The Ingredient Swap That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Meatballs

Meatballs might just be one of the most perfect foods on earth. They can be plopped on top of spaghetti, enjoyed Swedish-style in a rich gravy with lingonberry jam on the side, or made Thai-style, studded with herbs and served with a sweet-hot dipping sauce. They can be made with beef, pork, turkey, chicken, and even fish. They are delicious globes of flavor with endless possibilities for flavoring and serving.

One well-known tip for keeping meatballs of all varieties light and fluffy is to include bread soaked in milk or breadcrumbs in the mix (or in Gordon Ramsay's case, breadcrumbs soaked in milk). The breadcrumbs retain moisture, keeping the meatballs from becoming dense and tough. But what if you're gluten-intolerant, or just trying to cut down on the amount of wheat in your diet?

Never fear — oats to the rescue! That's right. Plain, uncooked oatmeal can be swapped in for breadcrumbs to help your meatballs maintain that fluffy texture while at the same time being gluten-free.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to switch out breadcrumbs in favor of oats, but in general, it's a pretty seamless swap.

How to swap oats for breadcrumbs

When swapping oats for breadcrumbs you need to remember two things. First, go with rolled oats (often marketed with the term "old-fashioned") instead of steel-cut. Rolled oats have been mechanically de-husked, rolled, and sometimes lightly toasted. These are the kind of oats that cook up quickly and will replicate the soft texture of breadcrumbs when mixed with the ground meat for meatballs. Steel-cut oats are closer to the original oat texture and have been cut, not rolled, leaving them coarser. They take longer to cook and, as such, won't soften up in time when used in meatballs, leaving you with a grainy, crunchy texture instead of soft and fluffy.

Second, when substituting oats for breadcrumbs make sure to do so in a 1 ¼ to 1 ratio. So for every cup of breadcrumbs, make sure to use one and a quarter cups of oats. Breadcrumbs are denser than oats, so you'll need to bump up the amount of oats you use in order to achieve the same results.

Some other tips — try blitzing the oats in a food processor for a bit to even more closely mimic the texture of breadcrumbs, or mix in dried spices like parsley and garlic powder to approximate the flavor of Italian-style breadcrumbs.

Whether you're looking for a way to make gluten-free meatballs or just trying to cut back on wheat, this easy oatmeal swap will majorly upgrade your meatballs without sacrificing on flavor. Now, mangia!