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Baked Enchilada Meatballs

These Enchilada Meatballs are truly something special – guaranteed to become a new favorite dinner with the entire family!  The meatballs are laced with cilantro, green onions, chili and cumin, baked to succulent perfection then smothered with the BEST rich, bold, smoky homemade enchilada sauce, topped with melty cheese, then loaded with your favorite toppings such as sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo.  Keep the Enchilada Meatballs low-carb or serve them over Cilantro Lime Rice along with Mexican Street Corn Salad and Pina Colada Fruit Salad for the ultimate feast!  You can make the baked meatball recipe completely from scratch, or swap in store-bought meatballs or enchilada sauce for those need-it-now dinner wins. 
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 servings



  • 1 egg
  • 11 Ritz or saltine crackers, crushed (may sub scant ½ cup panko with pinch of salt)
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt, pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef

ENCHILADA SAUCE (May sub 2 cups store-bought)

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, salt, dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional for spicier)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (may sub oil)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Toppings (Pick your favs!)

  • 3/4 cup combo of shredded cheddar and Monterrey cheese (or all cheddar)
  • Cilantro
  • Jalapenos
  • Tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Lime wedges


Make the Meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil (optional for easy cleanup) and top with an oven safe baking rack. Spray the rack lightly with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Whisk all of the meatball ingredients together EXCEPT the beef in a large bowl. Add the beef and mix with your hands just to combine (don’t over-mix or your meatballs will be tough).
  • Scoop the meat mixture using a 1 tablespoon cookie dough scoop (or a heaping 1 tablespoon), then gently roll them into balls, but don't compact too much or the meatballs will be dense. Place the meatballs onto the prepared baking sheet without touching, you should have about 30.
  • Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes (they won’t be quite done at this point). Meanwhile…

Make the Enchilada Sauce

  • Whisk the flour and all seasoning together in a small bowl (chili powder through optional cayenne pepper); set aside.
  • Melt the butter in the oil in a large braiser, cast iron skillet or oven safe skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the flour mixture and cook, while whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the tomato paste until completely combined and continue to cook for 1 minute.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Continue to whisk until smooth and the lumps are dissolved. Whisk in cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking often, until it thickens to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes. Keep in mind the sauce will thicken a little when baked. Remove from heat and stir in the apple cider vinegar.

Combine and Bake

  • Transfer the seared meatballs to the enchilada sauce and turn to coat. Spread into an even layer then top with the cheese. Bake for 8-12 minutes more or until the meatballs are cooked to an internal tempreature of 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer and the cheese is melted.
  • Delicious served over plain rice, cilantro lime rice or cauliflower rice along with desired toppings.



  • Enchilada Sauce: If you don’t have all the ingredients, you’re welcome to use store-bought enchilada sauce, but at some point, please try it with the sensational homemade sauce!  It only takes 15 minutes to make, is rich and smoky spiked with a pinch of cinnamon, cocoa powder and sugar (to mimic Mexican chocolate) for true authentic flavor with a hint of warm, sweet, spicy mole complexity. 
  • Frozen meatballs: These Enchilada Meatballs are infused with cilantro, green onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, etc. which is part of what makes them Enchilada However, sometimes you just don’t have time to make meatballs from scratch – so break out those frozen meatballs!  To use, cook the meatballs according to package directions until completely warmed through. Transfer to the skillet with the enchilada sauce, add the cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.
  • Ground chicken or turkey: Ground poultry contains less fat than ground beef, so you may want to add a little oil to the meatball mixture or swap the milk for sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. I also recommend adding 2 teaspoons granulated beef bouillon, better than bouillon or 2 cubes, crushed to infuse the meatballs with bold beefy flavor. Reduce the salt in the meatballs if using bouillon.

Meal Prep

You can prepare parts of the Enchilada Meatball recipe in advance, or you can make the entire recipe as written to reheat and enjoy later. Here's the breakdown:
  • Make Meatballs: roll the meatballs up to 24 hours ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, then bake when ready.  You can also go one step further and bake the meatballs, cool, then either store in an airtight container or store in the skillet with the enchilada sauce.
  • Enchilada sauce: prepare the sauce up to 7 days in advance and store in the fridge until ready to use or freeze for up to three months, then thaw when needed.
  • Fully assembled: prepare and bake the meatballs as written, transfer to the skillet with the enchilada sauce and top with cheese, cover and refrigerate. When you're ready to enjoy, pop the skillet in the oven until warmed through.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Storage: Let the pan cool completely, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To freeze: Transfer meatballs and enchilada sauce to a freezer safe container (preferable without the cheese).  Label and store in the freezer for 2-3 months. When ready to use, let meatballs thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Transfer to an oven safe pan, top with cheese, then bake per instructions.
  • To reheat: Microwave servings at 30-second increments until warmed through, on the stove, stirring occasionally or transfer the oven-safe skillet to the oven and heat at 350ºF for about 10 minutes, or until warmed through. You can also top with additional cheese before reheating - yum!