Curried Chicken Meatball Salad with Tangy Lemon and Hummus Dressing

Up here in New England, the warm weather has been struggling to make a consistent appearance. It even snowed a little bit yesterday! Despite that, I’ve been daydreaming about spring recipes, especially since Ryan has his seed palettes spread out all over the house, so I am literally spending all day surrounded by baby plants. It’s all just so inspirational.

Speaking of spring recipes, I was craving something zingy and tangy for dinner last night; something that would wake up my tastebuds but also give me a healthy dose of protein. Thus, we decided to give these chicken meatballs a whirl. And man, were they good!

The theory behind this recipe is fairly simple, but making really good meatballs with the right texture has always been a bit of a challenge for me since I’m allergic to gluten. Sure, there are gluten-free flours and breadcrumbs out there that do the trick fairly well but, to me, there is always something lacking in the texture. Meatballs made with real breadcrumbs have a crispness on the outside mixed with a nice spongy, soft inside, whereas I’ve found that the GF versions are more homogenous. Either they are way too soft or they’re extremely dense and dry.

That’s when I remembered (it took me a while, I know) that wheat gluten isn’t the only gluten out there. Why not make one based around really glutinous rice? Hence, my curried chicken and rice meatballs were born and they’ve been a staple of our recipe library for about a year now. So, last night I thought, “why not pop them on top of a lovely bed of zingy cilantro and onion, and then top that with a hummus-based dressing thinned out with some lemon juice, really good olive oil, and Indian-inspired spices?”

The result definitely satisfied the craving I had. Yummo!

I’ll be honest: there are tons of ways you can make this recipe if an Indian flavor palette isn’t your thing. You can create an Italy-inspired version by dropping in some basil, garlic, and oregano. Or you could go for an Asian vibe by favoring them with a bit of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and finely chopped scallions. This recipe is your oyster!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that this recipe is very adaptable for vegan ingredients as well. Instead of using ground chicken, mash up some tofu with a fork and drop that in instead, but be sure to add in one tablespoon of tapioca starch slurry or a flax egg (we will talk about these things in an upcoming post) to give the “tofu balls” a binding agent. And if you’re vegetarian and not vegan, just add one egg to help bind everything.

For today, though, we are going to go with a spice-heavy, curry vibe, and that will be reflected in the veggies and herbs that I chose to create the salad part of the recipe as well as the dressing. Feel free to improvise as you see fit.

Now, let’s get to the cooking!

There are two preliminary steps that are very important to the success of the recipe. The first is that you need to cook your rice either a day in advance of when you plan to make this dish or earlier the same day so that it has time to fully cool down in the fridge before you combine it with the rest of the ingredients. The second is that you need to slightly overcook your rice so that it is really sticky and glutinous. I recommend adding a half a cup of extra water to the rice and maintaining a very low simmer as it cooks so that it has time to absorb all that water and puff up more.

Speaking of the rice, you can really use any type. However, there are certain types that work better. White rices are generally a bit stickier, so I like using either plain white rice or jasmine rice (it infuses a really nice flavor into the meatballs), but you can also use short grain brown rice, white basmati, or even Arborio. It’s up to you. I used jasmine rice for this iteration.

Therefore, you’re going to slap all that delicious, precooked rice into a big mixing bowl with high-quality ground chicken (or tofu) and a rainbow of amazing spices. I went very heavy on the coriander here because it’s tasty and the seeds add a beautiful flavor and texture to the meat.

Spicy rainbow!

I also really love garam masala spice. You should be able to find this at your local grocery store with the spice blends. If you can’t, regular old red curry powder works too.

Then comes the fun part. Using a thick spoon or your hands, stir all those ingredients until they are well combined and you have a fairly smooth looking base for the meatballs. Then, form those into little, 2-3 inch meatballs and arrange them in a 12 x 10 glass baking pan. Hint: rubbing a little bit of olive oil over your hands before forming the meatballs will prevent the mixture from gumming up your fingers as it is extremely sticky!

Your balls should look like this before going in the oven 😉 !

Now, pop those puppies in the oven, turning them after fifteen minutes so that they get nicely crisped on all sides.

So, now you have half an hour to kill while your curry meatballs bake, so let’s make the salad and dressing.

First, roughly chop up some fabulous, fresh cilantro! Now, I realize that cilantro is a controversial herb. Apparently, some of us have genetic predispositions towards cilantro that cause it to taste like soap. Unfortunately, both my parents loathe cilantro, so I never ate it growing up. It took me all the way into my mid-twenties to realize that I actually love cilantro (aren’t genetics fascinating?). So, if you are like my parents and hate this zesty leaf, then just substitute it with parsley.

Next, mince a white onion and thinly slice some kosher dill pickles. Combine all those together in a bowl with a healthy drizzle of unseasoned rice vinegar, a pour of peppery extra virgin olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Mix it all together and set it aside to percolate while you make your salad dressing.

Look at this utter deliciousness!

Here we are at the final step! You made it! Add some plain hummus to a small bowl, mix in some lemon, cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine it into a smooth, pourable dressing, and get ready to make magic on a plate!

By this point, your meatballs should be finished, but check to make sure they are cooked thoroughly and you have some nice crisp on all sides. To plate this little painting, spoon a bit of salad onto a salad plate, top with however many meatballs you want, and then drizzle a bit (or a lot) of dressing on top of that. And, voila! You have the perfect, zesty, wholesome meal for a warm spring evening!

I’d love to hear from you if you try this recipe or make any modifications to it! Enjoy!

Curried Chicken Meatball Salad with Tangy Lemon and Hummus Dressing

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy

Serves: 4

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 cup cold, glutinous cooked rice
  • 1/2 medium white onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. garam masala seasoning
  • 1/2 tbsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped*
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 baby dill pickles, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsps. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 3 tbsps. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 425°.

To make the meatballs: stir ground chicken, rice, garlic, and all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined. Grease a 12 x 10 glass baking pan using cooking spray or oil. Form the meatball mixture into approx. 2-3 inch balls, and line the greased baking pan with them, spacing them equally. Place into oven and bake for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven and turn meatballs to the opposite sides. They should be brown and crisp on the bottoms. Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Meatballs should be evenly browned when cooking time is complete.

While the meatballs are baking, make the salad and dressing. Combine all the salad ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

To make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

To assemble: Place salad on a plate, top with meatballs and drizzle dressing over the salad. Garnish with sesame seeds if desired.

*If cilantro isn’t for you, substitute with parsley or any leafy green.

Love this recipe? Made it your own? Take a photo and leave it in the comments! We’d love to see how it turned out for you.

Enjoy!

-LM, Ryan, and Karl

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