Asian Quinoa Meatballs is a healthy, hearty dish that works as an appetizer, light lunch, or even over noodles for a complete meal.
I had never heard of quinoa until a few years ago, when my friends Jack & Betty introduced me to it. They raved about it, but for some reason I had my doubts. A few weeks later I tried a sample at a restaurant and liked it, so I bought a very small amount at the grocery store. I cooked it in water, according to directions, and nearly threw it out. Quinoa cooked in water tastes like sandpaper. I was very gun-shy after that, and it was several months before I tried to cook quinoa again. This time I used store-bought broth instead of water, and the result was night and day. Once I learned to make my own vegetable broth, I realized I had been completely missing out. There is absolutely no comparison between the stuff in the box and homemade. Plus, it made the quinoa taste even better.
Quinoa is a complete protein, has lots of fiber and iron, and is just an overall good-for-you superfood. So you would think that I would eat quinoa on a regular basis. Well, then you don’t know me very well. When I’m on a quinoa kick, I will eat it at least twice a week. But other times I’ll go several weeks at a time without it. Quinoa is just one of those food spurts I go through.
Two years ago I found a recipe for Asian Quinoa Meatballs on Pinterest. But I “lose” Pinterest recipes all the time, because they show pins in chronological order. And when you go back into Pinterest, you get caught up with all the new pins and forget why you went in there to begin with. One Saturday I was in the mood for a healthy recipe. I had thawed ground turkey already, went into my Pinterest recipes, and came back across Asian Quinoa Meatballs.
The process for this dish is a little time-consuming, because you have to cook the quinoa, make the meatballs, and then bake them. Some people make quinoa in large batches, to have it for the week. I’ve never been a fan of that, mainly because I like to cook different dishes every day. When Asian Quinoa Meatballs are on the meal plan for lunch, I cook the quinoa before work, and that way it is cool and ready to go as soon as I get home.
These Asian Quinoa Meatballs are so delicious! I use ground turkey, per the original recipe, but you could easily substitute beef or even ground chicken. The quinoa adds a really nice contrast in texture and flavor to the meat. And because you’re using healthy quinoa, you can eat more of them without the guilt.
I added Panko bread crumbs to the Asian Quinoa Meatball mix, because it was very sticky without it. I was worried the meatballs would become too dense with Panko, but the bread crumbs are very light and airy, so they really are just a binder.
The first couple of times I shaped the meatballs by hand, but then they are not uniform in shape or size. I finally realized that a cookie scoop would solve that problem
The sauce, according to the original recipe is much too sweet for my tastes. I had made pasta to go with the meatballs the very first time. I am so happy that I did, because the pasta helped to tone down and absorb some of the sauce. That also taught me to taste all sauces before adding them to the final product! I switched to store-bought Teriyaki sauce, but that is still too sweet. I then went back to the original sauce, eliminated the brown sugar, and that made a huge difference.
After a couple of times with pasta, I switched to rice noodles for more of an Asian flair. Kind of like Asian spaghetti & meatballs. After a while I eliminated noodles altogether, and eat the Asian Quinoa Meatballs as a standalone light lunch. They would also be wonderful as a party appetizer.
Asian Quinoa Meatballs are high on my list of favorite meals. I need to remember to make them more often, and definitely need to prepare them for my friends at my next social gathering or even a gameday tailgate.
Adapted from Damn Delicious
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For more Asian-inspired recipes, click on the photos below!