Food & Swine

Healthier Ham Balls

Healthier Ham Balls

I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a recipe that is more ‘Midwest’ than this one.  Ham balls are one of my favorite childhood recipes.  My Mom makes divine ham balls and they were always the headliner for a special dinner growing up.  I like to try to incorporate healthful ingredients into this recipe because I like to make it a little more often because it is easy and freezes very well. I will say it (the recipe) adapts to the additions I make quite well.  The typical recipe contains things like graham crackers, strictly ham loaf and has no veggies in it.  Plus, the traditional recipe is cooked entirely in one pan which is lovely and time saving but I have a hard time looking at the fat that rises to the top of the dish after baking.  (This is a personal preference and one that I’ve realized is helpful to my health at the moment, I’m preparing for gallbladder surgery and any extra fat in my diet really sends me into some painful episodes!)

The recipe I’m showing you today has lots of veggies, oatmeal in place of the graham crackers and the ham balls are par-baked (meaning baked about 3/4 of the way) on a baking rack suspended over a sheet pan, letting the fat from the ham balls drain off of the meat (not to sit on top of the sauce as usual).  Once the ham balls are par-baked, the sweet and tangy glaze is prepared quickly in a sauce pan and poured over the ham balls in a greased glass baking dish.

I promise, these taste as sinful as the regular ham balls with a tiny bit of added texture from the veggies and oats.  You’ll like them, just wait and see!  Feel free to substitute ground pork, ground turkey or additional ham loaf in place of the ground beef I add to the recipe.  *Full recipe at the end of the post.

First off, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Now, you need to combine the ham ball ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Mix well using your clean hands.

Healthier Ham Balls

Scoop into balls of the desired size.  I have a really big cookie scoop I use to help me portion the dough. (If I make cookies with it, they are about 6″ across.)

Ham Balls

Bake the ham balls for 40 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven.

Healthier Ham Balls recipe

Now, once you can handle them, place enough ham balls into a pan to fill it well.

Ham Balls recipe

Now combine the topping ingredients in a small saucepan.  Whisk well and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Once brought to a simmer, hold there for 30 seconds and then bring the mixture off the heat.

Healthier Ham Balls

Pour the mixture over the ham balls.

baking ham balls

And… bake!  (at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until bubbly and golden.)

cooking ham balls

They are moist and flavorful and definitely a tick healthier than the standard church cookbook recipe.

finished ham balls


delicious ham balls

I had to take the ham balls (above) outside because the light was quickly evaporating from my kitchen.  Here’s the last moments of sunlight… I can’t wait until that pond is open.  The ice must GO!  It was 65 degrees here today and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Healthier Ham Balls

Healthier Ham Balls

by Cristen

Makes 18 ham balls (nearly baseball sized)

Ham Ball Ingredients:

2 lbs. Ham Loaf (Fareway has better ham loaf than Hy-Vee, for sure.)

1 lb. Ground Beef or Pork or Turkey

1 small zucchini or yellow squash, grated

2 large carrots, grated

4 green onions, chopped

3/4 C oatmeal (or club crackers or graham crackers)

2 eggs

1/4 C dehydrated minced onion *optional (I love extra onion-y flavor)

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 C milk (if zucchini is wet, lessen this amount to 1/4 C)

Combine all ingredients together, shape into 18 balls. Bake on a wire rack suspended over a baking sheet at 350 for 40 minutes.  Move ham balls into two 8×8 inch glass pans.  Drizzle with topping ingredients.  Continue to bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Topping Ingredients:

2 1/2 C ketchup

3/4 C brown sugar

3 TBSP cider vinegar

3 TBSP whole grain mustard

3 TBSP honey

Combine in small saucepan, bring to a simmer and remove from heat.

Today we moved equipment around… always fun and today, a little muddy!

Healthier Ham Balls

Get out of the way!

Healthier Ham Balls

I just love this picture.

Healthier Ham Balls

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  • Reply Aunt Carol March 11, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I am going to try this recipe, you know I love ham balls

    • Reply Cristen March 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      I could eat them everyday! :)

  • Reply colleen March 11, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I love ham balls too…I think I will have this for easter!

    • Reply Cristen March 11, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Aren’t they the best?

  • Reply renaelaunderlife March 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    ham balls + healthier = winning! love your farming pics, too.

    • Reply Cristen March 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Thanks so much Renae! I am glad I made some extras and froze them… I hope to eat them this weekend. I had surgery yesterday and recovery doesn’t give me any desire to cook! :)

  • Reply Mother Henn November 1, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    So glad these can be make gluten free, with just a few adjustments. My son asked for hamballs for his b’day and I have been looking for a recipe for him. Also love the pics of your combine! I am also a farm “girl”. Hope you are having a great, safe harvest.

    • Reply Cristen November 2, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      I love that idea! I have a great friend who would appreciate knowing that… I hadn’t even considered that in this recipe. I’m calling him with this info tomorrow! Thanks for checking in! :)

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