Southwestern Meatballs in Easy Adobo Sauce

by Jess on April 22, 2013

in Gluten Free, Main Dishes, Recipes, Weeknight Meals

Southwestern Meatballs in Easy Adobo Sauce

There are few things as satisfying as hitting snooze on a Monday morning. Except, perhaps, hitting snooze on a Monday morning during a raucous thunderstorm.

And then hitting it a few times after that.

And thus began my week. How is yours going so far?

I’m going to make this short and sweet tonight because things like going for a swim and eating dinner with my fun husband and catching an episode of Mad Men (which has become quite cerebral, has it not?) are calling me away.

Despite a serious case of the Mondays, and the temptation of other distractions, I cannot get these meatballs out of my head. I have half a recipe in my freezer, but it was only by sheer force that I put them away and didn’t eat them one-by-one straight out of the fridge in a matter of days

Southwestern Meatballs in Easy Adobo Sauce I found the recipe by some strange twist of internet fate on Stephanie’s sweet blog Fresh Tart (the full recipe is posted in Minnesota Monthly). I was intrigued because it uses tortilla chips in the meatballs. Turns out that tortilla chips make the meatballs not only gluten-free, but crazy delicious.  I’ve adapted the recipe to serve four and to be baked in the oven for simplicity’s sake, but these also freeze incredibly well. After baking, they are simmered in a flavorful, slightly spicy, adobo sauce for just a few minutes, resulting in what may be the most tender meatball I’ve ever had.

Spooned with some extra sauce over rice with avocado, meatballs make for better Mondays.

Southwestern Meatballs in Easy Adobo Sauce

So does the snooze button.


Southwestern Meatballs in Easy Adobo Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These tender meatballs are made with tortilla chips that not only make them gluten-free and extra flavorful. While they bake in the oven, make an easy adobo sauce and serve with sliced avocados.
Recipe type: Main Dish, Gluten-Free
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
  • ½ white onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 cups whole tortilla chips
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ pound lean ground beef
  • ½ pound lean ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • ½ a green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a small can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo)
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt, to taste
To serve:
  • Cilantro Lime Rice (recipe below)
  • Sliced avocado
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. To make the meatballs, in a food processor pulse the onion and garlic until finely chopped. Add the tortilla chips and pulse until the entire mixture is finely ground.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the remaining meatball ingredients (through the egg). Mash with a fork or your hands until evenly combined. Form mixture into 1.5-inch balls, placing them in a 9x13 inch glass baking dish as you go. Bake until cooked through, 15-20 minutes.
  3. While the meatballs bake, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. (Make sure the saucepan is fairly large, as you’ll add the meatballs directly to the pan.) Add the onion and green pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and chilis in adobo and sauté, stirring frequently, until the chilis begin to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat so that the mixture maintains a very low simmer until the meatballs come out of the oven. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat. Remove from heat.
  4. Serve immediately over cilantro-lime rice (recipe below) with avocado slices.
Meatball recipe adapted from Fresh Tart.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 393 Total Fat: 19g Carbohydrates: 26g Sugar: 8g Sodium: 1420mg Fiber: 5g Protein: 29g Cholesterol: 90mg

Cilantro-Lime Rice
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Rice tossed with cilantro and lime - a great addition to mexican or southwestern dishes.
Serves: 4
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup medium-grain white rice, rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • juice squeezed from 1 large lime
  1. In a medium pan with a tight-fitting lid, bring combine the salt and water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the rice and bring to a gentle simmer. Put the lid on the pan, reduce the heat to low, and allow the rice to cook for 18 minutes. Remove the lid and check to see if the water has evaporated. If not, continue cooking the rice, covered, for a few minutes more. When all of the water has evaporated, remove the pan from the heat and let rest, covered, until ready to serve. Just before serving, add the cilantro and lime juice and fluff with a fork until evenly combined.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Claire @ Claire K Creations April 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

My Monday had an episode of Mad Men too Jess! We started watching season one last week and I’m intrigued. I love a good meatball. How interesting that they use tortilla chips. I wouldn’t have judged if you’d eaten them all straight out of the fridge.
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2 Jess April 23, 2013 at 7:17 am

It was only about a year ago that I started with Season 1, Claire. I got totally hooked, although the current season is pretty different than the first couple, it’s still really good!


3 Ashley April 23, 2013 at 2:17 am

I love this. I always make regular meatballs (with spaghetti) but this sounds so good! With all that spice and then over rice and with avocado??
Ashley recently posted..Southwestern Black Bean SaladMy Profile


4 Jess April 23, 2013 at 7:18 am

I’m not sure I’ve ever made meatballs with spaghetti, Ashley – I’m thinking that needs to be added to the rotation! These were so different than any others I’ve had, but I think that’s why they caught my eye!


5 sally @ sallys baking addiction April 23, 2013 at 3:51 am

snooze on a monday morning feels so good. ;) I love making meatballs. And it’s been forever since I made them. I go for turkey meatballs when I make them (don’t eat much beef), so I’d love to give these a try one time! Beautiful pictures, as always my friend.
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6 Jess April 23, 2013 at 7:20 am

Yum, Sally – I usually make turkey meatballs too, but there’s not an ounce of turkey to be had in this country. Boo. I would venture to guess that you could make these meatballs with turkey too – they’ve got so much moisture that it seems like it might work really well!


7 Cassie | Bake Your Day April 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm

What fun little bowls! I love the sauce! I actually just love everything about this, Jess!
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8 Tracy | Peanut Butter and Onion April 24, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I keep seeing things made with Adobo Sauce, I need to try this
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9 Jess April 25, 2013 at 7:03 am

It’s spicy and a bit smoky, Tracy – a few of those chilis in adobo go a long way, but the flavor is so unique. Hope you like it!


10 Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles April 24, 2013 at 11:54 pm

So fun to see you cooking up this recipe from Stephanie’s site! I’ve been meaning to try it, too. I love that girl and her sense of taste and style. Gorgeous, Jess!
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11 Jess April 25, 2013 at 7:04 am

Me too, Brenda! Stephanie has so many great ideas on her site – and these were fantastic!


12 Debra April 26, 2013 at 8:16 am

Crazy delicious? Sold!
Debra recently posted..Raspberry MuffinsMy Profile


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