team. we have eaten quite a few garlic chicken meatballs around here lately. partly because they are delicious and partly because i wanted to get them juuuuust right.
somewhat ironically, given my usual skepticism of frozen prepared foods, my first exposure to garlic chicken meatballs was, dare i say, via a bag from the frozen foods aisle. much to my surprise, i actually liked them! (my husband is nodding knowingly at this *shocking* revelation that i liked something with a strong garlic flavor…)
it was, in fact, that bold-but-not-overpowering garlic flavor that i thought the frozen meatballs got just right and that i was trying to recreate. my first test was fine, but way too sweet. i had sautéed onions and garlic and in addition to being too sweet, the garlic flavor was too subtle. next!
round two swung the pendulum too far in the other direction: i used raw garlic and onions and, um, obviously, the flavor was really harsh and all of the crunchy, still-pretty-raw bits of onion and garlic detracted from the texture of the meatballs. um, next, please!
round three saw us making some progress: i swapped the onion for a shallot, which was much less aggressive. trying to get a good amount of garlic flavor, though, i minced 4 large garlic cloves, whiiiiccch turned out to be a bit much. my husband and i joked that these garlic chicken meatballs were 50% chicken and 50% garlic. except that maybe we weren’t joking… sigh. next.
ok, round four, aka the delicious meatballs which appear in the recipe below. finally! why this didn’t occur to me sooner, i don’t know (actually, i do: i can be a bit of a food snob, see related: views on frozen prepared foods). garlic powder. of course.
i had been using onion powder this whole time, after warming to it recently after reading an article about how it’s much maligned but actually contributes important, otherwise elusive flavor in certain dishes. it finally occurred to me that i should try scaling back the unwieldy raw garlic and adding in some garlic powder to get more garlic flavor, without the texture or harshness issues i was having when using piles and piles of raw garlic.
i also dug my garlic press out, figuring that would help release more garlic flavor than mincing and would also help reduce the impact on the texture of the meatballs (secret behind the scenes fun fact: the photos are of round three, hence the visible chunks of garlic.). i was finally making some progress! the garlic press-ed garlic integrated into the meatballs much less obtrusively texture-wise and the garlic powder provided just the right boost of garlic flavor, without the harshness.
and somewhere along the way, i learned that mashing the ingredients together with a fork so that they chicken turns into something of a paste (sorry, i know that sounds gross) actually makes for nice, light meatballs. i’m pretty sure that contradicts what science says is supposed to happen but i tested these garlic chicken meatballs enough times to discover that science doesn’t seem to apply here.
so, in the end, we have a happy ending, in the form of strong-but-not-mean garlic chicken meatballs that go well with just about any vegetable you could think of (believe me, i’ve tried nearly all of them over the past few weeks). and special thanks to my husband for being a trooper over the past few weeks and eating a lot of intense garlic chicken meatballs. on to the next round of yummy dinners recipe tests!
did you make this recipe? i’d love to know what you think of it! leave a comment below and share a picture on instagram with the hashtag #tastyseasons.
garlic chicken meatballs have a bold garlic flavor packaged in a light, fluffy meatball that goes well with nearly any vegetable for a healthy dinner. the meatballs make great leftovers too. perfect for garlic lovers!
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (24 g. / 7/8 oz.) almond flour
- 16 oz. (454 g.) ground chicken
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese, see notes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
- 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press, see notes
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- set an oven rack in the top third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400° F.
- in a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork. add the almond flour and use the fork to break up any lumps. add the chicken, nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste, garlic, onion powder, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and basil. use the fork to combine all of the ingredients into a cohesive (paste-like) mixture.
- use clean hands to form 12 slightly larger than golf ball sized meatballs. arrange meatballs on a large rimmed baking sheet with at least 1" of space between the meatballs.
- in a small bowl, use a fork to combine the remaining tablespoon of tomato paste with the olive oil. it will not form a completely smooth mixture; that is ok. use the fork to spread a bit of the mixture on the top of each meatball.
- bake for 11 - 16 minutes, until the meatballs are golden brown and cooked all the way through on the inside (165° F). serve immediately. leftovers are easy protein source gold: i store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator then heat them up in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how many i am reheating. they also freeze well.
though i often ignore instructions to crush garlic since the garlic press is another (difficult) thing to clean and i already have a knife out, i really do recommend it here. crushing with a garlic press both releases more garlic flavor than mincing with a knife and helps the garlic blend in texture-wise. if you don't have a press, try the knife pureeing technique described in the linked article.
nutritional yeast adds cheesy flavor (and vitamins!) while keeping the meatballs dairy free. if dairy isn't a concern for you, feel free to substitute in parmesan cheese.