If you love meatballs, Asian cuisine and like to keep things decently healthy, these fabulous Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs are calling your name!
Although strawberry-balsamic might seem like an unusual flavor combination, I actually feel like I’m introducing you to an old friend today as I share these delicious Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs!
An old friend? Yes, back in 2011, the first year of The Café, I came up with a recipe for a Strawberry Balsamic Pizza with Chicken and Applewood Bacon. I didn’t know back then that you shouldn’t use such a long name but, then again, I didn’t know a lot of things in those early days (and I’m still learning!).
It’s a funny story you can read about here but it was created out of a bit of desperation. It ended up going viral (before Pinterest was popular) and lots of other bloggers reposted it and I got emails from people all over the world who made and loved this pizza.
We’ve enjoyed it many times over the years and it never fails to bring rave reviews from family and friends. We love the flavor profile so much that several years ago, I came up with another strawberry-balsamic idea, these Strawberry Balsamic Baked Wings, which also became well loved by our readers.
So here we are, once again hanging out with our old balsamic-strawberry friend and enjoying these Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs. If you’ve never tried this combination of flavors, it may sound a bit odd, but believe me, it’s crazy delicious. It’s also easy to put together and can be made all year long, as it utilizes strawberry jam for the strawberry element.
These wonderful appetizer meatballs are made with lean ground chicken and lots of classic Asian ingredients like scallions, fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro, Panko and sesame oil. The recipe also includes bell peppers and egg.
The problem with chicken meatballs…
If you’ve ever made meatballs with ground chicken, you might have noticed that it’s not the easiest thing to work with. Ground chicken is much wetter than ground beef and can be difficult to roll into nice round balls as it’s soft and the meat tends to stick to your hands when rolling. The meatballs also tend to flatten when fried or baked so instead of “balls” you end up with little rounded disks.
How to roll round chicken meatballs
I’ve done a bit of experimenting and found a few things to be really helpful when rolling ground chicken into meatballs:
- Keep your hands wet with a little water when rolling. Just a drop or two, not dripping wet hands. I like to roll my meatballs near the sink and keep my water just barely dripping. Each time I roll a new meatball, I put my hand under the faucet and wet it with a drop of water. It’s crazy the difference it makes. Check out the picture below. On the left, is a meatball rolled with dry hands and the right shows a meatball rolled with wet hands. A few drops of water make the difference between nice smooth meatballs and shaggy, messy meatballs (and messy hands!).
- Roll the ground chicken into balls using the palms of your hands and light pressure. Rolling ground chicken with too much pressure will result in flat, irregular shaped meatballs.
- I’ve also discovered that refrigerating or freezing ground chicken meatballs helps them keep their shape. I’ve tried both and found that frozen meatballs tend to keep their shape the best. If you start with frozen meatballs you’ll need to give them a few extra minutes of baking (or frying) time.
- Adding an egg and some Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) helps the meatballs retain a rounded shape. You don’t want to add too much Panko though or the meatballs will end up dry instead of moist and juicy.
- All this being said, you may still find that your meatballs have one side that has a slightly flatter surface but if you follow the tips above, they will turn out much rounder and prettier.
A delicious, Asian-inspired glaze
The glaze for these Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs is simple and only takes a few minutes to put together. Again, it draws its flavor profile from Asian ingredients. In addition to strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar, the glaze includes soy sauce, fresh ginger, sesame oil and a splash of chili garlic sauce. A few teaspoons of cornstarch dissolved in water helps the glaze to thicken up nicely and stick to the meatballs.
Just combine the ingredients in a saucepan, bring it all to a boil and cook for another 4-5 minutes. That’s it! The meatballs are dipped in the sauce after baking and then returned to the oven for a few minutes to set the glaze. Serve the rest of the sauce with the meatballs for dipping and you end up an incredibly delicious appetizer or the star of your next party!
OR main course.
Main course? Yes, stay tuned, we’ll be sharing our Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatball Rice Bowls soon. Like the name says, it’s served over rice with a fresh, delicious cucumber strawberry salad. So, so good!
Café Tips for making these Strawberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs
- I like to use a retractable ice cream (or cookie) scooper to make uniform size meatballs. You can also scoop up your ground meat and weigh it on a scale. I like to make my cocktail meatballs about 1 ounce in size (30-35g).
- Use a good quality Strawberry Jam for this recipe. I was thrilled to find that I still had a few jars of our Strawberry Freezer Jam stashed away in the freezer so that’s what I used to make this sauce. If you’re purchasing jam for this recipe, look for jam with a pretty red color. Check the ingredients on the label. If there’s more than strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, look for another brand. If I don’t have my own, homemade jam, I really like Bonne Maman, Wilkin & Sons and Stonewall Kitchen.
- Also, look for a good quality balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar can be ridiculously expensive if you’re purchasing aceto balsamico tradizionale, which is the traditional Italian, name-protected, small-batch, long-aged product. However, it’s not necessary to spend a fortune for a good tasting, everyday balsamic vinegar. I really like Kirkland balsamic vinegar available at Costco and online. It’s won a number of awards and is fairly reasonably priced. In a Cook’s Illustrated tasting test of grocery store vinegar Bertolli was rated the highest. Whatever brand you choose, check to make sure it doesn’t have artificial color and/or flavor added.
- This recipe includes Panko which are Japanese breadcrumbs. You don’t have to go to an Asian store to find Panko. Most larger groceries (including Super Walmart and Super Target) carry Panko. Look in the area with regular bread crumbs or in the international aisle in the Asian section. You can also find Panko online.
- Chili garlic sauce is a delicious flavor booster in this recipe. If you’re not familiar with chili garlic sauce, it’s just what the name says a combination of a hot chili sauce with garlic. It’s delicious but a little goes a long way. I’ve given a range for the amount of chili garlic sauce to be used in this recipe. Start with a half teaspoon and taste the sauce after it’s cooked you can always add a bit more but you can’t take away the heat. Chili garlic sauce is available in the Asian section at most larger grocery stores. It keeps well in the refrigerator for 6-9 months.
- I used a combination of red and yellow bell pepper but feel free to use one or the other.
- These meatballs can be made ahead and refrigerated either on their own or in the sauce. Rewarm either in the oven at 350˚F (dip in the sauce again before heating) or in a saucepan (with the sauce).
- You can also freeze them after forming into balls. Freeze them in a single layer. Once frozen, store in an airtight container or zippered bag.
- Love the fun appetizer forks? Yeah, me too! I couldn’t resist them and they’re Amazon Prime with free delivery – tomorrow!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 3 medium scallions green onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped red or yellow bell pepper or a combination of both colors
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- ½ cup panko crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- sesame seeds, thinly sliced green onions and cilantro for garnish
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ cup strawberry jam
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
- ½-2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
Preheat the oven to 475˚F with a rack positioned near the top of the oven. Line a sheet pans with parchment paper or foil. If you use foil, spray it lightly with baking spray or rub with a bit of oil.
Combine the ground chicken, panko, scallions, bell pepper, cilantro, ginger, garlic, egg, sesame oil and kosher salt in a large bowl. Using your hands or a sturdy spatula, mix until combined.
Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop up the mixture into 1 or 1 1/2 inch balls and arrange them on the baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. If you have time, refrigerate the meatballs for 30 minutes (or longer). You could also freeze the meatballs at this point.
Brush the meatballs with additional sesame oil or olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. (If meatballs are frozen, give them an extra 2-3 minutes.)
Remove meatballs from the oven. Using a fork, dip each meatball into the sauce then return to the baking pan. Bake for another 2-3 minutes until meatballs are nicely glazed
Brush the meatballs with more sauce and serve with toothpicks or cocktail forks and the remainder of the sauce in a small bowl for dipping. You can also pour the remaining sauce over the meatballs and serve meatballs in a bowl with toothpicks or cocktail forks on the side.
Garnish with sesame seeds (I like both light and black seeds), thinly sliced green onions and cilantro sprigs.
While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce. Combine water and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and stir until well combined and there are no lumps. Add all remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
See Café Tips above in post for more detailed instructions and tips.
Recipe makes 18-20 meatballs, depending on the size.
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