Spinach & Sweet Potato Balls

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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.


Sweet Potato Balls With Spinach (Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan, Whole30)

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. 

spinach knodel

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.

 

Sweet Potato & Spinach Balls Nutrition

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.

 

spinach_sweet_potato_balls_making

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.

Sweet Potato & Spinach Balls

MORE SWEET POTATO RECIPES

Turkey & Sweet Potato Breakfast Sausage
Spiced Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Mash
Sweet Potato Brownies (GF, Paleo)
Paleo Kimchi Sweet Potato Fries
Find all of my sweet potato recipes here

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Sweet Potato & Spinach Balls

Spinach & Sweet Potato Balls

  • Author: Irena Macri
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: European

Description

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.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent and golden brown.
  4. Add the chopped spinach, garlic, lemon zest and thyme leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve with a little thyme and lemon wedges and your choice of meat or fish, if you’re having these as a side dish.

Notes

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.

BY IRENA MACRI

About me: I share nutritious recipes focusing on vegetables, paleo and gluten-free diets. I create cookbooks and meal plans to help you get healthier and lose weight. I’m currently finishing an advanced diploma in Nutrition & Weight Management. More about me here.

PS. Some posts contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) for purchases made through these links. This income helps to cover the operational costs of the blog. Thank you xo

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Comments

34 Comments
  1. What a lovely dish and that photograph is out of the world. Sweet potato and spinach- Boy!! you just made my stomach rumble all over

  2. I used this as a base for fish cakes just adding a can of tuna drained. They were the best fish cakes I have ever had. This recipe has so much flavor.

  3. There are all kinds of Knödel, sweet ones filled with apricots, plums, strawberries or even Nougat. Savoury fillings are minced bacon or sausage. Just to name a few 🙂
    We tried yours today and even The Picky Eater wanted seconds 🙂
    Greetings from Austria
    Eva

  4. Awesome recipe. I was stunned when i tried this the first time and that hasn’t changed. I use a strainer put on top of my pot of sweet potatoes to make my wilted spinach -> less water, less to clean afterwards 😉

    thx a lot for this part of my paleo diet.

  5. Irena, what do you think of using butternut squash instead of sweet potato? do you think it would change the consistency? Just because I have lots of it 🙂

    1. Butternut squash or pumpkin is not as starchy as sweet potato so it would be less binding, kind of a little more watery. You could still use it but I would add some kind of starch to it, so either more tapioca flour that in the recipe or some almond meal/coconut flour or even a little peeled, cooked white potato if you have some on hand.

  6. These sound divine! Do you think it would work to lay out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven till brown? That is how I do meatballs, to save time because you can do them all at once with no turning.

    I also think this recipe would be awesome added to grass fed ground beef to make nice meatballs! I’m going to try it soon!

    1. Theoretically it should work like meatballs but I think you wouldn’t get the same crispy crust and the balls might collapse a little. I think they need to be fried quite quickly as they are quite soft and might not hold up in the oven. But hey, I haven’t tried. Maybe if you make a batch, you can pan fry some and then stick one in the very hot oven for 10 minutes and see what happens. I’d be curious to know as it would make them easier to make, not as much fussing over the frying pan.

      1. Terese ! I tried your idea of baking on a sheet in the oven and it totally worked ! I cooked on parchment paper in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes then I threw my broiler on low for another 10 or so. It’s true that I didn’t get a super brown crust, but it set them into the “bomb” shape nicely where I was able to store without them falling apart.

        1. Oh that’s great to know! I’ll have to try it that way. I would imagine that once you make the mix, you can also bake it in a pie dish so it’s just a simple sweet potato and spinach pie with a browned, crispy top.

      1. I would definitely try coconut flour next time. My bombs were mushy…it was very hard to get them to form balls and what I did manage to get formed, stuck to the pan horribly so no crust formed – most stayed stuck to the pan. The mixture tastes fabulous though. I will make it again and may just serve as a ‘mash’.

  7. Just made this tonight, it was so fragrant and delicious! I even couldn’t help myself but eat spoonfuls of the mix before frying them haha whoops.

  8. I’ve made these twice now. The second time I made sure to squeeze the spinach dry as much as possible. It made for a better, denser batter. I also added nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. They are delicious. I’m looking forward to trying them with white sweet potato when that season finally arrives. I’m sure they will be even more delicious!

  9. Thanks everyone, I am inspired to try this for dinner tonight as I am responsible for starters. Have a big supply of sweet potato and leeks from garden so thinking of exchanging leeks for the spinach and onion. Will let you know how it goes.

  10. Look delicious. I will try these. My daughter and I are huge fans of yours and you have had a huge positive impact on our lives. But I want to make a suggestion- plz change the name of this recipe. “Bombs” is a lousy name. People who have been lived in war zones (as my family has) react to this word, and it has huge negative connotations. I am sure there was no ill intent. But I DO suggest changing the name. BTW if words and thoughts impact our bodies (and they do) then i dont want to put anything called “Bombs” in mine. Again, you are so awesome, we love you, and one of the people bringing peace and light to this planet, and I doubt you were the one who named this recipe but i suggest you change the name when forwarding it to others. I am sure you only have positive intent. This is clear from all you do, your books, videos, etc. We love you Jon

  11. I tried them today. The batter was really delicious, but although I squeezed the spinach as much as I could with bare hands, it was too mushy. I guess it is because of the sweet potatoes. When I tried to fry the balls, no crust formed, they were to wet. They sticked to the pan but even the part that was sticked, was not crispy.
    I added lots of coconut flour to the rest of the batter (hope it doesn’t taste to much of flour) and will first bake it in the oven tomorrow, before I give it a new try in the pan.

    The next time I will substitute some of the sweet potatoes with sweet potato flour.

    I wonder what the consistency of the batter looks like at people who succeeded.

    1. Mine was kind of like course mashed sweet potato, but on a thicker side. Adding sweet potato flour for some of the vegetable is a great idea and I want to try it myself! If the balls are too hard to form, try frying them as patties instead.

  12. These bombed. I even tried adding an egg and coconut flour. Stayed mushy. Maybe a measurement in grams for the sweet potato would make the recipe more reliable? The batter tasted like sweet potato so maybe mine were too big.

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