5 Globally Spiced Meatball Recipes

Roll out delicious takes on the ever-popular savory spheres
Japanese Tsukune Chicken Meatballs

Photo: Steve Painter, Ryland Peters & Small

It’s hard to beat the appeal of meatballs. They are so well loved that each country has its own specialties. These creative blends of meat, herbs and spices roll together to make perfectly textured bites that burst with flavor. The addition of breadcrumbs, minced onion, garlic, egg, cheese and many other components can also make meat go a long way. They are easy to make, and with National Meatball Day on March 9, it’s the perfect time to celebrate these global rounds.

Whether you are looking for snacks to serve at a little get-together or a comforting family meal, you can bring a world of flavor to the table with these five recipes from “101 Meatballs and Other Deliciously Spherical Recipes for Meat, Fish and Vegetables” published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Try the ever-popular taste of Buffalo chicken wings in a meatball. Swedish meatballs are a time-honored favorite with a rich gravy and mashed potatoes. Spicy Spanish meatballs mix it up with a savory tomato sauce. Greek lamb meatballs pair perfectly with fava on a mezze platter, and Japanese glazed chicken meatballs take a dip in a delicious Yakitori sauce.

Meatball Tips
• Keep in mind that meat with higher fat content, such as beef or pork will probably be softer in texture than a lean ground chicken meatball.
• You can fix an overly wet mixture by adding a little flour or breadcrumbs and an overly dry mixture by adding milk, oil or an egg.
• When forming meatballs, always use damp or lightly oiled hands with a sticky mixture to avoid wasting by washing it off.
• Avoid packing the meatballs too tightly or overmixing the meat, which can cause tough meatballs. Roll/pack them firmly but gently.

Japanese Tsukune Chicken Meatballs

Makes 24 Meatballs | Recipe by Cathy Seward

Tsukune are sticky glazed chicken meatballs cooked on wooden skewers over a special charcoal grill in Japanese Yakitori restaurants. They are usually served with a Yakitori sauce.

For the Yakitori Sauce
½ cup mirin
½ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 scallions, finely chopped
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
10 black peppercorns

For the Meatballs
1-2⁄3 pounds chicken thigh meat
2⁄3 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Soak 8 wooden skewers in water 30 minutes before cooking meatballs.
  2. For the Yakitori sauce, put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir well, bring to the boil over a high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer then cook for approximately 40 to 45 minutes or until the mixture is thick and syrupy, stirring occasionally. Strain then store in the fridge until required. The sauce will become thicker when cold.
  3. For the meatballs, chop the chicken meat very finely or process in a food processor until fairly smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Add all the remaining meatball ingredients and stir in one direction until everything is very well combined, smooth in texture and pale in color. The mixture should be very thoroughly mixed to prevent the meatballs from falling apart during cooking.
  4. With damp hands, shape the mixture into 24 balls about 2 inches in diameter. Arrange the balls on a plate or baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Thread three balls onto each of the wooden skewers and arrange on a lightly oiled baking sheet which can fit under the grill/broiler.
  6. Heat the grill/broiler to medium. Grill/broil the balls for 6 to 8 minutes until well browned, then carefully rotate the skewers and cook on the second side for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the skewers again several times, cooking for a few minutes each time until the balls are fully and evenly cooked. Brush the Yakitori sauce over the meatballs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Repeat several times until all the balls are glossy and sticky. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate, brush with extra sauce and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with any remaining sauce.
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Photo: Steve Painter, Ryland Peters & Small

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Makes 16 Meatballs | Recipe by Cathy Seward

These are a very popular snack at parties or sporting events. Quick and easy to make, they are oven baked and then added to a delicious hot sauce and served alongside a cooling blue cheese dip.

For the Meatballs
1 pound 2 ounces chicken breast fillets
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a little olive oil, for drizzling

For the Buffalo Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2⁄3 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce or other hot sauce

For the Blue Cheese Dip
2⁄3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
2⁄3 cup blue cheese, crumbled

1 small celery stick, finely chopped
freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
celery sticks, for serving
carrot sticks, for serving

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 baking sheets and set aside.
  2. Chop the chicken breast fillets very finely or blend in a food processor for a few seconds.
  3. Put all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl and mix together until well combined. The mixture will be quite sticky. With damp hands, shape the mixture into 16 small balls. Arrange the balls on the baking sheets. Spray or drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning them once during cooking time to brown the balls evenly.
  4. While the balls are baking, make the buffalo sauce by melting the butter in a large frying pan. Stir in the Frank’s Hot Sauce or other hot sauce, mixing well to combine. Heat the sauce thoroughly.
  5. Spoon the baked meatballs into the sauce, turning them over several times to coat evenly with the mixture. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter. Pour any remaining hot sauce into a serving bowl.
  6. To make the blue cheese dip, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese and celery (reserving a little for garnish) until well blended and creamy. Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining celery and a little chopped parsley.
  7. Serve the meatballs with the buffalo sauce, blue cheese dip, celery and carrot sticks.
Greek Lamb Meatballs with Fava

Photo: Isobel Wield, Ryland Peters & Small

Greek Lamb Balls with Fava

Makes 32 Meatballs | Recipe by Tori Haschka

Fava is an unsung hero of the mezze platter. Scented with garlic and bay, it pairs extremely well with lamb meatballs and grilled/broiled meat. It’s comforting and delicious both cold and warm. Another thing we can thank the Greeks for (along with democracy, that is). Serve alongside pita bread and a fresh tomato and red onion salad.

For the Fava
1 cup dried yellow split peas, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dry white wine
3 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tomatoes, finely diced
1 tablespoon capers, fried for 30 seconds in 1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

For the Lamb Meatballs
1¼ pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons oregano, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper sea salt

toasted pita bread, for serving
tomato and red onion salad, for serving

  1. For the fava, put the split peas in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and skim off any scum that appears. Add the bay leaf and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the salt and simmer for 20 more minutes until the split peas are soft. Drain off any excess liquid and remove the bay leaf.
  2. Add the white wine, garlic and olive oil and blend with a hand-held blender until smooth. Allow to cool. Season with dried oregano, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper. Top with finely diced tomatoes, fried capers and a drizzle of olive oil and serve alongside the meatballs.
  3. For the meatballs, heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the lamb with the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Using damp hands, mix well and shape the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  5. Serve with the fava, toasted pita bread and a well-seasoned tomato and onion salad.
Swedish Meatballs

Photo: Peter Cassidy, Ryland Peters & Small

Swedish Meatballs

Makes 6 Servings | Recipe by Brönte Aurell

There are as many recipes for meatballs in Scandinavia as there are cooks, though the Swedish version is arguably the most famous. The classic accompaniment of a rich gravy, creamy mash and tangy lingonberries is sublime.

1⁄3 cup porridge/old-fashioned oats or breadcrumbs
2⁄3 cup beef or chicken stock
14 ounces ground beef
9 ounces ground pork (minimum 10% fat)
1 egg
2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
a dash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
1 small onion, minced
butter and oil, for frying
mashed potato, to serve

For the Lingonberries
9 ounces frozen lingonberries (See Note)
½ cup granulated sugar

For the Cream Gravy
meat stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
a good glug of light cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. If using oats, soak them in the beef or chicken stock for 5 minutes. Mix the ground meat with a good pinch of salt for a couple of minutes in a food processor to blend thoroughly. In another bowl, mix the eggs, flour, spices and Worcestershire or soy sauce with the soaked oats or breadcrumbs and minced onion, then add this to the meat mixture. Leave this to rest for 20 to 25 minutes before using.
  2. Make a test meatball. Heat a pat of butter or oil in a skillet and, using damp hands, shape one small meatball and fry until cooked. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. Then, continue to shape the mixture, using damp hands, into meatballs around 1 inch in diameter, or larger if desired.
  3. Melt a pat of butter in a skillet with a dash of oil and carefully add a few meatballs—make sure there is plenty of room to turn them so they get a uniform round shape and don’t stick. Cook in batches for around 5 minutes at a time. Keep in a warm oven until needed.
  4. When your meatballs are done, keep the pan on a medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon flour to the fat in the pan (adding more butter if needed) and whisk, then add a splash of stock and whisk again as you bring to the boil. Keep adding stock until you have a creamy gravy, then add a good dollop of light cream and season with salt and pepper.
  5. For the lingonberries, add the granulated sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and the berries have defrosted. Serve with the meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy. Store leftover lingonberries in the fridge.

Note: If lingonberries are not available, substitute cranberries or red currants.

Spicy Spanish Meatballs

Photo: Kate Whitaker, Ryland Peters & Small

Spicy Spanish Meatballs

Makes 6 Servings | Recipe by Jordan Bourke

Moist and packed full of aromatic Moorish spices, these Spanish meatballs are deeply satisfying. This is a perfect dish for sharing among friends and family, served with crusty bread.

extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
bread or quinoa, to serve

For the Meatballs
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 clove
9 ounces ground beef
7 ounces ground veal
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves, crushed
6 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
1 red chile, deseeded and finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Tomato Sauce
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 red onions, halved and sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
scant ½ cup red wine
2 (14-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh marjoram or oregano
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  1. To make the meatballs, put the cumin and coriander seeds and clove in a dry skillet and toast for 1 to 2 minutes until you can smell the aromas wafting up. Pound to a powder using a pestle and mortar.
  2. Put the beef, veal, toasted spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, dates, chile and eggs in a food processor, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Using damp hands, shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs, separate them and refrigerate again.
  3. Meanwhile, to make the tomato sauce, toast and grind the cumin seeds as above. In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. If they are beginning to color, turn down the heat a little and stir. Add the garlic, a good pinch of salt and pepper, toasted cumin, cinnamon and paprika and cook for a few minutes to release all the flavors, but do not allow the garlic to burn. Add the wine, turn the heat up to high and boil for 1 to 2 minutes until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves, turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Finally, add the marjoram or oregano and maple syrup. Season to taste. Some canned tomatoes can be quite bitter, in which case you can add 1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to achieve a well-rounded taste.
  5. Remove the meatballs from the fridge and add to the sauce. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes or until they are cooked through. If the sauce reduces down too much, you can add a little water. Sprinkle the parsley over, then serve with bread to mop up all the juices, or on a bed of quinoa.

Nutrition info (per serving)
• Japanese Tsukune Chicken Meatballs: Calories 197; Fat 6g (Sat. 2g); Chol 114mg; Sodium 1262mg; Carb 11g; Fiber 1g; Added Sugars 3g; Protein 23g
• Buffalo Chicken Meatballs: Calories 154; Fat 13g (Sat. 4g); Chol 33mg; Sodium 364mg; Carb 1g; Fiber 0g; Added Sugars 0g; Protein 9g
• Greek Lamb Balls With Fava: Calories 318; Fat 19g (Sat. 6g); Chol 68mg; Sodium 681mg; Carb 18g; Fiber 8g; Added Sugars 0g; Protein 18g
• Swedish Meatballs: Calories 449; Fat 26g (Sat. 10g); Chol 117mg; Sodium 394mg; Carb 32g; Fiber 3g; Added Sugars 17g; Protein 23g
• Spicy Spanish Meatballs: Calories 245; Fat 9g (Sat. 3g); Chol 112mg; Sodium 220mg; Carb 25g; Fiber 5g; Added Sugars 6g; Protein 18g

Recipes and photos from “101 Meatballs And Other Deliciously Spherical Recipes For Meat, Fish And Vegetables” © 2016 used with permission from Ryland Peters & Small.

Hungry for More?

Check out these recipes for the ever-popular savory spheres.

Korean Pork Kimchi Meatballs in a Sweet Green Onion and Sesame Sauce
Dish up meatballs with some unexpected Asian flair.

Thai Turkey Meatballs
These easy-to-make exotic-flavored meatballs work equally well atop rice for a main dish or as hors d’oeuvres—with optional green curry or Asian dipping sauce.

Beef and Bacon Meatballs in a Bacon-Flavored Barbecue Sauce
Bacon. Bacon in meatballs. Bacon-y barbecue sauce atop said meatballs. Need we say more? These tasty little gems by meat expert Bruce Aidells make an ideal appetizer.

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.