A perfect tapas/appetizer for a special party (New Year's Eve or Super Bowl?), these Baked Peruvian Style Meatballs pack a flavorful punch with cilantro, cumin, and aji amarillo (or other chile pepper)! Dipped in a tasty Aji Verde, your guests will be back for seconds...
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
THESE TASTY BITES ARE BAKED! We don't eat fried food but 1 or 2 times per year at Andersen casa... I hate the mess, and I don't want the fat and calories. 😯
Before we get started with the process for making Peruvian Style Meatballs with Aji Verde, I want to spend a moment explaining why these meatballs are "Peruvian style." Cool?
The Flavors of Peru (A Quick Summary)
Peruvian cuisine encompasses a vast array of flavors and ethnic influences. From the Spanish influences on coastal ceviche flavored with chiles and lime to lomo saltado with its decidedly Chinese stir fry influences to the proliferation of wood-fired pizza restaurants... Italian.
Each region - coastal, Andean, and Amazon basin - has its typical ingredients. Having spent a great deal of time in the Andes, I am most familiar with the emphasis on corn, potatoes, and other tubers, chicken (pollo a la brassa), alpaca, and cuy. The ceviche in Cuzco is excellent, but typically is made with fresh water trout.
Numerous herbs and spices including coriander, cumin, parsley, cilantro, laurel/bay, mint, thyme, marjoram, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise (fennel), black pepper and oregano flavor Peruvian dishes.
For the home cook looking to incorporate Peruvian flavors into the meal plan, one cannot underestimate the importance of chile peppers. Ají amarillo, ají panca, and rocoto chile are 3 that I keep in my well-stocked pantry. Ají limón and ají mochero are more difficult to find in the US.
I do find that the small red Fresno chile (sweet and hot) makes a decent substitute for rocoto chiles. They're typically found in jars or cans in the US as they're not imported (to my knowledge) fresh.
Ají amarillo, with its uniquely flavored and moderate heat, is oft described as the "sunshine chile." I have not found a decent substitute for their unique flavor, but they're becoming more widely available in US markets. For more, see Peruvian Cuisine on Wikipedia...
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- ground meat (90/10 grass fed beef)
- ground cumin
- aji amarillo chile pepper (see Tips)
- panko bread crums
- several grinds of pepper
🐄 Making The Meatballs
Baked Peruvian Style Meatballs specifies whole ají amarillo, and its companion recipe Peruvian Aji Verde specifies the paste. I find many large markets with a large selection of Latin food products carry Goya ají amarillo paste. The whole ones can be found both frozen and packed in water in jars.
I first tried the meatballs with rocoto chiles. TOO. HOT. 😯 We found the minced ají amarillo to be a perfect "moderate" heat level. If you just can't handle any heat, add finely minced yellow, orange, or red bell pepper to the meat mixture.
On this particular night day, I used 1 whole ají amarillo chile to 1 pound of lean, grass fed ground beef. The chiles were packed in brine in a jar. Whole frozen (or fresh if you can find them!) work just as well. Again, you can substitute other chopped chile but recognize the flavor will be slightly different (still delicious). 🙂
Ground bison is a good substitute, but it is very lean, and the meatballs were a little dry... Ground pork or chicken thigh meat would probably work well, though I can't vouch for either.
My "secret weapon" with meatballs is one you may have seen before in my Ancho and Chocolate BBQ Sauce With Mexican Meatballs and Southwest-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash? I add the onion, cilantro, and garlic (ingredients may vary) to the bowl of my food processor and pulse until quite finely chopped but not puréed. The mixture is then pressed through a sieve to remove as much liquid as possible before it is added to the meat mixture.
Removing liquid from the wet ingredients improves the texture and helps hold the meatball together! The balance of the recipe is typical meatball stuff: Add the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using your hands (yes please!) mix until well-combined.
In forming and cooking these Peruvian meatballs, I use a mini muffin tin. The recipe yields 12 medium sized meatballs with this size pan. They aren't really "mini" meatballs as each one is 2-3 bits. They're a great appetizer size!
Baked at 400° (375 convection bake), my meatballs take 20-25 minutes. Using tongs I turn once after about 15 minutes to improve browning. When they've got some nice browning, they should be cooked through. They should be pretty firm when pressed...
What sauces can I pair with the meatballs? As I mention above, these meatballs pair beautifully with my Peruvian Aji Verde. As shown in the recipe above, salsa de palta (Peruvian guacamole) is another great choice. This Peruvian food guide website has some excellent options!
Substitutions? As I wrote in the post, Peruvian ingredients are becoming available in more cities, but if you can't find them, you can substitute finely chopped jalapeno, Fresno, or other fresh chile. If you like it hot, rocoto is another good option.
What can I serve alongside? I serve these meatballs with roasted potato wedges. Simply scrub, cut in wedges, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in the preheated oven ahead of the meatballs. They'll get a 15-20 minute head start while you make the meatballs.
How can I store leftovers? Since I'm usually only cooking for two, I often freeze half of the meat mixture for a second go 'round. You can also re-heat leftover meatballs. Try heating gently in a covered casserole dish to avoid drying them out.
Macronutrients (approximation ONLY) from MyFitnessPal.com
I have found that combining 2 recipes in one post results in confusion for Google search. 😆 For my readers as well... Watch for the companion Ají Verde in the next few days, and Salsa de Palta (Peruvian Guacamole) in the not-too-distant future!
Are you looking ahead to the crazy of the holidays? I'm thinking that a batch of these tasty Peruvian Meatballs in the freezer might be just "the thing." We enjoy them with roasted potatoes, a simple tomato and red onion salad, and (of course) a glass of wine.