Change up your dinner game with this firecracker meatballs recipe. The tender meatballs are tossed in a signature sweet and savory firecracker sauce.
I first tried firecracker meatballs when I accidentally ordered my family several weeks’ worth of the food delivery service, ‘Hello Fresh’. These DIY meal kits featured a simple recipe for Asian-American-inspired meatballs that was elevated by the most incredible sauce.
Of course, me being me, I had to recreate them as soon as possible!
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
- Minimum work. There is a reason why I love to make this for my family as a weeknight dinner. All you have to do is mix, shape, cook, and sauce! Furthermore, it’s made in one pot so cleaning up is a breeze!
- Fast. From prep to plate, this entire dish takes less than 20 minutes to make.
- Super versatile. I typically serve these meatballs over rice or noodles, but they work just as well as a fun appetizer. My little ones love them in hoagie rolls as a meatball sub.
- Loaded with flavor and texture. The sauce and meatballs are perfectly balanced. You get the hints of sweetness, tanginess, and heat in the sauce and the subtle cheesiness in the meatballs. The sauce is sticky and thick, and the meatballs are juicy and tender.
Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. Besides the meat and eggs, the rest are simple pantry staples. Here is what you’ll need:
- Ground pork OR ground chicken. While most firecracker meatball recipes call for ground chicken, I prefer using ground pork. I find the pork retains the flavors better and yields a juicier meatball.
- Breadcrumbs. I used panko breadcrumbs, but the standard kind works too.
- Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated. The flavor is unmatchable, and it melts better.
- Olive oil. It helps to shape the meatballs and enhances the juiciness.
- Eggs. Bind the meatballs together.
- Salt and ground black pepper. To season.
- Spices. I used a mix of smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder for these meatballs.
- Oil. Use any neutral oil of your choice to pan-fry the meatballs.
- Firecracker sauce. The namesake of this incredible dish. A combination of buffalo sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, and some seasonings make the dreamiest and most fiery sauce ever. Please try and use fresh garlic and ginger as it really makes such a difference.
How to make firecracker meatballs
Make the meatball mixture: Mix the ground meat with breadcrumbs, parmesan, olive oil, egg, and spices in a large bowl. Once mixed, knead the mixture with your hands.
Roll into meatballs: Shape the meatballs into 2-inch balls or approximately 2 ounces each.
Make the sauce: Combine the different sauce ingredients in a bowl and set it aside.
Cook the meatballs: Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the meatballs until browned from all sides.
Sauce them up: Add the hot sauce to the meatballs and gently toss to coat them. Allow the sauce to thicken for a few minutes.
Garnish and serve: Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and green onions, and enjoy it warm.
Can I bake these?
Easily make baked firecracker meatballs by swapping the skillet for a sheet pan. The meatballs will still be super juicy and flavorful.
- Prep the meatballs as instructed.
- Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake the meatballs on the top rack of the oven for 15-18 minutes at 180C/350F.
- While the meatballs are baking, whisk the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and place over low heat. Bring it to a boil and let the sauce simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Recipe tips and variations
Oil your hands. Don’t you hate when the meatball mixture sticks to your hands instead of forming a ball? To avoid this, oil or water your hands before rolling the meatballs.
Avoid overmixing the mixture. For soft, moist, and tender meatballs, DO NOT overmix the meatball dough. It’s like cake batter: you don’t want these to turn out gummy or rubbery.
Weigh the meatballs. I like to use a scale for the ultimate foolproof method of equal-sized meatballs. For this particular recipe, each meatball comes out to be around 2 ounces each (45 grams).
Use other ground meat. Because the sauce is the star of this dish, you can swap out the ground meat for other options, including ground beef and ground turkey.
Adjust the spice level. When making this dish for non-family members, I often dial back the heat and swap out half the buffalo sauce for some ketchup or barbecue sauce. Remember, you can always add more heat after by sprinkling some red pepper flakes or a drizzle of hot sauce.
What to serve with this dish
Because these meatballs are full of punchy, bold flavors, serve them over simple carbs like steamed rice or noodles or over some lettuce leaves to make lettuce wraps.
To store. Refrigerate the leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to three days.
To freeze. Freeze the leftover meatballs (without the sauce) in freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
To reheat. I like to microwave the meatballs for 10-15 seconds but you can heat them up in a skillet.
More delicious meatball recipes to try:
Frequently asked questions
While I’m not a fan of frozen meatballs, you can use them to reduce your effort. Just be sure to thaw them well beforehand.
Absolutely! Place the rolled meatballs on a baking sheet and flash-freeze them in the freezer for 2 hours before transferring them into a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. To use them, thaw the frozen meatballs in the refrigerator first and cook them as instructed in the recipe.
- In a large bowl, mix the meat with breadcrumbs, parmesan, one tablespoon of olive oil, egg, and spices. Knead with your hands and form into small meatballs, around 2 inches wide.
- Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in the skillet and once hot, add the meatballs. Cook until browned from all sides.
- Add the sauce to the skillet and stir meatballs to soak it up. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and serve meatballs immediately.
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