Meatball Salad

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This baked meatball salad makes an easy and delicious whole dinner. It is filling but light at the same time, made with roasted cauliflower, quinoa, fresh parsley and a flavorful homemade ranch dressing that ties all the components together.

What makes the meatballs in this salad extra flavorful is the fact that they are infused with the ranch salad dressing! To do that, you simply soak sandwich bread cubes with the dressing, then mash them up and mix them into the raw ground beef before baking. It’s a very easy way to add a lot of flavor AND to loosen up the meat and keep the meatballs nice and tender, win-win!

A plate with meatball, quinoa and roasted cauliflower salad, drizzled with dressing and garnished with parsley.

This post was originally published on Sept. 9, 2019.

For more main dish salads, check out this Mediterranean Chicken Salad or this Marinated Chicken Caesar Salad.

What is a meatball salad?

A meatball salad is simply a salad (vegetables and dressing) with meatballs added in. Rather than a side dish or an appetizer, a meatball salad is a full meal in itself.

How to make meatball salad:

Step 1: The cauliflower in this recipe takes the longest, so that’s what you want to start with. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and while the oven is heating, cut the florets off of 1 head of cauliflower. In a bowl, toss the florets with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Step 2. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until it is tender and a knife goes through easily (about 40 minutes). Turn the florets over once halfway through the roasting time.

Raw cauliflower florets in a glass bowl and on a baking sheet.

Step 3. While the cauliflower is in the oven you can get to the dressing and then the meatballs. In a bowl, whisk together:

  • 5 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove (minced or pressed)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

You’re going to use 1/3 cup of the dressing for the meatballs, so you want to transfer 1/3 cup of it into a large bowl. Cover the remaining dressing with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the salad.

Step 4. Cut 2 slices of sandwich bread into cubes and mix them into the 1/3 cup dressing. Let the mix marinate for 10 min.

Salad dressing being whisked together in a bowl and bread cubes being mixed into salad dressing.

Step 5. Let the bread sit for 10 minutes, then mash it up with a fork and mix in:

  • 1 pound ground beef (90 percent lean, 10 percent fat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

RECIPE TIP: I like to use a large serving fork for the mashing and mixing, it’s sturdy enough to make the job easy.

Step 6. Form about 20 meatballs (you can use a spoon, your hands, or a 3-tablespoon metal scoop for that) and set the meatballs directly onto one large or two small rimmed baking sheets.

A glass bowl with the ingredients for meatballs and two non-stick baking sheets with raw meatballs on them.

Step 7. Once the cauliflower is done, take it out and set it aside, then place the meatballs in the 400-degree oven and bake them until they are crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes).

If you don’t have 1/2 cup cooked quinoa on hand, you can cook the quinoa while the meatballs are in the oven.

How to serve the salad:

Place the warm cauliflower, quinoa and meatballs onto individual plates, sprinkle with 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and drizzle with dressing. Serve the salad with toasted bread.

How to store leftovers:

You can transfer all salad components except for the dressing together into an airtight container and store them in the fridge. Fill the dressing into a separate container and keep in the fridge as well. Briefly heat up the meatballs, quinoa and cauliflower before serving.

More delicious salads:

Made this recipe? I would be awesome if you could leave a rating. Either tap or click the stars in the recipe card or leave a comment below. Thanks!

A plate with meatball, quinoa and roasted cauliflower salad, drizzled with dressing and garnished with parsley.
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Meatball Salad

This baked meatball salad makes an easy and delicious dinner. It is filling but light at the same time, made with roasted cauliflower, quinoa, fresh parsley and a flavorful homemade ranch dressing that ties all the components together.
Prep Time:5 mins
Cook Time:1 hr
Total Time:1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: meatball salad
Servings: 4
Calories (estimated): 682kcal

Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into individual florets
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder*
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the meatballs:

  • 2 slices sandwich bread, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup dressing
  • 1 pound ground beef (90 percent lean, 10 percent fat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup minced white onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

To put it all together:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Instructions:

For the salad:

  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  • In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and the salt.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until tender (about 40 minutes). (Turn the florets over on the baking sheet after about 20 minutes).
  • While the cauliflower is in the oven, make the dressing and the meatballs.

For the dressing:

  • In a large bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together until smooth.
  • Transfer 1/3 cup of the dressing into a large bowl. Cover the remaining dressing and store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the salad.

For the meatballs:

  • Add the bread cubes to the bowl with the 1/3 cup of dressing. Mix well until all the bread is well coated. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Mash up the soaked bread cubes with a fork, then add beef, egg, minced onion, salt and black pepper and mix until well combined. 
  • Form about 20 meatballs (I like to use my 3-tablespoon metal scoop) and set them directly onto two rimmed baking sheets. 
  • When the cauliflower is done, put the meatballs in the 400-degree oven and bake them until the meat is cooked through and the meatballs are crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes). 

To put it all together:

  • Place the cauliflower, quinoa and meatballs onto individual plates, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with dressing.
  • Serve warm and with toasted bread.

Notes:

*If you want to make your own chili powder, I have a recipe here: Chunky Chili.

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A plate with meatball, quinoa and roasted cauliflower salad, drizzled with dressing and garnished with parsley.

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