When you think about meatballs, you likely think about spaghetti and meatballs. But around the world, meatballs come in a wide range of sizes and flavors and are made with beef, lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, and various combinations. There are even vegetarian options (hello falafel!). Some meatballs are made with a mixture of beef and breadcrumbs (like these traditional Italian Meatballs), while others mix cheese and vegetables. They’re served over pasta, atop rice, in soup, between slices of crusty bread or doused in a healthy amount of gravy.
Here’s a culinary trip around the world, so you can try new meatball deliciousness, one meaty sphere at a time!
Albondigas (“meatball” in Spanish) is a traditional Spanish or Mexican soup with small, spicy meatballs served in a flavorful broth. They are often made with onions, carrots, and cabbage and plenty of fresh herbs and spices (think cilantro, mint, cumin, and paprika).
For a twist on the traditional soup preparation, simmer albondigas in tomato sauce and serve over rice.
These Louisiana-style meatballs are perfect for game-day appetizers. Mix pork, chicken liver, and veggies with spices and rice to create a homemade sausage that is rolled, breaded, and deep fried. Want to lighten your work load? Use your favorite pre-made boudin (a French sausage, but you can use any sausage) and remove it from the casing. Serve these with your favorite mustard or remoulade sauce for a Cajun kick!
Known by many different names and served in many different ways, these Chinese meatballs made with pork and sometimes rice are often served in a light broth. They are especially popular during the Lunar New Year, but are a tasty and warming dish year-round.
These tiny Greek meatballs made with beef, lamb, and mint are a famous appetizers served as part of a meze platter with a dollop of yogurt-and-cucumber based tzatziki sauce. Want to make it more of a meal? Stuff the keftedes in pita bread, drizzle with tzatziki, and serve with tomatoes, lettuce, and sliced onions.
Kofta are commonly found in the Middle East and made with an aromatic mixture of lamb, beef, herbs, and spices. Serve these meatballs are on a skewer, like kebabs, or in a creamy tomato-based sauce.
The name may not look familiar unless you’ve had lunch at Ikea, but many know the Scandinavian cousin of the Italian meatball as the Swedish meatball. Though there are as many recipe variations out there as Swedish grandmothers, these meatballs are typically made with a mixture of beef and pork and served in a rich gravy with lingonberry jam.
With a taste similar to a bite-size Reuben sandwich, these German-inspired orbs–somewhere between an appetizer and a main dish–are a mixture of pork and sauerkraut and deep-fried to perfection. Whether you dip them in Thousand Island dressing or pile them on a hot dog bun with mustard, they go great with a mug of beer and a game on television.
Serve these chicken meatballs in pho (Vietnamese soup), on top of a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich, or simply with your favorite dipping sauce for a fun appetizer. If you find the mixture too loose, skip the skewers and add a few breadcrumbs before baking them.
Not a fan of meat? Don’t worry, there are plenty of vegetarian options such as these sweet and sour faux meatballs to satisfy nearly every eater. Made with nuts and cheese and served with a sweet and sour sauce, these meatballs pack plenty of protein for a satisfying vegetarian meal.
There are also many fantastic options that combine vegetables and grains, such as Arancini. The Italians do more than just meatballs served atop pasta in tomato sauce. Coat the stuffed rice balls in breadcrumbs and deep-fry to golden perfection. Serve them as the main course for a vegetarian affair, or as a side dish instead of potatoes or bread.
Want to learn more about the basics of preparing perfect meatballs?
Check out this this article on how to make the best meatballs.
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