In my family, almost all of the kids eat spinach.
When I was little, my Great Aunt Lil would bring spinach balls to just about every big family dinner. When I became an adult, I took over making them, and my nephews looked forward to them every Thanksgiving.
This recipe is messy to make, but once you do it a few times, you get the hang of it and it gets much easier.
One thing I love about the spinach ball recipe, besides how it tastes, is that you make it in advance (a few hours or even a couple of days), and then pop them into the oven 30 minutes before serving to get them toasty hot.
One note you might want to keep in mind…when I posted this recipe on Food.com, a couple of the reviews came out that it was too bland. This is my Great Aunt Lil’s original recipe, and will definitely appeal to kids and adults who don’t like a lot of spice. Feel free to add the optional mushrooms and onions, more garlic or your other favorite spices if you want to give it a bit more flavor punch.
Here are some of the comments I got about the recipe:
Please tell Aunt Lil that I said thank you! These spinachy morsels are very tasty! I made this recipe exactly as listed except that I probably didn’t use as much butter. I love spinach so I was OK with not having too much seasoning. This is the kind of recipe that you can adjust to your own taste, which is nice. I didn’t find them to be messy at all to make. I let the spinach drain for a couple of hours so maybe that helped? To look at the mix, it didn’t seem like you could form anything, but it was super easy. I will make these again.
If you like spinach latkes, you are going to love these! Good recipe, but does need some additional help in the flavor department. I already knew that 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder was not going to do it for our family. I used fresh garlic, freshly ground black pepper and a good dose of paprika. Karen told me the recipe is Austrian, I guess I just made it Austro-Hungarian! Instead of adding water to the egg coating I used milk. This recipe really reminded me of my mother spinach latkes, but it’s a lot more three dimensional. 😉
I followed Mirj’s suggestions and added fresh garlic, ground pepper and paprika. I also substituted margarine for the butter as I had to make this a non-dairy dish and I used panko instead of bread crumbs. I only gave it 4 stars as I had to add more spices but this will go in my favorites file. This is a good way for the kids to eat their spinach. I also made this earlier in the day and put it in the oven 1/2 hour before dinner. Thank you Aunt Lil!
This recipe makes a fairly small number of spinach balls…when I make it for Thanksgiving (12-18 people), I usually triple the recipe. The most tedious part is microwaving the boxed spinach when you are making this for a crowd. The rest goes pretty fast.
10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
1/2 cup diced mushroom (optional)
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
Breading & Frying:
1/4 cup water
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons butter
Place the spinach in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4-5 minutes on high or until thawed. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. I put the spinach in a colander and then use the back of a spoon to press out the liquid.
If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, do one box of spinach at a time.
The original recipe doesn’t use onions or mushrooms, but I’ve found it adds more complex flavors for adults. If you do decide to add them, saute the mushrooms and onion in bit of oil until translucent. Drain all liquid.
In a large bowl, combine the ingredients listed as “Spinach Balls”: spinach, melted butter, salt, egg, garlic, mushrooms, onions and 3/4 cup bread crumbs. Mix it well with a fork or spoon.
Here comes the fun (and messy) part.
Wet your hands under cold water as you make the balls to keep the spinach from sticking to your hands. You’ll need to rewet them a couple of times, so I keep the water running while I’m doing this step since you will have spinach all over both hands and you’ll just make a mess if you try to keep turning the water on and off.
Standing close to your sink so you have easy access to the running water, simply use your hands to scoop out a small amount of spinach and roll it between the palms of your hands. Make the balls about the size of a golf ball.
Once the spinach is formed into a ball, it doesn’t make nearly as much mess, so I usually just lay them directly on the counter while I’m making them up. One swipe with a rag will clean up the counter when you are done.
When you have all of the spinach rolled into balls, wash your hands well and shut off the water. Then, take out 2 small bowls…I use cereal bowls for this step. Combine 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup water in one bowl and beat it well. In the 2nd bowl, pour about 1 cup bread crumbs.
This step can be messy too.
I’ve perfected this step by using just one hand to do the breading, so I can use the second (clean) hand to start frying up the spinach at the same time. The first time you make these, you might want to bread all of the balls first, then fry them all. With practice, you’ll be breading in 1 hand and frying in the other in no time at all…and it definitely speeds up the preparation when you are cooking up a huge batch.
Breading and Frying:
With one hand, roll a spinach ball in the bread crumbs, then the egg/water mixture, then in the bread crumbs again. Set the spinach ball on the counter and repeat until you have either finished them all, or you have about 8-10 balls if you want to try to fry some while you are still breading others.
If the egg mixture starts to run out before you are finished breading all of the balls, just add more water to the egg. Keep the bread crumbs handy too since you will probably need to add more to the bowl if you are making a large batch.
In a medium or large skillet, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter and add the spinach balls. Make sure you leave enough room in the pan for them to move around so you can brown all sides.
After I drop them into the pan, I pick the pan up off the burner and shake it a bit in order to get all of the sides of the spinach balls coated in the butter. Then I put it back on the burner and brown the balls…pushing them around as needed to try to get them browned on all sides as much as possible.
When they are toasty brown, pour them out of the pan onto a 9×13 casserole pan or another pan with low sides. When making a small batch, I’ve used a pie plate for this step before. Try to put them all on one layer, but if you have just a little more than the pan can hold, it’s ok to stack some on top.
Add more butter and more spinach balls to the frying pan until you have them all toasted.
At this point, they are ready to go into the refrigerator. You could also freeze them if you are making them more than a day or two before you want to serve them.
Before serving, heat the thawed spinach balls for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Since they are fully cooked, all you are trying to do is get the entire spinach ball piping hot, while keeping the outsides from getting too brown.
If you make any tweaks to this recipe, I’d love to hear what you did and how it turned out in the comments below!
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