These tasty Asian meatballs are tossed with peppers, onions, pineapple, and coated with an orange sweet and sour sauce. Simply serve over rice as a main meal or thread on toothpicks as an appetizer. Skip the take out and make this tasty recipe at home in about an hour.
Are you looking for a ground beef recipe? If you love meatballs, Asian flavors, and quick and easy recipes, then you are going to love this Chinese-style sweet and sour meatballs recipe.
Homemade meatballs made from scratch with ground beef, ginger, garlic, Chinese five-spice powder, tossed with peppers, onions, pineapple, and coated in a delicious orange sweet and sour sauce.
Tips for Making Asian-Style Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Skip the frozen meatballs and make your own homemade meatballs from scratch. Either ground round or ground sirloin will work wonderfully for this recipe. You can also use ground chuck, which has a higher fat to meat ratio. Pan-frying will release a lot of the fat in ground chuck that you can drain off.
Grate the garlic and ginger or mince very fine
Grate the garlic and ginger using a box grater before adding to the mixing bowl. Since we are cooking the meatballs for a short period of time, larger chunks of garlic and ginger may not have time to soften. Grating the garlic and ginger allows the flavors to infuse into the meat mixture.
Don’t over mix
If the meatballs are overworked, they will turn out tough. First, combine all the ingredients but the ground meat. The milk and egg help keep the meatballs tender when cooked. The breadcrumbs help bind the meatball mixture together.
Allow the breadcrumbs to soften and absorb the milk and flavors of the garlic, ginger, and spices. If you don’t have breadcrumbs, substitute a slice of bread. Finally, add the ground beef, and mix gently with a fork or your hands until just combined. You should still see chunks of meat in your mixture.
- Cooking Tip: Make Your Own Breadcrumbs
Steps for Making the Orange Sweet and Sour Sauce
If you love sweet and sour sauce, you are going to love this orange and pineapple combination. It pairs perfectly with the flavor of the ground beef meatballs seasoned with garlic, ginger, and Chinese five-spice powder. A more detailed, printable recipe can be found at the bottom of this article, but here are the steps to making orange pineapple sweet and sour sauce:
Step 1: Zest and juice the orange
Orange zest is the outer layer of an orange’s skin. It is filled with flavor and the fruit’s oils. You can zest an orange with a box grater or micro plane. Juice your orange using a fork or juicer.
One medium orange should yield about 1/8 cup of orange juice. The juice and orange zest will add lots of flavor to your sauce.
Step 2: Separate the pineapple chunks from the juice
Strain out the pineapple chunks reserving the juice. Set the chunks aside.
Combine about 1/2 cup of pineapple juice with cornstarch to make a slurry. Set this aside for now and use it to thicken your sweet and sour sauce.
Step 3: Cook the sauce ingredients
Combine the orange juice, zest, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook while stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Stir to combine the pineapple slurry and add it to the pan. Continue cooking while stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove the sweet and sour sauce from the heat and set aside.
Steps for Making the Meatballs
Step 1: Make the Meatball Mixture
Combine the egg, milk, dried breadcrumbs, garlic, ginger, Chinese five-spice powder, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to soften and absorb the milk and flavors of the garlic, ginger, and spices. Give the mixture a stir, add the ground beef, and mix until just combined.
Step 2: Brown the Meatballs
Roll the meatballs gently in the palms of your hands so you don’t compact the ground beef. For a unified appearance, use a tablespoon to measure out the meatball mixture. Drop the meatballs into the skillet as you work, until all the meatballs are formed. Pan fry while turning frequently to brown on all sides.
Remove the meatballs from the pan. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pan and drain off any excess.
Step 3: Make the Stir-Fry
Add the peppers and onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the sweet and sour sauce, stir to combine, and cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in center, about 5 minutes more. Add the reserved pineapple and green onion to the skillet, and stir to combine. Serve over rice with the remaining sweet and sour sauce.
Orange Pineapple Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Ingredients for the Sweet and Sour Sauce:
- 1 16 ounce can pineapple chunks in natural juice
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- 1 medium orange, zested and juiced (about 1/8 cup juice)
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or white or rice)
- 1 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1 cup cane sugar
Ingredients for the Meatballs:
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 1/2 inch piece ginger grated
- 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/8 teapoon salt
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium sweet red pepper cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 green onions sliced (reserve green parts for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for frying meatballs
- 3 cups cooked rice (optional)
Directions for the Sweet and Sour Sauce:
- Separate the pineapple chunks from the pineapple juice. Reserve the pineapple chunks for later. Measure out 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, stir in the arrowroot powder to make a slurry, and set aside (this will be used to thicken the sauce later).
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the orange juice, zest, ketchup, vinegar, and tamari or soy sauce. Stir in the sugar and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
- Stir the pineapple juice and arrowroot slurry and add it to the saucepan.
- While stirring, bring the saucepan to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool. (Makes about 2 cups)
Directions for the Meatballs:
- Preheat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, dried bread crumbs, garlic, ginger, Chinese five-spice powder, pepper, and salt. Stir to mix thoroughly. Add ground beef. Mix until combined.
- Shape the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Add the meatballs to the skillet and cook until they are browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pan and drain off any excess.
- Add the peppers and onion to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan. Add 1/2 cup of the sweet and sour sauce, stir to combine, and cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in center, about 5 minutes more.
- Add the reserved pineapple and green onion to the skillet, and stir to combine. Serve over rice with the remaining sweet and sour sauce. Serves 6.
This recipe was originally published on February 15, 2018. It has been updated with more detailed information.
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Shelby @Fitasamamabear says
Ah this would be such a tasty dinner! I adore meatballs.