Chipotle Meatballs

Several years ago a Rick Bayless recipe for chipotle meatballs appeared in the Wednesday section of the New York Times. Fortunately we didn’t notice the recipe until a correction for it appeared in a subsequent paper, correcting the 2 cans of chipotle peppers the paper had published with the correct 2 chiles. We made the meatballs and loved them, but couldn’t help wincing over the idea of eating them made with 5 times as much chipotle!

We first published this recipe in 2006 and have since modified it a bit. This is the updated version. Excellent served with rice and/or tortillas. You could even serve the meatballs with spaghetti for a Tex Mex-ish version. It’s quite spicy and best accompanied with something cooling like sour cream and thinly sliced head lettuce.

Chipotle Meatballs Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.



  • 2 slices bacon, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano or finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1-2 teaspoons chipotle powder (or a couple teaspoons of adobo sauce)


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-3 chipotles chiles in adobo (canned), minced fine and sauce reserved
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth


1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well with your clean hands for a minute or two. You want the mixture to be well integrated, but you don't want to overwork it or the meatballs will be tough.

2 With wet hands or an ice cream scoop, form meat into about 16 plum-size balls and space them out in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, or, if you have one, a mini-muffin tin. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

3 While meatballs bake, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté the onions until they just start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the minced chipotles, the can of tomatoes, oregano or mint, and beef broth. Mix well and add salt to taste. If you want more chipotle flavor, add the reserved chipotle sauce spoonful by spoonful, mixing and tasting between spoonfuls. Boil the sauce uncovered as the meatballs cook.

4 When meatballs are ready, put them into the sauce and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thin for your taste, continue to boil it down for a few minutes. Otherwise, serve with rice, tortillas or polenta. Garnish with cilantro to serve.

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The word "chipotle" actually comes from the Nahuatl words chil (chile pepper) and poctli (smoke). (See Wikipedia.)


Diana Kennedy's chipotle meatballs from The Wednesday Chef
Rick Bayless' chipotle meatballs as written in the New York Times

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Showing 4 of 36 Comments

  • scotte

    This sounds sooo tasty, I can’t wait to try it!! I have to ask though. I tried finding chipotle in adobo at my supermarket and couldn’t…I live in an area with a heavy Hispanic make-up and an incredible international food section….was I looking in the place? Where did you find them?

    Hi Scotte, you should be able to find them at your supermarket in the ethnic food section. They come in small cans. Otherwise, you might try to find a local hispanic market, where you would be very likely to find chipotle chiles in adobo. ~Elise

  • Annabelle

    I just discovered Chipotle Chile Powder and am having fun experimenting with it. All this time I thought it was a whole different variety of pepper, that’s neat that it’s just smoked and dried jalapenos.

  • Ken Sloan

    I’ve actually been able to find chipotles in adobo at my local walmart of all places. Otherwise, they’re usually in the general ‘ethnic’ section of the supermarket.

  • Vladimir

    I have some nice smokey bacon ends that I need to use for something. Would this be too much for this dish or would they complement the chipotle? I’ll probably half this recipe and give it a whirl this weekend and will get the opinion of my very-much carnivorous girlfriend.

    I think the smokey bacon will work great with the smokey chipotle. Go for it! ~Elise

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