Red Curry Meatballs (and How to Lighten Up a Recipe)

how to lighten up a recipe -  http://simplicityssakeblog.comMeatballs?!? With CURRY?!?! Umm, yes please! But alas, the original recipe listed the calorie count at 743 calories for one serving. For someone my size (5’2), that’s half my intake for the day – I just couldn’t rationalize it. But I soooo wanted those curry meatballs….so I took matters into my own hands, and crafted a similar recipe with even more flavor and 2/3 the calories. I’ll share with you here my tips on lightening up recipes, and my oh-so-delicious (and much lighter version) of this Red Curry Meatball dish. I use these strategies absolutely every day in my kitchen, and they have truly helped me and my family eat better and healthier. I hope you find them helpful too!

Lightening Up a Recipe

Step 1: Cut the fat. This recipe called for 3 T of oil; I used 2. I find that 1-2 T is all you need to keep things from sticking; anything else is superfluous.

Step 2: Increase the veg. This recipe called for 1 zucchini and 1 onion; I increased the zucchini and added in a red pepper. This significantly increases the volume (and the vitamins) while adding very few calories. My #1 rule in the kitchen is: There is no such thing as too much veg. (My #2 rule, in case you are wondering, stems from rule #1: no cats IN the veg! My food helper cat Ollie loved to watch me cook and especially loves anything green.)

Step 3: Re-envision the meat. This recipe called for ground beef, so I used half 93% lean ground turkey and half 85/15 ground sirloin.  I still get the flavor of the beef without all the extra calories.

Step 4: Cut out meaningless carbs. This recipe called for 1 cup uncooked long grain rice; I swapped 1 can of rinsed, drained chickpeas. True, this is not much of a calories savings, but chickpeas taste soooooo good and they are a great source of protein, meaning they are more filling than the rice. You can sub other, healthier grains for rice, or leave them out altogether and have more of a stew.

Step 5: Decrease the portion size. This recipe calls 5 meatballs a portion size – make it 4. With all the extra veggies we’ve added in, we get the same amount of volume for fewer calories.

Step 6: See where else you can lighten up. In this recipe’s case, it was the coconut milk – go for light instead of full fat. In other recipes it may be in the cheese, or using 1% milk instead of whole.

Let’s see what all these changes did for my recipe.

Original recipe Cals My recipe Cals Change
3T oil 390  2 T oil 240 -150
0 extra veggies 60 60
1 lb beef (85/15) 960 8 oz beef, 8 oz turkey (93/7) 820 -140
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice 410 1 can chickpeas 350 -60
Regular coconut milk 651 Light coconut milk 455 -196
Total 486

So that’s almost 500 calories, or a savings of 100 calories per serving. Then, taken all together with my increase in servings from 4 portions to 5, the final recipe comparison looks like this:

 (Per serving) Calories Carbs Fat Protein Sugar
Original recipe 743 57 44 32 4
My recipe 478 37 26 27 10
Total -265 -20 18 -5 6

I would call that a success, wouldn’t you?

Now, on to the full recipe!

Red Curry Meatballs, Lightened Up

adapted from this Real Simple recipe
Time: 45 minutes            Servings: 5 (4 meatballs + approx 1 cup of curry vegetable mixture)


Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - http://simplicityssakeblog.comMeatballs

  • 1.5 pieces white sandwich bread, torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2T  whole milk
  • 1.5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 oz 85/15 ground beef
  • 8 oz 93/7 ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - http://simplicityssakeblog.comCurry

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large zucchini (or 2 small), sliced
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste*
  • 1 14-ounce can LIGHT coconut milk (like Goya)
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

*If you don’t have curry paste, you can make your own. I did, as I happened to have most of the other ingredients.

Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - Healthy Red Curry Meatballs -
My red curry paste – YUM! But store-bought is perfectly delicious too


Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - http://simplicityssakeblog.comMeatballs

Combine the bread, onion, parsley, and garlic in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the milk and Worcestershire, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the meat, egg, 1/2 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and gently combine. Form into 20 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each). If you are a perfectionist like me, you can use my method – lay out the meat on a cutting board, and cut into equal-sized pieces to ensure relatively equal-sized meatballs.

To cook immediately: Place the meatballs on foil-lined baking sheet(s) and broil, one sheet at a time, turning once, until cooked through, 8 to10 minutes.

To freeze and cook later: Freeze the uncooked meatballs on wax paper–lined baking sheet(s) until firm, transfer to a freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. To cook, broil the frozen meatballs as above, adding 2 to 4 minutes to the cooking time.

Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - Healthy Red Curry Meatballs -

Healthy Red Curry Meatballs - http://simplicityssakeblog.comCurry

While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, pepper, and zucchini and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the curry paste and coat all the veggies with it, stirring for a few minutes.

Add in the chickpeas and coconut milk; cook for 5 minutes.

Finally add the meatballs and season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the lime juice, sprinkle with the basil, and serve!

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