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Why We Put Hummus in These Meatballs

Hummus and quinoa work together to create the perfect meatball with only three other ingredients.

Published Apr. 11, 2022.

Meatballs are a wonderful thing. They’re easy to make, they’re filling, and they can be put on almost anything: subs, pastas, grain bowls—the possibilities are endless. But a lot of times, they can require a laundry list of ingredients. 

A meatball needs lots of seasonings to keep it from being bland. It also needs a binder such as bread crumbs, which requires either pulling out the food processor to make your own or adding store-bought bread crumbs to your grocery list. And above all, it needs moisture (usually an egg). 

But what if I told you there were two ingredients that could solve all these problems? 

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In her recipe for Lemony Chicken Meatballs with Quinoa and Carrots, developed for our Five-Ingredient Dinners cookbook, test cook Camila Chaparro used quinoa and garlic hummus to solve these common meatball woes. Mixed together with ground chicken, lemon zest, and some salt and pepper—seriously, that’s it—this recipe is just one of many that live up to the book’s promise of making home cooks’ lives easier and their grocery lists shorter. 

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So what makes hummus the star of these meatballs? It adds moisture without adding an egg and also seasons the meatballs without adding any extra seasonings. This recipe also utilizes the hummus and lemon juice to create a creamy sauce to drizzle on top.

Quinoa, the other double-duty ingredient in these meatballs, keeps the meatballs tender. It is also used as the binder, no bread crumbs needed. And cook more than you need for the meatballs—at the end, serve the meatballs over the remaining quinoa for the ultimate grain bowl. 

This hearty recipe has so many different flavors—from savory to acidic to earthy—with only five ingredients. It is the perfect example of making ingredients work hard without you having to do the same.

Lemony Chicken Meatballs with Quinoa and Carrots

Serves 4

Total Time: 1¼ hours

  • 1½ cups prewashed white quinoa
  • ¾ cup garlic hummus, divided
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2½ tablespoons juice
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 pound carrots with their greens, carrots peeled and sliced thin on bias, ⅓ cup greens chopped

Staple Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Table salt
  • Pepper

1. Cook quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until very fragrant and making continuous popping sounds, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in 1¾ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover; and simmer until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed, 18 to 22 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove saucepan from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Gently fluff with fork and set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk ½ cup hummus, lemon juice, and 4 teaspoons olive oil together in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside hummus sauce until ready to serve.

2. Combine chicken, 1 cup cooled quinoa, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and remaining ¼ cup hummus in large bowl. Using your wet hands, gently knead until combined. Pinch off and roll mixture into 20 tightly packed 1½-inch-wide meatballs.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add meatballs and cook until well browned and cooked through, 9 to 11 minutes, turning gently as needed. Transfer meatballs to plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.

4. Add carrots, 3 tablespoons water, and ¼ teaspoon salt to now-empty skillet. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Uncover and cook until carrots are tender and spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in remaining 3 cups cooled quinoa; reduce heat to medium; and cook until quinoa is warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle quinoa with carrot greens, drizzle with olive oil to taste, and serve with meatballs and hummus sauce.

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