Sweet chili meatballs are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, made with ground chicken plus the spicy kick of Thai chili sauce, fresh cilantro, garlic, and ginger. They’re perfect for an appetizer or main dish and can be made ahead of time and frozen.
Do you love sweet and spicy flavors? I’m sure you’re going to love these sweet chili meatballs! They are packed with flavor and will leave your taste buds tingling. These meatballs are made with ground chicken, so they are nice and juicy.
The sweet chili sauce gives them a delicious Asian Thai flavor, and the fresh cilantro, garlic, and ginger add a wonderful aroma. Be sure to serve them with green onion and sesame seeds for a beautiful presentation!
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What do Sweet Chili Meatballs taste like?
As I mentioned, these meatballs have a sweet, spicy, and savory flavor. The sweet chili sauce is slightly spicy with a hint of sweetness from the sugar.
The fresh cilantro adds a bright color to the dish, and the garlic and ginger add a zing of flavor. While the green onion and sesame seeds give the meatballs a beautiful presentation and a little bit of crunch.
What I love about these meatballs is that they are so easy to make! You can either bake them or cook them in a pan on the stove.
The baking method is my favorite because it is less messy and the meatballs come out nice and crispy. But, if you’re in a hurry, cooking them on the stovetop will work just fine.
So, if you’re looking for a delicious and easy recipe, give these sweet chili meatballs a try! You won’t be disappointed.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
For the Meatballs
- Ground chicken – The base of the mix. I recommend using “ground chicken” not “ground chicken breast” because it has a bit more structure and less moisture.
- Large egg – helps bind the meatballs together.
- Panko breadcrumbs – Help absorb extra moisture in the meatballs to keep them juicy without being soggy. If you don’t have one, you can use crushed crackers instead.
- Sweet chili sauce – adds a bit of spice and sweetness to the meatballs. You can also use sriracha sauce or make your own using a mix of honey, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes.
- Soy sauce – adds a salty umami flavor to the recipe.
- Cilantro – adds a fresh, grassy flavor to the meatballs. Basil or parsley can also be used if you don’t like cilantro.
- Garlic – for that kick of flavor.
- Ginger – adds a zing of flavor.
- Sesame oil – adds a nutty flavor and helps crisp the meatballs while they bake.
For the Sauce
- Sweet chili sauce – this Asian sauce adds the perfect flavor
- Lime juice – adds a bit of acidity and freshness to the sauce. You can also use lemon juice for this recipe.
- Water – helps thin the sauce to your desired consistency.
- Green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds – for garnish.
Kitchen TOols Needed
How to make the Sweet Chili Meatballs
Cooking the Meatballs
Mix the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, mix together the ground chicken, egg, bread crumbs, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, minced cilantro, grated garlic, and grated ginger to a large bowl.
Bake. Bake the meatballs for 15-18 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165°F.
While the meatballs are baking, mix together the dipping sauce.
Making the Sweet Chili Sauce
Mix the Sauce. To a large bowl, add the sweet chili sauce, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk together until the sauce is thin and pourable. If it is not yet thin enough, then add another tablespoon of water.
Put the chicken meatballs in the sauce and mix them together. You can enjoy it with green onion, cilantro, or sesame seeds on top.
How to Serve the Meatballs with Chili Sauce
These meatballs are perfect for appetizers or as a main course. To make this a meal, serve it over rice like our Basmati rice, brown rice, mashed potatoes, or with your favorite vegetables on the side.
You can also pair them with a side of salad for a complete meal. For a fun twist, try serving them on toothpicks as an appetizer!
How to Store Sweet Chili sauce and Meatballs
The meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Then the Thai sweet chili sauce will last in the fridge for up to one week.
If you find the sauce is too thick, add a bit of water to thin it out before serving.
Can I freeze this?
You can freeze the meatballs and dipping sauce in a freezer safe container for up to three months. However, I recommend freezing them without the sauce, so they don’t get soggy when reheated.
When you’re ready to eat them, simply heat the meatballs in the oven and then mix them with the sauce.
Meatballs in Sweet Chili Sauce Variations
- I am using ground chicken in this recipe, but you can use ground pork, ground turkey, ground beef, or any mixture of ground meat. For the best results, do not use extra lean ground turkey.
- To make these sweet and sour meatballs with chili sauce gluten-free, swap out the panko breadcrumbs for gluten-free breadcrumbs and use a gluten-free soy sauce.
- For extra heat, add a teaspoon (or more) of sriracha sauce or chili flakes to the sweet chili sauce mixture.
- You can also dip chicken tenders or strips and fried chicken strips into this Thai sweet chili sauce.
- The dipping sauce can also be enjoyed with spring rolls.
Get the Full Sweet Chili Meatballs Here
Sweet Chili Meatballs
- Baking Sheet
- Scoop or large tablespoon
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground chicken (can substitute with ground turkey)
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
For the Sauce
- ½ cup sweet chili sauce
- 1 piece lime juiced
- 1-2 tablespoons water as needed to thin the sauce
- Sliced green onion cilantro, and/or sesame seeds, for garnish
For the Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Add the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, minced cilantro, grated garlic, and grated ginger to a large bowl. Gently mix until well combined.
- Drizzle the sesame oil over a large sheet pan and rub it over the pan with your hands (coating your hands with oil will prevent the chicken from sticking).
- Portion the chicken into golf ball sized portions (about 1.5 tablespoons) and roll them into smooth balls. Place the meatballs at least 1” apart on the oiled baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs for 15-18 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 165°F.
For the Sauce
- Add the sweet chili sauce, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of water to a large bowl and whisk to combine.
- If the sauce is not thin and pourable, add another tablespoon of water.
- Add the hot chicken meatballs to the sauce and toss to combine.
- Enjoy garnished with green onion, cilantro, or sesame seeds.
- To make this a meal, serve it over rice with your favorite vegetables on the side.
- Ground chicken is a great base for this flavor! I’m using “ground chicken” not “ground chicken breast” because it has a bit more structure and less moisture. You can substitute with regular ground turkey (not extra lean).
- Egg helps bind the meatballs together.
- Panko helps absorb extra moisture in the meatballs to keep them juicy without being soggy.
- Sweet chili sauce adds a bit of spice and sweetness to the meatballs.
- Soy sauce adds a salty umami flavor to the meatballs.
- Cilantro adds a fresh, grassy flavor to the meatballs.
- Garlic and ginger are classic additions to Asian flavors. I like using grated aromatics in these meatballs, so they incorporate smoothly without big chunks.
- Sesame oil adds a nutty flavor and helps crisp the meatballs while they bake.
- Lime adds a bit of acidity and freshness to the sauce.
- Water helps thin the sauce to your desired consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions
Baking meatballs is an easy way to make juicy and flavorful meatballs. Fried meatballs can be crispy on the outside but they might be dry on the inside. If you choose to fry them, make sure there is enough room for them to cook evenly so they don’t get dry.
No, but if you have the time, it won’t hurt. Letting the meatballs sit for 20-30 minutes will help them hold together better when cooking. This is especially true if you are baking the meatballs instead of frying them.
If you are short on time, you can skip the resting step. Just be sure to form the meatballs tightly so they hold together well.
You can swap the sauce with hoisin sauce, plum sauce, or apricot preserves. If you don’t have any of those on hand, you can make a sweet chili sauce by mixing together equal parts sugar, vinegar, and ketchup. Just be sure to adjust the other ingredients in the recipe accordingly.