Tsukune Chicken Meatball

Get ready to elevate your grilling game with my homemade Tsukune Chicken Meatballs! These juicy delights, made from ground chicken, grill to perfection and are smothered in a sweet and savory yakitori tare sauce. If you’re craving the authentic flavors of Japanese cuisine, this recipe is your ticket to a mouthwatering experience right in your own backyard!

A biten Japanese chicken meatball tsukune on the skewer.

Why I Love This Recipe

What makes my classic Japanese grilling skewer Tsukune recipe recipe stand out is the authenticity, much like my Yakitori, Pork Belly Yakiton, and Beef Kushuyaki. Crafted from all-natural ingredients and simple Japanese seasonings, these chicken meatballs offer a protein-packed and satisfying option for those seeking the true essence of Japanese yakitori!

The result is a delightful blend of juicy chicken and umami-rich tare sauce, that I ensure is perfect for anyone looking to savor the taste of Japan without leaving home! So, whether you’re a grill master or a beginner, this Tsukune Chicken Meatball recipe is a must-try, offering a delicious journey into Japanese cuisine!



  • Ground Chicken – use ground chicken, can be found at most grocery stores.
  • Toasted Sesame Oil – 100% Toasted Sesame Oil that should have a dark brown color.  
  • Garlic – freshly diced.
  • Miso – awase brown Miso works best.
  • Green Onion – finely chopped green onion scallions.
  • Salt – sea salt preferred.
  • Japanese Sake – typically will come in a large bottle labeled junmai sake. Can also substitute with dry sherry wine or Chinese cooking wine, found at local grocery stores or Asian markets. 
  • Panko – panko bread crumbs. For low carb, use crushed pork rinds or Pork Panko.
  • Wooden Skewers – bamboo skewers are found in most Japanese supermarkets. You can also use regular barbecue skewers.
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds – optional garnish.
  • Soy Sauce – low-sodium Soy Sauce preferred. Can also use tamari for gluten-free.
  • Sweetener – use your preferred sweetener.
  • Bonito Flakes – made from shaved Dried Bonito fish. Commonly used to make broth and responsible for giving Japanese cuisine that signature umami flavor. Can replace with Hondashi.

Flavoring Add Ins

Grated Ginger, Shiso Leaves, and White Pepper complement the authentic taste and flavor of the tsukune without altering the base flavors.

🍶 Mirin Note

While mirin is traditionally used to make the tare sauce, we’ve adjusted the ingredients to ensure that you can still enjoy the authentic flavors of tare, even if mirin is not readily available in your area.

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

Essential Kitchen Equipment

🍢 Skewer Pro Tip

Opting for Metal Skewers offers a hassle-free and safe grilling experience, as they eliminate concerns about the skewers catching on fire.


Step 1 Prepare the yakitori sauce by combining soy sauce, Japanese sake, sweetener, water, bonito flakes or hondashi, and diced garlic in a stove-top pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. After simmering, strain the sauce and divide it into two bowls.

Tsukune sauce in a pot.

⚡ Tare Shortcut Pro Tip

For a shortcut when preparing your tare sauce, opt for Hondashi instead of bonito flakes. This substitution eliminates the need to strain the tare sauce.

Step 2 Prepare the chicken meatballs by combining ground chicken, toasted sesame oil, diced garlic, miso, chopped green onions, salt, and Japanese sake in a mixing bowl. Mix the ingredients well and shape the mixture into meatballs about the size of ping pong balls.

Tsukune on a skewer.

Step 3 Skewer the meatballs onto skewers and preheat your grill to 350°F. Grill the meatballs with the lid closed, rotating them every 2 minutes and basting between each rotation. Grill for a total of 10 minutes.

Tsukune being basted on the grill.

🖌️ Basting Pro Tip

Basting generously is key, there’s No Such Thing As Overbasting these chicken meatballs! It guarantees they stay moist and flavorful.

🌡 Internal Temperature Check

Grill your Tsukune to a safe internal temperature of 165°F for perfectly cooked and safe-to-eat chicken skewers.

Step 4 Drizzle the reserved sauce on top of the grilled meatballs and optionally garnish with toasted sesame seeds and togarashi chili powder.

Paring Recommendations

While you’re enjoying the grill, consider adding a variety of other yakitori skewers to your menu. You can grill up some Bacon Wrapped Enoki and Bacon Wrapped Quail Eggs skewers to create a well-rounded and satisfying yakitori feast that will surely impress your guests. And for your vegetables, a refreshing Japanese Cabbage Salad would pair wonderfully with your yakitori feast.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make the yakitori tare sauce in advance and store it for later use?

Yes, you can! Simply place it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. It will stay good for 10-14 days.

How can I prevent the chicken meatballs from sticking to the grill grates?

Oil the grate and ensure the grill is hot before placing the chicken meatballs on it. This will create a crust that prevents it from sticking to the grates.

What's the ideal thickness for shaping the chicken meatballs on the skewers?

The ideal thickness is approximately the size of a ping pong ball. This ensures even cooking without overcooking on the outside or undercooking in the center.

Storage Tips

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, where they will keep well for 5 to 7 days. When you’re ready to enjoy them again, simply reheat in the microwave until warmed through.

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Watch How To Make It

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

Tsukune Chicken Meatball

Explore the delicious world of Tsukune, a Japanese chicken meatball recipe that's a flavor-packed delight. Perfect for your next meal!
5 from 9 votes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: Japanese chicken meatballs, tsukune recipe, tsukune yakitori
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 3 Skewers
Print Recipe
Calories: 439kcal


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 can substitute with dry sherry wine or Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp Panko for low carb use Pork Panko or crushed pork rinds
  • 3-4 Pieces Wooden Skewers
  • 1/4 tsp Toasted Sesame Seed optional

Yakitori Tare Sauce

  • 3 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 4 1/2 tbsp Japanese Sake can substitute with dry sherry wine or Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Water
  • 2 tbsp Sweetener your preferred sweetener
  • 1/2 Cup Bonito Flakes can sub with 1/8 tsp of hondashi
  • 1 Clove Garlic


  • Gather all the ingredients.
    Ingredients for tsukune chicken meatball.
  • Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes.
    Skewers being soak in water.
  • Finely dice garlic and set aside.
    Chopped garlic.
  • Combine Soy Sauce, Japanese sake, water, sweetener, Bonito Flakes, and diced garlic in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes until it slightly reduces.Strain the sauce through a strainer, making sure to press out any extra sauce from the bonito flakes. Split the tare into 2 bowl, one for basting and other for dipping. Note – no need to strain if using hondashi.
    Tsukune sauce in a pot.
  • While waiting for the sauce to reduce, finely chop green onions and set aside.
    Chopped green onions.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, Toasted Sesame Oil, remaining diced garlic, Miso, chopped green onions, salt, Japanese sake, panko and mix well.
    Tsukune mixture in a mixing bowl.
  • 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.
    Tsukune on a skewer.
  • 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.
    Tsukune being basted on the grill.


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
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