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Japanese-Style Chicken Meatballs

4 Servings

50 minutes

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Japanese chicken meatballs, called tsukune, are a standard offering in izakayas (pub-like gathering places) and restaurants specializing in yakitori. Sometimes shaped into cigars rather than orbs, the meatballs are grilled on skewers and finished with tare (pronounced tah-reh), a savory-sweet soy-based seasoning sauce. Vigorously mixing the meat mixture with either your hands or a silicone spatula helps create structure and a characteristic “bounciness,” so don’t feel the need to be gentle when combining, as if making meatloaf or burger. Instead of skewering and grilling the tsukune, we shape the mixture into small, thick meatballs, skip the skewers, and do all cooking in a nonstick skillet on the stovetop. To add a little spice to the tsukune, offer shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice blend) or yuzu kosho (Japanese chili and citrus paste) at the table.




Don’t brown the meatballs aggressively or they’ll toughen up and will cook unevenly from edge to center. Heat the oil for browning them over medium-high, then reduce the burner to medium as soon as the meatballs are in the pan.

50 minutes


  • ½

    cup sake

  • ½

    cup mirin


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Diane L.
April 24, 2024
Delicious and easy
My husband and I love these meatballs. They are on regular rotation in our house now. I do make a little extra sauce to spoon over the rice. We also enjoy this with a side of the Cauliflower w/salty sweet chili crisp sauce. The sauces together might not work for everyone or be best together, but we enjoy it. Delicious!
Matthew M.
April 21, 2024
Delicious, layered flavor
My family loved this one. They've requested that it gets put in regular rotation.
Fran R.
February 4, 2024
Past the test!
Enjoyed making this recipe. It flowed nicely. Thought it needed a touch of salt though. This was a test run for an upcoming family dinner. It passed the test!
Marilyn B.
September 12, 2023
Question about freezing
These were AMAZING! Easy to prepare and layers of delicious flavor. We ate only half the recipe because there are just two of us, so I'm wondering if the remaining sauce will be enough for the leftovers. I might try another suggestion to bump up the amount of sauce by 1//2. I think I could make the meatballs in advance and freeze them (pre-cooked). Would that work?
Ayla M.
May 28, 2023
I screwed up and used cooking sake and the sauce was way too salty, but these were still delicious and not a single meatball was left over. Served them with a kimchi fried rice and used half chicken half ground turkey cause that's what I had on hand.