This nutritious spinach and sweet potato balls recipe is inspired by the Austrian knödel dish. They are crispy like fritters on the outside but soft like a mashed potato on the inside. They can be served as a side dish or a main with a salad. Paleo, gluten-free, vegan and Whole30-friendly recipe.
These yummy sweet potato balls of goodness are inspired by the Austrian or central European dish known as knödel, which is essentially rounded potato or flour dough balls poached in water or stock and sometimes pan-fried. They are usually served as a side dish with meat dishes and stews.
I saw some spinach knödel balls in a deli window in Vienna (similar to the above picture), which gave me an idea for this recipe. Unlike knödel dumplings, my sweet potato balls are less stodgy and much softer in texture and I decided to pan-fry them to get that lovely, crispy crust.
Personally, I love this contrast of the textures in these finished balls. When you bite through a slightly crispy outer layer, they balls explode in your mouth and the warm sweet potato gooeyness spreads in your mouth. A little bit like my sweet potato and ham croquettes.
These little guys are pretty awesome! Sweet potatoes and spinach are nutritional powerhouses providing an array of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre. They make for a healthy and satisfying source of carbohydrates and can be consumed by those with egg and tree-nut allergies. Whole30, vegan and gluten-free friendly too.
You can find the full nutritional breakdown below the recipe, which is based on 3-4 balls per serving. If you’re having these as a main, please take that into account if counting macros.
HOW TO MAKE SPINACH & SWEET POTATO BALLS
Update: I have amended the recipe slightly based on feedback and further testing.
I used sweet potato and spinach as a base and some tapioca flour (or cassava) to help the mix bind together. There is no egg in this recipe. The mixture is thick, and although a little sticky, it rolls into balls quite easily.
If the doesn’t seem to be thick enough, you can add a little more flour to buff it out. You can also use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture into a ball-like shape. They really don’t have to be perfect.
There is a little bit of prep involved as you need to precook the sweet potato, spinach and the onions separately but once the mixture is combined, the cooking doesn’t take very long.
These are great for kids’ lunchboxes or as a quick snack, as a side dish with meat, fish or salad, or as something you can serve with eggs in the morning. You can make a larger batch of these sweet potato balls to store in the fridge for 3-4 days.
MORE SWEET POTATO RECIPESPrint
These sweet potato balls are made with loads of spinach, garlic and onions and are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Great as a side dish, snack, appetizer or a main with a salad or veggies.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes (about 400 g)
- 1 + 1/2 cup wilted spinach, chopped (see instructions below)
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 1 teaspoon of lemon zest (1/2 to 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup tapioca or cassava (see notes)
- Oil for frying (you can use coconut oil, macadamia oil, ghee or avocado oil)
- Place cubed sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, until soft when poked through with a knife. Strain the sweet potato completely and return to a bowl.
- To get 1 + 1/2 cups of wilted spinach you can use frozen spinach and place it in really hot water to thaw out; then squeeze as much water out with your hands as possible so you’re left with soft, wet but not dripping spinach mass that you can chop. Alternatively, you can get 2 bunches of spinach and sauté them in a little water for about one minute, until wilted (a.k.a wet and shrunk in size). Then cool it down and squeeze the excess liquid before chopping.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent and golden brown.
- Add the chopped spinach, garlic, lemon zest and thyme leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice.
- Mash the cooked sweet potato with a fork or a potato masher. It’s fine if it’s not completely smooth. Add the spinach and onion mix, salt, pepper and tapioca or cassava flour and mix well together.
- Heat a thin layer of fat or oil in a frying pan over medium0high heat. Wet your hands slightly or use a tablespoon to roll equal amounts of potato and spinach mixture into small balls. You can also make them more oval or fritters-like.
- Gently place in a hot frying pan, leaving a little space in between balls. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown crust forms, making sure to turn over gently using a fork and a spatula. I do 3-4 sides (top, bottom, left and right), so they’re evenly crispy. Add more fat or oil as needed.
- Serve with a little thyme and lemon wedges and your choice of meat or fish, if you’re having these as a side dish.
Tapioca or cassava flour can be replaced with arrowroot flour or buckwheat/quinoa/other gluten-free flour of choice. I wanted to keep this recipe grain-free but you can, of course, use other flours.