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Wild Caught Salmon Meatballs with Simple Pesto

April 28, 2019

Turn wild caught fish into your kids’ favorite dinner with salmon meatballs and simple pesto for dipping!

Quick dinners and warm weather herbs

We are all about extra beach time during the warm months of the year. We are just at the tip of beach season in Michigan, and on those gorgeous spring days that feel like summer is knocking at our door, I swap our favorite slow roasted dinners for fresh spring and summer meals.

Salmon…meatballs?!

I’m telling you…make anything into a meatball and kids will be all over it. Needing to get more greens in? Try a meatball! Need to add some nourishing liver to your diet? Yup – those same kale stuffed meatballs have liver too! My girls truly adore wild caught salmon – as evidenced by so many salmon recipes on the blog, but if you have kids tentative about fish, I invite you to give this a try! Salmon is a summer staple because it is so quick to fix, and these meatballs are no exception.

Simple ingredients & no fuss!

I learned a couple years back that the *best* salmon burger is made by hand chopping the meat instead of pulverizing or blending it, and NOT using eggs for any binding. The salmon is first chopped into bits about the size of ground beef, and mixed with some simple seasoning. A splash of olive oil to add some fatty moisture and some tapioca for a soft texture and to hold in some of the moisture and that’s it. It will take you no longer than the time it takes the oven to pre-heat to roll up the salmon meatballs and then dinner is done in 15 minutes!

Dips for all the days!

Because if there is anything I know about kids, it’s that they *big puffy heart* love to…dip! So if they are going to dip these delicious, nourishing salmon meatballs, let’s give them something equally as mouthwatering and bump the nutrition past the same ‘ol ketchup stand-by. Something like pesto! I would totally even serve the meatballs on toothpicks for dipping in the pesto – what fun for the kids!

{And as a side-note, if those kiddos of yours will only eat the salmon meatballs with a side of ketchup, by all means roll with that – I would rather them get that brain nourishing fatty fish into their growing bodies than none at all. If you do the polite bite thing in your house, I would definitely give that a go with the pesto first (don’t even put the ketchup out as an option), but pick your battles, momma!}

But back to the dreamy pesto…

I truly can’t think of anything we use our garden herbs for more in the summertime than pesto. It makes such a great, nourishing, budget friendly lunch with a side of bread or crackers and veggie sticks. And big time bonus…my older girls can make it without mom’s help! *All the moms in the house cheer!* Basil itself is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but the kids don’t necessarily care about those details – make them a part of *planting* and tending to that garden basil, or picking the basil out at the farmer’s market this summer, and ownership will take over as the star of the show. Basil is one of the first seeds my oldest has asked for to plant the last couple of spring seasons, and it is solely for the purpose of her beloved pesto! Using pesto as a side dish dip or scoop-able dressing is also a great way to get olive oil into the kids’ diets. A proven brain booster, this power-packed mono-unsaturated fat is super tasty and mild – perfect for kids.

Time saving tips

  • The pesto can be make super quick while the salmon meatballs are baking in the oven.
  • The oven temp is perfect for cooking other veggie sides along with the salmon meatballs, so make your oven do double time. The timing of the meatballs cooking is the perfect timing for spring asparagus, or summer zucchini or broccoli.
  • Or, skip the oven baked veggies, and just make some quick side salads such as Paleo Coleslaw, Olive Garden Copycat Salads, or kid favorite Ranch dressing drenched salads (use this Paleo version, or this classic version using dairy!)
  • The salmon meatball mixture can be made up the night before and sit in the fridge until everyone is home from work and school – that way all you have to do is roll them up and bake them off.
  • The salmon meatball mixture freezes well! Roll up the salmon meatballs and freeze them on a sheet tray. Then pop the uncooked frozen salmon meatballs into a freezer bag.
Print Recipe
5 from 11 votes

Wild Caught Salmon Meatballs with Simple Pesto

Ingredients

FOR THE SALMON MEATBALLS ::

  • 3-4 wild caught salmon fillets skinned (about 1 – 1 ¼ lbs of salmon)
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley if you have fresh parsley, use 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried dill if you have fresh dill, use 2 tsp chopped leaves of the fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper

FOR THE PESTO ::

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • Heaping 1/3 cup walnuts If you have access to pine nuts use 1/3 cup of that. Pine nuts would be the more traditional way of making pesto – I don’t have access to quality pine nuts, so I usually use organic walnuts
  • ½ cup raw cheese or goat cheese shredded
  • ¼ tsp sea salt start here and you can always add more to taste depending on the saltiness of the cheese you are using.
  • Pinch of pepper to taste
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic (If you are a garlic fanatic do the 3 – you won’t regret it! It does add a slight spicy bite since raw garlic has some heat to it – it is my favorite way to eat pesto. If you have kids eating the pesto, use 1 clove of garlic. Two of my girls love the garlic packed version, while my youngest still feels like it is a bit spicy for her and will gobble it down with just 1 clove. If you are new to pesto, start out with 1 clove – you can always add more if you want more garlic flavor.)
  • ½ cup olive oil

Instructions

FOR THE SALMON MEATBALLS ::

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper
  • Skin and cube up your salmon. Then run a chopping knife through the cubed salmon until the bits are small but not to a puree. The texture should resemble that of ground beef.
  • Combine the chopped salmon and the rest of the salmon meatball ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Roll the meatball mixture into balls and place them onto the Silpat lined baking sheet.
  • Bake the salmon meatballs at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs. 

FOR THE PESTO ::

  • Put the basil leaves and walnuts into your food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Add the cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic, and pulse several times to chop through until everything is very small and combined well.
  • With the food processor running, use the oil drip top on your food processor to slowly add in the olive oil. This will allow the oil to emulsify, thickening the pesto, and keeping everything sticking together so the oil doesn’t separate. If you prefer the oil to be more separate from the herbs (I like it this way too!) you can just do a quick blend through or even just stir in the oil.

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12 Comments

  • Reply Raia Todd April 29, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    5 stars
    What a fun way to eat salmon! I never would have thought to add it to meatballs. 🙂

  • Reply Jean April 29, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    5 stars
    I never thought to make meatballs with salmon but they sound delicious! Especially with that pesto, yum.

  • Reply Megan Stevens April 30, 2019 at 11:14 am

    5 stars
    This is so so lovely! I love the idea of salmon meatballs, and the simple pesto is beautiful and perfect. LOVE!

  • Reply Tessa Simpson April 30, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    5 stars
    I am working on loving salmon still…but this like a perfect way to enjoy it..especially slathered in the luscious pesto!

  • Reply Joni May 1, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    5 stars
    The color of these salmon meatballs is beyond beautiful! Love the pairing with the pesto, great recipe!

  • Reply paleoglutenfreeguy May 1, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    5 stars
    SUCH a unique idea for meatballs so of course I have to try it. Plus with pesto! You can’t beat that!

  • Reply Meredith May 3, 2019 at 9:22 pm

    5 stars
    I have never made salmon meatballs, but I am going to soon! We love salmon but I am always looking for inventive ways to fit another salmon meal into our week. Thank you!

  • Reply STACEY CRAWFORD May 5, 2019 at 11:28 am

    5 stars
    This is so creative! I would have never thought of making meatballs with salmon. I think my hubby would love this!

  • Reply Hope May 5, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    5 stars
    I would never of thought of using salmon in meatballs – love this idea! Such a great combination with a lovely fresh pesto!

  • Reply chihyu May 5, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    5 stars
    Love how simple it is to make healthy meal so scrumptious!

  • Reply Sara May 6, 2019 at 11:24 am

    I love salmon and pesto together, these look wonderful!!

  • Reply Kiran Dodeja Smith May 12, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    5 stars
    What a unique and creative idea! And the pesto on top is like the icing on the cake. Beautiful!

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