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Ruhlman's Chili Meatballs

A great variation on the meatball
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Lunch, Main Course
Servings 4 people


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika  (this is mildly spicy; double the amount for more heat)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • vegetable oil as needed for pan frying
  • ½ avacado, diced optional


  • Combine everything but the meat and vegetable oil in a small sauté pan over high heat, stirring. When the spice-oil is bubbling, the spices are mixed, and the garlic is tender, remove from the heat. Put the bottom of the pan in cold water to cool the spices. Add the mixture to the meat and mix by hand till the spices are thoroughly combined. Then shape the meat into 16 balls, more or less as you wish (the smaller they are, the more crunch from the crust you get). (If you are like Yogi Berra with pizza, you can shape them into 30 balls if you're particularly hungry.)
  • Put about a cup of flour into a plastic ziploc bag, if you're doing this step. Put the meatballs in the bag, seal the bag and turn the balls over until they're coated with flour.
  • Heat a quarter inch of oil in a saute pan, medium high heat should do. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and cook till they're medium-rare to medium, three to five minutes depending on their size. Drain on paper towel.
  • Serve on pasta tossed with garlic and oil, top with avocado if using, along with cooked buttered broccoli. If making these to serve on their own, put out a bowl of harissa and/our sour cream; for more color garnish with thinly sliced scallion.


Serves 4, but the recipe is easily doubled.
If you're just making this for yourself: I ate a third of the meatballs for dinner, a third for lunch and did not cook a third of the meatballs, saving them to eat with the world's easiest wintertime tomato sauce.