Joyfully Sweet and Savory Pecan “Meatballs”


Chef Thomas Keller, an American Chef who is known at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, says that when making a recipe, follow the instructions to a “t” the first time. The second time, write down the recipe in your own terms, adjusting to your taste, cutting out or adding steps according to what makes sense to you. The third time, Keller says to make the recipe without any recipe at all, just by memory and tastes and hands. And at that point, Keller says, “The recipe is yours”. That is what I have done with a recipe I received from someone at church. Over the summer, our church had these “dinner for 8” groups, where 8 potential strangers in the congregation would get together for dinner three times over the course of the summer. One of those meals, a lovely lady brought what she calls “Pecan Nutballs”. They were phenomenal! Meatball sized nutballs, cooked in an apricot BBQ sauce. They were smoky and a little sweet. So tasty! And they had the exact texture of a meatball. I immediately asked for the recipe. I am not totally sure if this is “her” recipe, though it was typed out for me, and had corrections in her handwriting. I could not wait to make these for my family and make them a weekly staple in the Friedly home. Looking over the recipe, though vegetarian, they weren’t vegan. As Tom Hanks says in “You’ve Got Mail” (which is arguably the best movie of all time), this recipe needed some “tweaking”. 

After making it to a “t” the first time, and tasting how they were meant to taste, I started “tweaking” the ingredients and proportions. By the third time of making these tasty bites, this recipe had become mine. 🤗

Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients, these pecan balls are actually quite simple to make! First, combine all of your ball ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a “dough” has formed.

NOTE: The original recipe called for cheddar cheese and egg in the recipe. I used brown rice (instead of cheese) and flax egg for the eggs. If you would rather use egg and cheese, use the same measurements I did for their substitutions! 

Roll dough, a little larger than a tablespoon (I just guesstimated), into balls and place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 

Now, make your BBQ sauce. Add all of your sauce ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let the sauce simmer until it thickens . This step is important because it won’t thicken in the oven and you’ll end up with a thin sauce that doesn’t stick to your pecan balls.

NOTE: the original recipe called for 1/4 cup of oil in the sauce. I don’t mind using oil so much when I cook, but I kinda draw the line when the measurements add up to “cup” measures. You can use water if you like (if so, use 1/8 cup) or just add 2 TBS of oil, which is what I did. 

Once your sauce has thickened, pour over your pecan balls.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 

Top with Sriracha sauce (this step is not optional!) Serve over brown rice or egg noodles or eat them by themselves! Either way, you won’t be able to eat just one 😜. My hubby snacked on these while cleaning up after dinner! He just kept popping these in his mouth. 

Pecan “Meatballs”

Makes approximately 24 balls

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup whole pecans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh chopped sage
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice 
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 TBS fresh chopped parsley
  • 3 flax eggs

Apricot BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 TBS oil of choice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 TBS brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 2TBS grated onion
  • 1/2 oregano 

Sriracha for topping

Make it! 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all pecan ball ingredients in a food processor and pulse til a dough forms.
  3. Roll TBS size (or slightly larger) portions into balls. Place in a 9×13 Pyrex pan. 
  4. Combine sauce ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce thickens. 
  5. Pour sauce over pecan balls, cover and cook for 30 minutes. 
  6. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Or enjoy them by themselves! 

Until next time…

Bon Appetit! 

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