These Thai meatballs are inspired by many of the best flavors Thai cuisine has to offer. Jam-packed with scrumptiousness, these sweet, savory, and spicy meatballs are made in one skillet in under 1 hour.
Celebrating cultural influences and creating recipes out of them is part of what makes creating recipes so much fun. Chicken curry, Ukrainian borscht and shrimp tacos with slaw are just a few of my family’s favourites!
Table of contents
Much like my slow cooker porcupine meatballs, Thai meatballs can be eaten as a main dish with a side of rice or quinoa. Or with a toothpick for an appetizer like Mexican meatballs and cranberry meatballs.
They don’t require hours of simmering just cooked in a skillet in 30 minutes, and you can have a complete, healthy, protein and veggie-packed dinner that everyone will crave again and again!
The flavours rival any Thai restaurant dish, but this version contains no eggs, bread, or breadcrumbs! Through making my healthy turkey burgers and healthy turkey meatballs, I found that shredded zucchini makes any ground meat juicier so, these meatballs are as moist as they come. They bind together well and won’t fall apart on you either.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Signature Thai flavours that everyone loves can be tasted in these aromatic meatballs which makes them DELICIOUS!
- An easy version made right in the skillet. Just combine, sear, and cook in the sauce until done.
- Moist meatballs without eggs or breadcrumbs which means if you’re using certified gluten free fish sauce these meatballs are gluten free! Dairy free too because we’re using coconut milk.
- Healthier than your typical meatball. Added zucchini for moisture which means every bite has some veggie in it.
- A quick and easy dinner idea and leftovers can be enjoyed the next day.
Ingredients You Will Need
- Ground turkey – On its own ground turkey is quite dry but it works with this Thai curry meatballs recipe because of all of the moisture and flavors that hold their own. You can also use venison, beef, or chicken.
- Zucchini – Grated and squeezed of excess moisture, this is a key player in keeping moisture locked in and adding tons of flavour.
- Fish sauce – A lovely salty condiment that is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes. Will be used in the meatballs as well as the sauce.
- Green onions – Finely chopped, green onions add the fresh vibrant onion flavouring without overpowering.
- Fresh basil – Finely chopped basil adds a freshness like the green onions however without the pungence.
- Fresh ginger – Grated. Also a staple ingredient in so many Asian inspired dishes. Add it to the complex flavour combination of these ingredients and they all work in harmony. It’s amazing!
- Garlic cloves – Grated fresh garlic goes hand in hand with the ginger.
- Red curry paste – A spicy, sour, and salty flavourful paste, used widely in Asian cooking. A delicious addition to both meatballs and the sauce.
- Coconut milk – I like Thai Kitchen coconut milk because it doesn’t come with a bunch of unnecessary ingredients, but any will work. Will be used in the meatballs for moisture as well as the base for the sauce.
- Red pepper flakes – To kick up the heat a notch. The amount can be adjusted to your preference in the meatballs and the sauce.
- Cooking spray – I use Misto because it’s essentially olive oil which is a healthier option.
- Tomato paste – Concentrated tomato purée adds colour as well as helps to thicken up the sauce and add tomato flavour to it as well.
- Kaffir lime leaves – An optional ingredient that may take a little hunting for either online or in any Asian food market. They are sold dry and last forever, but they’re completely optional. Just a way to take it up a notch!
How to Make Thai Turkey Meatballs
- Combine Thai meatball ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine meatball ingredients and mix with your hands thoroughly. Make 28 meatballs by scooping out 1 tbsp of mixture and rolling it between your hands into a ball. Lay on a cutting board or plate. Set aside.
- Whisk Thai sauce ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients ingredients for the sauce and set aside. Add as many hot pepper flakes as you like. Kaffir lime leaves are optional, but it give the sauce a nice sweet touch. You can find them dried, in any asian store or online (they last forever).
- Preheat a large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add Thai turkey meatballs and cook until brown or for 2-3 minutes, turning a few times. No need to cook the meatballs through as they will continue to cook in the sauce.
- Add the sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.
- Serve warm. Organic short grain brown rice or brown rice noodles are perfect to complete this Thai curry meatballs meal. Add garnish like fresh cilantro and green onions.
For more Thai menu inspiration, check out my simple, sweet and spicy, Google-winning Thai salmon.
Optional Add-In’s and Variations
- Swap the turkey for ground chicken, ground beef, venison, or buffalo. You’ll find that ground chicken and ground turkey are probably the least moist and flavourful, but with the number of tasty ingredients in this Thai meatball recipe, there is no wrong choice.
- Use full fat or milk or even coconut cream for a thicker, richer sauce. It will contain more calories, but so worth it!
- If you like the heat but don’t have any red pepper flakes, you can use chili paste, sriracha sauce, or for a sweet and spicy combination, Thai sweet chili sauce.
Tips for Best Results
- Make sure to squeeze all of the excess water out of the zucchini. While it does help with adding moisture, too much liquid can cause problems in keeping the meatball intact, since there are no breadcrumbs to absorb it.
- To avoid the meatball mixture sticking to your hands, wet them (your hands, not the meat) a little before rolling into balls.
- If you are using ground turkey, try and see if you can get dark meat. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t, but it will help to add extra moisture. You might also love these 45 ground turkey recipes!
- The colder your meat, the easier it is to maintain its meatball structure.
These meatballs don’t use any binding agents like eggs or breadcrumbs so we need to use a little finesse. Use cold meat straight out of the fridge. The colder it is, the easier it will be to maintain its structure before cooking. Squeeze excess liquid out of the zucchini and don’t overpower the meatball ingredients with too many “bigger” ingredients. You want to leave the meat as the main portion of the meatball, so when it says “finely chop or grated” follow that direction!
That depends on what your goal is. Baked is deemed healthier because there’s no frying in any extra oil. There is also no grease splatter and easier clean-up. However, fried is the more traditional version and is typically a faster way to cook them. You also don’t need a ton of oil to fry them. So, in the end, it’s a matter of preference.
Roll them up and store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook them. It’ll make things go a lot faster later on!
Yes, they are. This Thai meatball recipe can be used with a variety of different meats while Vietnamese meatballs are typically made with beef or pork. Outside of that, there are, of course, slight variations but the overall essence of the sweet, spicy, sour flavour profile is quite similar.
Sure you can. It does add a delicious taste, but you can omit it or replace it with soy sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, or coconut aminos instead.
Rice or grain bowl: Place in a bowl with cooked plain brown rice (or cilantro coconut brown rice) or cooked quinoa.
Vegetable sides: Steamed vegetables go with everything!
Making in Advance
Make ahead: Combine meatball ingredients, shape into balls and then, also combine sauce ingredients, store covered separately in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. On the day you plan to cook them, proceed with recipe instructions.
Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days for healthy lunch ideas.
Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.
More Thai Inspired Recipes to Try
- Sweet chili salmon
- Thai sweet chili sauce
- Thai chicken salad
- Instant Pot Thai chicken soup
- Thai chicken curry
For Thai Meatballs:
- In a medium bowl, combine Thai Meatballs ingredients and mix with your hands thoroughly. Make 28 meatballs by spooning heaping 1 tbsp of mixture and rolling between your hands. Lay on a cutting board or plate. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together Thai Meatballs Sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add meatballs and cook until brown or for 2-3 minutes, turning a few times. No need to cook the meatballs through.
- Add the sauce, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve warm with brown rice or brown rice noodles. Add garnish like fresh cilantro and green onions.
- Make ahead: Make meatballs and sauce up to 24 hours in advance. Store covered separately in the fridge.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.
- Meat variation: Use any meat you have on hand. We cook a lot of game meat, so I used venison for this recipe. You can also use turkey, beef, chicken or buffalo.
- Kaffir lime leaves: You can buy kaffir lime leaves in any Asian store or online. They are sold dried and last forever in a sealed container. If you don’t have any, omit.
- Coconut milk: Can be full fat or a coconut cream, just sauce will be more rich and higher in calories which is fine too.