Mexican Meatballs with Fire-Roasted Tomato & Coconut Sauce

I’m super excited to share this recently-created Mexican Meatballs recipe and use it as an example of how easy it can be to create your own recipes.

  • By Jess Dang
  • February 8, 2013

Even if you’re not an experienced cook, you probably are an experienced eater and that’s the only qualification you need to develop recipes.

Just start paying attention to what you like, why you like it, and how different flavors and ingredients combine. Note them in your head, an app, a notebook, and then just go for it(!) in your kitchen.

When Cook Taste Eat announced this challenge to use Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value coconut milk in a Latin-inspired appetizer or dessert recipe, I knew I’d create a Mexican meatball recipe. I love getting creative with meatballs and using them as a blank slate of ground meat for layering flavors and textures onto. Plus they’re a convenient make-ahead appetizer, allowing you to be an awesome host / hostess when your guests arrive.

However, a meatball without tomato sauce is like Simon without Garfunkel.

It’s good but you miss the harmonies, so I knew that I also wanted to create a tomato sauce to accompany these meatballs.

Here’s the exercise I did in my head when trying to create this recipe: I asked myself, “What Latin flavors and ingredients would go well in a meatball?”

Dissecting all the burritos, tacos, and chilaquiles I’ve consumed, I came up with diced jalapenos for heat and texture; cumin, smoked paprika, and coriander spices to add flavor; and of course garlic and chopped cilantro.

For the sauce, coconut milk combined with fire-roasted tomatoes and cumin created the perfect balance of earthy, sweet, and rich.

The result? The best meatballs you’ll have this side of the border.

In exchange for writing this blog and tweeting a link to this blog, I received an entry into the Food Blogger to Media Star Promotion. For the Official Rules, visit this page.

Prepping & Cooking Smarts

  • Prep aromatics and herbs ahead of time, so that these meatballs can come together quickly. Watch the videos below for prep techniques.
  • Meatballs are super easy to make. Watch how it’s done with the video below.
  • You can also cook the meatballs the day before, and then reheat in the oven at 250 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, before guests arrive, and then garnish.
  • If you have leftover tomato sauce, use with other proteins. Try using it to simmer fish and serve over rice for a delicious, new meal!

How to Dice Jalapenos

Jalapeños have great flavor and can add heat to anything. See how to easily dice them here.


How to Chop & Dice an Onion

Learning how to dice an onion correctly will save you so much time in the kitchen.


How to Chop Cilantro or Parsley

Learn how to chop parsley using the 'pivot-and-fan' chopping technique with this short video.


How to Mince or Crush Garlic

Garlic adds great flavor and aroma to any dish. Learn how to impart the flavors of garlic to any dish with this short video.


How to Roll Meatballs

Learn how to easily roll meatballs without hassle.

Equipment Smarts

For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools

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Mexican Meatballs with Fire-Roasted Tomato Sauce

This recipe makes a great appetizer for a dinner party, doubled (or tripled) for a larger party, or serve as an entree over Mexican rice.

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 30 min

Total time: 50 min

Serves: 6


  • Jalapeno, diced – 2
  • Red onion, diced – ½
  • Cilantro, chopped – Handful of sprigs (save some for garnish)
  • Garlic, minced – 5 cloves
  • Ground pork – 1 lb (sub with ground chicken or turkey)
  • Panko / breadcrumbs – ⅓ cup
  • Cumin – 2 tsp + 2 tsp
  • Coriander – 2 tsp
  • Smoked paprika – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp + 1 tsp
  • Canola oil – 1 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp
  • Diced / crushed fire roasted tomatoes, drained – 1 (28 oz) can
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Cinnamon – 1 tsp
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled – 2 oz (sub with feta)



  1. Jalapeno / Red onion / Cilantro / Garlic – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
  2. Make meatballs – Mix together jalapeno, red onion, cilantro (remember to save some for garnish), 1/3rd of the minced garlic, ground pork, panko, first part of cumin, coriander, paprika, and first part of salt in a large bowl. Form into balls measuring 1.5” in diameter. Cover if not making right away.


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Make tomato sauce – Heat up a >3 quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp canola oil and then the rest of the minced garlic to heated oil. Once you can smell the garlic, add the fire-roasted tomatoes, coconut milk, cinnamon, and the second part of cumin and salt. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and then remove from heat and let cool.
  3. Cook meatballs – While sauce is simmering, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp canola oil and then as many meatballs as can comfortably fit into the pan. Sear for ~2 minutes on opposite sides. Move seared meatballs into an oven-safe baking dish. Repeat if not all the meatballs could be seared in 1 batch.
  4. Season tomato sauce to taste with more salt, cumin, or cinnamon. Puree with an immersion blender.
  5. Pour tomato sauce over the meatballs. If you have some leftover, save it for another time. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until meatballs reach 160 degrees F.
  6. Garnish with cotija cheese and more cilantro. Serve with fancy toothpicks!

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