Fried Greens Meatlessballs Recipe on Food52 (2024)


by: Alexandra Stafford



6 Ratings

  • Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer

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Author Notes

This recipe is a godsend to anyone who belongs to a CSA or tends a prolific garden. Any greens—beet, turnip, kale, chard, mustard, etc.—can be used here. I've even made these with a mix of the green tops from my CSA carrots and onions. The recipe comes from Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell, who notes that these "hot little balls make a nice snack or appetizer, but are also good later, to eat at room temperature out of hand on the go." I find them completely irresistible.

A few notes: The recipe calls for a bunch of chard or kale, washed and sautéed until tender, then chopped fine. You can do this ahead (as suggested in the book), or you can incorporate this step into the recipe, as I've done below: Simply add the greens to the pan after the cilantro, cumin, and garlic have been sautéed.

I like to give my greens a quick pulse in the food processor. The greens need to be chopped finely at some point, and I find it easier to do it before they are sautéed. You could chop them finely by hand, too.

Finally, basil or parsley can be substituted for the cilantro. —Alexandra Stafford

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 bunchgreens, about 10 cups loosely packed, about 8 oz, see notes above
  • 3 tablespoonsolive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cupcilantro
  • 1 tablespooncumin seeds
  • 1 cupfresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cupcrumbled feta
  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • oil for frying
  1. Pulse greens in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, onion, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cilantro, and cumin seeds. Stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Add greens to pan and sauté for a minute or two, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.
  4. Let cool for five minutes, then add the breadcrumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary—this is your chance to get the seasoning right while the mixture is egg-free. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix with your hands to incorporate. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture. If it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If it doesn't hold together, add another egg. I usually find one egg to be enough.
  5. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


  • American
  • Cilantro
  • Cumin
  • Vegetable
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Fry
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Fall
  • Appetizer

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • thzhou

  • epicharis

  • kxr173

  • rachel5453

  • Aura Navarro

Recipe by: Alexandra Stafford

I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

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140 Reviews

Chrystal J. August 22, 2019

OK stay with me here: I used carrot tops, beet tops, dill, and garlic scapes for the greens mixture. Swapped ground cumin (1 tsp) for whole as I prefer ground. Used egg whites only instead of whole eggs. These turned out AMAZEBALLS. Like other reviewers I also flattened into small patties to make them easier to work with, and they reminded me of falafel. We served them with Nellino's Pomodoro sauce and they were stunning. I will always always always leverage this recipe when I have an excess of greens, and will likely leverage it when I don't and make an excuse to buy them.

thzhou June 21, 2019

I have cut so many corners from this recipe out of sheer laziness, and they still turn out great. my latest version is to skip the initial saute. the food processor makes quick work of the leafy greens and cilantro, I often skip the onion too, and then a quick mix with the rest of the ingredients in a bowl (with maybe some extra bread crumbs to deal with the moisture) means they're ready to go in the pan that much faster. I shape them in to small patties rather than balls, for more pan contact, which helps keep them together better. Ate them earlier this week with some leftover yogurt ranch sauce - A+.

barb April 30, 2018

Has anyone tried this baked? Seems like it would work best in a mini muffin tin like my baked falafel does.

cld April 30, 2018

I always bake them after rolling them in parma cheese. 350 for about 20 minutes or until they develop a nice crust.

LaMar December 12, 2018

I've only ever done them baked, they turn out great, and freeze and reheat really well also. Perfect for an overproductive garden or CSA share in the middle of greens season.

Caroline M. April 22, 2018

This is such a great recipe to use with foraged greens (I’ve already enthused last year about making it with foraged sea kale). I made it yesterday using mallow, cuckoo flower, borage and wild cabbage leaves. That took care of half the greens - the other half I used Swiss chard. I think I could have used all wild greens, but was cautious as it was the first time I’ve cooked with borage and mallow. I also made it into a bake, so that everything would have a good cook in the oven because I didn’t want any stringiness. I always do this recipe as a bake, now, because it saves all that mucking about with frying and worrying if the fritters will stick together. I usually use a loaf tin. The other thing I discovered is that you can use a spoonful of mayo instead of a second egg.

epicharis March 25, 2018

These turned out great, although I think a second egg is probably required. What a wonderful way to use greens and leftover crumbs. This is definitely going into my clean-out-the-fridge category.

BakerMary January 23, 2018

Can anyone describe the consistency this mix should be for making into balls? At all dry? Mine was very soggy...

kxr173 November 12, 2017

This is one of my favorite recipes! I've been making these and adapting the flavors and greens since the recipe was first posted. My go to greens combo is kale, spinach & Swiss chard, with a lot of parsley. After chopping the greens, I season well with salt and pepper to layer the seasoning and let that stand while I chose the onion and garlic (this also wilts them a bit before cooking, making them easier to handle!). I typically add a squeeze of lemon to brighten the flavors after greens have wilted in the pan. I also make in bulk, so I bake them to make things easier. My baking method is to prepare as instructed, then after rolling, I then give a very (very) light toss in panko or regular bread crumbs and bake on a rack I place in a lined cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for approx. 20-25 min. Let cool and then I transfer them to a parchment lined sheet and freeze them as individual balls. They freeze perfectly and bake in 20 min in a 425 oven. I always have these on fave and a constant request of friends and family!! Love this, thanks for sharing!!!

Alexandra S. November 13, 2017

So happy to hear this! Thank you for sharing your baking method and other adaptations — great tips!

Luciana June 1, 2018

Very helpful - thank you!

rachel5453 October 18, 2017

made these (with great success) with only about a cup of kale I had on hand, a spaghetti squash, and parsley (subbed for the cilantro). worked wonderfully! ate them over couscous with a bit of greek yogurt on top :)

Aura N. August 17, 2017

Does anyone think that fromage blanc would work instead of feta in this recipe (unsure about the texture)? Basically, I have already been to the store and am short on time for a gathering at our house but I have a LOT of greens to use and would love to try this. Alternatively I have parmesan I could sub in.

LW.ATX.78 August 18, 2017

I would say this recipe is super adaptable! I think the issue with fromage blanc would be that it's too creamy/ not sturdy enough... but the flavor would be great. Maybe use a blend of 60% parm and 40% fromage blanc (but break it up into small bits before adding to the greens - otherwise it may clump and not distribute very evenly).

Aura N. August 18, 2017

Thank you so much for the suggestion. I also remembered I have ricotta in the fridge which might be slightly sturdier-regardless I will try the parm/soft cheese mixture and see how it works out!

Caroline M. July 23, 2017

I just have to add that this bake was just as divine the next day, cold, on a picnic on the beach.

Alexandra S. July 23, 2017

That sounds lovely :)

Caroline M. July 21, 2017

I made the mixture with wild Irish sea beet, which is like a very substantial spinach. I had some wholemeal breadcrumbs in the freezer, but not enough, so I added some quinoa flakes that I softened in a bit of boiling water. I also subbed mature cheddar cheese for the feta. The last change I made was to pack the (very yummy) raw mixture (only one egg) into a small baking tray, because I didn't want to fry it, as I was serving it with potato wedges (cooked in beef dripping in the oven). Absolutely fantastic! I thoroughly recommend cooking it as a 'bake'.

Alexandra S. July 23, 2017

So interesting! Thanks for sharing all of your adaptations. Love the idea of baking these. Thanks!

LaMar July 9, 2017

These baked up great on parchment paper-lined baking sheet, 400 degrees, 10 minutes then flipped for 10 more minutes. I made with chard/kale mix, subbed in some fresh dill for cilantro. The cumin is key. Thanks for this recipe!

Alexandra S. July 10, 2017

Perfect! Thanks for writing in!

JoAnna May 8, 2017

I made these using quinoa instead of breadcrumbs, and I baked them at 425 for 10 minutes, flip, another 10 minites. So delicious!

JoAnna May 8, 2017


Alexandra S. May 9, 2017

Yum!! So excited to try this.

Clover88 May 7, 2017

This is a masterpiece! Uses up greens, delicious, and so many ways to use the green balls. It's a keeper!

Alexandra S. May 9, 2017


Joy H. May 7, 2017

I just made these with chard and pulsed some fresh corn tortillas because I didn't have any fresh breadcrumbs. I also left out the fresh herbs because I didn't have any. Still amazing!

Alexandra S. May 9, 2017

Awesome, so great to hear this!

Anusha R. May 7, 2017

My parents and I just loved his recipe. I used kale as my main green and basil instead of cilantro. Also more fetta than suggested because I have no self-control. Yum!

Alexandra S. May 9, 2017

Yes to more feta!! :) :) :)

Chris G. April 9, 2017

I will admit that I've not looked at all the comments since my last comment.
1 year ago, so if someone has already suggested these ideas, I apologize!
Lots of very interesting combinations and ideas in this column! 107 comments to date! And here's another one from me! For those of us that are not strict Vegetarians or Vegans, try mixings some of these greens combinations with your favorite "Meatball Recipes!" Results: Endless new meatball Recipes & one last suggestion if not already covered in these comments? There is always Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, and TVP & Mushrooms, and other such meat/cheese replacements. I did a search for "meat substitutes in my browser" see the results:

Alexandra S. April 9, 2017

Love this idea! I am not a strict vegetarian, and I've been craving lamb meatballs. Love the idea of half greens/half meat. Thanks so much!!

frecklywench April 8, 2017

These are delicious! I used some kale and a bunch of very wilted chard, stems included. For those looking for serving ideas: I had mine as dinner with roasted sweet potatoes and the yogurt tahini sauce from this Ottolenghi recipe:

Alexandra S. April 9, 2017

Yum! Thanks for the sweet potato recipe link, too!

Tazmin A. January 16, 2017

I'm not sure about the health benefits when you fry these. I'm definitely going to try the baking. Thanks for the tip!

robin L. March 3, 2017

I fried mine in coconut oil...that may be a little healthier? They're so good, and a good use of greens, so I don't mind frying...8^)

Katy November 23, 2016

Finally made this for the first time using just some leftover carrot top greens and parsley. I don't think the carrot tops quite added up to the recommended amount of greens, but nonetheless these meatless balls turned out crazy delicious and this recipe will be one that I keep as a go-to recipe forever as a wonderful way to use up those greens! Love this!

Alexandra S. November 23, 2016

So happy to hear this Katy!! Is this THE Katy? As in the one and only KatyKat? (Sorry if I am mistaken.)

Katy November 23, 2016

YES! :) Happy Thanksgiving friend o friends!

Alexandra S. November 23, 2016

Love you KatyKat xoxo

Fried Greens Meatlessballs Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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