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Jul 24, 2009 02:43 PM

Help with meatballs

I am looking for a new good meatball recipe, but all I can find are recipes with either dairy or pork, so they won't work in our house.

I think I can just substitute beef for the pork and water for the milk, but was wondering if anyone has tried this with good results.

Alternatively, if anyone has a good dairy and pork free meatball recipe, I'd love to have it.


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  1. I make meatballs with ground chicken almost exclusively now. I don't add any milk or water to the mix. Only chopped onion, parsley, a little rice, an egg, and a small can of tomato sauce.

    Oddly enough, the ground chicken more closely approximates the flavor of the pork meatballs we had in Romania that my Mother-in-law makes.

    1. beef & ground turkey are both perfectly acceptable substitutes for the pork.

      as far as the milk goes, some recipes call for it as part of a panade, or bread paste, to help bind the ingredients and keep the meatballs moist. if you want to use a recipe that calls for a panade, use soy, rice or almond milk instead of dairy.

      otherwise you can just use some beaten egg (a whole egg plus one or two egg whites usually works well) to help moisten & bind.

      1. I almost always make my meatballs with beef, not pork, and I use low sodium tomato juice or v-8 juice for the liquid (a carry-over from my favorite meatloaf recipe). You can also add some turkey or chicken italian sausage meat to the mix.

        1. I use Marcella Hazan's incredible meatball recipe (just made a batch last night), which calls for lean beef as the meat. She does call for bread soaked in milk, but I'd follow GHG's lead and use soy pr almond milk instead. If you're subbing beef (or chicken, buffalo, turkey) in a recipe calling for pork just remember that they're leaner meats than pork is, so you might want to add a touch of olive oil to compensate (Marcella specifically calls for it in hers).

          1. Substitute finely shredded cabbage for the milk.

            Beef is fine. If you want, add some lamb for that nice fatty mouthfeel, but not necessary.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Cabbage & Lamb? That's a new one on me. Is the cabbage cooked? And ground lamb is not always readily available.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Got the link, but I don't see any mention of using it in meatballs??

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    It is in the permalinked post on that thread (I mentioned it on other meatloaf/meatball threads, too - people who tried it posted back favorably). I learned it from my mother, who put cabbage in her fricadellen (alternate spelling frikadellen) and serendipitously used coleslaw when I mistakenly thought I had a wedge of cabbage in the crisper. The slaw added a little tang and I now usually have a little frozen leftover coleslaw in the freezer for meaking leatloaf or meatballs.