Sweet and Sour Asian Meatballs with Vegetables

We have been so busy at home lately. Yesterday left me wondering when the last time it was that I prepared a really nice weeknight meal. Sure, we’ve still been eating well, but I’ve been preparing simpler main dishes and relying on leftovers quite often. Yesterday I was craving a robust, flavorful and filling meal…not something that was simple to throw together. The kind of thing I envision when I think of sitting down to a family dinner.

Meatballs came to mind, but I didn’t feel like Italian or pasta. So how could I tweak that to align with the flavors I was really looking for? Asian inspired was the way to go! Filling and hearty with tons of flavor. Add some vegetables with the sauce and serve the dish with rice and you have a family dinner worth one dish dinner.

Yes it was time consuming to prepare, but being in the kitchen with a wrote task like rolling meatballs was cathartic. It made me slow down on the preparation instead of feeling in a rush to get food on the table. I prepared the food in the late afternoon since I know hungry tummies would be coming home from school and would not like their dinner delayed.

6 Tips for Preparing Meatballs

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1. They are time consuming to prepare. When you find a recipe your family enjoys, make a double batch and freeze half of them for later. Meatballs may be prepared and cooked in advance and frozen in an airtight freezer safe container or ziplock bag for up to 6 weeks. Make sure you completely cool the meatballs before freezing.

2. Use a small food processor to finely chop any vegetables that will be added to the meat mixture. This ensures fast, even cooking and eliminates any large chunks that take away from the uniform texture of the meat.

3. Don’t like the feel of all the ground meat on your hands during mixing and meatball formation? Wear a pair of surgical cloves for the preparation process to keep your hands clean. Just make sure that no on you’re serving has a latex allergy as the use of latex gloves would cross contaminate the meal. (Or simply buy latex-free gloves)

4. While rolling the meatballs, periodically wet your hands (or gloves). This helps keep the outside texture of the meatball nice and smooth.

5. Use a Medium Cookie Scoop to scoop the meat mixture out of the bowl. This will ensure that the balls are all uniformly sized, which helps when assessing cooking times and doneness.

6. Use a meat thermometer. It can be hard to tell when the meatballs are done. Test the center with a meat thermometer after the shortest cooking time recommendation listed in a recipe to avoid under or over cooked meat.

What are your favorite ways to serve meatballs? Do you have any special preparation tricks?

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Sweet and Sour Asian Meatballs with Vegetables

Yield: approximately 24 meatballs - serves 4 - 6


For the Meatballs:

1.25 lbs lean ground beef, preferably organic
1 tablespoon milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
2 - 3 drops 100% pure ginger oil (or 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger)
3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice Powder
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, very finely chopped
2 ounces button or shiitake mushrooms, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 drops 100% pure ginger oil (or 1 - 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger)
2 - 3 tablespoons brown sugar (adjust for your sweetness preference)
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Other Ingredients:
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 3/4 inch squares
1 - 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts
4 - 6 ounces snow peas or sugar snap peas
brown jasmine rice, for serving
sesame seeds for garnish


For the Meatballs:

Place the ground beef in a large bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, egg, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, ginger oil, salt, pepper, 5 spice powder, and garlic. Whisk to combine. Add mixture to the ground beef. Stir to combine.

Add the carrot, mushroom, cilantro, parsley, green onion, and panko breadcrumbs to the meat mixture. Mix until combined. I find that hands work best for this. Form into golf ball sized portions and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I like to use a Medium Cookie Scoop to ensure the balls are all evenly sized.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the insides are no longer pink and a thermometer registers 160 degrees F when inserted in the center of a meatball. Serve with sauce, vegetables, and brown jasmine rice.

For the sauce:

Combine the pineapple juice, ketchup, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, ginger oil, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a medium to large skillet. Cook until boiling, then reduce to a simmer. Add the meatballs, snow peas, bell pepper, and water chestnuts. Cook until the sauce coats the meatballs and the vegetables are tender.

Serve with brown jasmine rice and a sprinkle of sesame seeds on top.