Lemon cilantro chicken meatballs are juicy and full of Asian flavor. Make this ground chicken meatball recipe for a delicious, easy and healthy Asian dinner!
Meatballs are a favorite of nearly everyone, and with good reason. They’re easy and relatively inexpensive to make, and because they freeze well, they’re fantastic for making meal prep easier.
Not only that, but there are countless ways to cook and flavor them. They can be made using any type of meat, too; from ground beef and pork to lamb, chicken or turkey. I even have a recipe for Palestinian fish meatballs!
This recipe takes the bright citrus flavor from one of my favorite chicken recipes, lemon cilantro chicken, and pairs it with earthy Asian flavors. The soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Chinese five spice add umami flavor to the ground chicken meatballs while fresh lemon peel and juice add bright tartness.
To finish the dish, a creamy lemon sauce is served over the Asian meatballs. There’s no doubt that this dinner will have your taste buds dancing!
Lemon Cilantro Chicken Meatballs
This is just a partial list of ingredients. You'll find the complete list in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Ground chicken- Many people like to make Asian meatballs with pork. While you could certainly make this recipe with ground pork, using chicken lowers the fat and calories a bit.
- Panko bread crumbs- Rather than using traditional bread crumbs, I use panko crumbs. I think it gives the meatballs a nicer consistency. If you’d rather use regular bread crumbs or even torn up pieces of day old bread, they’ll work as well.
- Oyster sauce- This Asian condiment has umami flavor like soy sauce, but with a noticeable sweetness. The consistency is thick and syrupy. If you don’t have oyster sauce, you can make a decent substitute by combining equal parts soy sauce and hoisin sauce.
- Water chestnuts- Despite the name, these aren't nuts at all; they are tuber vegetables that grow under the water in marshy, swampy areas. Because they grow in the mud, if you buy them fresh, you'll want to wash them well with water and peel them before you use them.
- Fresh lemons- Obviously, this recipe is for lemon cilantro chicken, so you'll need a few fresh lemons. If you need a substitute, the recipe will also work well with lime juice.
Cooking the meatballs
There are a number of ways to cook meatballs. Baked in an oven, pan-fried, and even Instant Pot meatballs. For this Asian meatball recipe, you'll be steaming them.
Because they're partially submerged in cooking liquid, steamed meatballs are incredibly moist!
I use the same concept in my recipe for Chinese steamed chicken. It's a delicious meal too; give it a try!
Tips for making juicy lemon cilantro chicken meatballs
There's nothing enjoyable about eating a dried out meatball. In addition to steaming them, there are a few other things you'll want to do to create tender, juicy ground chicken meatballs.
- Don't overwork the meat mixture.
You'll be incorporating the ingredients together with your hands, so use a light touch. This will help prevent the mixture from becoming too dry.
- Use a cookie scoop to shape them.
Again, to prevent you from handling the mixture too much, use a medium size cookie scoop to create the balls. Keeping them the same size also ensures that they cook evenly.
- Whisk the egg before adding it to the meat mixture.
Many people believe that eggs in the mixture keep meatballs moist. In truth, eggs don't create moisture at all; they're actually included to help bind the ingredients together. Whisking the egg before you add it to the bowl of ingredients makes it a bit easier to incorporate.
Get more tips for making the perfect meatball in my Persian meatballs recipe post. It's also another fantastic freezer friendly dinner!
This Asian chicken recipe is great with simple sides of steamed rice or fried rice. Or, serve the lemon cilantro chicken meatballs over some rice noodles, like lo mein.
Some spring rolls or Chinese bbq pork buns would make a tasty appetizer, or go the soup route and serve some miso broth.
Want another easy Asian chicken recipe to try?
Gai yang chicken is a Thai grilled chicken recipe. It features a spicy lemongrass marinade that is out of this world delicious!
Lemon Cilantro Chicken Meatballs
For the Meatballs
- 1 lb ground chicken or turkey
- ⅔ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 4 oz water chestnuts chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (dark preferred)
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 lemon zest of half
- 4 tbsp lemon juice (1 large lemon)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ⅛ tsp white pepper
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro (lightly packed)
- ½ lemon peeled and diced (optional)
- Place ground chicken in a bowl and add the Panko breadcrumbs, water chestnuts, cilantro, egg, oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, ginger paste, Chinese Five Spice, white pepper and lemon zest. Using your hands to incorporate and mix well.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the meatball mixture.
- Roll or scoop mixture into 12-16 meatballs. Transfer to a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add ⅓ cup water, bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to simmer. Steam the meatballs for 10 minutes (water should almost completely evaporate; add more as needed). Remove from skillet and transfer to platter. Tent with foil to keep warm.
- Place the juice from a large lemon (about 3-4 tablespoons), chicken stock, cornstarch, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and white pepper in a saucepan. Whisk together over medium heat until thickened.
- Stir in the diced lemon pieces (optional) and pour the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with steamed rice or noodles.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.