These Tex-Mex meatballs are the perfect one-skillet dinner. With juicy, spiced beef meatballs simmered in a rich and smoky tomato sauce. They're a healthy, simple, and delicious southwest-style meal!

Complete the meal with a side of spicy Mexican rice and some easy guacamole!

Tex-Mex Meatballs in a tomato sauce in a skillet.

Tex Mex Meatballs

These southwest-style meatballs are absolutely bursting with flavor. The beef meatballs are made with sauteed onion, garlic, jalapeño, and spices, which make them taste amazing. And instead of boring breadcrumbs, we use crushed corn chips to bind the meatballs!

It's a super cozy dinner recipe that is easy enough to make when you get home from work. And if your family is ok with a little heat, they will love this recipe.

How to Make Tex-Mex Meatballs

  1. To make these Tex-Mex meatballs, start by sautéing the aromatics. Cooking the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and spices in a bit of oil before adding them to the meat helps to bring out their flavors and prevents the meatballs from falling apart or becoming watery. Once everything has cooked down, transfer the aromatics to a plate and place them in the fridge. It’s important that you let the mixture cool off before adding it to the beef, or the heat will begin to cook the meat making it difficult to work with.
  2. Once cool, add the aromatics to a large bowl along with the ground beef, some chopped cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips. While many meatball recipes call for breadcrumbs, corn tortilla chips also act as a great binder and go well with the other Mexican-inspired flavors in this dish. Use a metal spoon or your hands to combine all the ingredients. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough. 
  3. To form the meatballs, we like to use a large cookie scoop, but your hands will also work. Portion out about 3 tablespoons for each meatball and roll until smooth. You should end up with about 12 medium-sized meatballs. Next, wipe out the skillet you used to sauté the vegetables and add another splash of oil. Pan-sear the meatballs over medium-high heat until they are browned on all sides. It’s ok if they are still raw in the center as they will continue to cook in the sauce. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and set them aside.

Make the fire-roasted tomato sauce

For the sauce, a large can of fire-roasted tomatoes and canned chipotle peppers in adobo are going to add a delicious smokiness to the meatballs. Make sure you remove the seeds from the chipotle peppers if you don’t want the sauce to be very spicy. Also, a bit of sugar and salt are the secret ingredients for making this simple sauce taste so good. Go ahead and bring everything up to a boil and add the meatballs back into the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the meatballs are cooked, but still a little pink in the center. 

The ingredients to make Tex-Mex Meatballs in a glass bowl.

What to Serve with Tex-Mex Meatballs

While these Tex-Mex meatballs are delicious on their own, feel free to get creative with toppings and sides! Here are some ideas:

  • Fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded cheese
  • Cooked brown or white rice
  • Spicy Mexican Rice
  • Flour or corn tortillas (serve taco style!)
  • Black beans or pinto beans
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Shredded cabbage

Tex Mex Meatball FAQs

How long will these meatballs keep?

These meatballs are perfect for meal prep and will last 4-5 days if kept in an airtight container in your fridge.

Does this recipe freeze well?

Yes! Freeze the meatballs in the sauce. They will keep well up to two months in your freezer.

Can I use store-bought meatballs instead?

While you can use store-bought meatballs in a pinch, remember that they won't be as flavorful. For the best Tex-Mex meatballs, we recommend making them from scratch as there is so much flavor in this recipe. It's worth the extra work!

Tex-Mex Meatballs frying in a cast iron pan.

Tips and Substitutions

  • Ground beef with a fat content of around 10-15% here is ideal for juicy meatballs, but ground turkey or chicken can also be substituted for a leaner option. Since these proteins are lower in fat, pan searing will be difficult and messy. Instead, we recommend baking the meatballs on a sheet pan at 425 F for 15 minutes and then finishing them in the sauce over the stove.
  • To make these Tex-Mex meatballs gluten-free, make sure to buy tortilla chips that are made from 100% ground corn and processed in a gluten-free facility. 
  • If you don't like spicy foods, make sure you remove all the seeds from the chipotle peppers in adobo. Feel free to leave them in for extra heat.
  • Use a cast iron skillet if possible. Cast iron retains heat very well and puts a perfect sear on the meatballs without overcooking the inside. If using cast iron, just make sure your pan is enameled or the acid from the tomato sauce will damage the skillet and give your food a metallic taste.

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Tex-Mex Meatballs in a skillet in tomato sauce with a wooden spoon.

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Tex-Mex Meatballs in a tomato sauce in a skillet.

Tex-Mex Meatballs

These Tex-Mex meatballs are the perfect one skillet dinner. With juicy spiced beef meatballs simmered in a rich and smoky tomato sauce. They are healthy, simple, and delicious!
5 stars (4 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teasooon EACH: cumin, smoked paprika, and oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 28 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice and chopped cilantro, for serving

Instructions 

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and salt. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer the mixture to a plate and place it in the fridge to cool.
    ½ cup onion, 1 jalapeño, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teasooon EACH: cumin, smoked paprika, and oregano, ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Once cooled, combine the sautéed vegetables with ground beef, crushed corn chips, and cilantro. Use your hands or a cookie scoop to roll the mixture into 3-4 tablespoon balls. You should get about 12 medium sized meatballs.
    1 lb ground beef, ¼ cup crushed tortilla chips, 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • Wipe out the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add another 1 tablespoon of olive oil and tilt the skillet to coat. Add the meatballs and cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • To the skillet, add the fire-roasted tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo, adobo sauce, sugar, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and add the meatballs. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through, but still a little pink on the inside. Serve warm with a squeeze of lime juice and chopped cilantro.
    28 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 2 tablespoons adobo sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar

Notes

When sealed in an airtight container, the meatballs and tomato sauce will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge and up to 2 months in the freezer.
Serving: 3 meatballs and ¼ of the sauce, Calories: 341kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 27g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 2487mg, Potassium: 473mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1245IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 106mg, Iron: 5mg
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