Tsukune is a popular appetizer in Japan.  When ordered, you can expect to be served grilled minced chicken meatballs however, tsukune actually translates to minced meat, so any ground meat qualifies for this recipe. We’ve used pork, chicken, beef and combinations of all. This round we decided to use chicken and grass-fed organic beef – which was sooooo much more flavorful than just chicken!  The recipe is easily adapted to your own taste.  You can add more garlic, more ginger, more spice.  It’s easy to underseason, so a good amount of aromatics gives the meatballs just that much more flavor. We made coconut rice and sesame garlic sautéed organic spinach to go with our skewers — and served sauce on the side.  Here’s our recipe.

TZUKUNE ~ Japanese Meatball Skewers

Makes approximately 24 meatballs (12 skewers)



  • 1 lb organic ground chicken
  • 1 lb organic ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 organic eggs. lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 T finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 T minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (you can use 1/2 tsp for less heat)
  • 1/3 C chopped organic scallions
  • 1-2 T white sesame seeds
  • 12 thick wooden skewers ( we used 5.5″ long candy apple sticks.  They are heavy-duty and can hold up to the balls.

Place skewers in container of water, so completely submerged.  This will keep them from burning when grilling meatballs. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Using your hands, mix all ingredients for the meatballs and form 1″ meatballs.  Place a single layer of balls on sheet pan.  Once all the meat is rolled into balls, you can begin dropping balls into boiling water – about 6 at a time.  Boil each batch for 4 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon or strainer, letting water completely drip off.  Set on clean platter until all the balls are boiled.  Once boiling stage is completed, you can skewer two balls per skewer.  You should get at least 12 skewers.  Start your hibachi or grill.  Once hot and ready for grilling, baste skewered meatballs with a bit of your sauce and grill each side for 2 minutes each, place on sheet pan, brush with more sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  To serve, arrange on platter with extra sauce for dipping and chopped scallion garnish.

SAUCE ~ this is a sweet, sticky sauce that gives the meatballs a glistening and something for the sesame seeds to cling to.

  • 1/2 C mirin
  • 1/2 C tamari
  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 T sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp dark sesame oil
  • 4 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 3″ piece of fresh organic ginger, sliced into 4 pieces
  • 3 organic scallions, cut into 1 ” pieces
  • 1 T black peppercorns (or white peppercorns)

Combine mirin, tamari, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions and peppercorns in sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a soft simmer on low heat.  Simmer for about 30 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Serve hot or cold with skewered meatballs. If you have more sauce than you need, you can keep in a glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Cook’s Notes:

  • If you choose to just use ground chicken, it helps to add in about a 1/3 c panko bread crumbs. This will give the meat a little “strength” to hold onto the skewers when you’re grilling.
  • If you can’t find candy apple sticks, you can use typical wooden skewers, but you may need two to hold up to the weight of the meatball.  You could also make slightly smaller balls, which would enable the stick to hold up to the weight easier.