Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)

Japanese Chicken Meatballs (tsukune) Recipe

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Vickie Parks


Using ground dark meat (chicken thighs) produces a much juicier meatball compared to using leaner ground chicken breast. The breadcrumbs and egg help the meatballs retain their shape and cling to the skewer throughout the grilling process. Also, they're less likely to fall apart on the grill if you let them get well browned on the first side before flipping to grill the other side. And a final brushing of the Tare Sauce will coat the slightly spicy meatballs in a sweet and salty glaze.


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4 (cooking time includes sauce preparation and grilling time)
20 Min
1 Hr



  • 1/2 c
  • 1/2 c
    low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 c
  • 1/4 c
    dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp
    sherry vinegar
  • 3 clove
    garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3
    scallions (green onions), roughly chopped
  • 1-inch
    piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp
    whole peppercorns (black or white)

  • 1 1/2 lb
    ground chicken thighs
  • 1/2 c
    panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c
    finely chopped scallions (green onions)
  • 1 large
    egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp
    finely grated ginger
  • 2 tsp
    finely minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 1 tsp
    toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp
    kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp
    ground white pepper

  • 8-10
    wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes piror to use

How to Make Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)


  1. For the Tare Sauce: Combine mirin, soy sauce, sake, brown sugar, sherry vinegar, garlic, scallions, ginger slices, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, whisk to combine, and cook until mixture is thick and syrupy, about 45 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

    While preparing meatballs, soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes (to prevent charring during grilling).
  2. For the Meatballs: Using hands, mix together chicken, bread crumbs, scallions, egg, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, salt, and white pepper until thoroughly combined. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs and thread onto skewers.
  3. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grilling grate. Careful transfer skewers to grill, if necessary supporting meatballs from bottom to prevent them from falling off skewers. Grill until first side is well browned, about 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, rotate meatballs and cook until well browned on second side, about 2-3 minutes. Repeat for remaining two sides.
  4. Brush tare sauce all over meatballs and allow to cook for 15-30 seconds longer. Transfer skewers to a plate or serving dish, brush lightly with sauce again and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Printable Recipe Card

About Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)

Course/Dish: Chicken
Main Ingredient: Chicken
Regional Style: Japanese

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