I call these “summer” meatballs because they are full of bright flavors and can happily be tucked into a lettuce leaf with some herbs and dipped into either spicy peanut sauce or tamari-ginger sauce. They’re not intended to be served with marinara sauce (!). If the dipping idea seems too fussy, thin the peanut sauce out with a bit more coconut milk and serve the meatballs hot over rice with a bit of sauce spooned over. Garnish with lime and cilantro.

You can also shape these meatballs any size you like (small for hors d’oeuvres) – just reduce cooking time for smaller meatballs. You can sauté these to start and then pop them in the oven, but I find it’s easiest to plunk them all on a sheet pan, brush with a little combo of ketchup and soy sauce to help browning, and roast them. I have also cooked a small batch in a convection toaster oven (those in the photo above) and they took on a particularly nice color (and cooked very quickly). For regular-size meatballs (about 1 ½ inches in diameter), anywhere from 18 to 25 minutes at 400 degrees is about right, but if you are concerned about doneness, check for an internal temperature of 160 degrees with an instant-read thermometer.

Makes 20 to 25 meatballs, serves 4


For the meatballs:

  • 1 ½ pounds “meatloaf” mix ground meat (half ground beef, half ground pork)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 4 ounces coconut milk, well-stirred
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions (all parts)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) finely chopped fresh or grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup 
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Zest of one lime

For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce

For serving: 

  • Tamari-Lime-Ginger Sauce (below)
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce
  • Cup-shaped lettuce leaves (such as Bibb) (optional)
  • Whole cilantro, mint, or Thai basil leaves or sprigs (optional)
  • Quick pickles or shredded raw carrots or peppers (optional)
  • Cooked rice


1. Heat the oven (or a convection oven) to 400 degrees F. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.

2. Put the ground meat into a large mixing bowl.

3. Stir together the fresh breadcrumbs with the coconut milk. Let sit for a few minutes and add to the bowl of meat.

4. Add the cilantro, scallions, egg, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, chili-garlic sauce, salt and lime zest to the bowl.

5. Gently mix and combine all the ingredients, thoroughly but not too thoroughly! (You want everything to be well-distributed but you don’t want to mash the meat up too much.)

6. Shape the mixture into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, or whatever size you like. Arrange them on the baking sheet with a little space between each. Combine the ketchup and soy sauce and brush lightly over the meatballs.

7. Cook for anywhere from 18 to 25 minutes (less in convection), until firm, lightly colored, and 160 degrees F at the center.

8. Serve with lettuce, herbs and dipping sauces or with rice and sauces.

Tamari-Lime-Ginger Sauce

This all-purpose dipping sauce is good not just with these meatballs but with crispy roasted broccoli, stirred into warm brown rice, or as a seasoning for brothy noodle soups.

  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons chopped or grated fresh ginger

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. Store leftovers covered in fridge.