I know what you’re probably thinking; “meatballs are already low carb and keto-friendly, I mean, they’re meat after all.”
Most likely, you’re also thinking that unless they’re served on spaghetti instead of zucchini noodles, by default meatballs can fit into anyone’s keto plan. Well, you might be surprised.
Many traditional meatball recipes use breadcrumbs to bind them. Some call for milk as well, to add moisture just like some meatloaf recipes do. One cup of breadcrumbs has 78 g of carbohydrate. A 16 meatball recipe yield would work out to 5 g of carb per meatball. Have 3 or 4 of those and you’d be getting 5 to 20 g carb. Not keto, nor low carb high fat friendly.
Perhaps you like to improvise and add prepared condiments for flavour such as ketchup. One half cup has a hefty 28 g of sugar. That would almost add another 2 g of carb per meatball. You might go for free ketchup if you’re not concerned about artificial sweeteners.
Maybe BBQ sauce is your thing. Like the ketchup, BBQ is loaded with sugar. A lot of them have a bit more, 65 g per 1 cup. Use half a cup in your meatball mix and that’s 2 g of extra carbs. You could reach for a low carb BBQ sauce too. The reality is, it’s pretty to avoid those made with artificial sweeteners like Sucralose. Homemade low sugar versions will still use sugar. Seasonings would be a better option than prepared sauces etc.
As mentioned, traditional recipes will use breadcrumbs. Some recipes call for more than others, but if you’re using breadcrumbs and a prepared sauce like kethcup. the carbs add up. A good substitute for breadcrumbs is ground flax seeds. They’re low in carbs, high in gut loving prebiotic fiber and lignans. Compounds that have been shown to reduce the risk for prostate and breast cancer.
- 1 pound ground beef can use 1/2 beef, 1/2 ground pork
- 1 - 2 clove(s) garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan pricey but worth it
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine beef, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, Parmesan, mozzarella, basil, egg, and parsley. Combine well and form into 16 meatballs
2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all round. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and place on a plate lined with paper towel.
3. To the same skillet, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cooked until fragrant - be sure not to burn it. Add the can of tomatoes and oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. If using regular canned tomatoes, they'll likely be salty enough
4. Add meatballs back to the skillet, cover and simmer to allow the flavours to develop and sauce has thickened a bit. About 15 minutes.
Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, and mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.