Japanese Chicken Meatball Tsukune

This tsukune recipe, also known as Japanese chicken meatballs, is skewered ground chicken and brushed with a sweet and savory yakitori sauce.

Skip the restaurant and learn how to make tsukune with this easy and healthy recipe right in the comfort of your kitchen.

This recipe offers the option to make this dish low carb, sugar-free and keto friendly!

A biten Japanese chicken meatball tsukune on the skewer.

What is Japanese Chicken Tsukune?

Tsukune, or Japanese chicken meatballs, is a type of yakitori made from a ground chicken mixture then skewered and brushed with yakitori or tare sauce and grilled.

Japanese chicken tsukune is commonly served in yakitori restaurants along with other popular yakitori items such as chicken thighs, gizzards, and beef.

What does chicken tsukune yakitori taste like?

Chicken tsukune yakitori has a soft texture with the sauce being sweet, savory, and umami filled. Since tsukune is grilled you get a nice smokey charred flavor that adds to the delicious unique yakitori flavor.

How to make chicken tsukune and what is it made of?

Chicken Meatball 

  • Ground Chicken – use ground chicken which can be found in supermarkets or Japanese supermarkets.
  • Sesame Oil – use toasted sesame oil (dark and rich in color). Check to make sure it is not a sesame oil blend.
  • Garlic – grated using a hand grater or cheese grater.
  • Miso – white miso, awase miso, or red miso can be used for this recipe. We use awase or brown miso.
  • Green Onion (scallions) – finely chopped and used for ground chicken mixture.
  • Salt – use table salt or sea salt.
  • Japanese Sake – use Japanese cooking sake which is fairly inexpensive and can be found in most Asian supermarkets.
  • Pork Rinds or Panko – Pork rinds are a low carb alternative to traditional panko and since here at LCA, we try to keep our recipes as low carb and sugar-free as possible, we offer that option to fit your dietary needs. If you prefer using traditional panko, you can go ahead and use that as well.
  • Wooden Skewers – bamboo skewers are found in most Japanese supermarkets. You can also use regular barbecue skewers.
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds – use toasted sesame seeds. Can be found in Asian supermarkets.

Marinade 

  • Soy Sauce – low sodium is preferred. For gluten-free you can use tamari or coconut aminos.
  • Japanese Sake – use Japanese cooking sake which is fairly inexpensive and can be found in most Asian supermarkets.
  • Sweetener – to keep this recipe sugar-free, we use a monkfruit erythritol blend. It is low carb, keto friendly and has 0 calories. Feel free to use your preferred sweetener or regular cane sugar.
  • Bonito Flakes – made from shaved dried bonito fish. Commonly used to make broth and responsible for giving Japanese cuisine that signature umami flavor. Found in most Japanese supermarkets. Can also be subbed for hondashi.
  • Garlic – grated using a hand grater or cheese grater.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken meatball ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Form a ball and thread on skewers. Don’t worry if the mixture is wet, just form the ball around the skewer and it will harden as it is cooked.

Baste with tare yakitori sauce and grill skewers, rotating every 2 minutes and basting again. Serve with a sprinkle of scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Japanese chicken meatball tsukune served on a white plate on the skewer.

What is yakitori tare and what is it made of?

Yakitori tare is a sweet, savory, and umami-filled sauce made with soy sauce, sweetener, garlic, and broth from bonito flakes. Occasionally it is also made with ginger so feel free to add ginger if preferred.

You may also be wondering why we don’t use mirin in the tare sauce and that is because mirin contains sugar, so we try to give you an alternative healthier option using a sweetener by making our own mirin in the recipe.

What is the nutrition information for this tsukune recipe?

  • 439 Calories
  • 4g Carbohydrates
  • 1g Fiber
  • 55g Protein
  • 18g Fat
  • 156mg Cholesterol
  • 1376mg Sodium
  • 1196mg Potassium
  • 18mg Calcium
  • 2mg Iron
  • 80ui Vitamin A
  • 2mg Vitamin C

Japanese chicken meatball tsukune served on a white plate on the skewer, top down.

Looking for other yakitori recipes?

Now, let’s get making this Japanese Chicken Meatball Tsukune recipe!

  • Prepping Time 10M
  • Cooking Time 15M
  • Total Time 25M
  • Net Carb/Skewer ~1g
  • Serving 3-4 Skewers

Ingredients

Chicken Meatball

Basting Sauce

Directions

1) Gather all the ingredients.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (3)

2) Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes.

Keto Japanese Beef Skewers Kushiyaki (1)

3) Finely dice garlic and set aside.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (1)

4) In a stove top pot, add Soy Sauce, Japanese Sake, Water, sweetener, Bonito Flakes, and half of the diced garlic and bring to boil.  Once boiling, reduce to simmer heat and let sauce reduce for 7-10 minutes or until slightly reduced.  Once reduced, strain sauce with strainer and make sure to squeeze/press any excess sauce from the bonito flakes.  Split marinate into 2 bowls – 1 bowl holding 3/4 as basting sauce and the other about 1/4 as reserve sauce.  Note – if you are making more sauce, it will take longer to reduce.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (26)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (27)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (28)

Keto Japanese Chicken Meatballs Tsukune Recipes (23)

5) While waiting for the sauce to reduce, finely chop green onions and set aside.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (2)

6) Pour Unflavored Pork Rinds into a food processor and pulse until ground into very fine crumbs.  You should have around 2 tbsp worth. You can also use your hands to crush the pork rinds if you don’t have a food processor.  Note – Skip this step if you are using Pork Panko or regular panko.

7) In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, Sesame Oil, remaining diced garlic, Miso, chopped green onions, salt, Japanese sake, Unflavored Pork Rinds and mix well.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (20)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (21)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (22)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (23)

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (12)

8) Take about 2 tbsp of chicken/tsukune meatball mix, throw the mix from one hand to another while using the palm of your hands to form a ball about the size of a ping pong ball.  Take the meatball and place onto skewer.  Take note the meatball mix is very fragile prior to being cooked, so handle with care.  Each skewer should hold about 4-5 meatballs.  Set on holding plate.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (24)

9) Preheat grill to 350F. Once grill is preheated, reduce heat to medium-low and place skewers on the grill. Using a basting brush, generously brush marinade on each skewer from bowl with 3/4 the sauce and close lid. Rotate skewers every 2 minutes basting on each rotation keeping covered until done, should take around 12-15 minutes or once internal temp reaches 165F.  Mix sauce from reserve bowl and drizzle before serving along with sprinkle of optional Toasted Sesame Seed.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (25)

10) Optional Oven Instructions – if you don’t own a BBQ grill or located in an area where grilling is not possible, here are alternative oven instructions.  Preheat oven to 500F.  Place skewers on a baking rack in center of oven and generous brush marinade on each skewer from bowl with 3/4 the sauce. Rotate every 4-5 minutes basting on each rotation and continue until done – should take around 10-14 minutes or once internal temp reaches 165F.  Mix sauce from reserve bowl and drizzle before serving along with sprinkle of optional Toasted Sesame Seed.

Keto Japanese Chicken Meatballs Tsukune Recipes (30)

Hope you enjoy your Japanese Chicken Meatball Tsukune!

If you’re looking for other recipe ideas, be sure to check out our growing Recipe Index full of healthy Asian inspired recipes!

Join us on Facebook to be part of our interactive discussions & recipe requests and follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, or subscribe to our New Recipe Notification and be the first to know when we post a new recipe!

More Recipes

Japanese chicken meatball tsukune served on a white plate on the skewer.

Japanese Chicken Meatball Tsukune

This tsukune recipe also known as Japanese chicken meatballs is skewered ground chicken and brushed with a sweet and savory yakitori sauce.
5 from 8 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: chicken tsukune, how to make tsukune, Japanese chicken meatballs, tsukune recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 3 Skewers
Print Recipe
Calories: 439kcal

Ingredients

Chicken Meatball

  • 1 lbs Ground Chicken
  • 1 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1 tsp Miso
  • 2 Stalk Green Onions
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Japanese Sake
  • 1 oz Unflavored Pork Rinds 2 tbsp if using Pork Panko
  • 3-4 Pieces Wooden Skewers
  • 1/4 tsp Toasted Sesame Seed optional

Marinade

  • 3 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 4 1/2 tbsp Japanese Sake
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Water
  • 2 tbsp Sweetener monkfruit erythritol blend, sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 1/2 Cup Bonito Flakes can sub with 1/8 tsp of hondashi
  • 1 Clove Garlic

Instructions

  • Gather all the ingredients.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (3)
  • Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (29)
  • Finely dice garlic and set aside.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (1)
  • In a stove top pot, add Soy Sauce, Japanese Sake, Water, sweetener, Bonito Flakes, and half of the diced garlic and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to simmer heat and let the sauce reduce for 7-10 minutes or until slightly reduced. Once reduced, strain the sauce with a strainer and make sure to squeeze/press any excess sauce from the bonito flakes. Split marinate into 2 bowls - 1 bowl holding 3/4 as basting sauce and the other about 1/4 as reserve sauce. Note - if you are making more sauce, it will take longer to reduce.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (28)
  • While waiting for the sauce to reduce, finely chop green onions and set aside.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (2)
  • Pour Unflavored Pork Rinds into a food processor and pulse until ground into very fine crumbs.  You should have around 2 tbsp worth. You can also use your hands to crush the pork rinds if you don’t have a foodprocessor.  Note – Skip this step if you are using Pork Panko.
    Keto Chaffle Katsu Sandwich Recipe (36)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, Sesame Oil, remaining diced garlic, Miso, chopped green onions, salt, Japanese sake, Unflavored Pork Rinds and mix well.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (23)
  • Take about 2 tbsp of chicken/tsukune meatball mix, throw the mix from one hand to another while using the palm of your hands to form a ball about the size of a ping pong ball. Take the meatball and place onto skewer. Take note the meatball mix is very fragile prior to being cooked, so handle with care. Each skewer should hold about 4-5 meatballs. Set on holding plate.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (24)
  • Preheat grill to 350F. Once grill is preheated, reduce heat to medium-low and place skewers on the grill. Using a basting brush, generously brush marinade on each skewer from bowl with 3/4 the sauce and close lid. Rotate skewers every 2 minutes basting on each rotation keeping covered until done, should take around 12-15 minutes or once internal temp reaches 165F. Mix sauce from reserve bowl and drizzle before serving along with sprinkle of optional Toasted Sesame Seed.
    Japanese Chicken Meatball Skewers - Tsukune Recipe (25)
  • Optional Oven Instructions - if you don't own a BBQ grill or located in an area where grilling is not possible, here are alternative oven instructions. Preheat oven to 500F. Place skewers on a baking rack in center of oven and generous brush marinade on each skewer from bowl with 3/4 the sauce. Rotate every 4-5 minutes basting on each rotation and continue until done - should take around 10-14 minutes or once internal temp reaches 165F. Mix sauce from reserve bowl and drizzle before serving along with sprinkle of optional Toasted Sesame Seed.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 439kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 55g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 1376mg | Potassium: 1196mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 80IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 2mg
*Values Based Per Serving
Did you make this recipe?Tag @LowCarbingAsian on Instagram and hashtag it #LowCarbingAsian

*This page contains affiliate marketing links*1

Tomorrow's Dinner?

BEST 25 EASY & HEALTHY Recipes Sent Directly to Your Inbox!

Plus Monthly NEW RECIPES Exclusively from LCA!

By subscribing you agree to receive our promotional marketing materials and agree with our Privacy Policy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*