Like many teenagers, I rarely packed a lunch for school. Possibly unlike many teenagers, this was mostly because my objectively large lunch group was typically so annoyed at my exceedingly slight build they would just hand me food to eat. Albeit a little annoying in its intent, my laziness won out over my dignity and I happily accepted nearly anything people were willing to share. At some point during my high school career, a place next door started a lunch business serving bowls of Asian-inspired cuisine, like General Tso’s chicken and sweet & sour pork. They were all $5 per bowl and came with white rice, so my favorite teriyaki chicken bowl became somewhat of a staple food in my life. I was much too cheap to fork over my own money very often, but would delightedly finish off other’s leftovers or graciously accept a gift if one of my extremely generous friends felt so inclined.
These days I nearly always pack my own lunch and try to aim for healthier options, but my love of teriyaki has not waned. I rarely eat it, for reasons unknown, but when I saw these teriyaki meatballs on Damn Delicious I knew I had to give them a try. With a freezer full of venison, antelope, and elk, I did not opt to buy the ground pork advised in her original, but I thought my all venison version was exceptional. With this in mind I believe nearly any species of ground meat would suffice, but if you prefer the mixed meat combinations then by all means please do so.
Moist and flavorful, the meatballs are pretty excellent all on their own but also obviously improved by a delicious teriyaki sauce. I made the original version as directed the first time, but found it far too sweet for my personal taste. Although it was delicious, it was more along the lines of a sweet & sour profile than a savory and tangy teriyaki. As such, I’ve made some alterations, mostly cutting the sugar in half, which resulted in just the right amount of sweetness for me. If you like a sweet teriyaki sauce, you can certainly increase the sugar along the way.
I paired mine with my favorite wild rice mix and a side of roasted broccoli, which rounded out into a lovely dinner. The meatballs and sauce would also be excellent as an appetizer (don’t forget the toothpicks!) or as a fun twist on a meatball sandwich or wrap (I’d garnish mine with sprouts.) I like lots of sauce so I made a large batch; if you have leftovers, it’ll be great drizzle over veggies or salad, mixed with scrambled eggs, or paired with grilled chicken or salmon. I never worry about extra sauce, but if you’re not a big sauce person or are serving these as an appetizer, you could likely cut the recipe in half.
This is a great summertime meal, and to cut down on prep time just roll the meatballs ahead of time and store in the fridge till you’re ready to bake. If you have a second baking sheet you can roast your veggies at the same time while you make your sauce and cook the rice, and within 30 minutes dinner will be ready. The whole shebang also reheats great so look forward to those leftovers tomorrow.
Adapted from Damn Delicious
Makes about 2 dozen meatballs
2 lbs ground meat of choice (or combination; I used venison)
1/2 cup Panko (bread crumbs)
2 large egg yolks
2 green onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger (or 1/8 tsp ground ginger)
1 tsp pepper
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
Optional toppings: green onion, sesame seeds, parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat lightly with olive oil or cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add all meatball ingredients. Use your hands (yes it’s messy) to mix together until completely combined.
- Roll 2 Tbsp into a ball and set on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining meat mixture, leaving at least 1″ between meatballs.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through (165*F on an instant-read thermometer).
- While the meatballs are baking, add soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, ginger, and garlic powder to a small saucepan.
- Heat over medium until sauce reaches a simmer, then taste carefully (don’t burn your tongue!). For a sweeter sauce, add additional brown sugar and return to simmer.
- Whisk together cornstarch and water and slowly stream into the pan, whisking constantly.
- Continue to heat over medium, whisking often, until mixture thickens to desired consistency (for me this was 5-10 minutes, I like it thick).
- For an appetizer: pour some sauce into a shallow bowl or serving dish and arrange meatballs inside. Drizzle additional sauce over the meatballs and sprinkle with sesame seeds or other garnish.
- For an entrée: serve atop your favorite rice or grain; roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts make an excellent side.
1 If you’re serving these as an appetizer, you can probably make half the amount of sauce, but I don’t consider extra teriyaki sauce to be a burden so really it’s up to you.