Chia “Real Meat” Meatballs

13 Oct

Print the recipe page!  chia real meat meatballs

These meatballs, made with real meat (as opposed to the wheat meat meatballs  I tricked all my kids with) use ground chia seeds as a binder in place of eggs. No kidding!  I was so excited to find out chia can do this!  Due to their gelling properties when soaked, chia works as a substitute for eggs in all kinds of baking.  (It also makes wonderful pudding, but we’ll get to that another day.)  I’m quite smitten by these little chia seeds.  They’re simply amazing! God truly thought of everything and gave them an extra handful of “nutrition” and “usefulness” when the plant gifts were handed out :).

We’ll get to the recipe (which is also pretty great) in a minute, but first I have to pause for a moment to introduce you to these amazing little seeds.


Chia:  The Super Seeds

Storage…Chia seeds have a very interesting make up.  While being high in super healthy omega 3 fatty acids (right up there with flax) unlike most other seeds they’re also rich in antioxidants.  Because of this, their antioxidants actually guard them from going rancid, making them an ideal food to store.  From what I’ve read, they’ll store (all on their own) at least 5 years.  Even after you grind or cook them their antioxidants still keep them fresh!

Nutrition…Chias boast the highest fiber of any seed (or nut for that matter) while also being high in calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, niacin, zinc … and the list goes on.  For athletes (or those in our boat possibly depending on them to survive) they also have the ability to help the body retain electrolytes.  How great is that?!  Bottom line, you want to be storing chia seeds. Crazy goodness here people.

And there’s more…  on top of all of this they “gel”, making them ideal for a number of food making party tricks; as a thickener, you name it.  Along this same line, as I mentioned, they work in place of eggs for baking or as a binder in a meal such as this.

Let’s get on with the recipe to see how this magic happens!

Chia “Real-Meat” Meatballs

makes 60 meatballs (6-8 servings)


1 1/4 cup freeze dried (or 1/2 lb. canned) ground beef

1 1/4 cup freeze dried (or 1/2 lb. canned) sausage crumbles

2 cups warm water

3 TBS finely ground chia powder (about 1/4 cup seeds)

1 c. cooked couscous (1/3 cup dry couscous + 1/2 cup water or broth) -or- bread crumbs

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese (+ additional 1/3 cup for sprinkling)

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. fennel seed

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. milk (or 1/4 cup water + 1/2 TBS dry milk)

olive oil spritz -or- 1-2 tsp olive oil

1 jar marinara sauce

additional couscous, if desired for serving (*see note)


Tools & Supplies

Wheat grinder (for grinding the chia seeds)



Begin by rehydrating the freeze dried meats using 2 cups warm water.  Allow to rehydrate for 15-20 minutes, draining the excess water.  Combine the meats with 3 TBS ground chia powder, mixing well.  In a large bowl mix the meat mixture with parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, oregano, fennel and garlic powder.  Add the milk, stirring well.  Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes so that the chia powder can absorb the moisture and gel.

Form into small (heaping 1/2 TBS) meatballs.  Heat a skillet to medium heat and *lightly* spritz (or otherwise coat) the pan with oil.  Separately, begin warming the marinara sauce.  Add the meatballs to the heated skillet and cook until they are browned on all sides, using a metal knife or spoon to carefully turn them.  Once browned, remove the meatballs to a foil lined sheet and allow to cool before dishing to serve.

Serve with couscous or pasta, placing on top of warmed marinara sauce (and adding sauce on top of the meatballs as desired), and sprinkling with parmesan cheese.


Rehydrating the freeze dried meats (if using)…

Combine the chia powder and the rehydrated meat.  You want to be sure the powder is evenly distributed before making your meatball mixture.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the meatball ingredients.

Add in the “milk”…

Once it’s all mixed together, allow it to sit for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, form the mixture into small meatballs.  You want to keep them small so that they’ll cook on the skillet without breaking.  I scooped mine out using a 1/2 TBS measuring spoon, that sized meatball worked best.

Another important tip is how much oil you use in frying the meatballs.  Keep it minimal!  I really liked using my olive oil spritzer because it gave just enough oil to fry with and I was able to cover the pan evenly.  Too much oil introduces too much moisture to the meatballs, causing them to fall apart.

Turn the meatballs *carefully* using either a metal knife or a spoon.

Transfer all to a foil lined sheet to cool.  Again, the cooling step here helps them keep together.

Serve on top of pasta or couscous (or even a yummy homemade bun as a meatball sandwich), spooning sauce over top and sprinkling with parmesan.

These were very good and a definite keeper for our book!



  • Of course if you’ve got electricity you can grind your seeds in either a coffee bean grinder, a blender or a food processor.  It probably took 1/4 cup of chia seeds to yield the 3 TBS of powder but in using the hand grinder it was necessary to grind more than that in order to fill the grinding chamber (and in making it worth my while in dirtying the grinder).  For those of you with a Wondermill Junior Deluxe like mine, I used the stone burr to grind it.
  • We enjoy couscous as a change of pace from the usual pasta from time to time.  In this recipe it works within the meatball mixture just the same as bread crumbs and I save myself some effort by using it.  For my family I used 4 cups of broth to 2 2/3 cups of couscous to supply the whole meal and we had about 3 cups of couscous leftover to go with about 15 leftover meatballs.  In a “having to use food storage” scenerio I love the idea of left overs because it means having a “freebie” meal the following day that I wouldn’t have to cook.

To make 1 cup couscous, bring 1/2 cup water or broth to a boil.  Add 1/3 cup uncooked couscous and cover the pan.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes until the liquid is all absorbed.  Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.


TVP Meatball Recipe

There was a comment left inquiring about using TVP in this recipe.  Since I’m not familiar with TVP, I’m posting this recipe for making meatballs with TVP from someone who is.  The recipe comes from the book “The Everyday Gourmet” by Shari Haag — a book I highly recommend as far as food storage cooking goes.  I’ve used a lot of her recipes here on the blog and you’ve heard me talk about the book a number of times.  Shari cooks exclusively with TVP when it comes to “meat” in the book, however because my son has an allergy to soy it’s something I’ve never tried myself.

Graciously, permission has been given from the publisher for me to share any part of the book that might be helpful as it’s close to being out of print and unavailable.  Just click on the image to enlarge it for reading.


I’d love to hear from anyone who tries it — leave a comment to say what you thought!

10 Responses to “Chia “Real Meat” Meatballs”

  1. Geni October 14, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Just curious. I don’t eat meat. Do you think this would work with TVP?

    • myfoodstoragecookbook October 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Hi Geni! Thanks for the question. Since I’m not familiar with TVP myself and how it’s used, I have another solution for you. In one of my favorite food storage cookbooks, The Everyday Gourmet by Shari Haag, there’s a recipe there for meatballs made with TVP that she says “perfectly imitates that of beef”. I have permission from the publisher to use anything from this book so I’ll scan the recipe and post it at the bottom of the post for anyone who’s interested. It doesn’t use chia but you could either just sprinkle it on top (to get the nutrition) or try adding it into the meatballs with just a little bit of extra water for it to gel with. If you try it please come back and tell us what you thought of it!

  2. Vicki October 15, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    What is your plan for safely dealing with leftovers when there is no power? You obviously don’t want to leave meat unrefrigerated.

    • myfoodstoragecookbook October 15, 2012 at 3:26 am #

      Great question! From what I’ve read, freeze dried meat (because of the freeze drying process itself) is rendered nearly bacteria free so it’s different than the meat we eat from the grocery store today. You can read further here about the process of freeze drying itself, but to quote,

      “Freeze-dried food is relatively contamination-free since the dehydration process makes it virtually impossible for yeast and potentially harmful bacteria to survive.”

      So my plan is to keep it “clean” while preparing it (washed hands, not introducing any bacteria to the food myself) and then to keep it covered afterward. If there isn’t bacteria in the food in the first place there won’t be a concern of it multiplying at room temperature.

      To me the risk of dangerous bacteria being introduced as compared with food today is extremely low. For one, if I’m cooking with freeze dried or canned meat exclusively (nothing raw) there isn’t going to be a risk of cross contamination from raw ingredients. Also the stored food goes directly from being rehydrated to served without much in between as far as equipment goes that might contaminate it. Rinsing the spoon I plan to use to stir it with (or anything else) using bleach water beforehand fixes that.

      As far as planning for equipment disinfection, just one tsp. of bleach per quart of water (to be used within a week) is all that’s needed to clean surfaces or utensils effectively. It doesn’t require storing very much bleach but it does require clean water (being stored or owning a good filter). As it is I keep a spray bottle filled with bleach water (a repurposed windex spray bottle, so you can imagine the size I’m talking about), spraying my kitchen counter tops down with it sometimes 3 times a day and it lasts about a week before needing to be refilled. With this I have a good picture of how much bleach I’d need to plan on for disinfecting in the cooking area — about a tsp. and a half per week.

      Whoa, that was long — sorry for the novel. Hopefully that explains it. Bottom line is that you have to do what you feel comfortable with, this is my own comfort level on the subject.

    • myfoodstoragecookbook October 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      I got the official word back from Kalli Sorensen of Thrive who fields questions like this on behalf of that company for anyone who is interested.

      Q: Is it true that the process of freeze drying meats makes it very difficult for harmful bacteria to survive? If this is true, would it also be true that after rehydrating it (in a food storage only scenerio) the chances of having dangerous bacteria multiply in the meat due to it not being refrigerated would also be low because they wouldn’t have been there in the first place?

      A: Yes, it is. Bacteria need several things to survive, and one of the most important of those is water. The freeze-drying process the THRIVE meat products go through removes and binds up the water that would normally be available for bacteria. With out water, bacteria are unable to grow and reproduce, and thus die off. This allows THRIVE products to be shelf stable for at least 25 years unopened, and 1 year opened.

  3. Kat Skeers October 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

    I love your blog! And I’d love to try this recipe. Where do you buy Chia Seeds at a reasonable price? And how do you store them?

    • myfoodstoragecookbook October 21, 2012 at 3:29 am #

      Thank you Kat! I’m sorry it’s taken me a couple days to get back to you. I’ve been trying to contact the person I bought them through (it was a group buy I got in on) to find out who the supplier was. I’ll reply here once I find out. On the storage for chia, there are lots of ways to do it. Right now I have mine stored in vacuum sealed pint jars. I like doing it this way because it’s fast to do and I’m able to store them in smaller amounts (it hardly takes any chia going into a recipe like this). You could also store them in mylar bags or you could store them in much smaller amounts (if you don’t use much) in vacuum sealed bags.

      Thanks for reading!! I’m excited to have you along!


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