The Best Seasoning To Amp Up The Flavor Of Pork-Free Meatballs

Meatballs are most flavorful as a blend of beef and pork, but what do you do if you have dietary restrictions and can't eat pork? Well, there are other ways to bring flavor to your meatballs, but one special method can really mimic the meaty flavor profile of a beef and pork mix. The secret is in that amorphous, almost mysterious pantry staple we label "Italian seasoning." The mix itself has everything you could possibly want to add to almost any dish. Even in the case of making a not-so-Italian steak, people will rub the stuff in with salt, or vigorously shake a bottle of it into any soup or gravy.

This all-purpose blend of herbs can add some extra oomph to your all-beef meatballs. The origin of this special ingredient is hard to trace, and we have our doubts that it's even truly Italian in nature. Nonetheless, it does have some classic ingredients like basil and oregano, which feature in so many Italian dishes. And something about mixing in a whole bunch of dried herbs makes any meatball taste so much better.

How Italian seasoning brings out a pork flavor

Pork is a slightly gamey meat. Of course, it isn't as gamey as the usual suspects like lamb or cornish hen, but it definitely has more of a distinct flavor than chicken. Pork adds both a savory musk and a fatty chew to anything you add it to, and in the case of meatballs, it brings in a hint of gaminess that is ever-so-slightly fragrant and floral. While Italian seasoning isn't a meat substitute of any kind, it can highlight the smokiness of beef that may otherwise be less noticeable. 

This magical spice blend is made up of a mixture of oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, and marjoram. Oregano, which is earthy, and basil, which is minty and fresh, are classic herbs that balance one another in Italian dishes. But marjoram, sage, and thyme are the primary seasonings for breakfast sausage. When mixed with beef, marjoram's spicy notes and sage's floral scent bring forth a hint of semi-gamey flavor in your beef meatballs. Sure, herbs won't necessarily imbue them with a true pork flavor, but they will give your meatballs the essence of pork, which is what matters.