Pork and Fennel Meatballs

These gluten-free, paleo-friendly pork and fennel meatballs will have you going back for seconds.  They’re flavorful, savory and delicious.

The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.

This weekend I was scrolling through the recipes on my website and realized that my appetizer section is a little, well, bare. I have lots of breakfasts (umm, my favorite meal of the day) and tons of delicious salads, but not so much in the way of munchies and appetizers.

But with more holidays right around the corner (only 24 days until Christmas!) – the need for finger food is at it’s highest. Hello, family gatherings and large group functions! Thus, an appetizer became my mission. I needed a new, savory and utterly satisfying nibble. And for those of you wondering about my detailed strategy and thought-process on recipe development, there you have it (read: it’s not very strategic after all – ha!).

Truth be told, these pork and fennel meatballs could also easily be a main course. Just add them to a much bigger mound of greens or bed of zucchini noodles with a basil pesto or tomato sauce for a crazy good dinner. In fact, I think I’m gonna do that with my leftover meatballs tomorrow!

The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.

The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.

But let’s dig in to this recipe, shall we? Most of the flavor of these meatballs comes from the fennel – both the bulb and seeds, which impart a savory, licorice flavor. Do you love fennel as much as I love fennel?! The fennel bulb, when sautéed, is similar in texture to the bulb of bok choi (another fave). That means it’s kinda crunchy yet still soft. The flavor of chopped fennel becomes milder when cooked, so here I’m using it more so for added crunch and texture (along with the sautéed onions). The real fennel flavor comes from ground fennel seeds, which kicks these meatballs up a notch and delivers the pow factor.

Now, if you’re dishing these meatballs up appetizer style, just poke them with toothpicks and serve plain or with a dipping sauce. Voila! And if you’re cooking them for yourself as a meal, just sauté the remaining fennel with garlic and baby spinach for an easy side of greens. One thing to remember is that baby spinach wilts down significantly – and you never end up with as much as you think you’ll have. “Where did all my spinach go?!” Yep, an entire 6 ounce bag of organic baby spinach (approx 4 packed cups) only serves two once sautéed. So if you’re serving more than two folks, you can opt for a larger quantity of frozen spinach (which is already wilted) or substitute kale or chard (which tend to not wilt quite as much). Or, as mentioned previously, spiralize a zucchini or two.

When you’re done with this recipe you’ll have about 35 delicious (and highly addictive) pork and fennel meatballs. If you’re a party of one, like me, that means it’s meal prep at it’s finest and you’ll have amazing leftovers. Yessss! And if you’re a larger family or serving for a group, you may not have leftovers but you will have super happy folks. So it’s a win there too.

Enjoy!

The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.
The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.

The most delicious pork and fennel meatballs! Perfect for an appetizer or main meal. Gluten-free and paleo.

Fennel Pork Meatballs

5 from 8 votes
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 10 servings (of 4 meatballs)
Yield: Makes 40 meatballs
Author: Lisa Bryan
These pork meatballs filled with fennel and onion are an Italian-inspired favorite. The fennel seed seasons adds punch of flavor, while the sauteed onion and fresh fennel keeps the meatballs moist and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions 

  • Heat one tablespoon of oil in large saute pan on medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Remove from the heat to cool.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the pork, eggs, parsley, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Once the sauteed onions and fennel have cooled slightly add them to the mixing bowl and use your hands to mix all ingredients together.
  • Shape the pork mixture into small meatballs, approximately 1 ½ inches in diameter. See the notes below for the cookie scoop I use to make evenly sized meatballs. Make all the meatballs and place on parchment-lined baking tray or large plate.
  • Wipe your previously used large saute pan clean, then add 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan over medium heat. Place the first batch of meatballs in the pan, being careful not to crowd the pan (this should be about 20 meatballs). Cook the meatballs 2 to 3 minutes on one side, then rotate them, so that all sides are browned. The meatballs should cook for 10 to 12 minutes total, or until the inside is no longer pink. When the first batch is done, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate and start the next batch.
  • Discard any fat from the pan and add all of the meatballs back to the pan to warm though before serving.

Lisa's Tips

  • I always use this cookie scoop to make evenly sized meatballs.
  • If you can't find ground fennel seed, you can grind whole fennel seed yourself. Just place the whole seeds in a spice or coffee grinder, or place them in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin or hammer, until finely ground. 

Nutrition

Calories: 308kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 0.003g, Cholesterol: 98mg, Sodium: 303mg, Potassium: 342mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 197IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 30mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fennel pork meatballs, pork and fennel meatballs, pork meatballs
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29 comments on “Pork and Fennel Meatballs”

  1. this would be amazing for meal prep! is it possible to freeze them? if so, would it be better to freeze them raw or cooked?

  2. Delish!  Cooked and served with the sautéed spinach as per the recipe.  Had leftover meatballs so reheated those for lunch.  Had barbecue sauce for dipping and grilled peach as a side.  This is a keeper.5 stars

  3. I forgot to buy fennel seeds, but this was still very tasty! I added some roasted broccoli as well, which worked really well :)5 stars

  4. nice content, must read it

  5. I made this tonight. Loved the flavor of fennel in the meatballs! :)5 stars

    • Hi Tomo- Wonderful! I’m glad you loved these meatballs. The fennel definitely adds a delicious note to it.

  6. Can I cook these in the oven or broiler?

  7. The store was out of ground pork, so I subbed in pork breakfast sausage. These were easy to make & incredible!! Served over mashed potatoes or cauliflower makes a complete & delicious meal5 stars

    • Hi Cara- So glad you loved these meatballs! Sounds delicious served over mashed potatoes and cauliflower :)

  8. Easy to make and delicious meatballs. Just perfect!5 stars

  9. I made these balls last week.
    The crunchiness of fennel is a great idea.
    Very good !5 stars

  10. Delicious! Just wondering if the 95kcal is for the serving of 3-4 with spinach or per meatball? 

  11. Made these tonight. First time using fennel so I was a little skeptical about how they would turn out. They were excellent!! Definitely a keeper and great for meal prep. Thank you for the recipe!5 stars

  12. I just made these… delicious… dont lke fennel too much so i skipped that
    I just added the spinach to pork/chicken and turkey meat mixture and baked…5 stars

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  18. Mmm these look delicious! Meatballs are going on the menu for this week :)

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