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DigitalBlue's avatar

How to make meatballs without breadcrumbs that still taste good?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6656 points ) December 23rd, 2013

Long story short: I make Christmas Eve dinner for my family. We agreed years ago on it being a pasta dinner since that doesn’t clash with any other holiday meals. I found out a few months ago that I cannot tolerate gluten, and so I am still making a pasta dinner for everyone, but I need to take certain precautions so that I don’t have to cook an entirely separate meal for myself.

I need to make meatballs that do not contain breadcrumbs. I bought 5lbs of ground chuck, but I don’t really know much (anything?) about making meatballs. The internet is telling me that omitting the breadcrumbs will give me tough and dry meatballs. I just assumed it wouldn’t even matter if I left them out, and that letting them sit in and cook in the sauce would make them tender and flavorful. I guess that was a naive assumption?
Now I need to make all of this food for tomorrow and I am bordering on panic. If the meatballs suck then dinner is pretty much ruined. Any suggestions from the tidepool foodies?

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22 Answers

ibstubro's avatar

Try this, or run out quick and buy some gluten free breadcrumbs. I’d opt for the GF crumbs, any other recipe might seem ‘odd’ or ‘off’ to the rest of the crowd.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Mix a little milk and an oil, I like olive, but use whatever you like, into the meatballs. It’ll keep them moist and soft.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@ibstubro I am wary of adding GF anything to the mix, to me that seems more likely to make it seem “off.” In my opinion, things that omit gluten rather than replacing it seem to make better dupes for the normal food item. The replacement varieties are odd in texture. I do have that recipe saved, though, great minds think alike.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree about GF substitutes, by and large, but since these would be so integrated I would be tempted to give it a go.

The recipe didn’t use substitutes, and looked good. I don’t mind the gluten so much…can you replace the meat with something??


tedibear's avatar

My mom always used oatmeal. Bob’s Red Mill has 3 guaranteed gluten free oatmeals. I’m not shilling for Bob’s, by the way. You may want to throw it in the food processor for a quick whirl to get it closer to bread crumb consistency.

DigitalBlue's avatar

Bob’s Red Mill has one of the best varieties of gluten free products, it’s hard to avoid them if you can’t eat gluten. Most of their stuff is pretty good, though. GF oatmeal seems possible. I was thinking about smashing up some Rice Chex cereal, I wonder if that would work just as well as anything else?
I have two unopened boxes of that, which is what made me think of it.

WestRiverrat's avatar

You could just use rice, my mother called them porcupines when she used rice as a meat extender in her meatballs. I don’t know how well the crushed rice cereal will hold up, but you could try it.

There are several recipes online that you can check out.

Smashley's avatar

I dunno. I omit bread crumbs often. You can do without if you’re careful about the consistency of the mix. I wouldn’t add water. Add egg and vegetables and spices and stuff until it looks/feels right.

If you crave that traditional, depression-era bread crumb taste – you just aren’t going to get it.

If you just want a meatball that stays together well – shucks…. masa flour? corn flour? corn meal? cooked red lentils? instant mashed potatoes? You’re just looking for some starch. Play with it.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Two words: Almond Flour

Often called “almond meal”

YARNLADY's avatar

Make a single meat ball with each of several different choices, rice, corn, Bob’s and such and decide for yourself.

Kardamom's avatar

I haven’t tried any of these recipes, but I found some that look like they taste pretty good. None of them use breadcrumbs.

Meatballs 1

Meatballs 2

Meatballs 3

Meatballs 4

Meatballs 5

DigitalBlue's avatar

@Kardamom you are always so helpful with recipes, thanks very much for those links.

Kardamom's avatar

You are so welcome. I hope they turn out OK. Make sure you get back to us and let us know : )

hearkat's avatar

My mom was diagnosed with celiac disease over a decade ago before anyone had ever heard of gluten… the options have improved tremendously. We used gluten-free loaves of bread that we cubed for Thanksgiving stuffing, and it was delicious! So I wouldn’t rule-out the gluten-free breadcrumb option.

ibstubro's avatar

Wow, @hearkat had $100 Thanksgiving stuffing!

hearkat's avatar

I don’t remember what the two tiny loaves of bread cost… we just bought them so everyone in the family could enjoy the whole meal. Are gluten-free substitutes expensive?

creative1's avatar

What about using crushed Corn Flakes instead of bread crumbs, corn is naturally gluten free and Kelloggs brand is on the list of gluten free items, I know not all corn flakes are gluten free.

ibstubro's avatar

Oh, I thought you made gluten-free stuffing for the masses, @hearkat. Probably around $5+ a tiny little loaf.

hearkat's avatar

No masses, 6 people including ourselves. I’m sure the loaves would be pricey in a per-ounce comparison to other mass-baked supermarket breads, but it was for the holiday meal.

Judi's avatar

I had some meatballs that had rice instead of breadcrumbs that were delicious.

creative1's avatar

@Judi I thought about rice but having never tasted the outcome I didn’t want to suggest it. I will have to try your suggestion sometime.

DigitalBlue's avatar

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I ended up deciding to just leave the fillers out and browned the meatballs last night, then I cooked a few through to taste, and I couldn’t even tell the difference. They haven’t been cooked in the sauce, yet, but I’m thinking there isn’t much that could go wrong. Thanks again for all of the suggestions, will definitely be testing out some of these in the coming year, maybe I can perfect it by next Christmas
Happy holiday to everyone that celebrates today!

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