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Make Ahead Tikka Masala Meatball Recipe {Secret Recipe Club}

by Jeanette on October 17, 2011 · 59 Comments
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Tikka Masala Meatballs served with Curried Millet and Sauteed Rainbow Swiss Chard

I’m always looking for make ahead recipes for dinner that can be kept warm in a slow cooker (or crock pot) during the weekdays. Meatballs in sauce, one of my kids’ favorites, are perfect for making ahead the day before or earlier in the day. Before I walk out the door, I simply put the cooked meatballs and sauce in a slow cooker to warm up, perfect for days when I’m driving the kids around and want to serve dinner as soon as I walk in the door. Although traditional Italian meatballs use breadcrumbs in the meat mixture, Chinese meatballs simply use a little cornstarch, a nice gluten-free alternative. To keep my meatballs gluten-free for my little guy, I’ve also used gluten-free bread crumbs (gluten-free bread ends that I grind up in the food processor or store-bought gluten-free bread crumbs). I have also seen some meatloaf recipes that use oatmeal to help bind the meat.

So, when I came across a Tikka Masala Meatball recipe that uses oatmeal as the binder on Emily’s Nomivorous blog, I knew I had to try them. Not only are these meatballs served in an Indian spiced tomato sauce (the twins love Indian food), but they are made with oatmeal, making them easily gluten-free as long as you use gluten-free oats.  These meatballs are also broiled, so they are a lot healthier than pan-fried meatballs. I served these Tikka Masala Meatballs with Curried Millet and Sauteed Rainbow Swiss Chard. These meatballs were devoured, not a single one was left.

Today is “reveal day” for Group B of the Secret Recipe Club, created by Amanda of Amanda’s Cookin. So far, everything I’ve tried for the Secret Recipe Club has come out really well, and I’ve had the opportunity to delve deeper into some blogs more intimately and get to know the person behind the blog. This club has grown so rapidly that Amanda has created four different groups that have a different reveal day during each month. I am part of Group B, hosted by Tina of Moms Crazy Cooking. The idea behind the Secret Recipe Club is to give bloggers the chance to try each other’s recipes without the other bloggers knowing it until everyone posts their results.

This month I was assigned to Emily of Nomnivorous, a food-obsessed apparel designer, who bakes and cooks, and eats out at dives and fancy schmancy places.  She loves to travel, and a girl after my own heart, plans her trips around where she’s going to eat. I was curious how she came up with the name Nomnivorous for her blog…Emily describes herself as an omnivore who’s pretty hardcore about trying all kinds of food given the chance. Nom has become a word she’s attached to Code for “Oh this is good, can’t stop eating it!”

Although I decided to make Emily’s Tikka Masala Meatballs for this month’s SRC, her Special Zucchini Bread, Season Straddling Farro Salad and Incredibly Flexible Winter Squash Curry Soup also sound amazing. This year, Emily was the winner of the annual Chili Fiesta at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a small competition mixing up the heat with the sweet. Her winning combination…a spicy s’more bar. In fact, you can now order some of Emily’s homemade marshmallows, flavored with chai tea, Meyer lemon, spicy pepper, and cardamon as well as her contest winning spicy s’more bar at her Goodsie Store.

5 from 1 reviews
Tikka Masala Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Adapted from Nomnivorous. This dish can be made ahead of time and kept warm or reheated in a crockpot. I made were easily adapted to be gluten-free and dairy-free simply by using gluten-free oats and almond milk. I left out the coconut milk powder and I thought these meatballs were still delicious.
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
  • ¾ cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger root
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste or ketchup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Masala Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 inches ginger root
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk powder
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
For the Meatballs:
  1. Preheat the broiler on high.
  2. Place the oats in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Empty into a small bowl.
  3. Put the onions, garlic cloves, ginger and cilantro in the food processor and pulse until finely minced.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs.
  5. Using a spoon or your hands, make small to medium size meatballs.
  6. Broil meatballs for about 10 minutes, until cooked through.
For the Masala Sauce:
  1. Place the onions, garlic, ginger and pepper in the food processor. Pulse until you have a large mince.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet until hot. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When the seeds stop popping, around 15 seconds, turn the heat to medium-low and add the food processor ingredients. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is golden.
  3. Add the cumin, coriander, and red pepper and cook for a minute or two, toasting the spices.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, reducing the mixture. Once it reaches a paste-like consistency, add the salt, sugar, coconut milk power and milk. Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on low.
  5. Add the meatballs and the cilantro to the sauce and let simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
  6. Serve with brown rice.

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  1. These look so good and healthy! Love that they can be made ahead!

    • These are healthier than the typical meatball – baked and made with oats…and love that they are a make-ahead meal.

  2. Nothing I appreciate more than make ahead! :) and I’m a fan of Tikka Masala; so flavourful and delicious. Your accompaniments are wonderful Jeanette. A fabulous harvest meal.

    • I’m all for making dinner ahead these days! The spices in these meatballs were so good, I love Indian food!

  3. This is wonderful Jeanette – great choice for SRC!!!

  4. Those look great! I love tikka masala and keep meaning to try making my own, but haven’t quite made it past the ingredient list for some reason. This recipe might push me over the edge. :) Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love the flavors in these! I’ll have to look around for the coconut milk powder.

    • Thanks Amanda – you really don’t need the coconut mllk powder – I actually left it out and the meatballs were still fantastic. Coconut milk powder is hard to find – I have seen it in the local Asian grocery store.

    • If you use coconut milk, the powder isn’t necessary! It’s just a nice fix if you don’t go through a can of coconut milk fast enough.

      • Thanks Emily – that’s good to know. I actually left out the coconut milk powder and these meatballs were just as delicious!

  6. Jeanette, these sure look good!

    • Thanks Trisha – these meatballs are very hearty because of the oats, and the masala sauce is nice and rich, a very comforting dish.

  7. Your entire plate looks delicious! I love the idea of this recipe. Bookmarking it for sure.

  8. This LOOKS so GOOD! It made me hungry the second I saw it!!!

  9. Thank you so much for all your kind words, Jeanette! These meatballs are absolutely one of my most favorite meals, so yummy.

  10. You know, this may be heretical given my italian background but I never really liked my mother’s meatballs. I’m absolutely certain it’s because they didn’t have Indian spices thrown in. These sound delicious!

    • Ha ha Joanne – you always make me laugh! These are a nice switchup from Italian meatballs – my boys like both.

  11. Healthy! I love this recipe, I must try it out soon!

  12. These look fantastic… I think I will have to try them. Probably EnerG Egg Replacer to substitute the egg.

  13. I’ve had meatballs on the mind for the past few days…I wasn’t thinking of anything like this, but now I sure am — they look awesome! Theresa

  14. Love this spin on meatballs!

  15. They look delicious and I love that you can make them ahead of time, great recipe!

  16. So excited to have found your site and this wonderful recipe – love the idea of using oats in meatballs (and particularly if gluten free!) and adore curries; my kids and hubby are going to adore this – not to mention the aroma around the house to welcome them all home!

  17. Delicious! I really appreciate that it can be made a head of time. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Jill and Diane – these days, I try to make as many meals ahead of time as possible, makes dinnertime so much easier.

  18. What a great recipe!! A must make!!

  19. This is an awesome meatball recipe, I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing and it is fun cooking with you in the SRC!
    Miz Helen
    Southwest Chicken and Potato Soup

  20. Your recipe sounds great! I love the addition of the oat. I’m sure it must add a nice tender texture.

  21. Oh, these truly look tasty! That’s my kind of meatball.

  22. These look really delicious! Love the idea of using tikka masala sauce with meatballs instead of chicken breast…sounds fantastic! :)

  23. Gotta love any dish that can be ready to serve within a minute you walk into the house!
    Great pick. I will keep this in mind since I wanna learn more Indian dishes.

    • I couldn’t agree more with you Ilke, makes it so much easier when you can serve dinner as soon as you walk in the door.

  24. i really like your food pictures and want to invite you to try out tastingspot.com. it’s for anyone that just wants another place to submit photos and share it will other foodies. It’s still in beta version, but would love for you to start adding some photos and help get it going.

  25. These look really good Jeanette! One question – how can you tell if oats are gluten-free?

    • Thanks Donalyn. Oats by nature are gluten-free, but are often processed in the same factory as other products that contain gluten, so there can be cross-contamination. This can be especially problematic for people with Celiac Disease or others who are sensitive to gluten. Gluten-Free Oats are processed in gluten-free facilities, and are marked Gluten-Free on the package. I like Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Rolled Oats.

  26. I love finding new meatball recipes so thank you!

    I am in Group C so be sure to check out my blog when it’s our turn!

  27. Oh boy! Do those ever sound delicious. I love meatballs in sauce and this one sounds different and exotic.

  28. I am hoarding crock pot recipes for the fall and winter. This looks great.

  29. That is a gorgeous plate and the recipe sounds amazing.

    If you haven’t already, I’d love for you to check out my group “A” SRC recipe this month: Levain Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies.

    Cook Lisa Cook

  30. Yum! Looks great! Fun to participate in SRC with you!

  31. Such an inventive meatball recipe…count me in for a double portion :)

  32. My little guy loves meatballs too and cooking in the crock pot is so easy! :-)

    Thanks for being a part of the SRC, Group B, I love being your host (new assignments coming soon)! My recipe was for Frozen Breakfast Burritos. Check it out if you haven’t had the chance already, I know I am a few days behind (sorry!)


    • I don’t think I’ve met a kid that doesn’t like meatballs, and for moms, the crock pot is so helpful on busy school days. Tina – thanks for being such a wonderful host for our SRC group.

  33. What a great twist on a classic. I think anyone can appreciate coming home to a meal that’s ready to go, and I have to say, it doesn’t look at all like a meal that has been sitting on “warm” all afternoon. Great gluten free options as well!

  34. These meatballs look divine….as does the whole meal. I love your detailed write up of your Secret Blogger. That was very nice of you and I can tell you took some time perusing her blog. So….I will go check her out too….after I peruse yours.

    • Thanks Susan. That’s what I like about the Secret Recipe Club – I enjoy spending time reading through the Secret Blog, and learning about them as well as looking through their recipe index.

  35. Wow that’s a long ingredient and direction list, but I felt very much worth it! I just recently discovered my love of chicken tikka masala… never seen the meatball version though. I bet these taste heavenly! Great SRC pick I must say :)

  36. This look so good!! I definitely am going to try and I am definitely will be following your blog.. If you would check out mine to that would be so great. And follow me also, I am kind of new to this but excited to share great recipes..


  37. The flavorings in the Masala Sauce sound delicious!!! I also like the idea of using oats as the binder! Thanks for sharing. I always like finding a new meatball recipe!

    OH…and your picture is gorgeous! Great photography!

  38. Rachel Page says:

    I made them. AMAZING….I can now stop looking for a meatball recipe

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