Bacon Chicken Ranch Meatballs

We’re talking this is a meatball game changer folks!  This homemade blend of ground chicken and bacon, ranch and spices make up one SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS meatball! You cannot eat just one of these! And if you tried well, that’s just cruel!

Growing up Mom only ever made meatballs when she made spaghetti. They never were made outside of that.  Maybe if she had leftovers she made meatball subs but she never set out to intentionally have meatballs be the main dish. And never, ever were they considered an appetizer.  They were kind of like the “Plus 1” on a wedding invite.  They weren’t really invited but it was assumed they’d be there. And if I’m being honest here, Mom’s meatballs weren’t exactly on the top of my favorite foods list for 2 reasons:

  1. They had GINORMOUS chunks of onions in them. No no no no NO, never never never in my world, EVER!
  2. She used the exact same recipe for her meatballs as she did for her meatloaf… and I hated her meatloaf

Now I didn’t have my first “OMG that’s what a meatball is supposed to taste like?!?!” until I was in my mid-twenties and I was on a date pre-Mr. Fantabulous.  This guy (how terrible am I that I can’t even remember his name but I can remember the food?!) took me to this little Italian restaurant in the middle of no where for dinner. The place was old school – marinara stained red and white checkered tablecloths, old wine bottles with wax dripping down the sides and a waiter that spoke very broken English.

I ordered a simple plate of ziti with marinara sauce.  The waiter kept asking me how many meatballs I wanted. I’d say “None thank you” and he’d insist that I *had* to have.  I finally said “I honestly don’t like meatballs.”  Folks to this day I can remember this man’s face.  The look of shock and disbelief is permanently engraved in my brain. He put his finger up and said “Un momento” and pretty much ran back into the kitchen. My date looked at me like “What in the hell did you just do lady???”. From the kitchen I could hear them talking in Italian loudly, pots banging and then our waiter (and chef) came out emerging from the kitchen with a bowl of meatballs and sauce.  “You try, you try!”  as he set the bowl in front of me.  No pressure there, right?

I smiled, looked up at them and picked up my fork and knife to cut the meatball to which the chef said “No nononononono no knife, no knife” I looked at him and he was using his hands to motion that I just use a fork to cut it.  So I put the knife down and as my fork touched the meatball, this thing just cut through this incredibly tender meatball like a lightsaber through Darth Vader. The sauce… that sauce was so thick and deep red.  As I was picking up the meatball I had to give it the quick look-see for chunks or anything icky in the meatball.  All I saw though was just herbs.  Not knowing what to expect I put the meatball in my mouth and closed down.

OOOOOOOOO Myyyyyyyyy Godddddddddddddddddd!!!  I cannot describe how unbelievable this meatball was.  I mean it was life changing when it came to meatballs. So THAT’s what a meatball SHOULD taste like?!  Well my eyes apparently gave away my love of these as immediately the waiter and chef started laughing and cheering.  The waiter then hugged me telling me that’s what he loves to see – someone truly loving their food.

From that day forward I’ve been on a mission to make amazing meatballs of all types. I’ve mastered the Italian meatball that rivals that now closed Italian restaurant. I’ve made Stuffed Buffalo Chicken with Ranch Centers, rustic cowboy meatballs, mozzarella stuffed chicken ones, sweet potato meatballs and some pretty friggen amazing Asian meatballs. Today we’re showcasing a Bacon Chicken Ranch meatball but I have to let you know, it’s not your normal bacon chicken ranch meatball.

I’m pretty sure when you read “Bacon Chicken Ranch Meatball” you thought – “Okay, it’s ground chicken topped with crispy bacon and dipped in ranch – big whoop!” Um first, yeah, it’s a BIG WHOOP but it’s because of HOW IT’S MADE.

First, I am not a fan of pre-ground packaged chicken. It’s okay but ever since I started making my own ground chicken mixture, the flavor is so much more rich and well, chicken-y. Now you don’t need a grinder – just a food processor (or if you don’t have that, patience as you’ll need to mince the chicken).  You can go with all white meat in your chicken mixture but you’ll need to add a little fat (i.e, bacon grease for example) to the mixture so it doesn’t dry out.  I actually prefer a mixture of chicken breasts and thighs. I find the mixture is more rich and juicy; plus it doesn’t dry out. Next I knew I wanted to add crispy bacon to the kabob or okay let’s be real.  I will add bacon to anything – yes, even Pb&J. Instead I also added raw bacon to the food processor with the chicken pieces.  And lastly yes I was going to dip these in ranch but I wanted to infuse ranch into the ground mixture.  So before you ask, NO YOU CANNOT ADD LIQUID RANCH to the food processor.  You MUST USE A RANCH POWDER. I make my own and HIGHLY RECOMMEND that one!

So yeah, that’s what makes these meatballs rock is you’re truly getting a full flavor fusion of chicken-bacon-ranchness. Next a few standard meatball ingredients go in – egg, milk bread and a few seasonings. When you make these, you also need to have damp hands.  If you try using dry hands, it will hard to roll them without the mixture sticking to your hands. Damp hands allows you to roll them into the balls without having half the mixture stick to your hands.  Since it’s predominately chicken with a little fat (bacon) you need to make sure your pan that pan you’re cooking them on has a thin coating of olive oil.

And before you ask, yes you can most certainly pan fry these if you want that seriously browned exterior but again you need to make sure your pan has oil.  You’ll still have to finish them off in the oven to ensure the meatballs are cooked all the way through.

So why the kabob?  Well if I’m being completely transparent here my yoga pants were getting a tad too tight – you know the kinda tight where they fit you … UNTIL YOU BEND OVER AND THEY BECOME COMPLETELY SEE-THRU. Yeah *hangs her head* I was just approaching that.  And I REFUSE to buy a bigger size so I clamped down and cut back on the things I love the most – bread. But yes you can most certainly make these on a chicken bacon ranch meatball sub with a creamy ranch sauce – God that sounds AMAZING right now!

But yeah the kabobs were my way of eating these in a healthier way while still having all that amazing flavors. And okay fine, by omitting the bread/bun meant I could have maybe one or two extra.  Shush don’t judge me…and don’t mention it to my yoga pants. Plus honestly they look super adorable! These are absolutely perfect for a party appetizer, game night with friends, weekly meal preps or a quick snack. They are awesome hot, room temp and yes, even chilled. Yes, I tried them all – it’s um, part of my job. Yeah, let’s go with that.

When I made these for me I kept them simple – just some iceberg lettuce (though honestly I’m thinking butter or bib lettuce would have worked better just for the folding aspect), a meatball, some crispy bacon and then just a light drizzle fat free ranch (that I made using my homemade ranch powder). But if I were serving these say for a party I may make them a little smaller but also add a halved cherry tomato on top.  Cheese?  Eh, honestly I don’t think it needs it – yes no cheese coming from a girl that has an actual cheese drawer in her fridge.

And I can see the wheels in your head spinning, yes you can also buffalo-ize it by adding a little buffalo sauce to the mixture and then adding it to the ranch dressing.

Since I’ve been really into weekly meal prep what I’ll do with this recipe is make a big batch of the meat mixture, shape them and then place them on a lightly sprayed parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Then stick the sheet in the freeze and flash freeze the meatballs till frozen.  Once they are frozen just pop them in a baggie and store them in the freezer. Then when you’re ready to make them, just pop them in the oven and bake away.  Could you bake them first then freeze them?  Yeah BUUUUUUUUUUUUT I don’t like that.  I hate freezing cooked foods like that.

But I’m telling you guys, you NEED to take the time and make this recipe.  Get out the food processor and make your own mixture.  This meatball, oh yeah it’s a total meatball game changer!

And on a side note… these meatballs inside of a calzone with roasted peppers, spinach and cheese with a ranch drizzle.  FAHGEDDABOUTIT!

Bacon Chicken Ranch Meatballs
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Ingredients
  • 1lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon, cut into chunks
  • 6 Tbl ranch powder (see how to make your own Home Made Ranch Powder!)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2-3 slices white or wheat bread
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • Olive oil
  • *optional
  • Crispy bacon cut into 2” strips
  • Lettuce
  • Ranch sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large rimmed baking pan with foil, spray with olive oil and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl tear up the bread and add the milk, gently pressing the bread down into the milk.
  3. In a food processor, add both types of chicken and the bacon, process til it resembled ground meat.
  4. Remove from processor and put in a bowl. Add in the egg, ranch powder, salt, pepper and soaked bread (if there is any milk left, add that too). Gently mix to combine. Do not over mix it. Do a test meatball form and if it’s too wet and will not hold a shape add a few Tbl of bread crumbs to the mixture.
  5. With damp hands, scoop up 2-3Tbl of meatball mixture and form into a ball. Set on the pan and continue, re-wetting hands, until all the meatballs are formed.
  6. Drizzle a little olive oil on each meatball and bake for 18-22 minutes or until the temperature reads 165F.
  7. Remove from the oven and place the meatballs on a paper towel lined plate to remove any excess oil.
  8. To make into kabobs fold up some lettuce into a square piercing that with the skewer. Next skewer a meatball, top with a slice of bacon and drizzle over some ranch sauce.

 

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