Tender, sticky, sweet, spicy cocktail chicken meatballs are a perfect appetizer or weeknight meal over fluffy rice. Impressive, but so quick and easy.
Seriously, this whole recipe takes about 25 minutes, it can be made ahead for a party or potluck and, most of all, it’s very tasty (so said my tester husband last night). It’s actually a twist on our Bourbon Chicken (copycat-ish) recipe, using chicken meatballs instead of chicken pieces – and the same sauce.
There are several serving options. For example, it’s a nice main dish with rice or rice noodles. Or it makes a good appetizer right out of the pan, in a serving bowl or or on serving spoons or mini plates.
The cocktail meatballs are well seasoned and have a nice soft texture. Kids would love them. And, of course, they could be used in other dishes like spaghetti and meatballs as well. They don’t come out perfectly round as the mixture is on the wetter side. If you add some breadcrumbs, however, you can probably get them to stay round while cooking if you prefer them that way. Personally, I think the slightly odd shape gives them charm and makes them look homemade, but hey, do what you have to do.
The sauce has bold flavors and can be made as spicy as you like or not at all. The bourbon is optional.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Feel free to use beef, pork or veal (or a combination) for the meatballs. Or use you own favourite meatball recipe.
- Vary the herbs in the meatballs. I used basil – parsley would be good too.
- Use maple syrup in the sauce instead of the brown sugar. I did.
- Use frozen store-bought meatballs.
- Use frozen cubes or powder instead of fresh garlic and ginger.
- Make half as many larger meatballs. Bake for an extra 8-12 minutes.
Make Ahead Cocktail Meatballs
- One of the best features of this recipe is that either the meatballs or the sauce can be a day or two made ahead. Or, the full recipe – just reheat before serving.
- The meatballs can also be made ahead (without the sauce) and frozen for up to a month. Then make the sauce closer to the day of serving.
Cocktail Chicken Meatballs Recipe
- 1 lb minced chicken (dark or white meat)
- 2 slices bread, torn into little pieces
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 tbsp grated onion (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Ketchup
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley or basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 1/5 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Garnish: chopped green onions, toasted sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (light or low sodium is fine)
- 1/5 cup water
- 1/4 cup apple sauce (or apple juice or cider)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Bourbon (optional)
- 1/4 tbsp chili flakes (for mildly spicy)
- 1 tsp minced garlic - or 1 clove or frozen cube (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
- 1 tsp minced/grated ginger or 1 frozen cube (or 1/4 tsp ginger powder)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- MAKE CHICKEN MEATBALL MIXTURE: In a medium bowl, add bread and milk. Let soak for a minute until liquid is absorbed. Add grated onion, ketchup, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix together. Add minced chicken and lightly mix all ingredients together. Mixture will be very moist. If too moist, add up to a few tablespoons breadcrumbs.
- FORM AND BAKE MEATBALLS: Line a large sided pan with parchment or foil sprayed with oil. Wet your hands (do this periodically) and form meatballs into balls about 1 1/2 inches. (I don't worry about them being perfectly round). You should get about 25-30 balls. Place on pan and bake for 12 minutes or until cooked through. One side will be browned, the other pale. If desired, turn half way through (I don't bother).
- MAKE SAUCE/GLAZE: While meatballs are baking, add all sauce/glaze ingredients to a small wok or skillet. Heat to medium high, stirring. Bring to boil, lower heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes to reduce and thicken sauce.
- FINISH THE DISH: Add baked meatballs to sauce and stir to coat well. For dinner, serve over rice. For appetizers, transfer to serving bowl (or leave in pan) and serve with toothpicks. For a starter, serve 2-3 on mini plates. Garnish with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
- Make Ahead: Meatballs can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated for a couple of days.
Here’s a similar recipe you might like:
Bourbon Chicken (copycat-ish) (get the recipe)