Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)

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Chicken meatballs called tsukune are a Japanese-restaurant favorite—they’re essentially a chicken sausage mixture flavored with garlic and ginger. Use flat sword-shaped skewers instead of traditional round bamboo skewers to keep the meatballs from slipping when you try to turn them. Serve with bowls of steamed rice on the side.

 Japanese Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune)
photographer: Ken Burris
Nutritionist Tested & Approved
  • Total Time: 2 hours

  • Chicken Meatballs

  • 2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken, or 93%-lean ground turkey

  • 1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs, or Japanese panko breadcrumbs (see Tips)

  • 1 large egg white

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion whites

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • Sweet Soy Glaze

  • 1/4 cup mirin, (see Note) or cream sherry

  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water

  • Kebabs

  • 18 scallions, trimmed

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted (see Tips)

  1. Prepare meatballs and glaze (Steps 1 & 2), cover and refrigerate for up to up to 1 day. | Equipment: 6 (10- to 12-inch) flat skewers

  2. 6 servings

  3. To prepare meatballs: Place shiitakes in a small bowl; cover with boiling water and let soak for 45 minutes. Drain the mushrooms. Remove and discard the stems; finely chop the caps. Combine the chopped caps, ground chicken (or turkey), breadcrumbs, egg white, scallion whites, cornstarch, ginger, garlic, honey, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix and squeeze until well combined. Use a generous 2 tablespoons each to shape the mixture into 24 meatballs. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

  4. To prepare glaze: Combine mirin (or sherry), soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar and ginger in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the cornstarch-water mixture, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 2 to 5 minutes.

  5. To prepare kebabs: Preheat half to two-thirds of a gas grill to medium-high (1 burner if you have a 2-burner grill; 2 burners on a 3-burner grill) or build a medium-high-heat fire on one side of a charcoal grill.

  6. Thread the meatballs onto flat metal skewers, 4 per skewer. Oil the grill rack (see Tips). Grill the kebabs over direct heat, turning once, until marked, 5 to 6 minutes per side. (If you try to turn the kebabs too early, the meatballs will stick to the grill. Let them cook for a minute or two longer before turning so the meat will release from the grill.) Move the kebabs to the unlit side. Brush the tops with the glaze and grill for 2 minutes. Turn the kebabs over, brush with more glaze and grill for about 2 minutes more. Remove to a clean large serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm.

  7. Grill scallions over direct heat, lightly brushing them with some of the glaze and turning frequently so the glaze doesn’t burn, until tender-crisp and with a few char marks, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to the platter.

  8. Drizzle the kebabs with any leftover glaze and sesame oil; sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Nutritional Facts

Per serving
Saturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Dietary Fiber
Added Sugars
1 carbohydrate (other)
3 lean meat
Carbohydrate Servings
Potassium (22% daily value)
Vitamin C (18% dv)

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