basis. One of my favourite Tex-Mex ingredients is chipotle – a smoke-dried jalapeño – which is amazing in this spicy meatballs recipe.
Essentially, chipotle is a chilli pepper with a very smoky flavour and aroma, a little like smoked paprika with mild, warm heat. It’s the red ripe jalapeño, not the pickled one you’re used to getting as a condiment. Unlike most chilies that simply add a little heat to the dish, chipotle adds an incredible flavour and depth. It’s great with meats and seafood and can be found as dried peppers or tinned in brine or tomato sauce. Look out for it in the Mexican/International ingredients section in your supermarket, or check with your local delis and specialty stores.
The heat and the size of the chipotle chilli peppers varies but usually 2-3 medium chilies with seeds scraped out will give you plenty of nice heat without a 3rd degree tongue burn. If you leave the seeds in, use less peppers or smaller peppers.
I also love using chipotle in stews, like this Chilli Con Carne with Beef, Chorizo & Chipotle.
I used dried chipotle peppers, which need to be soaked if you plan to chop them. If slow-cooking a pot of soup or a meat stew, you can add whole dried peppers and they will rehydrate while cooking. If using tinned peppers, give them a taste first to see how hot they are. I find that dried chipotle peppers can be hot to taste but after cooking they lose some of the heat so don’t be afraid to use 1-3 peppers.
Beef can be replaced with ground pork or chicken, or half and half. I used lard for frying as it’s very stable at high temperatures and adds a wonderful flavour to the dish, but you can also use coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter), duck fat, or avocado oil.
Can’t find dried or tinned chipotle or chipotle powder? My instincts tell me that a mix of red chilli powder and smoked paprika would be as close as you can get. For Aussies, you can order them online; for North America & Europe, I believe you can find chipotle on Amazon.
We served these meatballs with pan-fried shredded Brussels sprouts, broccoli, some chopped avocado and fresh coriander/cilantro. Absolutely delicious with lots of warm heat and flavour!
If you like meatballs, check out this roundup of 10 Mouthwatering Paleo Meatball Recipes.
- 1 teaspoon lard, ghee or coconut oil
- 1 large brown onion, finely diced
- For the meatballs
- 800 g grass-fed beef mince (1.8 lb ground beef)
- 3 medium dried chipotle chilies (tinned chipotle can also be used), seeds out
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed or powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed or powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet or medium paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lard, ghee or coconut oil
- For the sauce
- ½ brown onion, mentioned above
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 medium chipotle chilies, seeds out
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander seed or powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed or powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 400 g diced tomatoes or tomato puree (about 1 ½ cups)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- You will need a large, deep frying pan
- If using dried chipotle chilies, place them in hot water to rehydrate, for at least an hour before using.
- Heat a teaspoon of cooking fat in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté the onion for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Remove to a bowl. Use half of the onion for the meatballs mix and reserve the rest for the sauce.
- While onion is cooking, pre-chop other ingredients for the meatballs. Slice the chipotle chilies in half and remove the seeds. Chop with a knife or grind with mortar and pestle into a paste-like consistency.
- Combine ground beef with half of the cooked onion, chopped garlic and chipotle chilies, paprika, cumin, coriander seed, salt and olive oil. Mix and knead through using your hands. Using clean, wet hands roll the mix into small balls (somewhere between a walnut and a golf ball size). Set aside until ready to cook.
- Preheat a dollop of lard in the same large frying pan until sizzling hot. Cook the meatballs on medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side, until well browned.
- Add the rest of the cooked onion, garlic, two chopped chilies and the sauce spices to the pan with the meatballs. Stir through and add the diced tomatoes/puree. Combine and cook for 8-10 minutes uncovered, stirring frequently to make sure the meatballs cook evenly and the sauce is well combined. Taste for salt. Drizzle with a little lime juice before serving.
Check out this post for more ground beef paleo recipes and ideas.
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