Turkish (Hidden Liver) Meatballs with Paleo Cacik

May 14, 2012 in Categories: , , by

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One of the things I love about these meatballs is that almost everything can be done ahead of time.  In fact, the longer the ground meat hangs out with the seasonings, the better they taste.  And the same goes for the Cacik.  Plus, these meatballs are the perfect opportunity to sneak some organ meat into a meal without really noticing it.  The meatballs are fairly heavily seasoned so the liver flavor is very well masked.  I buy whole liver and grind it up at home in my Magic Bullet (you could also use a Food Processor or Meat Grinder, ask your butcher to grind it for you, or chop it up manually).  It does make for a slightly looser meat mix (at least using a blender, which basically liquefies the liver), which is why flax meal works so well as a binder here.  If you opt to use all ground beef or chop your liver my hand, I suggest cutting the flax meal in half (or use an egg instead, but only add the egg right before baking).

Cacik (pronounced “JAH-Jik”) is a traditional Turkish dish made with plain yogurt, cucumber and mint.  It can come in a variety of consistencies, from thick and dip-like to thinned to soup consistency.  It is sometimes made with large pieces of cucumber and served like a salad and sometimes made with finely diced or pureed cucumber and served like a dip or soup.  I love it as a side salad, which really is the perfect flavor to go with these meatballs.  I use my own homemade coconut milk kefir “yogurt”.  You can also purchase coconut milk yogurt (So Delicious makes one, available at Whole Foods) but check the ingredients as brown rice starch is a common thickening agent used.

Turkish Hidden Liver Meatballs with Paleo Cacik

Ingredients (Meatballs):

1.     Mix ground meat and seasonings (everything except the onion and the flax) in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours.
2.    Heat tallow or coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add diced onion and cook until soft and starting to caramelize.  Remove from heat and let cool.
3.    Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4.    Mix cooled onion and flaxseed meal into the meat mix.  Form meatballs with your hand (whatever size you like, I usually make 2” meatballs because it’s less work) and place on prepared baking sheet.
5.    Bake for 15-20 minutes (15 minutes for 1” meatballs, 20 minutes for 2” meatballs, or until internal temperature reaches 160F).  Enjoy!

Ingredients (Cacik):

1.    Slice cucumber very thinly (I slice 1/8” thick using my Mandoline Slicer).  Place cucumber in a colander and toss with salt.  Let drain in the sink for 1-3 hours.
2.    Rinse cucumber thoroughly and either let sit another hour to drain the water or dry using clean tea towels or paper towel.
3.    Mix cucumber, crushed garlic, chopped mint, and coconut milk yogurt.  Cover and refrigerate 1-8 hours.
4.    Just before serving, stir in olive oil.  Serve with meatballs!


RECIPE UPDATE:  I’ve taken to using 2-4 Tbsp of arrowroot powder as a binder for the meatball mix instead of flax seed.  I think it works equally well as a binder, without having the phytoestrogen problem that flaxseed has.



^ditto to Petra! did the heart kebobs a few weeks ago and these meatballs last night. So good! And so good to know you can puree raw liver and sneak it in ground beef dishes…game changer!

What could I use instead of the flax meal? I’m not crazy about the taste of flax, unless that’s not noticed? Oh, I might add tahini! Do you think that would add thickness and flavor?

Just made these for dinner tonight – yum! Had them over roasted spaghetti squash with butter and tomato sauce, topped with parmesan cheese. Great way to sneak in some liver, for sure!

Made these a few days ago and paired with plain, steamed green beans. I used tapioca flour as a binder instead of flax/arrowroot starch, and they held together beautifully.

Slathering the meatballs with the yogurt sauce did wonders for hiding the taste of liver. Its always hard when *you’re* the cook and you already know that there’s liver in there to determine whether or not something tastes liver-y, BUT my boyfriend had no clue there was liver in there; so I’d declare this recipe a definite SUCCESS!

Thank you Sarah again for a lovely looking recipe. I love liver and meatballs so this is a winner in my opinion! Do you think the meatballs would hold together if I completely omit the flax? I’m on AIP and have also cut out starches as they seem to give me tummy symptoms so tapioca or other starches are not an option at the moment.
Thank you.

You have both chili powder and paprika in this recipe. I thought those are nightshades and therefore, not AIP.

I JUST finished eating these. So good!!! Thank you so much for the recipe. I have been a life long liver hater, but these are great. My husband, who hates liver, is eating these as I type. I haven’t told him yet that he’s eating liver (it’s cool internet peeps, he won’t be mad). He just keeps remarking at how tasty the meatballs are tonight.

Very new and very confused by some of the info given in AIP book and cookbook. In C/B recipe for Turkish meatballs it includes cumin seed and pepper. In the AIP approach it states NO seeds and lists both of these as to be avoided. Other recipes have items from the banned eg honey/molasses. Can anyone explain these inconsistencies. Thanks

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