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I am gluten-free and want to make some turkey meatballs. I was thinking about putting almond meal in the mixture. Would that be okay instead of breadcrumbs? If not what would be a good substitute? I don't really want to buy breadcrumbs or bread for one thing of meatballs. This is not something I make very often.

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Breadcrumbs in meatballs (and meatloaf) will help to keep them moist by absorbing fat and juices that are given off as they cook. I don't think that almond meal would have quite the same effect.

I tend to add some extra moisture through additional vegetables (finely minced in a food processor, then cooked to soften them up and evaporate any liquid that they extract. (you'll still have plenty of retained moisture in there). I typically stick with the italian standards -- carrots, onion & bell pepper, but you could mix it up depending on what flavors you're trying for.

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    Actually, ground nuts can absorb some liquid - I grew up with sprinkling a nut-sugar-cinnamon mix over open-faced apple and plum pies. So while not as "absorbant" as bread crumbs, they will work to a certain degree. – Stephie Dec 18 '15 at 19:55
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Go right ahead and use the almond meal.

In its list of uses for almond meal, this source says:

Use almond meal in place of breadcrumbs in meatballs.

In fact one of the recipes on the site is for Meatballs Parmesan. It calls for ground meat without specifying a type, so I assume your turkey would be fine.

In addition, the description of this almond meal product states the following:

Use almond meal in place of bread crumbs in meatballs, or as a coating for chicken and fish.

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Whilst bread crumbs are good, so is almond meal. I'm 50 been cooking since 8, and for 42 years I've used ground almonds in meatballs and only sometimes bread crumbs. Both do the same job but almond IMHO is the better one to use.

  • Hard to beat experience! Can you give some more info about why you prefer the almond meal (texture, flavor, whatever)? – Erica Aug 6 '16 at 12:34
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There is no need whatsoever for breadcrumbs in meatballs, they are there only as a filler (to make more servings)

They are mistakenly labelled as binders (to make everything stick together), but they do not have that property

Most meats when finely ground are themselves good binders

Using eggs or milk is usually sufficient to hold a mixture of ground meat and herbs together

Adding ground nuts will add interesting tastes and textures, but they are just another filler that your binder will have to hold together

  • As Joe has pointed out, breadcrumbs definitely have a real purpose in meatballs: keeping them moist. True, that's not binding, but it's still a reason to use them. – Cascabel Jul 7 '15 at 6:06
  • @Jefromi Fat soaked breadcrumbs does not equal moist. Cooking ground beef a little longer and slower to reduce out the fat, not to keep it in, is quite normal – TFD Jul 7 '15 at 6:10
  • Cooked meat releases water, not just fat. And, well, this works, not sure what else to tell you. It also makes them a bit more tender; solid ground meat can cook up into a pretty firm ball. – Cascabel Jul 7 '15 at 6:12
  • Hot fat will displace water from bread. Yes breadcrumbs can make the texture softer (flour and fat tend to make anything softer), but it can make them over crisp too. Are breadcrumbs a requirement, or just what you are used too? Kefta are the grandfather of meatballs, they always had herbs and vegetables as softeners. Breadcrumbs where probably added to Kefta as the recipe moves into poorer neighbours (Greece, Turkey) many centuries ago. In some traditional recipes you still see flat breads being torn or shredded and added to meatballs – TFD Jul 7 '15 at 7:25
  • I didn't say they were required or the only good way, just that they have a clear, useful purpose beyond just a filler as you claim. Yes, it's true, there are other ways you can make them tender and moist. If you want to write a good answer about gluten-free substitutes for breadcrumbs, perhaps you should mention things like that, rather than saying they're just a filler. – Cascabel Jul 7 '15 at 14:40

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