Baked Peruvian Meatballs

A perfect tapas/appetizer for a special party (New Year’s Eve or Super Bowl?), these Baked Peruvian Meatballs pack a flavorful punch with cilantro, cumin, and aji amarillo (or other chile pepper)! Served with a tasty ají verde sauce (Peruvian green sauce), Peruvian yellow sauce, and/or guacamole, your guests will be back for seconds…

Peruvian Style Meatballs with Aji Verde - meatballs and roasted potatoes in a black mini paella pan with aji verde sauce on the side.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Peruvian Meatballs

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…

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.

📋 Ingredients Notes

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.

  • cilantro
  • onion
  • garlic
  • ground meat – You want a little bit of fat in the meatballs, or they will be dry. 90/10 beef is fine. Ground turkey, chicken, pork, or bison are all fine, but check the fat content. 90/10 is my preference
  • ground cumin
  • aji amarillo chile pepper – I can buy ají amarillo peppers in a jar packed in water, and frozen whole peppers locally. Either one will work if you can’t find fresh ones. My second choice is red Fresno chiles or red jalapeños. They both have a similar fruity heat, and they’re not super hot. Green jalapeños and serranos are fine too. You can try adding about 2 teaspoons of ají amarillo paste, but you’ll probably need to offset the moisture with an extra tablespoon or two of panko bread crumbs. I have not tried this.
  • panko bread crumbs – Regular breadcrumbs are fine too.
  • egg
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

🐄Making The Meatballs

Cilantro, onion, garlic processed and being pressed through a sieve to remove liquid.
  • Add the onion, cilantro, and garlic to the bowl of my food processor and pulse until quite finely chopped but not puréed. Press the mixture through a sieve to remove as much liquid as possible before you add it to the meat mixture.
Aji amarillo on a wood cutting board with a knife for chopping.
  • Mince the chile pepper before adding it to the meat mixture. Thoroughly combine. Don’t be afraid to use your hands! It’s the most efficient (and quickest) way to combine the ingredients.
Uncooked meatballs in the pan.
  • 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 bites. 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…
Cooked meatballs in the pan.

💭 Tips

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.

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.

On this photo day, I used 1 whole ají amarillo chile to 1 pound of lean, grass fed ground beef (90/10). The chiles were packed in water in a jar. Whole frozen (or fresh if you can find them!) work just as well. Again, you can substitute other chopped chiles (see Ingredients list), but recognize the flavor will be slightly different (still delicious).  🙂

Make the meatball mixture in advance, and refrigerate (or even freeze). Just before your party, form the meatballs and bake. While the meatballs bake, make your sauce(s).

This recipe 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 in both frozen and packed in water in jars.

Double the recipe, and have meatballs for another meal or party. It freezes beautifully.

❓FAQ

What can I substitute for ají amarillo chile pepper?

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.

How can I store leftovers?

Since I’m usually only cooking for two, I often freeze half of the un-cooked 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.

What sauces can I pair with the meatballs?

As I mention above, these meatballs pair beautifully with my Peruvian Aji Verde. We also love huancaina sauce and Peruvian potatoes. As shown in the recipe above, salsa de palta (Peruvian guacamole) is another great choice.

Peruvian Style Meatballs with Aji Verde - a close up of a meatball on a toothpick.

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.

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

Peruvian Style Meatballs in mini black appetizer plate with striped napkin and dipping sauces.

Baked Peruvian Meatballs Recipe

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…
5 from 2 votes

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Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizers
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 12 meatballs
Calories 243 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 bunch cilantro - cut at the base of the leaves
  • 1 small onion cut in chunks
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic - about 3 cloves
  • 1 pound ground meat - 90/10 grass fed beef
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ají amarillo pepper - minced; see Ingredients for more info
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • several grinds of pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400℉.
  • Add cilantro leaves (and small stems are fine), onion cut in chunks, and garlic to the bowl of food processor. Pulse several times until finely minced and well-combined.
  • Scoop into a sieve placed over a large bowl. Press with a spatula to remove liquid. Discard liquid, and add solids to the bowl.
  • Add remaining ingredients to the bowl. Go ahead and get your hands dirty. Mix those meatballs thoroughly!
  • Form into balls. I used a mini-muffin pan with 12 cups. This makes 12 approximately 2" meatballs. You can do them smaller or larger, but be sure to adjust the time accordingly.
  • Bake until the meatballs are browned and firm to the touch.
  • Serve with desired sauce(s).

Notes

  • 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.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 3meatballs | Calories: 243kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 13g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

🥑Peruvian Sauces

Peruvian Aji Verde Recipe / www.beyondmeresustenance.com feature image close up.

Peruvian Ají Verde (Peruvian Green Sauce)

An air-tight jar with rocoto pepper aioli on a wood cutting board with fresh rocoto (manzano) peppers.

Creamy Rocoto Sauce

Peruvian ají sauce in a ceramic bowl, orange napking, and copper spoon.

Peruvian Yellow Sauce | Huancaína Sauce

A wood cutting board with salsa de rocoto, a rocoto pepper, and cilantro.

Salsa de Rocoto | Rocoto Salsa

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7 Comments

  1. I have aji amarillo paste, which is plenty hot for us. What amount would you recommend to replace the minced pepper?

    1. Hola Barbara! I would try 2 teaspoons if you prefer to stay on the mild side. Let me know how that goes? It might be helpful to another reader… If the meatball mixture seems wet after adding the ají amarillo paste, you can add a little extra panko.

    1. I’m sorry for the late response! It was a super busy weekend. Yes, you can substitute ají limo. I have done so many times. I can get the ají limo frozen, and I add them to taste. They can be quite hot, so taste a tiny bite and see how it goes… I add about 2 tablespoons of very finely minced ají limo and maybe twice as much with amarillo. We like a bit of heat though. It’s totally subjective. I hope you’ll give it a try!