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Chinese Meatball Recipe


There are so many times that I pull a package of ground beef out of the freezer and wonder, “How am I going to do something new and exciting with this?”  Since we buy a part of a cow, we end up with about 50 pounds of ground beef in our freezer to last the year.  I of course make taco soup, spaghetti sauce and hamburgers, plus the occasional meat loaf.  Then there’s lettuce cups, seven layer dip, and zucchini eggplant casserole.  It’s not that I don’t have lots of different options for cooking with ground beef, but I’ve felt like I was in a creative rut.  Then I started going through my cookbooks and found a recipe for Chinese meatballs in Hawaiian church women’s cookbook from the 70’s.  Although the ingredient list didn’t look very Chinese to me, I liked the idea, and used the inspiration to create my own meatball recipe with Chinese flavors.

Apparently the onion, garlic, cardamom, ginger and coriander worked well together because one of our Chinese students happily told us that the meatballs tasted like home.  Throughout the meal they both kept exclaiming, “This is very delicious!”  Eric and I love them too, but my favorite thing about these meatballs is how easy and cheap they are to make.

If you’ve made any kind of meatballs before, may notice that I don’t have any kind of bread crumbs in the recipe.  The recipe in the cookbook didn’t have any and, although I changed the other ingredients, I decided to stick with skipping the breadcrumbs and only having an egg to bind things together.  This way the meatballs are easily gluten free, the only possible substitution needed is gluten free soy sauce.


Now because of the lack of breadcrumbs, these may seem a little more difficult to cook without crumbling.  But you just need to be gentle with the tongs when you turn them, they’ll hold together just fine.

We really like to serve these over rice with some steamed baby bok choy, drizzled with a simple soy vinegar sauce.  Because I love to share as much as I can with you, I’m including the sauce recipe.  Yay!  Bonus recipe!!!

The nutritional information is just for the meatballs and sauce, you’ll need to factor in rice and vegetables if you use them.

Okay, I feel like I’m finally getting out of my ground beef creative rut, but I can still use your help.  Do you have any unique recipes for ground beef?  Please share!

Looking for more meatball recipes? Try our Oven Baked Homemade Meatballs!


Chinese Meatballs Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15-25 minutes
Total time: 25-35 minutes
Yield: 26 meatballs and 1/2 cup sauce
Calories per serving: 300
Fat per serving: 16g



  • 1 lb
    lean ground beef
  • 1/2
    a white onion, finely chopped
  • 3
    cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS
    soy sauce
  • 1 TBS
    sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp
    ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp
    ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp
    ground ginger
  • 1
  • 1/4 cup
    oil (vegetable or coconut oil)


  • 1/4 cup
    soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup
    rice vinegar
  • 2 TBS
  • 1/4 tsp
    onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp
    garlic powder
  • 1 tsp

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large bowl, use freshly washed hands to mix together the ground beef, chopped onion and garlic, 2 TBS of soy sauce, sesame oil, coriander, cardamom, ginger and the egg.
  2. Divide meat mixture into 26 one inch meatballs, rolling them between your hands.
  3. Heat oil on medium high in a large skillet. Fry meatballs in batches, making sure not to crowd them in the skillet.
  4. Let the meatballs brown on one side, then use tongs to turn them until they’re browned all over. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
  5. As the last batch of meatballs is cooking, make your sauce by whisking together the 1/4 cup soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, onion powder, garlic powder and cornstarch. Heat on high, stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.
  6. Place meatballs and cooked vegetable of your choice over rice and drizzle with sauce to serve.

Approximate cost/serving: This comes out to about $4 for me, so just 80 cents a serving.  The cost will go up a little with rice and a vegetable, but still cheap!

Gluten free: The only adaptation needed is to use gluten free soy sauce.  Also, just double check the ingredient list on your cornstarch to make sure it’s gluten free.

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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.

18 thoughts on “Chinese Meatball Recipe”

  1. We love ground beef and green pea curry! And your meatballs look yum. I’m making hamburgers without breadcrumbs these days because we’re not eating wheat anymore and you’ve inspired me to try meatballs without breadcrumbs, too.

    • Oooh great idea! I’ll have to give that a try. I’ve never used breadcrumbs in hamburgers before so it made a lot of sense to me when I saw they didn’t use any in the meatballs. Let me know how it goes!

  2. I made these tonight and they were so delicious. Easy and quick, as well. The only thing I did differently is I grated my onion and garlic and the meatballs formed beautifully without falling apart. I served it over rice, with peas on the side, and it was a marvelous meal. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  3. I know this is an older post, but I thought I would mention that using oatmeal as a binder is an excellent solution for gluten free diets. It is an old German trick. Just toss a handful in your meat mix and as soon as the balls (or patties or meatloaf) is cooked, the oats disappear. But the texture is amazing! Any kind will work – I usually end up using steel cut, since that’s what I normally have – but even instant oats work (just make sure there is no junk in the package.)

    • Great tip Jaz, thank you so much! I am actually just testing out a gluten free diet because I’m wondering if my baby is sensitive to it like he is to dairy. Good to know this is an option for meatballs or meatloaf. I will definitely give it a try.

  4. I just made these. I had to add some breadcrumbs because I halved the recipe but forgot to halve the egg (duh) and I left out the cardamom because I don’t have it. I followed the sauce instructions. It was lovely! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Wonderful! That’s what’s so great about cooking from scratch, you can work with what you’ve got. Thanks for letting me know how it turned out for you!

  5. like you I have a ton of game meat ground, so looking over some leftover homemade sweet and sour sauce I made these. I deepfried them at 350* for about 8 minutes. crunchy exterior, perfectly moist interior. yum.

  6. I’m not sure if you’re still looking for ideas on using up ground beef, but you can try this if you like cucumber. Peel a cucumber and slice into inch long pieces. Hollow out the middle and stuff with your Chinese meatball mixture. Pan fry three stuffed cucumbers on both ends to brown then and then add a half cup or cup of water cover and steam for 15 minutes or so. Something my mom used to do.

  7. I used ground venison instead of ground beef, and it was a little dry (as venison usually is) but the saucy sauce more than made up for it! Loved this recipe!


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