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Fried Green Meatless Balls

  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Adapted from Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell


  • Any greens—beet, turnip, kale, chard, mustard, etc.—can be used here. I’ve even made these with a mix of the green tops from my CSA carrots and onions.  
  • I like to give my greens a quick pulse in the food processor. The greens need to be chopped finely at some point, and I find it easier to do it before they are sautéed. You could chop them finely by hand, too.
  • If you have garlic scapes, you can purée them in the food processor after you pulse the greens. Use a few tablespoons of the scape purée in place of the garlic. Store the purée in an airtight vessel in the fridge. 
  • Basil or parsley can be substituted for the cilantro


  •  8-10 oz greens, about 10 cups loosely packed, see notes above
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 or 2 eggs
  • oil for frying


  1. If you haven’t made your bread crumbs yet, purée some stale bread in a food processor first. Transfer to a storage vessel. Set aside. No need to wash the processor.
  2. Tear the greens into rough pieces; then pulse them in a food processor or finely chop with a knife—they should be small but not puréed or mushy. Set aside.
  3. If you are using garlic scapes, purée them in the food processor, transfer to a storage vessel and set aside. 
  4. If you are using Swiss chard, remove the leaves from the stems, and finely chop the stems. 
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil, onion, Swiss chard stems, if using, and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, and cook while stirring for 1 minute. Add the garlic or garlic scape purée, and cilantro. Cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the greens to the pan and sauté for a minute or two, until they have wilted. Turn the mixture into a large bowl.
  7. Let cool for five minutes, then add the bread crumbs and feta. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste—this is your chance to get the seasoning right while the mixture is egg-free. Crack one egg into the bowl and mix with your hands to incorporate. Squeeze a small ball of the mixture. If it holds together, begin portioning out the remaining mixture into small balls. If it doesn’t hold together, add another egg. I usually find one egg to be enough.
  8. The key, I think, before frying, is to really make sure you squeeze the portions into tight balls. 
  9. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add balls to pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium or medium-low. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Use a fork to flip the balls to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes or so. 
  10. Transfer to a serving platter. Let cool, then taste one. Sprinkle with sea salt if you wish and serve with lemon on the side. These are delicious warm, at room temperature or cold straight from the fridge.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: fried, greens, meatless balls, kale, chard, cumin