When you think “meatballs”, you’re probably thinking of the classic red sauce and spaghetti situation. Italian style meatballs are deliciously tried-and-true, but I love meatball recipes from all cooking cultures, especially these Thai inspired red curry chicken meatballs! These are utterly slurp worthy and one of my favorite dinners to prepare on a drizzly winter’s eve. I don’t cook with ground chicken a whole lot, but it works so well in this recipe. Of course, if you can’t find it, ground turkey is always a good substitute! I typically stay away from extra lean ground turkey or chicken when making these- there is nothing worse than a dry, tough meatball- so look for ground poultry in the 85%-93% lean category. These are probably the simplest meatballs you will ever make- they contain minimal ingredients (they’re also gluten free) and get baked in the oven instead of fried on the stove. I start by making a spice paste in a small food processor. If you don’t own a mini food procensor, I’d suggest getting one- so much easier to use and clean than the big one for small batch blending! I put garlic, ginger, cilantro and scallions in mine to make a finely minced flavor base that gets used in the meatballs and also the curry sauce. If you’re daring, you could add a little chili to this as well, but remember that the curry paste is plenty spicy on it’s own! That being said, if you would prefer a milder curry you have two options: use less of the red curry paste (maybe 1-1/2 tbsps) or opt for a milder variety like yellow curry paste. Green is typically the spiciest FYI! I prefer using Mae Ploy brand and can find it at my local HEB Central Market. Red Boat is my favorite brand of fish sauce and can be easily found at most major stores or online. The sauce the meatballs simmer in couldn’t be easier but it’s packed with flavor and colorful veggies. I like to keep the consistency on the looser side- it’s so wonderful ladled over hot steamed rice or cooked rice noodles, almost like an aromatic, curried soup. Don’t forget to garnish with lots of herbs, lime wedges, and crushed peanuts (if desired)! Happy meatballin’!
prep time: ~10 min. cook time: ~30 min. serves: 3-4
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2” piece of ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
4 large scallions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb ground chicken
Avocado oil or other neutral vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
2 tbsp red curry paste (less for a milder curry)
1 can full fat unsweet coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup packed Thai basil leaves (sub regular)
3 cups baby spinach
1 cup frozen peas
juice of 1/2 lime
FOR SERVING cooked white or brown rice or rice noodles, lime wedges, chopped cilantro and/or basil, chopped roasted peanuts
INSTRUCTIONS Preheat the oven to 425° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place the garlic, ginger, scallions and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced (alternately, mince the ingredients finely by hand and transfer to a small bowl). Reserve half of the mixture for the sauce and add the other half to a larger bowl along with the salt, 1 tbsp fish sauce, the sesame oil, and the ground chicken. Use your hands to gently combine the ingredients, then roll the mixture into 2” balls and place them evenly spaced on the sheet pan (you should get about 12 meatballs). Drizzle the tops of the meatballs with a little avocado oil and bake on an upper rack for 15 min. Switch the function to broil and cook the meatballs another 1-2 minutes more, until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and set aside while you make the curry sauce.
Heat 2 tbsp avocado oil over medium in the a heavy lidded pan. Add the remaining garlic/ginger/scallion/cilantro mixture and sauté 1 minute, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Add the onion, bell pepper and curry paste and cook 3 minutes more, stirring to break up the curry paste so that it coats the veggies, cooking until they are softened. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken stock, stir everything to combine and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and add the meatballs into the sauce. Cover the pan and let them simmer in the sauce for 10 minutes.
Next, remove the lid and add the remaining fish sauce, the brown sugar, lime juice, basil, spinach and peas and stir the combine. Let the sauce simmer uncovered another 5 minutes or so, until the spinach has wilted and the peas are thawed.
Serve the meatballs hot ladled over rice or noodles, if desired, and topped with more herbs, crushed peanuts and/or a lime wedge on the side.