Chinese mini meatballs

These savory little meatballs flavored with soy sauce and scallions make a simple meal with a bowl of rice or noodles. My mom used to use ground pork but now makes a fresher version with ground turkey and crumbled tofu – lighter and just as good.


  • 1 pound ground turkey (7% fat)
  • 1 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon sake or white wine
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (Kikkoman is best)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons minced scallions (1-2 whole scallions)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs (my mom crumbles by hand any old bread she has around)
  • Cooking oil for frying or for greasing baking sheet


  1. Start with ground turkey in a mixing bowl. Add crumbled tofu and mix.
  2. Add remaining ingredients in turn, mixing well each time: sake, soy sauce and sesame oil; cornstarch (mix very well); scallions and diced carrot; breadcrumbs.
  3. Form meat mixture into small meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter.
  4. Frying meatballs: With no batter, the meatballs do not absorb a large amount of oil and form a dark crisp crust. You can deep fry so that the meatballs are bobbing in hot oil or pan fry in a shallower amount of oil, turning to brown all over. A small pan uses less oil but will require more batches. Oil should be hot enough that meatball sizzles when added. Do not crowd meatballs in pan. Cook until well browned so that interior is also well cooked. Drain on paper towels.
  5. Baking meatballs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake meatballs on a lightly greased baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, until browned. Baked meatballs will be lighter in color than fried meatballs, and not as uniformly round (bottoms get a bit flat when baked).


  • Optional adds: 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and/or 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.
  • These meatballs freeze very well and defrost quickly because of their small size. My mom loves to pop a couple in when she’s making soup noodles.
  • You can substitute other vegetable for the carrot – my mom often uses finely diced zucchini – but with a vegetable with high water content, it must be salted an hour or two ahead of time and all liquid squeezed out very well before adding to the meat mixture.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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