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How to make Haitian Meatballs

haitian meatballs

Homemade Haitian Meatballs are traditional, simple, and delicious. The meatballs are made with ground beef and spices.

Haitian cuisine is a vibrant blend of African, French, and Arawak influences, bursting with flavor and tradition. One of its most beloved dishes is Boulet, also known as Haitian meatballs. These savory bites are juicy and tender on the inside, with a crispy golden brown exterior.

Making boulet is a breeze, and this guide will walk you through the steps to create this Haitian staple in your own kitchen.

No other ground meat is part of the recipe. The meatballs are usually made with a light tomato and onion sauce, almost like a Sauce ti-Malice. This dish is sometimes paired with Rice with Red Beans or White Rice and Bean Gravy/Sauce.

When making Haitian Meatballs ou Boulet, buying a very lean ground beef is not suggested as with any other meatballs recipe. When meatballs are made with very lean ground beef, the meat is dry and crumbly. The higher the lean meat percentage to fat, the leaner the meat. Ground beef is made from the ground chuck or ground round. The packaging should be tightly sealed when buying ground beef, and the meat should be bright red.

Haitian Meatballs
Haitian Meatballs

Here’s the deal on choosing the right ground beef for your Haitian Meatballs or Boulet:

All About Fat Ratio:

For juicy and flavorful boulet, you want ground beef with a good amount of fat. The fat adds moisture and keeps the meatballs from drying out during cooking. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 80/20 Ground Beef: This is the ideal choice for boulet. It has 80% lean meat and 20% fat, which provides the perfect balance for tender and flavorful meatballs.
  • 85/15 Ground Beef: This leaner option can work, but you might need to add a little extra moisture to your mixture. You could try soaking your breadcrumbs in milk before adding them to the meat, or incorporating a bit of grated parmesan cheese.

Blending it Up (Optional):

  • Ground Beef and Pork Blend: Traditionally, Haitian cuisine doesn’t use a blend, but it’s a popular option for meatballs in general. Ground pork adds richness and moisture, so consider a 50/50 mix of ground beef and pork if you want to experiment.

Skip the Super Lean:

  • 90/10 Ground Beef (or leaner): This is too lean for boulet. The lack of fat will result in dry, crumbly meatballs.

The Final Choice:

Ultimately, the best ground beef for your boulet depends on your preference. If you prioritize juicy and flavorful meatballs, stick with the classic 80/20 ground beef. If you’re watching fat intake, you can try the 85/15 option with some moisture-adding tweaks in your recipe.

How to make the Meatballs

The meatballs are made with onions, garlic, green pepper, egg, vinegar, bread, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper. Because the bread is soaked in milk, it contains more moisture. The egg is added so all the ingredients can bind together and not fall apart. The ground beef is then shaped into round balls and fried to make meatballs.

I prefer making the meatballs not too big and small because I always worry about the center not cooking thoroughly. When that happens, the best thing to do is place the meatballs in an oven heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 – 15 minutes. Let’s not forget that a good skillet is needed. You may want to use a nonstick skillet to make it easier to fry the meatballs.

African Meatballs recipe

If you are looking for a meatball recipe without the heavy tomato sauce or gravy, make the Haitian Meatballs for your next meal.

Tips and Notes for the meatballs

  • Mix the ground with the spices thoroughly.
  • Use a cookie scoop or regular spoon to ensure all meatballs are the same size
  • Use your hands to combine the ground beef mixture if you don’t mind touching the meat with your hands.
  • Ensure any add ins (like onions, scallions or shallots) are chopped small
  • Make sure you soak the bread in milk. You can also add a little bit of milk to help keep the meatballs small and tender.
  • Carefully brown meatballs and do not crowd the pan. This will help them hold their shape.
  • You can skip marinating the meat for 4 hours if you are pressed for time. But at least give it 30 minutes.
  • Don’t overmix the meatball mixture, as this can lead to tough meatballs.
  • You can adjust the spice level of the sauce by adding more or less scotch bonnet pepper.
  • If you don’t have scotch bonnet peppers, you can substitute them with habanero peppers or another hot pepper of your choice, like NouBess Hot and Spicy Sauce, for a deep flavor.
  • Leftover Haitian meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Season the ground meat very well.
meatballs
Meatballs

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the delicious taste of Haitian meatballs. So grab your ingredients, fire up the stove, and get ready to savor a taste of Haiti!

Enjoy!

haitian meatballs

Haitian Meatballs

Haitian Meatballs is very homemade, simple and delicious. Haitian Meatballs is made with ground beef and spices. No other ground meat is part of the recipe.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 50 minutes
Course Main Course, Main Dishes
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 4
Calories 524 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic minced
  • 4 slices white bread
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup green pepper diced very small
  • 1 tbsp parsley chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves only and crushed
  • 1 tsp vinegar white vinegar or prefereably rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper optional

For the Sauce

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup onion sliced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bouquet garni parsley, thyme and bay leaf
  • Noubess Hot and Spicy Sauce optional

Instructions
 

  • In a bowl, soak shredded bread in milk. In a large bowl add all ingredients with the exception of the egg and the oil. Mix ground beef with spices and bread to fully combine. Store in refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Add beaten egg to meat mixture and mix well. Form meatballs (the size of golf balls) about 24. Roll each meatball into flour. Shake off any excess flour. Heat a skillet or frying pan and add oil. Fry meatballs on all sides until golden brown. Do not overcrowd pan while frying.
  • To make the sauce for the meatballs, in a separate skillet, add olive oil and 1 tbsp of tomato paste. Stir until oil and tomato paste are blended. Add onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water, salt and pepper to taste and bouquet garni. Let boil for 5 minutes then add meatballs and let simmer for 7 to 10 minutes. Additional salt and pepper to taste. If using hot sauce or hot pepper add last or mix with meatballs mixture prior to frying. When the sauce has been incorporated with the meatballs remove from heat and serve hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 524kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 28gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 1463mgPotassium: 672mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 720IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 231mgIron: 8mg

Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.

Keyword beef recipe, Caribbean Cooking, Caribbean Recipes, ground beef
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Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.

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Corn Allergy:

Always choose ingredients without corn or corn derivatives.

 Originally published, April 24, 2014. Updated and republished.

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