Chipotle Meatballs

DinnerQuick and EasyMeatballs

Ground pork formed into meatballs with minced bacon, garlic, eggs, bread crumbs, and oregano, cooked with a chipotle chili and tomato sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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!

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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 tablespoons extra virgin 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.

2 Mix meatball ingredients: 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.

3 Form into meatballs and bake: 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 at 400°F until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

4 Make the sauce: 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.

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. Simmer the sauce uncovered as the meatballs cook.

5 Toss meatballs with sauce to serve: 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

Chipotle Meatballs

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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39 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Paulina

    Can you substitute ground beef in place of ground pork?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Wendy

    I’ve made them several times and they never disappoint. Wonderful recipe! Thank you for sharing!


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  3. Bree

    Oh these are so yummy! I’ve made them on several occasions, also froze them, and they always turn out very delicious. My husband can’t handle spicy food all that well, so I only put in about 1/4 to 1/2 a chipotle pepper and that seems to be just enough to get the flavour but not so spicy that he’s in pain for a few days… I usually make my meatballs smaller sized (more sauce coats them this way!). I’ve been using diced fire roasted tomatoes (the only fire roasted kind I can find in my area are diced). I’ve attempted running the tomatoes through my blender a couple times, but I actually like the texture of the diced tomatoes better.

    Question, Elise: Do you know how long the chipotle peppers in adobo would last in the fridge? Seeing as we don’t actually use many in this recipe, there’s quite a few left from the tin that I don’t really want to throw away.


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  4. Jenny

    Elise, you never disappoint with your recipes. I made this dish last night using the adobe sauce and 1 adobe pepper, the spice was just right. I served with tortillas, sour cream and white rice. Very simple and flavorful dish. I am making cashew chicken tomorrow and I can’t wait. Thank you again for your wonderful recipes.


  5. Trish Percy

    We made this tonight, it was delicious. I had never used chipotle powder before so only put in 1 tsp, next time I’ll put the two in. Used two chipotle chillis in the sauce but could have stood three. We had it with Mexican rice. I think using my homemade chicken stock in the sauce added to the flavour as well, rather than bought stock.


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