Tsukune Japanese Chicken Meatballs Recipe

by easy quick meal
Tsukune Recipe

Tsukune Recipe: A Culinary Journey

If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you’re in for a treat! Today, we’ll dive into the world of Tsukune, a beloved Japanese dish. This article is your ultimate guide to crafting mouthwatering Tsukune – juicy chicken meatballs seasoned to perfection. From the basics to pro tips, we’ve got you covered.

Tsukune is a Japanese dish made from ground chicken or other meats, typically seasoned and mixed with various ingredients. It’s often shaped into meatballs or patties and then grilled, broiled, or fried. Tsukune can be served on skewers, as part of a hot pot, or on its own with a dipping sauce. The specific ingredients and seasonings used in tsukune can vary, but it’s a popular and flavorful dish in Japanese cuisine.

Tsukune ahead of time

Tsukune Recipe

you can make tsukune ahead of time. Here are a few options for preparing tsukune in advance:

  1. Prepping the Meat Mixture: You can prepare the meat mixture for tsukune a few hours or even a day in advance. Mix the ground chicken with the seasonings, onions, garlic, and other ingredients, then cover and refrigerate it until you’re ready to shape and cook the tsukune.
  2. Shaping and Freezing: If you want to prepare tsukune well ahead of time, you can shape the meatballs or patties and freeze them. Lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer, so they don’t stick together, and freeze until they’re firm. Once frozen, you can transfer them to a resealable bag or airtight container. When you’re ready to cook, you can grill or cook the frozen tsukune directly from the freezer, adding a little extra cooking time.
  3. Cooking in Advance: You can also cook the tsukune in advance and then reheat them when you’re ready to serve. To reheat, you can use an oven, microwave, or stovetop. Be careful not to overheat them, as they may become dry if cooked for too long during reheating.

When preparing tsukune ahead of time, it’s a good idea to keep the tare sauce separate until you’re ready to serve. Serve the sauce on the side or drizzle it over the tsukune just before serving to maintain their texture and flavor.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Tsukune Recipe

The ingredients for making tsukune typically include:

  1. Ground chicken (or other meat of your choice)
  2. Finely grated or minced onion
  3. Minced garlic
  4. Bread crumbs or panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  5. Egg (used as a binder)
  6. Soy sauce
  7. Salt
  8. Ground black pepper
  9. Optional seasonings such as grated ginger, chopped scallions, or sesame seeds
  10. Skewers (if you’re making tsukune skewers)

These ingredients are mixed together to form a meat mixture, which is then shaped into meatballs or patties before cooking. Tsukune is often served with a tare sauce, which is a savory, sweet, and slightly salty glaze made from ingredients like soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Additionally, you can garnish your tsukune with chopped scallions or sesame seeds for added flavor and presentation.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Tsukune Recipe
  1. Prepare the Meat Mixture:
    • In a mixing bowl, combine the ground chicken, finely grated or minced onion, minced garlic, bread crumbs or panko, and the egg.
    • Season the mixture with soy sauce, a pinch of salt, and ground black pepper.
    • Optionally, add any other seasonings you desire, such as grated ginger, chopped scallions, or sesame seeds.
    • Mix the ingredients thoroughly until well combined. You can use your hands for this, but make sure not to overwork the mixture.
  2. Shape the Meatballs or Patties:
    • Wet your hands with a little water to prevent sticking, and shape the mixture into small meatballs or patties. You can form them around skewers if you’re making tsukune skewers.
  3. Cook the Tsukune:
    • Heat a grill, broiler, or frying pan over medium-high heat.
    • If you’re using skewers, place the tsukune on them for grilling.
    • Grill or cook the tsukune, turning them occasionally, until they are cooked through and have a nice browned exterior. This typically takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs or patties.
  4. Prepare the Tare Sauce:
    • While the tsukune are cooking, you can prepare the tare sauce for dipping. In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and then let it cool.
  5. Serve:
    • Once the tsukune are cooked to perfection, remove them from the grill or pan.
    • Serve the tsukune hot, with the tare sauce on the side for dipping.

tips and tricks to help you make the best tsukune

Tsukune Recipe

Choose Quality Ingredients:

  • Use fresh ground chicken with a good balance of lean meat and some fat. This will make your tsukune juicy and flavorful.

2. Proper Seasoning:

  • Season your meat mixture well but do it in moderation. Taste as you go to ensure the flavors are balanced. Be cautious with salt because soy sauce also adds saltiness.

3. Texture Enhancement:

  • Achieve the right texture by not overmixing the meat mixture. Mix it just until the ingredients are combined to avoid a dense, tough texture.

4. Panko or Bread Crumbs:

  • Panko or Japanese bread crumbs are often used in tsukune to add lightness and improve the texture. You can soak them in a little milk before adding them to the mixture for even better results.

5. Use Skewers:

  • If you’re making tsukune skewers, wet your hands to prevent sticking and shape the meat mixture onto the skewers evenly. This ensures even cooking.

6. Preheat the Grill or Pan:

  • Make sure your grill, broiler, or pan is properly preheated before adding the tsukune. A hot cooking surface will help create a nice sear and prevent sticking.

7. Grill with Care:

  • Don’t overcrowd the grill or pan, as this can lead to uneven cooking. Leave some space between the tsukune to allow proper air circulation.

8. Basting with Tare Sauce:

  • For extra flavor, you can baste the tsukune with the tare sauce while they’re cooking. This adds a glossy finish and a sweet-savory glaze.

9. Check for Doneness:

  • To ensure that your tsukune are cooked through, use a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C).

10. Rest Before Serving:

  • Allow the tsukune to rest for a few minutes after cooking. This helps redistribute the juices, ensuring a juicier result.

11. Serve Hot with Fresh Ingredients:

  • Serve the tsukune hot and fresh. Garnish with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, or other toppings just before serving for added flavor and visual appeal.

12. Dipping Sauce:

  • Make the tare sauce for dipping ahead of time and let it cool. You can even make extra for later use as it keeps well in the refrigerator.

By following these tips and tricks, you can make the best tsukune with a perfect balance of flavors and a delightful texture.

some serving suggestions for tsukune, the Japanese chicken meatballs

Tsukune Recipe
  1. Skewers with Dipping Sauce:
    • Arrange the cooked tsukune on skewers and serve them with a side of the tare sauce for dipping. This is a popular and classic way to enjoy tsukune.
  2. Rice Bowl (Donburi):
    • Place the tsukune over a bowl of steamed rice. Drizzle some of the tare sauce over the meatballs and garnish with chopped scallions or sesame seeds. This makes a complete and satisfying meal.
  3. Bento Box:
    • Include tsukune in a Japanese bento box along with other small dishes like pickles, seaweed salad, and tamagoyaki (sweet omelette).
  4. Hot Pot (Nabe):
    • Add tsukune to a Japanese hot pot or nabe, along with vegetables and tofu. The savory tsukune will infuse the broth with flavor.
  5. Appetizer or Izakaya Dish:
    • Serve tsukune as an appetizer at a Japanese-themed dinner party or as part of an izakaya-style meal with other small dishes, like tempura and yakitori.
  6. Noodle Soup:
    • Drop tsukune into a bowl of hot udon or soba noodle soup. It adds protein and flavor to the dish.
  7. Lunchbox or Onigirazu:
    • Make a tsukune onigirazu, which is a type of sushi sandwich. Wrap the tsukune and some vegetables in a sheet of nori seaweed and rice, then cut it into halves or quarters.
  8. Salad Topping:
    • Slice or dice the cooked tsukune and use them as a protein topping for a salad. It adds a unique and flavorful twist to your greens.
  9. Sushi Roll (Maki):
    • Incorporate tsukune into a sushi roll by rolling it with other ingredients like avocado, cucumber, and rice. This creates a fusion sushi experience.
  10. Nigiri Sushi:
  • Create tsukune nigiri sushi by shaping small portions of the meat mixture onto bite-sized mounds of sushi rice and topping them with a dab of wasabi or tare sauce.

Remember to garnish with fresh ingredients like scallions, sesame seeds, or other condiments to enhance the visual appeal and flavor of your tsukune dish. The versatility of tsukune allows for a variety of serving options, so you can choose the one that best suits your meal or occasion.

How can I store leftover Tsukune?

Tsukune Recipe

Storing leftover tsukune is easy, and here’s how you can do it:

  1. Refrigeration: If you have leftover tsukune that you’d like to store for a short period, refrigeration is the way to go.
    • Allow the cooked tsukune to cool to room temperature. If they’re on skewers, it’s best to remove them from the skewers for storage.
    • Place the tsukune in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
    • Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  2. Freezing: If you have a larger quantity or want to store tsukune for an extended period, freezing is a great option.
    • Allow the cooked tsukune to cool completely.
    • Place the tsukune in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer for a few hours. This prevents them from sticking together.
    • Once they’re firm, transfer the tsukune to a resealable freezer bag, ensuring there’s no excess air in the bag.
    • Label the bag with the date for reference.
    • Frozen tsukune can be stored for up to 2-3 months.

When you’re ready to use refrigerated or frozen tsukune, reheat them in the oven, on the stovetop, or in the microwave until they’re heated through. You can also enjoy them cold as a tasty addition to salads or other dishes.

Tsukune is a versatile and flavorful dish that you can easily master with this comprehensive recipe. Whether you’re preparing it as a weeknight dinner or impressing guests at a special occasion, these Japanese chicken meatballs will undoubtedly delight your taste buds. So, why wait? Get cooking and savor the deliciousness of Tsukune!


  • Q: Can I make Tsukune with ground beef instead of chicken?
  • A: While traditional Tsukune uses chicken, you can certainly experiment with ground beef for a unique twist on this dish. It will have a different flavor profile but can be equally delicious.
  • Q: Are there any gluten-free alternatives for Panko breadcrumbs in Tsukune?
  • A: Yes, you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs or even ground rice crackers as a substitute for Panko breadcrumbs to make your Tsukune gluten-free.
  • Q: Can I make Tsukune with a spicy kick?
  • A: Absolutely! If you enjoy a bit of heat, you can add some chili flakes or hot sauce to the Tsukune mixture to give it a spicy twist. Just adjust the spiciness level to your preference.
  • Q: What are some side dishes that pair well with Tsukune?
  • A: Tsukune goes wonderfully with a variety of side dishes. Some popular choices include cucumber salad, seaweed salad, miso soup, and pickled vegetables. These sides complement the flavors of Tsukune nicely.

you might be interested

Tsukune Recipe

Tsukune Japanese Chicken Meatballs Recipe

Serves: 8 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 300 calories 15g fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )


For the Tsukune:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Tare (sauce):

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

For skewers:

  • Wooden skewers, soaked in water


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground chicken, green onions, breadcrumbs, egg, soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, grated ginger, and grated garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients until well combined.

  2. Wet your hands and shape the chicken mixture into small, oblong-shaped patties. Thread the patties onto the soaked wooden skewers.

  3. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. You can also use a stovetop grill pan or broil the tsukune in the oven.

  4. While the grill is heating up, prepare the tare sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce slightly thickens. Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

  5. Grill the chicken tsukune skewers for about 5-7 minutes on each side or until they are cooked through and have a nice char. Brush some of the tare sauce onto the skewers while grilling.

  6. Once the tsukune skewers are cooked, remove them from the grill.

  7. Serve the chicken tsukune hot, with extra tare sauce for dipping.


Wooden Skewers When using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading the chicken tsukune onto them. This prevents the skewers from burning on the grill. You can also use metal skewers if you prefer.

 Tare Sauce The tare sauce is an essential part of the flavor in Chicken Tsukune. Be careful when simmering it; you want to dissolve the sugar and slightly thicken the sauce, but avoid overcooking it, as it can become too thick or too salty. Adjust the sugar or soy sauce to your taste if needed.

Ground Chicken When choosing ground chicken, consider using a mix of white and dark meat for the best flavor and texture. You can also grind boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a food processor for a fresher taste. Ensure that the chicken is well chilled and avoid using frozen meat for this recipe.

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