I admit it, I’m not a genius — but this dish sure is! Making a healthy dinner is as easy as ABC — literally. You need only 5 ingredients and a few minutes to prepare this delicious, family-friendly meal.
These meatballs check all the boxes. First of all, they’re full of taste. Rich avocado provides a creamy texture and good fats; ground beef is a great source of protein; and Cajun seasoning adds a sharp kick that complements the mellow avocado and acts as an all-around flavor enhancer. And no dish would be complete without bacon, right?!
You can use other flavorful seasonings apart from Cajun (whether they start with the letter C or not!) Take a look at my experiments with different seasonings in this post and choose your favorite ones. And there are more tips for variations at the end of the post, as always.
Tips for making the ABC (Avocado Bacon Cajun) Meatballs
This is an easy recipe to make, especially if you happen to have ready-cooked bacon to hand. Otherwise, just take some raw bacon, fry it until crispy and crumble it — and reserve the bacon fat for the meatball mixture.
Other than that, you just need one bowl to prepare these exceptionally tasty meatballs.
You can either fry the meatballs in a skillet, or bake them in the oven, at 350 °F (175 °C) for 25-30 minutes. My first plan was to use the skillet for frying these meatballs, but the oven was an easier and less messy option in the end.
If you’re using the oven, mix the bacon fat into the meatball mixture. If you’re using a skillet, fry the meatballs in the bacon fat.
Usually, skillet-frying ensures that the meatballs will have a nicely browned and slightly crispy surface, whereas the oven tends to leave them soft on the outside. However, after my experiments with this recipe, I was really satisfied with the oven-baked version, so I chose oven-baking as the preferred method for the final recipe.
Oh, and you don’t have to shape the mixture into balls, necessarily: naturally, you can shape the mixture into patties and make some very juicy burgers!
Let’s take a look at how to prepare these moreish meatballs:
First of all, if you don’t have fried and crumbled bacon at the ready, go make some.
Be sure to reserve the fat. You’ll need it either for frying the meatballs in a skillet or blending it into the meatball mixture, if you decide to bake your meatballs in the oven.
Then, take a large bowl.
Place the avocado in the bowl…
…and mash it with a fork…
Add the ground beef…
…and some salt (but not much! The bacon is already salty.)
Add the reserved bacon fat if you are planning to bake the meatballs in the oven.
Mix until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
Shape the mixture into 16 balls…
…and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the juices run clear. You can also fry the meatballs in the bacon fat over medium-high heat until done, about 10-15 minutes.
My ABC Meatball experiments
The idea of adding avocado to meatballs has been on my to-do list for several years. However, I never really had time to figure out whether avocado would be a good match for ground beef.
But at least the idea sounded very intriguing: avocado could actually improve the texture of the meatballs, I thought. It’s rich, and it adds a nice creaminess to many savory dishes. Maybe it would work in meatballs as well?
Years passed. Then, a couple of months ago, I came across my notes about avocado meatballs. I decided to finally put the idea into practice. However, I ended up developing other recipes (first of all, my 7-Day Keto Vegan Meal Plan, which will be published at the beginning of next month together with my new blog). I was also busy with this blog, posting recipes like this tasty spread and these cheesy broccoli balls.
Back at home, I thought I finally had to give the recipe a go, so I got out my notes again.
So, avocado and ground beef were the main ingredients. Naturally I needed some salt and seasonings as well: I think avocado always needs a subtle kick to complement its mellow taste and to cut across all that (healthy!) fat. Usually I prefer matching citrus flavors with avocado – or with onion, which is also a great fit.
After a little thought, I was planning to add chives as my seasoning of choice, but then I got the idea to try lemon pepper. Admittedly, it’s a bit retro, but it combines tangy citrus with fiery pepper so perfectly — exactly the way to uplift bland avocado. So, lemon pepper it was.
Suddenly I realized that bacon would be a magnificent addition to the meatballs. Bacon and avocado is a perfect combo. Thus, fried and crumbled bacon became my fourth ingredient (well, actually the fifth, if you count the salt).
At that time, I wasn’t thinking about a name for my creation – much less trying to get fancy with letter combinations – but when I was pondering a name for the recipe (Avocado Bacon Meatballs), it hit me that I already had ‘A’ and ‘B’ – and that just cried out for something beginning with the letter ‘C.’ Well, lemon pepper didn’t start with the letter ‘C’, and besides, I wasn’t so sure if it was the right choice after all…
I started thinking of spices, seasonings, and other food items that start with letter ‘C’ and ended up with cilantro, coriander, chili pepper, chipotle, Cajun, chives, cheese, cacao, cranberry, cheddar, cardamom, cumin, capers, cayenne, celery seed, chia, cumquat, and curry.
And when I was thinking of variations to this recipe, I didn’t want to stick to the spices and seasonings that start with letter ‘C:’ I wanted to try even more options.
But how would I be able to try out all those spices and seasonings? Making that many batches didn’t seem like a reasonable task — I’d have a fridge jam-packed with leftovers.
What if I made the basic mixture with ground beef, avocado, bacon, and salt, and added a pinch of each seasoning to each individual meatball?
But before I could start experimenting, I had to decide on the amounts of each ingredient. I trusted my gut feeling and took 1 lb (450 g) ground beef, 1 Hass avocado (which I mashed), 8 slices fried, crumbled bacon and 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt.
I mixed the ingredients by hand into a sturdy mass. I wasn’t sure if I had enough avocado, but I decided to just wait and see what the result was like. I could always increase the amount in my next experiments.
Then I started shaping the mixture into balls. To each ball, I added a pinch of seasoning which I carefully mixed into the mass while shaping it into a ball.
Below is a list of the seasonings I experimented with (many of them starting with the letter C!). I noted my personal preferences according to the following — not very scientific — scale, on which * = inedible, and ***** = incredible.
Cajun seasoning *****
Ground coriander seeds ***½
Curry powder ****
Lemon pepper **
Lime juice **
Tomato paste ****½
I baked the meatballs in the oven (just because it was easier to keep track of which seasonings I had used in which meatball — in the skillet they would have gotten mixed up while I was frying and turning them) and was really happy with the result. I was expecting the surface of the meatballs to turn out soft, but to my astonishment, the meatballs were perfectly browned and slightly crispy on the surface and juicy inside. Yum!
I was surprised that lemon pepper, one of my favorite seasonings ever, ended up giving its meatball a bland but somehow bitter taste. Also lime juice — as good as it is with guacamole — lent a bitter aftertaste.
Chives, my first seasoning idea, didn’t give enough flavor, although I did use dried chives. The fresh herb would definitely be more flavorful.
I did use some fresh herbs in these experiments, though: mint and oregano, taken straight from my backyard. I had high hopes for both of them — and both of them remind me of a Greek kitchen. Alas, I was disappointed with both. They weren’t bad, but my experiments showed that there were better seasonings for these meatballs. To be honest, I preferred oregano to mint with these meatballs. Maybe that’s just because I’m not used to the taste of mint in savory foods. (And maybe because my godmother once fed us an overdose of mint when we were kids: she had put mint into every dish, from sweet to savory ones, and also served us some mint tea! I think I got my full mint quota for the rest of my life during that visit…! But seriously, I still love mint these days, though I do prefer it in drinks.)
As you can see, I did some pretty wild experiments as well, like with cranberries and cocoa powder. I added defrosted and mashed cranberries to one meatball. The result was fascinating — though a bit bitter — but you can certainly make a holiday version of these meatballs with cranberries.
I was hoping cocoa powder would give a stronger flavor but it didn’t, even though I added quite a bit of dark cocoa powder to one meatball. The flavor was interesting: not bad, but nothing mind-blowing, even though putting cocoa powder in meatballs sure sounds pretty exciting. Well, it wasn’t.
Now, this is one of my personal favorite seasonings: cumin. I like adding cumin to almost any meaty dish, especially if lamb is involved. I often make a simple, pureed soup with minced lamb, zucchini, and unsweetened hot taco sauce that I season with an ample amount of cumin. (I actually ate many, many pots of that soup this spring when I was recovering from sepsis.) But in these meatballs cumin was great, but not perfect. There were better options.
But back to my experiments. I was very positively surprised by the cheese: it made the meatballs not only tasty, but juicy, too. So, highly recommended!
There were other good variations. Tomato paste was delicious, and so were curry powder and chipotle. Actually, tomato paste made the meatballs really juicy — and it provided great flavor as well.
However, the Cajun seasoning was my definite favorite. It provided that much-needed kick, and it was just a perfect match for ground beef, avocado, and bacon.
So, like I said, I baked my seasoning-experiment meatballs in a regular oven. I was surprised at how succulent they were, and how well-browned the surface was! My first plan was to post the recipe with instructions to fry the meatballs on a skillet, but I was so happy with the oven-baked version that I decided to make that my “official” method. But you can certainly still use a skillet if you find that a better option for you.
And here’s the recipe:
|Per meatball if 16 meatballs in total:
Tips for variation
Hopefully my experiments will give you lots of inspiration when it comes to seasoning these meatballs. But they’re not your only options — there are dozens and dozens of spices and seasonings in this world, so feel free to pick your favorite ones, and or whatever you happen to have on hand. The good thing is, the meatball mixture is quite neutral in taste, so many spices and seasonings work well in this dish.
You can also add more than one seasoning. For the holidays, how about adding crushed cranberries and Cheddar? Make it even more enchanting by adding 1 teaspoon freshly grated peel from an organic orange (only the orange part of the peel, not the white pith).
For a pizza-flavored version, try adding fresh oregano and tomato paste, plus 1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly grated Parmesan.
One thing I didn’t try was other fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, basil, and cilantro. I bet all of them would add a big flavor kick. (You’ll never see cilantro in my kitchen, but if you like it, go for it!)
Which variation are you going to make?