Karl’s Hoisin Turkey Meatballs

Eilene’s friends are coming over again for Game of Thrones and this week’s theme is “marshmallows.” [Teenagers—what can I say.]  Eilene has requested sweet potato casserole. This was a dish my mother, Claudia, always made for Thanksgiving. Sweet potatoes are however a side dish, but the meal still needed a main dish.

Karl’s Hoisin Turkey Meatballs

Karl’s Hoisin Turkey Meatballs

I—thinking “Thanksgiving”—thought “turkey.” Jan—thinking “teenagers”—suggested meatballs. Looking on-line did not help. There were so many recipes for turkey meatballs that I suffered from information overload. Every country makes some kind of meatball and I could not decide between Italian in tomato sauce, Greek in yogurt sauce, or Swedish in cream sauce. The variations were endless.

Giving the decision a pass for the moment, I started working on my sweet potato casserole. When I finished, the casserole had a distinct Asian flavor. The obvious choice, now, was an Asian spiced meatball.

My choice was between a sweet Japanese teriyaki sauce and a savory Chinese sauce. Since my side dish would be so sweet, I decided that savory would be a good contrast. Savory meatballs in a spicy hoisin sauce won the day.

Many people fry their meatballs in oil. When you are making a lot of meatballs, this gets to be a chore. Baking them in hot oven gives you almost as much browning and also greatly reduces the amount of oil you need to use. A quick reheat in a pan with the sauce and they are ready to serve.

After Dinner Note: These meatballs came out tender and spicy. Eilene told me that they were really popular with her friends. Jan: “I’m only going to eat one more…I’m only going to eat one more.”

Karl’s Hoisin Turkey Meatballs



1½ lb. ground turkey

1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 cup sweet onion, dices finely
1 cup Napa cabbage, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt

1 cup panko (bread crumbs)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. Chinese black vinegar
1 Tbs. Shaoxing rice wine
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1Tbs. sugar


1 Tbs. peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, minced
½ inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
½ Tbs. Chinese black vinegar
½ Tbs. Shaoxing rice wine
½ Tbs. sesame oil


1. Place the turkey in a large mixing bowl.

2. Put the peanut oil in a medium sauté pan and sauté the onions, cabbage and garlic with the salt until limp, about three to four minutes.

Tip: My mother, Claudia, and all of the Chinese I have cooked with, always put the vegetables in raw when making meatballs. I prefer precooking the vegetables for three reasons: 1) to ensure that the vegetables are fully cooked, 2) to prevent the vegetables from releasing their moisture into the meat making for a soggy meatball, and 3) to enhance their flavor. You decide if it is worth the extra effort.

3. Let the vegetables cool slightly and add them to the turkey.

4. Add the panko, eggs, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, Shaoxing , sesame oil and sugar to the bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Tip: The black vinegar acts as a meat tenderizer as well as adding a sour note. The hour rest gives the vinegar time to tenderize the meat and for the panko to absorb the excess moisture.

5. Preheat the oven to 450 F.

6. Form the meat mixture into one tablespoon balls and place them on a Pam-ed lipped baking sheet.

Tip: Wetting your hands will prevent the meat from sticking to them. The balls may be placed very closely together, but they should not be touching.

Note: I prefer to make my meatballs one tablespoon in size, because this is one easy bite. I find that the normal size, of two tablespoons, may save time in forming the balls, but it is a bit unwieldy to eat.

7. Bake the meatballs on the upper rack for 15-20 minutes, until well browned. If necessary, switch the element to broil for the last five minutes to brown the tops.

Tip: Depending on the size of your baking pan and how closely you pack the meatballs, you may have to bake them in batches.

8. While the meatballs are baking, put the peanut oil into a large fry pan and sauté the green onions and garlic for two minutes.

9. Add the ginger, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, vinegar, shaoxing and sesame oil to the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.

10. Reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.

11. Remove half of the meatballs and put them in the fry pan with the sauce. Gently turn the meatballs with a spatula to coat each one with the sauce.

Tip: I found a thin pancake turner to be just the thing to get the meatballs into the sauce and turned without damaging them.

12. Remove the meatballs to a large serving dish, leaving as much of the sauce as you can easily manage in the fry pan.

13. Put the remaining meatballs in the fry pan and gently turn them to coat.

14. Pour them into the serving dish and scrape the remaining sauce over the meatballs.

15. Serve them warm or at room temperature.



Filed under Chinese-American, Main Dishes, Poultry, Turkey

3 responses to “Karl’s Hoisin Turkey Meatballs

  1. Pingback: Karl’s Asian Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Topping | Jabberwocky Stew

  2. Pingback: Karl’s Tofu and Oyster Mushrooms | Jabberwocky Stew

  3. Pingback: Karl’s Spanish Turkey Meatballs | Jabberwocky Stew

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