Hamballs are not Paleo

I tried.
I really did.
But Hamballs are just not paleo.

Hamball night is approaching and Hubby is so strict in his paleo diet that I decided I needed to start testing. I tried making them with almond flour. I tried leaving out the breadcrumbs. I even tried using gluten-free breadcrumbs to make them “kind of paleo.” Finally, in a last effort to make them “less gluten-filled”, I tried using half the amount of Saltines. None of it worked. None of them had the midwest magic of Grandma Grace’s Hamballs. There just doesn’t seem to be a way around the Saltines.

Now I am all for paleo and while I am not as strict as Hubby, I rarely stray too far from whole foods. But what I have learned over the past year of doing paleo experiments is that the best dishes are made by taking an the idea of something I love and creating something new and delicious instead of trying to replicate a non-paleo dish with paleo ingredients. As in the case of Hamballs, replicating is just not quite the same.  And you can’t go back once you’ve had Grandma Grace’s Hamballs so nothing short of the real thing is acceptable.

So here is what I’ve decided.
Each Hamball has about one Saltine cracker in it. My body can handle one Saltine with no adverse effects. I will make the Hamballs as they should be and those of us avoiding gluten can enjoy one spectacular Hamball and fill up the rest of our plates with salads and vegetables. I would rather have one delicious Hamball than a plateful of imitations. And that is how it will be.


“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” -Oscar Wilde


Grandma Grace’s Hamballs

1 lb of ground meat (1/3 ham and 2/3 ground chuck)
1 cup crushed Saltine crackers
1 egg, beaten
small amount of milk (2 tsp)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar (may mix light and dark) (I use cider or wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp mustard (not dry) (I use Dijon)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the meat, crackers, egg and water together well. Roll into balls the size of a golf ball and place in a pan. 1 pound should make 10-15 balls.
Mix together sugar, water, vinegar and mustard for basting sauce and pour over meatballs in pan.
Bake for up to two hours, basting every twenty to thirty minutes until brown and caramelized.



  1. Nancy Spivey · · Reply

    Good idea, Cynthia! Looking forward to Ham Ball night.


    1. Nancy, I’m sure you are happy to hear this news after being the taster for a couple of the other ham balls 🙂


  2. Laura Macker Johnston · · Reply

    I have been waiting for this recipe!!!! Hmmm, ground ham??? Where do you get this?


    1. Our lovely butcher at Montecito Grocery is happy to do it LMJ and he grinds them together for me too!


  3. Linda Flick · · Reply

    Then I guess you don’t have to make as many:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point Linda! Only 90 instead of 100 🙂


  4. Ahhhh, hamballs! Can’t mess with perfection.


    1. We miss you at ham ball night Miss Amanda!!!! xo


  5. Here’s a really funny story about Hamballs that takes place in Iowa. They must eat a lot of them there! http://themoth.org/posts/episodes/live-in-iowa-city


    1. Thanks Anne! First time I have ever heard of someone else eating ham balls! And of course he is from Iowa 🙂


  6. Great recipe Cynthia! Looks delicious! What restaurant have you had the best ham balls? Remember to add it to your Besty List! http://www.thebesty.com/thewaterissmiling


    1. Thanks Julia. I have never seen ham balls or anything like it at a restaurant! Or a recipe like it anywhere! But it comes from Iowa.


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