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Japanese-style Chicken (or Turkey) Meatballs (Tsukune)

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Servings: 20 balls
Author: Emily Clifton, Nerds with Knives


For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce like Kikkoman
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup dry sake sherry or Shaoxing wine
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic peeled and smashed
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken or turkey dark meat recommended
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 medium scallions white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic about 2 large cloves
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

For Garnish:

  • Thinly sliced scallion greens
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • 12-14 medium 6-inch wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use (if grilling)


For the Sauce:

  • Combine soy sauce, mirin, sherry, brown sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger slices, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then pour through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside or store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the Meatballs:

  • In a large mixing bowl add meat, panko, corn starch, scallions, egg, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Using your hands, mix until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to overnight. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/2-inch long slightly oval meatballs (like tiny meatloaves). Thread 2 to 3 meatballs onto each skewer (if grilling). If broiling, place balls on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet).
  • Prepare a grill or stovetop grill pan for high-heat. When hot, oil grill well and place skewers a few inches apart. Cook until first side is well browned and meat releases easily from the grill, about 3-4 minutes. Using tongs and a thin spatula, gently rotate meatballs and cook until well browned on second side, 3 minutes. Brush sauce generously over meatballs and allow to cook for 15-30 seconds longer, until brown and charred in spots. Transfer skewers to a plate and brush with sauce again until meatballs are well-glazed.


  • Preheat broiler and set rack 5 inches from heat source. Place the meatballs on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet and broil the meatballs, turning and basting every 2 minutes with the glaze, until the meatballs are cooked through and dark golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter.
  • Sprinkle meatballs with scallion greens and toasted sesame seeds and serve while hot.
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