Recipe for Kanda- Central African Pumpkin Seed Meatballs simmered in a spiced tomato sauce. Top with parsley and serve with steamed rice.
With pumpkin season fully upon us, here is an interesting use for pumpkin seeds. In the Central African Republic, Kanda are meatballs made by pounding toasted pumpkin seeds into a powder and combining with ground meat, onion, and garlic. They are then simmered in a tomato onion sauce. It is a great way to spread out the amount of meat needed to serve more people, plus each bite includes a bit of toasted pumpkin seed flavor.
Another variation, Kanda ti Nyma, is made with okra and peanuts. These meatballs are also popular in Chad, often with the addition of sesame seeds.
I used a mixture of heirloom tomatoes, most of which were yellow, from my garden so the sauce is a bit lighter in color than if you were to use red tomatoes.
The original recipe called for adding 1/2 cup water to the meatballs to give them enough moisture to stick together. I actually didn’t need it.
If the sauce is too thin towards the end of cooking, remove the cover and increase the heat if needed to help reduce and thicken it.
I found shelled pumpkin seeds (Pepita) at Whole Foods. They are also available in the nut and seed section of many larger grocery stores and International Food Markets featuring Latin American and African ingredients.
Looking for more meatball recipes? Try Swedish Meatballs, Hutspot met Gehaktballen (Dutch Mashed Potatoes and Carrots with Meatballs), and Albondigas al Buyor (Greek-Jewish Meatballs in a Sweet-and-Sour Sauce).
Kanda (Central African Pumpkin Seed Meatballs) Recipe
Adapted from 196 Flavors
Kanda (Central African Pumpkin Seed Meatballs)
- 3 cups pumpkin seeds shelled and lightly toasted
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 small to medium onion chopped
- 7 garlic cloves chopped
- 1/2 cup cold water if needed
- 1/4-1/2 cup palm or peanut oil
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 4 large tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced
- 1-2 chili peppers seeds removed and minced
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small bunch parsley stems removed and roughly chopped
- Steamed rice for serving
- Using a food processor, grind the pumpkin seeds until they become a powder. Add the meat, chopped onion, and garlic. Pulse until the mixture becomes smooth. If it does not come together, add up to 1/2 cup water. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator and allow to chill 30 minutes to an hour.
- In a large pot, drizzle oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to turn golden. Mix in the tomatoes and chilis. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
- Remove the meat mixture from the refrigerator. Form into golf ball size meatballs.
- Increase the heat of the sauce to medium high and gently add the meatballs. Cover and cook, gently stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 30.
- Fold in the chopped parsley and serve immediately with steamed rice.