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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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Brent P.
January 26, 2023
This was so easy to prepare and had a lot of flavor. I didn't have sake so I used dry sherry instead and it worked great. Also, the chicken meatballs need to cook longer than specified in the recipe. After browning them, I cooked them in a skillet for about 15 minutes with a lid on to get them nice and done inside. Great recipe!
John M.
December 11, 2022
Easy & Flavorful
Aside from having to substitute Shaoxing wine for sake, I made this recipe exactly as written and thought it was superb! The flavors were so good and it was pretty easy to make. Next time (and there will be a next time!), I'll make 1.5x the glaze so I can spoon some over the rice. Thanks as always, Ms. Hill & Milk St. team.
Joanna W.
October 8, 2022
Very delicious and robust to slight errors from cooking rapidly with a baby in hand.
Maria R.
September 8, 2022
Fantastically flavorful!
I used boneless skinless thighs (untrimmed) that I whirled in the food processor. Worked great. I doubled everything. Easy and delicious. I served it with a veggie forward couscous and my family loved it. It would be nice with brown rice too, with the glaze spooned over it. I can see it on the super bowl table or for a light Thanksgiving lunch. Going into regular rotation for sure!
Carole C.
September 4, 2022
A new favorite!
Perfect recipe, cooking the sauce ahead makes a delightful glaze and portioning the meatballs was easier to do with a two-tablespoon ice cream scoop. Delicious, and is now on the regular rotation of meals!