This platter of basil-spiked meatballs swimming in a comforting, creamy Thai green curry sauce is your reminder today that you don’t have to let your dietary needs define your life.
What I mean by that is that it is so easy to get caught up in the scarcity mentality of what you can’t have, can’t have, can’t make, can’t enjoy. I used to be totally guilty of this and if I’m honest I definitely still have those moments. But when that happens, I try to shift my thinking into what I can do, what I can work with, what I really am looking for when I feel like only xyz food is gonna make my day.
Most of the time, it’s not what I thought.
It’s not always the specific food itself, but the associations that I have with it.
When I saw these Turkey Meatballs in a Creamy Red Curry Sauce from The Modern Proper, I was justifiably in love. It’s exactly the kind of dish I adore: comforting, flavor packed and just a little elevated from the normal weeknight meals I usually make, without being overly fiddly or intimidating. Not to mention, it’s completely freaking gorgeous!
It’s also the kind of meal that my husband hates – too much coconut milk for his curry-hating heart – and that I’ve therefore come to associate with something I make for myself to enjoy on rare occasions. So, I realized, I’ve come to associate these kind of saucy, spicy & herb-fragrant dishes with taking care of and making time for myself.
So I set out to deliver all that goodness to my heart and belly, without the parts that I couldn’t eat myself. Namely, the nightshades in typical Thai curry paste recipes.
I made myself a simple tweak, swapping out the red curry paste for my own Nightshade Free Thai Green Curry Paste to infuse the creamy coconut milk based sauce.
After that, I adapted the meatballs & curry sauce combo to what I had on hand. Ground pork met a slightly obscene amount of fresh basil because we were retiring our overflowing basil plants from hanging baskets on the deck into smaller planters inside the house as things cool down considerably here.
A couple of other ingredients went into the meatballs: plenty of minced garlic, studs of finely chopped green onions and a generous glug of fish sauce for that funky deliciousness which also helped keep them light and tender.
Since the nightshade free take on Thai green curry sauce is necessarily fragrant and less heavy handed than its chili-heavy cousin, I wanted to make sure the pork & basil meatballs brought lots of their own flavor in the form of a delightfully caramelized crust.
Nine times out of ten, I’ll batch and bake meatballs for ease and mess avoidance, but in this case, crust is king and brought a wonderful contrast to the dish.
My crust-creating tips: use a cast iron skillet, make sure to preheat it well, use plenty of oil once it’s preheated, don’t have the heat turned up as high as you’re tempted to or the oil will smoke.
From there, it’s a matter of putting them down – working in batches as needed to avoid an over crowded pan – and leaving them alone for the first couple of minutes to get the deepest sear, then rolling them around with tongs to get them nice & brown on four sides of the meatballs, rather than just two sides like you might cook a patty.
(For the record, I used my much loved 12 inch Lodge cast iron skillet and did this recipe in two batches of 9 meatballs a piece.)
The end result was the kind of meal that is both simple and spectacular. Fragrant, tender meatballs swimming in a rich Thai green curry sauce, with all the umami that a beautifully caramelized crust brings, balancing out the coconut milk based sauce with a lovely savory finish.
A dish like this always leaves me feeling like I took care of myself… and that I deserve that love & attention, regardless of what I can or can’t eat.
Looking for more nightshade free Thai inspiration?
- Thai Green Curry Paste
- Thai Yellow Curry Paste
- Saucy Summer Yellow Curry Noodle Bowls
- Thai Clams in a Coconut, Ginger & Lime Broth
Pork & Basil Meatballs in Creamy Thai Green Curry Sauce
Herb studded meatballs take a dip in a nightshade free, aromatic Thai green curry sauce that will have you licking the bowl when you’re done!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: Serves 6 to 8 1x
- Category: comfort food
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: American, Thai
For the pork & basil meatballs:
- 2 lbs / 900 g ground pork
- 1 packed cup / 30 g fresh basil, finely chopped, or 3 tbsp minced
- 6 green onions, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml fish sauce
- 1/2 – 1 tsp / 3 – 5 g fine sea salt, to taste
For the creamy Thai green curry sauce:
ROLL: Mix together all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl using your hands to gently combine them all into a uniform meatball mixture. Divide into 2 oz / 56 g portions and roll into evenly sized meatballs. You should have about 18 meatballs when you’re done. Place them onto a parchment paper lined plate and refrigerate them while you make the Thai green curry sauce. Alternatively, cover the meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight if you like.
SIMMER: Skim off about a 1/2 cup / 120 ml or so of the coconut cream layer on the top of the coconut milk cans. Add the coconut cream to a dutch oven over medium heat and cook until the coconut cream begins to bubble. Spoon in the Nightshade Free Thai Green Curry Paste and whisk together with the cream. Cook for a minute or so until the paste is fragrant, then whisk in the rest of the coconut milk and add the galangal or ground ginger &white pepper, if using. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and add the lime juice & fish sauce. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer gently until it has thickened a little, about 20 minutes or so. Brown the meatballs while the sauce is thickening.
BROWN: Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Coat the skillet with generous amount of the fat or oil of your choice. When the oil is hot and just beginning to simmer, add half of the meatballs to the skillet, making sure they don’t touch and aren’t overcrowded in the skillet. (You’ll have to brown the meatballs in batches for this reason – I fit half the batch, 9 meatballs, into my 12 inch cast iron skillet comfortably.) Cook until the meatballs have a good browned crust on all sides, rolling them over with tongs to turn, about 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer the browned meatballs to a paper towel lined plate and repeat until all of the meatballs are browned and drained of any excess fat.
WARM: Taste the Thai green curry sauce and add extra fish sauce & lime juice, if needed. Transfer the browned meatballs to the sauce and bring to a simmer until they’re cooked & warmed through. Serve the meatballs with a generous spoon of the Thai green curry sauce and garnish with extra green onions, cilantro and basil if you like.
If you’re using normal store bought Thai green curry paste that isn’t nightshade free, I’d reduce the amount given here by half as it will be much stronger in flavor and spice level!
Ground galangal has a flavor similar to ground ginger, with a little more heat and a hit of peppery spice. It’s a lovely addition to your AIP pantry if you’re missing spice & heat, but if you can’t find it, feel free to substitute ground ginger instead.
If the sauce looks like it’s thickening too much while you’re browning the meatballs, just turn off the heat and cover the pan while you finish them up. Don’t let the Thai green curry sauce reduce too much, but if it does happen, you can add a splash or two of broth to loosen the sauce back up again before adding the meatballs.