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Irresistible Tsukune Recipe, Traditional Japanese Meatball

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Irresistible Tsukune Recipe, Traditional Japanese Meatball

This Tsukune recipe (Japanese meatballs) is typically made with ground chicken or pork. They’re grilled with a sweet, sticky, tangy sauce that makes them totally irresistible.

Packed with flavour and incredibly moist and tender, you will love serving these in a traditional lunch box for a weeknight dinner or a party appetiser.

The meatballs are sometimes boiled first, which helps them hold their shape on the grill and prevents them from drying out. Then they’re topped with a sticky soy sauce and grilled to perfection.

Tsukune Recipe
Tsukune Recipe

Tsukune Recipe

This Tsukune bento recipe is as close as you can get to the authentic Japanese version. Most often cooked yakitori style (Japanese type of skewering) it can also be pan-fried or baked. Start by making the sauce. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add the honey and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

Next, preheat the grill to medium. Pat the meat dry and coarsely grind it in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. In a shallow bowl, combine the ingredients for the meatballs and add enough filling to equal 1 lb (454 g). Divide the meat into 18 equal balls and roll each ball in the remaining filling. To finish, brush the meatballs on both sides with the sauce.

Tsukune Ingredients

For the marinade 3 tablespoons soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon black vinegar 2 tablespoons sake 2 tablespoons mirin 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

For the meatballs 1 pound ground chicken or pork 1 pound ground pork 1 egg, beaten 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 teaspoon salt 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 green onions, white and light green parts, finely sliced 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 4 cups canned soup, preferably Japanese kombu (kelp), or 1 cup water.

Directions For the marinade, combine all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. For the meatballs, mix all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the meatballs on all sides in the hot oil. Drain on paper towels.

Tsukune Cooking Instructions

  1. Heat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and add a touch of canola oil.
  2. Add the meatballs, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side.
  3. Once the meatballs are cooked, remove from heat and immediately toss with the sauce.
  4. Mix until combined, and serve with a dash of ketchup and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Tsukune Serving Suggestions

Tip #1: Feel free to serve in any sauce you have on hand, or you can simply top the meatballs with some grated cheese and slather it on top to add a tasty finish.

Tip #2: Get some grated carrots or broccoli to add to your sauce if you want it to be a little extra.

Tip #3: Try to find a different sauce than the one suggested. Sometimes the “traditional” one is the one that’s most popular, but that may not be the best match for everyone.

This is a great way to let the true flavours of the dish shine through. Also, since this dish comes from a region of Japan that borders China, we’re pretty sure there are many dishes that are far more exotic than tsukune. These days, you can find tsukune in just about any Japanese restaurant that serves other delicious meat dishes.


To summarise, these meatballs taste really amazing and are definitely worth the effort. If you are planning a traditional Japanese party, they’d be a great option for a menu. Try experimenting with this Tsukune recipe by substituting chicken or pork for other proteins. You can also mix the vegetarian versions for a fun party snack. Whichever you choose, you are sure to love them.

In final words, these meatballs are quick and easy to cook. All you need is a grill and some filling. In no time, you’ll be calling them your own. Read more about Japanese Tsukune recipe history here: Wikipedia & the bento box illustrated in the cover photo is the Shokado Bento Box. Loved this recipe? Try some of our popular Japanese bento box recipes, our Chicken Teriyaki Recipe.

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