Authentic teriyaki meatballs that are Paleo-approved and low carb too? Read on!
It is hard not to be a fan of the classic Japanese cooking technique of teriyaki, where meats, seafood and vegetables are broiled, sautéed or grilled in a sweet glaze.
With a unique balance of salty (from the soy sauce) and sweet (from the sugar), plus just the right amount of spicy heat from ginger and garlic, teriyaki can elevate just about any protein or vegetable to a crave-worthy and flavor-packed experience.
The Origins of Teriyaki
The teriyaki cooking technique originated in 17th century Japan. The word itself is derived from the noun teri, which refers to the shiny lacquer created by the sugar content in the tare (or meat) and yaki, which refers to the cooking method of either broiling or grilling.
In a traditional teriyaki preparation, the meat is dipped or brushed with salty-sweet sauce several times as it cooks. This allows the sugars to coat, caramelize and tenderize the meat.
The classic teriyaki glaze is comprised of soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and sugar. In Japan, most teriyaki preparations involve firm fish and seafood such as yellowtail, marlin, tuna, salmon, trout, and mackerel, shrimp and squid. Steak and meatballs (called tsukune) are also found in classic Japanese teriyaki preparations. Here in the West, chicken, pork, lamb and beef are more often used.
Teriyaki Meatballs (Without the Soy, Gluten, Grain or Sugar)
While the classic preparation is undoubtedly delicious, traditional teriyaki is far from healthy. In fact, most teriyaki recipes contain 20 grams of sugar (or more) per serving. And restaurant versions are even higher. Not to mention inflammatory and allergenic gluten, soy, grain-based ingredients and vegetable oils.
To create a healthy makeover of this Japanese classic – and one that is just as delicious – we turned to some of our favorite Paleo-friendly ingredients:
- Coconut Aminos: Most commercial soy sauce brands contain gluten (not to mention soy, which can be pro-allergenic and is usually GMO). To replace soy sauce, we recommend coconut-based aminos. This ingredient works perfectly to create the salty-umami you know and love about teriyaki. Our favorite brand, is made by Thrive Market – their coconut aminos are by far the thickest and most flavorful.
- Coconut Vinegar: We substituted the mirin (which is rice-based) for vinegar that is also made from coconuts. Organic apple cider vinegar, champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar would all work here equally as well.
- Erythritol and/or Coconut Sugar: To dramatically slash the sugar and calories we turn to erythritol – a zero-calorie, zero-glycemic sugar alcohol that is naturally occurring in many foods and which has been used in Japan for decades. You can also use coconut sugar, or a blend of the two for a nice compromise.
- Avocado Oil: Most Japanese-style foods like teriyaki and stir fries are made with omega-6 rich vegetable oils. To improve the fat balance and reduce oxidation, we recommend avocado oil.
- Almond or Cassava Flour: To bind the meatballs, we turned to almond flour instead of traditional wheat-based flour or panko. If you’re avoiding nuts, cassava flour works just as well.
And to make things as quick and easy as possible… we threw it all together in my very favorite kitchen appliance – The Instant Pot.
Now, let’s make some Paleo, low-carb teriyaki meatballs!
Teriyaki Meatballs: The Simple Step By Step
First, gather your ingredients (the itemized recipe is below). You’ll need 2 pounds pastured ground turkey, 1 cup blanched almond flour or 1/2 cup cassava flour, ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. sea salt, 1 eggs and 1 Tbsp. avocado oil. For the teriyaki sauce, you’ll need ½ cup Thrive Market Coconut Aminos, 1 Tbsp. grated ginger, 3 cloves minced garlic, 3 Tbsp. Erythritol or Coconut Sugar (or a blend), and 1/3 cup water.
In a large bowl, add the ground turkey, almond flour, sea salt, garlic powder and egg. Use your hands to gently combine.
Now, form into meatballs (I made mine about the size of golfballs) and place in the Instant Pot vessel.
Now, whisk together all of the ingredients for your teriyaki sauce…
Pour sauce over the meatballs. Close and lock the lid and make sure the valve is closed. Press the Cancel/Keep Warm Button, then press Manual. Adjust the Pressure to LOW, then set the time for 30 minutes. I like to use low pressure for meatballs as I feel it helps them hold together better. When the cooking is finished, do a quick release. Your meatballs will look like this…
Transfer the meatballs to a dish and cover to keep warm. Strain the sauce to get out any meat bits.
You will have about 2/3 cup of sauce…
Pour the strained sauce back into the Instant Pot. Then use the Sauté function to reduce and thicken the sauce. I sautéed for 10 minutes, whisking, then sprinkled in 1 tsp. arrowroot, a little at a time to make a nice, thick teriyaki glaze.
Now it’s time to plate your turkey teriyaki meatballs. While they were cooking, I whipped up a quick batch of Cauliflower Rice, sliced some green onions on the bias and pulled out some toasted sesame seeds and Ginger People Organic Pickled Ginger. You can either drizzle your teriyaki over the meatballs or toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and garnish with green onions, if desired.
Notes & Adaptations to Teriyaki Meatballs
A few important notes and potential adaptations to this recipe:
- Turkey Type: Ground turkey can vary in its “wetness” based on fat content and if additives, preservative or fillers have been used. I used US Wellness Meats Ground Turkey which is pasture-raised, higher in fat and contains no additives. Other brands may require less almond flour or cassava than I have called for in this recipe. Adjust accordingly.
- Other Meats: I think ground pork or chicken would be wonderful substitutes for the turkey in this recipe. I’ll be working on an Instant Pot Chicken Teriyaki based on this recipe soon.
- Teriyaki Sauce: You’ll get about 2/3 cup of teriyaki sauce with this recipe. You can always double the sauce ingredients, if you choose, so you’ll have more for coating and drizzling.
- Kid and Freezer Friendly: Like most wonderful recipes that come out of the Instant Pot, this dish is freezer-friendly and kid-approved!
- 2 lb. ground pastured turkey
- 1 cup almond flour or cassava flour
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. avocado oil
- ½ cup Thrive Market Coconut Aminos
- 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
- 3 Tbsp. Erythritol or Coconut Sugar
- 1 Tbsp. coconut vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tsp. Arrowroot or ½ tsp. xanthan gum (optional)
- Sesame seeds
- Green onions
- Add ground turkey, almond flour, eggs, garlic powder, sea salt to a medium bowl. Mix to combine. Form into meatballs.
- Add avocado oil to Instant Pot. Add the meatballs to the Instant Pot.
- In a bowl, whisk together the coconut aminos, ginger, fresh garlic, coconut vinegar, water and erythritol.
- Pour sauce over the meatballs.Close and lock the lid. Use the Cancel/Keep Warm Button, then hit Manual. Choose LOW Pressure and set time for 30 minutes.
- While the meatballs cook, make your cauliflower rice and get your garnishes ready (if using).
- Do a quick release when finished cooking. Remove meatballs to a dish to keep warm.
- Strain the teriyaki sauce. Return sauce to pot and use the Sauté function to bring to a simmer and thicken. If desired, add arrowroot or xanthan gum, a little at a time, whisking continuously. You will have 2/3 cup sauce.
- Divide Cauliflower Rice among dishes. Toss meatballs with sauce or place meatballs over cauliflower rice and pour sauce over individual portions. Top with green onions and sesame seeds, if desired.
Nutrition & Macronutrient Ratio
347 calories, 25 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 12 g monounsaturated fat, 6 g polyunsaturated fat, 87 mg cholesterol, 14 g carbohydrate, 8 g net carb, 7 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 22 g protein, 5 g sugar alcohols
Excellent Source of: Protein, Selenium, Zinc, VitaminB6, Niacin, Phosphorous
Good Source of: Iron, Magnesium, VitaminE, Copper, Riboflavin, ALA Omega-3, Manganese
Macrnutrient Ratio: 65% Fat | 26% Protein | 9% Carbs
An authentic-tasting low carb teriyaki meatballs recipe