No, it’s not chicken pox — it’s chicken pops! These jazzed-up chicken meatballs look appealing and taste amazing. They’re sure to make both kids and adults smile!
Tips for preparing the Chicken Pops
This is a very easy dish to throw together. As you can probably guess, you’ll need just five ingredients, plus crushed pork rinds for coating, if you prefer a crispy exterior. (And technically salt isn’t counted as an ingredient, so this really is a 5-ingredient recipe!)
Even though this is a very easy dish to make, it’s good to remember a couple of things. First of all, don’t mix the ingredients for too long; if you do, you’ll end up with a tough texture. Mix the ingredients just until well combined, no longer.
Instead of baking the chicken pops in the oven, you can fry them in a skillet. If you use a non-stick skillet, you won’t have to add any fat — which is a good thing, since the pork rind coating will turn mushy if fried in fat.
Well, no further tips spring to mind, so let’s take a look at how to prepare these cute little gems:
Take the ground chicken.
…and natural salt to taste. I use Himalayan salt: something between 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon tasted right to me.
Add the olive oil, too.
Mix until well combined (but no longer!)
Shape into balls of desired size.
If you like, roll the meatballs in crushed pork rinds.
Place the balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350 °F (175 °C) for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size) or until the juices run clear.
Remove from the oven.
Insert wooden sticks or carrot sticks into each meatball. Voilà! You’ve got adorable Chicken Pops.
My Chicken Pops experiments
The recipe I had planned to post this week failed. Not miserably, but as I wasn’t completely satisfied with it, I didn’t want to post it. My readers deserve only the best, you know!
Time was tight. I had to have my photos and videos for the post ready the next day. Since I had no perfect recipe, I had no photos, nor videos. But I had panic. Plenty of it.
I went through my idea list, discarding one recipe idea after another. Nothing felt right. Plus, I’m drowning at work, so I thought maybe I should skip posting on my blog just this once. This week, I was in the middle of correcting the Finnish edition of the American bestseller How Not to Die (if you are on a keto diet, do yourself a favor and don’t read this book. It’ll just make you angry. It turns cherry-picking into a genuine art form when it comes to presenting “proof” based on scientific research, especially in vitro testing. Actually, I put the quotes in the wrong place there: I meant “scientific”.) Anyway, the Finnish translator messed up lots of the figures and concepts in the book, from people’s ages to cholesterol conversions from US measurements to European ones. And the publisher hired me to fix all of those errors. (Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to fix the hair-raisingly erroneous information about the “scientific” claims in the book…!)
And that’s not the end of it. I also had (and have) lots to do for Brazilian Portuguese speech recognition and speech synthesis, which is what I’m working on at my sort-of day job. For example, I have to create letter-to-sound rules. This means that when you write out a word in the language, the script converts the text to the pronounced form, i.e. the phonemes. It’s business as usual, really: I’ve done it for over 60 languages. Actually, it’s pretty easy. Creating all the documentation and word lists with thousands of words is the job that takes the most time.
There’s more! I’m in the middle of writing two keto books in Finnish. And I’m graduating soon as a keto coach so I still have some studying to do. And as a board member of the Finnish Nutrition Therapy Association, I’m responsible for the content of our blog (there’s a post on the way: I just need to get it finalized…!). And I’ve barely set foot in my garden this year. It really needs some attention.
Despite all this, I was still trying to figure out a way to post something on my blog this week. Suddenly, I remembered the chicken meatballs that I often put in my son’s lunch box. I insert sticks into them so that he can eat them without getting his fingers all greasy. And in the summer, we grill them and turn them into chicken meatball kabobs. They get a nice, smoky flavor that way.
Now, that chicken meatball recipe would make a magnificent blog post! My son really does love them, and they’re super-easy to make, too.
What to call them, though? I thought “chicken pops” sounded inviting. “Chicken pox?”, asked my husband, alarmed. I cracked up. “No! Chicken pops,” I corrected him.
I wanted to add a few finishing touches to the chicken pops, though. I thought giving them a crispy coating would really take them to the next level. So I decided to try sesame seeds, crushed pork rinds, and freshly grated Parmesan to see which of the three would produce the best crunchy coating.
I made my basic chicken meatball mixture (this time without the olive oil that I usually use) and rolled some of the meatballs in sesame seeds, some in crushed pork rinds, and some in grated Parmesan. Some I left uncoated.
Since I didn’t want to heat up the oven just for my little experiment, I decided to dry-fry the meatballs in a skillet: no grease, since I was afraid the coatings would turn mushy.
Once the meatballs were done, it was time for a taste test. I couldn’t wait to see which of the coatings turned out best. The Parmesan didn’t stay crispy — it melted and covered the meatballs, creating a weird-and-slimy-looking coating. Maybe baking them in the oven would have been better? And despite its characteristically strong taste, it didn’t really add any flavor to the meatballs. So Parmesan got voted off the island.
Next, I tasted the version with sesame seeds. The seeds were slightly crunchy and they also lent a nice nutty flavor. Not bad!
But the pork rinds were the ultimate winner. They created a crispy surface and amped up the taste in a big way.
Now I was happy with my recipe and ready to take the photos and the video for the blog post. I collected all the ingredients. For this post, I wanted to use the oven instead of frying the meatballs in a skillet.
The camera was ready and I started shooting the video of preparing the recipe. I kneaded the mixture for quite a long time, then shaped it into balls that I coated with crushed pork rinds. I baked the meatballs in the oven. When I removed them from the oven, they looked bigger, as if they had bulged or “inflated”—but they looked delicious!
I continued videoing and inserted a popsicle stick into each meatball. Boy, was it hard to insert those sticks! The texture of the meatballs was tough and rubbery. And they didn’t look bulged anymore, they had slightly shrunk and got some wrinkles. Then I tasted a chicken pop: yes, the taste was definitely good, but the texture was too tough!
What now? I thought. I can’t post a recipe like this! Do I really have to skip this week’s post completely, after all my hard work? Is there anything I can do to rescue this mess?
Soon I realized there were two reasons for the toughness: kneading the mixture for too long, and omitting the olive oil. Okay! It looked like I’d be able to save the recipe anyway!
I made some more meatballs, adding olive oil to the mixture this time. And I mixed the ingredients just until well combined, no longer. It worked! The texture was juicy and tender, and the oil improved the taste (which was already very good). And this time, they didn’t look wrinkled and collapsed but beautifully round. Phew! I was saved!
Here’s the recipe, and it’s definitely worth trying:
|Nutrition Information (with pork rinds)||In total||Per serving if 10 servings in total||Per serving if 24 servings in total|
|Protein||131.9 g||13.2 g||5.5 g|
|Fat||68.7 g||6.9 g||2.9 g|
|Net carbs||1.3 g||0.1 g||0.1 g|
|kcal||1151 kcal||115 kcal||48 kcal|
Tips for variation
This version is quite mild, making it kid-friendly. Feel free to spice up the chicken pops with more piquant spices, like Cajun seasoning, chipotle, smoked paprika, chili powder, or red pepper flakes.
I love to grill these chicken pops in the summer. However, if you don’t have the facilities for grilling, you can get that delicious smoky note by using liquid smoke. (I sometimes cheat that way and it works well!)
Here’s a serving suggestion: as these are chicken pops, you can serve them in the same way as cake pops. Just insert cute cake pop sticks and make a nice presentation! Great for kids’ parties (note to self: serve these at my son’s next birthday party). And naturally adults will enjoy these, too; just think how well they’d work as finger food at cocktail parties. Here’s a photo of this serving suggestion: