Sweet & Zingy Asian Meatballs are made from scratch and far better than the pre-made globs-in-a bag. They’re also healthier because they’re baked and finished in the sweet, zingy sauce. These are always a favorite at football parties and potlucks.
Sweet and Zingy Asian Meatballs: Not your standard football party fare
Football parties are all about the food. Living in Wisconsin, I have had my share of cheese curds, brats, cheese ‘n’ meat trays, and premade meatballs in goodness-knows-what sauce. Even though these things are all unfailingly delicious, I am always on a quest for unusual football party-fare that isn’t dumped out of a bag or a box. Homemade generally means healthier food, after all.
These meatballs fit the bill.
You can make them a day in advance and re-warm in the slow-cooker. In fact, I’ve made up a large batch and frozen the extra meatballs for another time. These meatballs are lower in fat than a standard meatball because they’re baked rather than fried, then finished in the sauce.
Admittedly, that sauce is full of sugar (thus the sweet part of sweet & zingy Asian meatballs). But keep in mind that you’ll only be eating the tiny bit of sauce that clings to the meatball.
These meatballs travel well: because the sauce is thick and sticky, there are no spillage issues while you transport them to the party—unless you turn the whole crockpot upside down, in which case I really can’t help you. I always set out toothpicks for easy noshing.
I was recently told by a nine-year-old nephew that he liked these meatballs because of the complex flavors and the fact that no two bites taste exactly the same. (Someone’s been watching Chopped Junior!)
If you want to lighten the meatballs up even further, you could cut the pork with ground turkey or chicken (a 1:1 ratio is fine)—or substitute it entirely. The sweet, sticky, zingy sauce that finishes the Asian meatballs knocks the flavor out of the park—it’s also great on chicken wings!
Sweet & zingy Asian meatballs are always a hit at football parties and potlucks. They can be made in advance and re-warmed in the slow-cooker on gameday.
- 6 tsp. cornstarch*
- 8 tsp. rice wine vinegar
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup chili garlic sauce
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. finely minced garlic
- 2 lbs. ground pork
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp. finely minced garlic
- 2 tbsp. finely minced ginger
- 1 tbsp. finely minced lemongrass (soft, center part only)**
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 tbsp. chili-garlic sauce
- 3 to 4 pinches coarse salt
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- Several grinds of fresh black pepper
- chives, minced, for serving (optional)
In a small bowl, dissolve corn starch into vinegar.
Combine mixture with other ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Heat mixture, stirring frequently, until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (sauce should reduce and thicken slightly).
Remove from heat; cool, cover, and chill until you're ready to use the sauce.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil. Set a metal rack on top of the foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.
Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Roll up your sleeves and mix it all together with your hands. At this point, you can check the flavor of your meat mixture (if you like) by taking about a half teaspoon and frying it quickly in a small frying pan. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Roll into ~1-inch diameter meatballs and place on the rack. When your meatballs are all rolled, place the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes.
Toss the meat balls with your sauce and add to a slow-cooker set on low. Cook for an additional hour. Keep warm until serving.
*If you like your sauce thicker, add more cornstarch (be sure to mix with an equal part of cold water first!). I suggest trying an additional 1 tsp. of cornstarch at a time, bring to a boil, and check for thickness. I've found that I get my favorite consistency with 10 (total) tsp. of cornstarch.
**Or use lemongrass paste.