Our current favorite was to do meatballs: Asian Chicken Meatballs with Saucy Sesame and Hoisin Orzo. This fun spin on a classic pairs tender, garlic and ginger BAKED meatballs with an orzo full of veggies and an addictive sauce you’ll want to lick with the a spoon. Prep ahead and eat later in the week!
Asian Chicken Meatballs with Hoisin Orzo
It’s not easy for me to narrow down a meal I’d eat on repeat more than a few times a month (especially a healthy meal), but these Asian Chicken Meatballs, these I would gladly devour from now until eternity. (This Thai Peanut Salad and these Chicken Burgers also come to mind.)
While I’d eat the garlicky, gingery meatballs on their own, they belong scattered haphazardly on top of the peanut and hoisin-sauced orzo we serve them with. Don’t skip it!
The meatballs themselves are made with chicken breast and baked so they’re extremely healthy and one of my favorite ways to change up the protein situation in our day-to-day meals. If you’ve loitered around here long enough, then you’ve seen chicken meatballs pop up as a a lead character in our version of Italian Minestrone and our healthier version of Spaghetti and Meatballs.
In our Asian Chicken Meatball version we pack ground chicken with plenty of ginger and garlic, and just a hint of soy sauce for a salty kick. Panko breadcrumbs and an egg help to keep the meatballs super soft and moist, and we add in chopped green onion for a little bit of texture.
The saucy orzo is very similar to our 5-Ingredient Peanut noodles in taste, but we up the flavor with the addition of sweet and savory hoisin sauce and swap out the store-bought cabbage mix for freshly sliced red pepper and baby spinach.
Ingredients in Asian Chicken Meatballs
Admittedly we have a relatively long ingredient list, so to keep things streamlined, I like to double up on the ingredients we use in the meatballs for the orzo. Not only does this keep our grocery bill down, but the two dishes will not compliment and echo each other. Here’s what you’ll need.
Ground chicken breast. I often grind my own chicken, but since this isn’t as speedy as a lot of our weeknight meals, I save time by buying pre-ground chicken. Make sure you buy 100% chicken breast and if you can buy ground chicken without any additives.
Soy sauce. We use soy sauce for the asian chicken meatballs and the sauce for the orzo. You can also use tamari if that’s what you have on hand.
Sesame oil. Same thing goes for the sesame oil. It’s used to flavor the chicken meatballs and then we also use it to sauté the veggies for the orzo later on.
Garlic and garlic. Lots of it. I don’t have a problem chopping garlic and ginger myself, I actually find it to be quite therapeutic, but to save time, I love buying the garlic and ginger that’s been grated and frozen. Again, we use both of these ingredients in the asian chicken meatballs and the orzo.
Onion. We use onion two ways. First we grate the onion into the chicken mixture to add flavor and moisture. Second, we use it as the base of the orzo.
Panko. Panko breadcrumbs are ultra light and make the meatballs airy. If you don’t have panko on hand, plain breadcrumbs will also work. Just make sure you don’t use Italian breadcrumbs.
Egg. While an egg isn’t necessary, I don think it helps to add richness and moisture to the chicken meatballs.
Orzo. You can use whatever orzo you want. I used a tri-color orzo, but whole-wheat or plain works great as well.
Hoisin. If you’ve never used hoisin before, you’re in for a treat. This sweet and savory condiment is packed with soy beans, garlic, and vinegar.
Peanut butter. Plain creamy peanut butter works best here.
Bell pepper. I love the sweetness and pop of color red bell pepper adds to the orzo. I like to slice it super thin so it blends in seamlessly with the orzo after it cooks.
Spinach. To up the veggie factor, I throw in a few handfuls of baby spinach.
Chicken stock. To loosen up the sauce you need to add liquid and while I prefer low-sodium chicken stock, there’s not need to pick up a box if you don’t have it on hand, water will also suffice.
Red pepper flakes. We are big in to spice in our household, so I always add in a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Add as much or as little as you’d like.
Sesame seeds. I love the texture sesame seeds add a the end, but it’s not a mandatory step.
Let’s make Asian Chicken Meatballs
Like many of our recipes, I’ve developed this is a strategic way so there’s never any lag time waiting for something to cook. Every step has a purpose so be sure to follow carefully to save time.
Boil the water. First thing’s first. Bring a pot of water to a boil while you prep the ingredients and make the meatballs.
Chop the veggies. While the water comes to a boil, take this time to prep your garlic, ginger, chopped onion, green onion, and red bell pepper. Wait to grate the onion over the ground chicken.
Make the meatballs. Add some soy sauce, sesame oil, the egg, ginger, garlic, and some salty to the bottom of a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the chicken on top along with a handful of green onion, the panko, and grated onion. Use a fork or your hands to mix just until everything is combined. It will be wet and stick, this is normal!
Use a small cookie or ice cream scoop to portion out the meatballs. I like to spray the scoop with cooking spray to make sure the chicken mixture doesn’t stick. Wet your hands a little bit and roll each meatball into a a uniform ball.
Pop them in a 425 degrees oven for about 10-12 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Make the orzo. When the meatballs go in the oven, drop the orzo into the boiling water.
Make the sauce. Add the remaining soy sauce to a small bowl along with the hoisin, peanut butter, chicken stock or water, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Sauté the veggies. When the orzo is aldente, drain and return the pot to the stove over a medium heat. Add the remaining sesame oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and red bell pepper. Saute until slightly softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the baby spinach and toss until wilted. Turn the heat off and add the orzo along with the sauce. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Assemble. When the chicken meatballs are done cooking, spoon the orzo on to plates. Top with meatballs. Sprinkle with extra green onion and sesame seeds.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- To keep mess at bay, line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
- To ensure chicken meatballs get golden brown, spray with a little bit of non-stick cooking spray before baking.
- As mentioned, to keep the chicken meatball mixture from sticking, spray the inside of the ice cream or cookie scoop with non-stick cooking spray. You can also slightly wet your hands to keep the mixture from sticking. The mixture will be very loose and sticky, don’t freak out. They will cook into light, airy asian chicken meatballs.
- Don’t over mix the chicken meatball mixture.
- Swap out the baby spinach for baby boy choy. Add in snow peas, carrots, baby corn, or water chestnuts.
- If you don’t to cut back on ingredients, you can omit the soy sauce and peanut butter altogether and up the amount of hoisin. Alternately, if you only have soy sauce on hand, you can omit the hoisin and only use soy sauce.
Tools/Pretty Things Used in Today’s Post
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp grated or minced ginger, divided
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced and divided
- 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, divided
- 6 green onions, sliced and divided
- 3 tbsp soy sauce, divided
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 lb ground chicken breast
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 cup orzo
- 2 tbsp hoisin
- 1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock or water
- 2 cups baby spinach
- Cookie scoop
- Mixing bowl
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Fill a large skillet with high sides with water. Bring to a boil.
- While the water comes to a boil, mince the garlic and ginger. Slice the red bell pepper. Cut the small onion in half and dice. Reserve the rest of the onion to grate over the chicken meatball mixture. Slice the green onion.
- Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 garlic cloves, and egg to the bottom of a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the ground chicken, panko, 1/4 cup of the green onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Grate the remaining half of the onion on top. Use your hands or a fork to combine the chicken mixture just until it's combined. The mixture will be very sticky and wet, this is normal.
- Spray a small ice cream or cookie scoop with non-stick cooking spray. Portion the meatballs out into heaping tablespoon portions. Get hands slightly wet and roll the chicken into uniform meatballs.(Getting your hands slightly wet will prevent the chicken meatballs from sticking to your hands.) Line on prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
- While the chicken meatballs cook, make the orzo. Right after putting the meatballs in the oven, drop the orzo into the boiling water.
- Add the remaining tablespoon soy sauce to a small bowl along with the hoisin, peanut butter, chicken stock or water, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- When the orzo is aldente, drain in a colander and return the empty pot to the stove over a medium heat. (Let the orzo rest in the colander.) Add the remaining tablespoons of sesame oil to the pot. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and red bell pepper. Saute until slightly softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the baby spinach and toss until slightly wilted. Turn the heat on low and add the cooked orzo along with the sauce. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- When the chicken meatballs are done cooking, spoon the orzo on to plates or bowls. Top with meatballs. Sprinkle with extra green onion and sesame seeds.