This easy recipe for homemade baked Sweet and Sour Meatballs comes together quick in about 30 minutes. Seasoned and juicy on the inside, they are coated in the best sauce, this snack, a party appetizer, or simple dinner idea is one your whole family will be licking their lips at!
I’ve always found homemade meatballs to be such a comfort food. As you can tell by the recipes on my site, I love many kinds of meatballs. Everything from the infamous grape jelly and ketchup meatballs and Buffalo chicken meatballs to Tikka Masala meatballs and meatballs with cranberry sauce. Each one is as mouthwatering as the next!
Table of contents
Easy Sweet and Sour Chicken Meatballs
These Chinese take-out-inspired sweet and sour meatballs are my current favorites and not just because I can make them at home and stay in my jammies.
It’s because they’re well-seasoned and tender baked meatballs coated in a dreamy sweet and tangy sauce made with pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, and rice wine vinegar to cut through the sweetness.
They have so much flavor in every bite that I can’t stop eating them!
What do you serve sweet and sour meatballs with?
These can be great appetizers for game day parties and all kinds of social gatherings. Serve with toothpicks and some extra dipping sauce on the side.
If you’re having them as a meal, they’re great over white rice with a side of steamed veggies like broccoli, green beans, and snow peas.
For the Meatballs
- Ground chicken: I make mine with ground chicken, which is lean meat. It’s a healthier option with less fat and the baking, not frying them helps too. You can use ground turkey and make them turkey meatballs if you’d prefer.
- Panko breadcrumbs: These types of crumbs are lighter than regular breadcrumbs so I find they don’t weigh down the meatballs. They’re used to absorb the excess moisture and bind the meatballs together.
- Large egg: An egg also helps to bind the ingredients together, but also adds moisture. The breadcrumbs and the egg work to balance each other out.
- Soy sauce: A delicious ingredient that we’re using in the meatball for a savory element, but also in the sauce for that unique umami flavor.
- Sesame oil: Asian flavors come through in this sweet and sour meatball recipe, so don’t skip this toasty nutty flavored oil!
- Garlic & fresh ginger: Both are grated to give the meatballs a strong aromatic flavor.
- Olive oil: I use a bit to coat my hands before rolling up the meat mixture. Since ground chicken doesn’t have a lot of fat, sometimes it can be sticky to work with. The coating of oil will also help brown the meatballs in the oven.
For the Glaze
- Pineapple juice: You can use pineapple juice from a carton or juice from canned pineapples. Save some of the pineapple chunks to serve with the meatballs, if you’d like.
- Brown sugar: Gives the sauce additional sweetness, darker color, and a big flavor.
- Rice wine vinegar: This acid cuts through the sweetness and is what balances out the sweetness with tangy tartness. You can use regular white vinegar if you want.
- Soy sauce: Also adds dark color and a savory flavor.
- Ketchup: Adds a bit of tomato-y sweetness and color. It won’t be as vibrant as using food color on top of it, but it’ll brighten it a bit.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the sauce so that it’s a sweet and sticky glaze rather than a runny sauce.
- Red food coloring: Sometimes I’ll even add red food coloring like they do in Chinese restaurants! It’s not a must for flavor, but it does give the red sauce a vibrancy.
1. Swap the ketchup for chili sauce, grape jelly, barbecue sauce or cranberry sauce.
2. For quick prep and to save a bit of time, use frozen store bought-meatballs.
3. Instead of ground chicken or ground turkey, make them with ground beef, ground pork, or a mixture of both if desired.
4. Use regular breadcrumbs over Panko crumbs, if preferred.
5. I like using toasted sesame oil for the best Asian flavors but regular sesame oil or other favorite oil will work as well.
How to Make this Meatballs Recipe
Skip the Asian restaurant takeout because in just 30 minutes you’ll have baked homemade sweet and sour meatballs smothered in the best sauce! Here’s how to make them:
Step 1: In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger (aka all the meatball ingredients). Gently mix until combined, but do not overwork the meat.
Step 2: Coat your hands with a bit of olive oil and scoop out enough of the meat mixture to roll it into balls about the size of golf balls. Roll and form them until they are smooth on the outside and place them on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes.(line with parchment paper for easy clean-up).
Step 3: In the meantime, heat the pineapple juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and ketchup in a medium pot over medium-high heat to create the sweet and sour sauce.
Step 4: Stir for about 5 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove 2 Tablespoons of the sauce to a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to the reserved sauce and blend. Mix cornstarch mixture back into the sauce to thicken it up. Add a few drops of red food coloring if you’re using it.
Step 5: Remove from heat and set it aside. Take out the meatballs and brush them with the glaze then broil on high for an additional 2-3 minutes until the sauce starts to caramelize.
Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions if desired and enjoy!
- For even-sized meatballs, use a medium or large cookie scoop. An ice cream scoop works too. Making them all even sizes will ensure even baking.
- For appetizer sweet and sour meatballs, use a small cookie scoop.
- The meatballs are cooked through when they reach an internal temperature of 165° F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Add some spice to the glaze with red pepper flakes.
- The balance of sweet and tart is based on my taste preference. Feel free to play around with the amount of sugar vs vinegar and make it your own.
- If using cooked frozen meatballs, no need to thaw them first.
Certainly! A combination of hopped red, orange, and green bell peppers is great with the sauce. Sliced mushrooms, and as mentioned above, although not a veggie, pineapple chunks would be great.
Keep any leftover sweet and sour meatballs stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. Freeze them in a freezer container for up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating.
In the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic grated
- 1 teaspoon ginger grated
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
For the Sweet and Sour Glaze
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Red food coloring optional
Make the Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- In a large bowl, add the ground meat, panko, egg, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Gently mix together without over working.1 pound ground chicken, 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1 large egg, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon ginger
- Coat your hands with the oil and roll portions of the meat mixture into meatballs approximately 2 inches in diameter or about the size of golf balls.2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roll the meatballs until they are smooth coating the outside of the meatballs with oil on your hands so they crisp in the oven. It is normal for the mixture to be very soft and wet.
- Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. (line with parchment paper for easy cleanup)
Make the Sweet and Sour Sauce
- While the meatballs are baking, add the pineapple juice, light brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and ketchup to a medium pot.½ cup pineapple juice, ⅓ cup light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon ketchup
- Heat the sauce ingredients over medium heat. (Add a few drops of red food coloring, if desired).Red food coloring
- Stir and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
- Remove 2 tablespoons of sauce and place it in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add in the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and mix well2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Stir that mixture back into the sauce and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens into a glaze.
- Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.
- Once the meatballs are completely cooked and reach an internal temperature of 165° F on an instant read thermometer, brush the sweet and sour glaze onto them thoroughly.
- Place the baking sheet back in the oven and broil on high for 2-3 minutes until the sauce begins to caramelize.
- Remove and garnish with sesame seeds if desired.
- Serve as an appetizer with any additional sweet and sour sauce on the side or over white rice with a favorite vegetable like steam broccoli, zucchini or snow peas.
Nutritional facts are estimates and are provided as a courtesy to the reader. Please utilize your own brand nutritional values to double check against our estimates. Nutritional values are calculated via a third party. Changing ingredients, amounts or cooking technique will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.
Sharing of this recipe to social media is both encouraged and appreciated. Please share the direct link back to the recipe. Copy/Pasting and/or screenshots of the recipe to any social media is strictly prohibited. Content and photographs are copyright protected