I just learned something super neat not so long ago : pineapple is a natural meat tenderizer.

How cool is that? A natural tenderizer that’s also super nutritious on top of being super flavorful!

I call it a major WIN!

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

To be honest, I sort of knew about it already but never really felt the need to investigate and make some actual research on the subject until after I made those meatballs.

There was something sort of mystical about them… They were just so tender, so delicate in texture: they would just sort of melt in your mouth as soon as they’d hit your tongue, yet they held their shape really well until that moment where they landed in your mouth.

I thought the pineapple might be responsible for that, so I looked it up on the Internet, and indeed, I was right : pineapple contains a special enzyme called bromelain, which is quite efficient at dividing the amino acids found in meat, thus making it more soft and tender.

It sort of pre-digests the protein for you, if you will…

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Left to interact with it for too long, bromelain will turn your meat into some sort of a mushy, non palatable mess, so you don’t want to overdo it.

Bromelain works in these capacities due to its ability to separate amino acids. The compound separates the all-important peptide bonds that link the proteins in collagen. Since the collagen gives the muscle tissue its shape, once it’s broken down, the muscle tissue begins losing firmness. If you left meat for a day or two covered with bromelain, it would be noticeably mushy, so much so that you wouldn’t want to eat it. When used shortly before cooking, however, bromelain efficiently softens the steak for chewing, but leaves it firm enough to enjoy its taste. The enzymes are neutralized by heat of about 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius), so they stop working once cooked. (source: How Stuff Works )

In short, just allow Mr. Pineapple and Ms. Meaty Protein to play together for a couple of hours and you’ll get a piece of meat that’s nice and soft in your mouth but still firm enough to hold its shape when stuck onto your fork!

In the case of ground meat, however, it looks like things might be a little bit speedier, so don’t let it rest for too long, else you’ll end up with fancy dog feed, me thinks.

Because heat is the only way to stop the action of bromelain, I think it’s best to form your meatballs and cook them as soon as your ingredients have been mixed together or,  at the very least, within the hour.

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Also, seeing as how those meatballs balls were extremely delicate, I chose to bake them as opposed to pan fry them.

Oh, I COULD have pan fried them if I’d wanted to, but after testing a few (for taste, you know) I decided that I just didn’t have the necessary patience, nor was I delicate enough to get the job done right.

So I took a chance and popped them in the oven, which totally paid off!

I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the results I got. They came out perfectly browned and crispy.

And did I mention tasty?

Oh yeah, that too!

Pineapple Meatballs

Servings: 8 36 to 48 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 450 g 1lb lean ground beef
  • 450 g 1lb lean ground pork
  • 100 g 3.5oz fresh pineapple, chopped very finely (or canned crushed pineapple, drained really well)
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 dried birds eye chili peppers, crushed
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add all the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix with your hands until very well combined.
  • Immediately form the meat mixture into 36 to 48 balls, depending on how big or small you like your meatballs, and place them onto the reserved cookie sheet.
  • Place the meatballs in the oven and cook for 10 minutes at 425°F, then lower the temperature to 350°F and continue cooking for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and crispy and golden brown all around.
  • Transfer the cooked meatballs to a serving dish and garnish with a few pieces of fresh pineapple and fresh parsley, if desired.
Author: Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

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Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

An ice cream scoop works wonders to form the meatballs… 

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

See how nice and round and uniform in size? 

Fantastic little gadget! 

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Look at how nice and golden and crispy…

Can you believe that those meatballs were actually baked?

Pineapple Meatballs | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

I wish you were the one who had just taken that bite…

Then you would know for yourself just how wonderful their flavor and texture truly were.