Mexican Meatballs!

Mexican Meatballs! - student project

I love Mexican food and I love meatballs and wanted to combine the two for my project. I love getting creative with meatballs and using them as a blank slate of ground meat for layering flavors and textures onto. Plus they’re a convenient make-ahead appetizer, allowing you to be an awesome host / hostess when your guests arrive. However, a meatball without tomato sauce is like Simon without Garfunkel. It’s good but you miss the harmonies, so I knew that I also wanted to create a tomato sauce to accompany these meatballs.

Here’s the exercise I did in my head when trying to create this recipe: I asked myself, “What Latin flavors and ingredients would go well in a meatball?” Dissecting all the burritos, tacos, and chilaquiles I’ve consumed, I came up with diced jalapenos for heat and texture; cumin, smoked paprika, and coriander spices to add flavor; and of course garlic and chopped cilantro. For the sauce, coconut milk combined with fire-roasted tomatoes and cumin created the perfect balance of earthy, sweet, and rich. The result? The best Mexican meatballs you’ll have this side of the border.

Mexican Meatballs! with Fire-Roasted Tomato Coconut Sauce

Ingredients - for meatballs

  • Jalapeno, diced – 2
  • Red onion, diced – ½
  • Cilantro, chopped – Handful of sprigs
  • Garlic, crushed – 1 tbs.
  • Ground pork – 1 lb. (possible substitutes: ground chicken or turkey)
  • Panko / breadcrumbs – â…“ cup
  • Cumin – 2 tsp.
  • Coriander – 2 tsp.
  • Smoked paprika – 1 tsp.
  • Kosher salt – 1 tsp.
  • Canola oil – 1 tbs.
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled – 2 oz. (possible substitutes: feta)

Ingredients - for tomato sauce

  • Garlic, minced – 4 cloves
  • Canola oil – 1 tbs.
  • Diced / crushed fire roasted tomatoes, drained – 1 28 oz. can
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Cumin – 2 tsp.
  • Cinnamon – 1 tsp.
  • Salt – 1 tsp.

Prep (steps that can be done earlier in the day)

  1. Jalapeno / Red onion / Cilantro / Garlic – Prep as directed
  2. Meatballs – Mix together all ingredients except cheese in a large bowl (save some cilantro for garnish). Form into balls measuring 1.5” in diameter. Cover if not making right away


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Prepare tomato sauce: Heat up a >3 quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and then minced garlic to heated oil. Once you can smell the garlic, add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove from heat and let cool
  3. While sauce is simmering: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs. canola oil and then as many meatballs as can comfortably fit into the pan. Sear for ~2 minutes on opposite sides. Move seared meatballs into a baker. Repeat if not all the meatballs could be seared in 1 batch 
  4. Season tomato sauce to taste with more salt, cumin, or cinnamon. Puree with an immersion blender
  5. Pour tomato sauce over the meatballs. If you have some leftover, save it for another time. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until meatballs reach 160 degrees
  6. Garnish with cotija cheese and more cilantro. Serve with fancy toothpicks!