Vietnamese-Style Meatballs with Chili Sauce

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My husband calls these Vietnamese-style meatballs “flavor bombs.” Serve them over rice for a quick weeknight dinner.

Vietnamese-style meatballs with chili sauce in a bowl over noodles.

My husband calls these Vietnamese-style meatballs with a deliciously bright and pungent sauce “flavor bombs” (which, by the way, is a good thing). They are flavored with fish sauce and soy sauce—two umami-rich condiments commonly used in Vietnamese cooking—along with ginger, lime, spicy Sambal Oelek (not a traditional Vietnamese ingredient, but the spicy, garlicky flavor works so well here), and fresh herbs. They practically explode with flavor. I love them over rice, but they are also delicious wrapped in lettuce cups or served over rice noodles. Be judicious with the chili sauce—a little goes a long way.

What You’ll Need To Make Vietnamese-Style Meatballs

how to make vietnamese meatballs

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, scallions, lime zest, cilantro, and mint.

Eggs, seasonings, and minced vegetables in a bowl.

Whisk to combine.

Bowl of egg and vegetable mixture.

Add the beef, pork, and panko.

Ground meat and panko added to a bowl of egg mixture.

Using your hands, mix until evenly combined.

Meat and panko mixture in a bowl.

Roll the mixture into golf ball-sized balls and arrange on an unlined baking sheet. The mixture will be a bit sticky; dampen your hands every so often while rolling the meatballs if necessary.

Baking tray of uncooked meatballs.

Bake for 25 minutes, flipping once with a metal spatula halfway through the cooking time, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through.

Baking tray of meatballs.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Be sure the sugar is completely dissolved and not stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

how to make vietnamese meatballs

Serve the meatballs drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with scallions, cilantro, mint, and peanuts.

Vietnamese-style meatballs with chili sauce in a bowl over noodles.

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Vietnamese-Style Meatballs with Chili Sauce

My husband calls these Vietnamese-style meatballs “flavor bombs.” Serve them over rice for a quick weeknight dinner.

Servings: 22 to 24 small meatballs (Serves 6)
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes


For the Meatballs

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (see note)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped (about ¼ cup), plus a few more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest, from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for serving
  • ¾ lb 85% lean ground beef
  • ¾ lb ground pork
  • 1 cup panko
  • ½ cup chopped unsalted peanuts, for serving

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce, such as Sambal Oelek, or Asian chili garlic sauce (available in Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice, from 2 to 3 limes
  • ¼ cup sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, scallions, lime zest, cilantro, and mint. Whisk to combine. Add the beef, pork, and panko. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Roll the mixture into golf ball-sized balls and arrange on an unlined baking sheet. The mixture will be a bit sticky; dampen your hands every so often while rolling the meatballs if necessary. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping once with a metal spatula halfway through the cooking time, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. (If the meatballs stick a bit to the pan, simply slide the metal spatula underneath them and they should release.)
  3. Meanwhile make the sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Be sure the sugar is completely dissolved and not stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Taste and add more chili sauce if desired.
  4. Serve the meatballs drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with scallions, cilantro, mint, and peanuts. (Be judicious with the sauce; it's very strong in flavor.)
  5. Note: Check out easy guidance on how to peel, grate, and chop fresh ginger here.
  6. Make Ahead: The meatballs can be made completely ahead of time and refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for 2 to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve them, reheat them in the microwave.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 488
  • Fat: 29 g
  • Saturated fat: 9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 30 g
  • Sodium: 2046 mg
  • Cholesterol: 141 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • I would love to try these but the sodium content is just so over the top with many of your flavorful meals that I just can’t even go there when I’m trying to restrict my sodium content for blood pressure issues.

  • This recipe is soooo good! I’ve made it so many times, it’s a staple in my house. I just hope it doesn’t disappear 😀

  • Your husband is right….total flavor bombs! My husband and I devoured these in seconds. It made about 30 meatballs in total, just in case others need a reference point.

    I did use tongs instead of a spatula to flip them because my baking sheet is very slippery. I just found it to be more efficient.

    This is going on the bookmarks tab!! Will make again and again!

  • I love Asian food and flavors, and this was delicious! I wouldn’t change a thing and will definitely make this again. I am quickly becoming one of your biggest fans!

  • very nice flavorful recipe add a little crunch with some diced jicama , tip for mixing. when combined meat is in bowl divide in half ,do not remove from bowl add all other ingredients to top layer carefully lift one half and place it over other half herb Panko mix side up use fingers to push those ingredients in all over surface then proceed to blend with hands ,makes for better distribution. form balls and have at it , “Good Appetite “

  • I love your recipes! Made this yesterday and also this week made the salmon cakes and Thai pork fried rice. All so delicious. Thank you.

  • Really enjoyed the unique flavors after so many years of Italian style meatballs. The sauce definitely has a kick but the jasmine rice absorbed the heat.

  • Oh, my, goodness. I thought this looked so good and have been looking forward to making it.

    I will say that as I started to make the recipe, I was slightly worried. I’m not a mint fan. My husband is not a cilantro or lime fan. The fish sauce is not an ingredient I use often and WOW is it a potent smell. I took a whiff of the bowl as I was shaping the meatballs and thought: uh oh. I’m not gonna like this.

    Boy was I wrong. My entire family devoured the meatballs, the sauce is divine. We will come back to this recipe again and again.

    As far as the specific ingredient goes – the whole is more than the sum of its parts. I couldn’t taste the strong flavors that are added – just a delicious meal.


    • Can you use just beef instead of the pork and beef mixture?

      • — Fatemah Rajah on August 7, 2022
      • Reply
      • Sure, that’s fine — enjoy!

        • — Jenn on August 9, 2022
        • Reply
  • Made these from your new cookbook and they were absolutely amazing! The flavors actually improved after a day or two in the fridge. A huge hit with my husband, will definitely add to our rotation of your recipes which are always dependably great!

  • Delicious! The only thing I changed was to strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to get the seeds out. The seeds are VERY hot! Will definitely make again!

  • Just made this for the third time. I use only beef because we have a non pork eater. Flavor is complex and compelling, and people have loved it every time. I like to add a sqirt of Sriracha to the meatball mix. Easy to prepare. L

  • I am going to make these tonight and going to serve them with cauliflower rice to keep it lower in carbs. It sounds fabulous!

    • — Candace Ingels
    • Reply
    • Hi, I’d like to try these meatballs without pork. Would you suggest doubling up on the beef or swapping it with something else?

      • Hi Noreen, you can replace the pork with more beef. Hope you enjoy!

  • Jenn…..would the mix freeze well (uncooked) and…..what would you think of grilling this mix as a burger? Thank you for fabulous recipes.

    • Sure, Lin, you can freeze the mix. And I haven’t made these as burgers/grilled them, but I think it should work. Please LMK how they turn out if you try it!

  • These are beyond fabulous. Don’t leave any of the ingredients out…..I’m not usually a fan of mint, but it’s so delicious in this recipe.

  • My family, including 3 kids, loved these! The sauce is perfection and I love that we can each add as much as we want (or don’t want, in the case of my youngest)! Thank you!

  • One of the first recipes from this website that was a big disappointment. Could have been the fish sauce…I’m not exactly sure…but no one in the family liked the taste of this dish (including myself).

  • I had no plan for the ground beef in my fridge until I searched your website using the ingredient search. I found and made this recipe since I did happen to have ground pork too. I am so glad I did. Saved my family from what could have been the usual (cough – boring- cough) dinner like beef tacos or burgers. So delicious, so easy. Thanks again for helping with a terrific recipe we all enjoyed. I used a pound of both pork and beef and added a little more of the ingredients in the meatball, but made the sauce exactly as written. Served with rice, and put out little dishes of the toppings of cilantro, mint, chopped peanuts and sauce. Each person added sauce and toppings as they liked. It was fun and everyone enjoyed this dinner. Thanks for such a great recipe!

  • Loved it!!

  • Dear Jenn,
    I am making these a week before I need them, so I am freezing them. Should I make the sauce the day I am serving them , or do I make it ahead and freeze it with the meatballs or separately? Then how long do I reheat?
    Thanks Julia

    • Hi Julia, I’d just make the sauce the day you plan to serve them. And I’d guess they’d take about 2 minutes give or take to reheat, but I’d cut into one after 2 minutes to see if they’re hot in the center. If not, I’d continue in 1-minute increments. Hope you enjoy!

      • When reheating in microwave, perhaps if we knew the temperature it should register, we could use an instant meat thermometer to make sure.
        What do you think?
        Sunny Drohan

        • — Sunny Drohan on August 7, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Sunny, If you’d like to test them with an instant read thermometer before eating, you’re aiming for 160°F. Hope that helps!

          • — Jenn on August 9, 2022
          • Reply
          • Thanks Jennifer. Looking forward to trying this recipe.

            • — Sunny Drohan on August 11, 2022
  • Made this in the airfryer at 375° for 10 minutes, gave the basket a shake, cooked for an additonal 2 mins and let it set for 5 mins. Turned out amazing, crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

  • I made these last night, but instead of making rice, I used the meatballs to make Banh Mi sandwiches. Each person drizzled the amount of sauce they wanted on their meatballs because we all like different levels of spiciness.

    What I did differently was use basically 99% lean ground beef and similarly for the pork as I grind my own meats and like our stuff very lean. This did not pose a problem and with the different flavors, having great taste was not a problem. And, I had already had vacuum sealed packages of ground beef and pork in 1 lb sizes, so I went ahead and used 1 lb of each instead of 3/4 lbs. That was not an issue as I added a little more panko. Used a Vietnamese mint, since it was readily available at the Asian store when I was there.

    I hate shaping meatballs and last week got the Mind Reader Magic Meatball Maker and THIS tool is a game changer for me in making meatballs. You basically flatten your meat, put the meatball maker over it, rotate clockwise and in a minute or so, 16 nicely formed meatballs without getting your hands all yucky. The recipe with my 2 lbs of meat made two batches of 16 nice sized meatballs (maybe 1 1/4″ dia sized, I think). The Magic Meatball Maker makes 16 meatballs at one time. You can vary the size of the meatballs by making the flattened sheet thinner (for smaller meatballs) or thicker (for bigger meatballs).

    Thank you so much for yet another awesome recipe!

  • Flavor bomb is right! Big hit with the family. – Jeannine

  • Made these last night and they were so delicious, and reheated excellently in the microwave for leftovers tonight! Made them over brown rice and added some sauteed broccoli & shiitake mushrooms for some added veggies. I particularly love the addition of the added chopped peanuts at the end – brought it all together. I can’t wait to make these again when we can finally have company again 🙂

  • I recently made these for our RV club. Apparently I didn’t make enough. They were gone within minutes. Of course I was asked to share the recipe. I gave them your website, and I hope they have enjoyed all of your many delicious and easy recipes as I have. Thank you Chef!

  • I made these using “Better Than Sausage” and they came out great. Since the package only contained one pound of sausage, I adjusted the ingredients accordingly and added just 1 egg. I made them somewhat smaller than a golf ball and they were delicious. I served them with grated carrot, roasted cauliflower, green onions and roasted cashews (as well as the sauce).

  • I just made these meatballs for my adult children. They loved them! I did too!!

  • I just made these and they turned out so good! I followed her recipe with the exception of fish sauce- substituted for worcestershire sauce instead and it was amazing! The peanuts are a must!

    • Hi Stacey, made this last night and we enjoyed it. However, like you, we discovered we have someone who doesn’t care for fish sauce. I was wondering if you subbed the Worcestershire sauce at the same amounts in both the meatballs and the accompanying sauce?

  • I just wanted to thank you for adding the nutritional information. I assume the calories are for 6 of the meat balls?

    Not a lot of food blogs add these things and I’m trying to lose weight, so being able to see that someone has done that work for me is wonderful. Thank you so much for going that extra mile. I’m definitely going to try these. Have a beautiful day.

    • — Heather Astaneh
    • Reply
    • Hi Heather, Glad you find the nutritional info helpful! This makes 6 servings, but because the recipe makes 22 to 24 meatballs, the serving size is more like 4 meatballs. Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy!

  • This has become a comfort food meal for our family. It is so flavor filled and looks very appetizing. We love the leftovers. They heat up very well.

  • Great seasoning, fabulous dinner!
    I served this over rice noodles from the H Mart, and it was just fine. Also subbed coconut aminos for the soy, as we don’t eat soy. Thanks for a quick weeknight recipe!

  • A definite family favorite. I love using fresh mint that I grow too much of, and the combination of spices with mint , cilantro, and ginger is sublime. The meatballs freeze well for a leftover meal, and the sauce is wonderfully spicy and necessary as a garnish.

    • — Lynn McWilliams
    • Reply
  • One of my favorite recipes! Toddlers enjoyed these meatballs as well. I don’t always have all the ingredients on hand but they seem to turn out delicious anyway which is nice for busy weeknight dinners.

  • I made this for my family – like all of the Once Upon a Chef recipes, it is incredible!

  • My husband loved these meatballs. They were easy to make. I followed the recipe as is.

  • These meatballs earned their own space on our family night bento plates. They were a hit and now a part of our dinner rotation plans:) I did add some Thai basil which is my latest favorite ingredient when preparing Asian inspired dishes.

    • — Anitra Grant-Finley
    • Reply
  • These are soooo flavorful you don’t even need the sauce. I’ve made them several times. I eat it with brown or white rice and some kimchee. Perfect lunch!

  • I’ve made these meatballs multiple times for many different groups and everyone has loved them! They are so flavorful and easy to make. I pair it with Once Upon a Chef’s Asian Slaw and it makes a great meal.

  • Hands down this is delicious!!! I used ground turkey and chicken rather than beef and pork! Turned out amazing!! We had it two nights in a row as we couldn’t stop talking about it!

  • These were a big hit with my family. So many wonderful flavors that I love – ginger, garlic, mint, cilantro… Jennifer you are the Queen of Sauces and this sauce proves it again!

  • AMAZING. I’ve made this recipe 6x over the past 2 months. It’s now one of our “top 5” things to make. There’s a bit of prep work involved and it does require some herbs/things you may not have on hand all the time so plan ahead. I usually cut the sauce in half because it makes a lot but no other alterations. We’ve served it over rice and also just as an appetizer (made smaller meatballs) and it’s always been a hit.

  • I made this meatball for my family and they loved it especially the kids. I did not have any Panko so used crushed crackers and worked well. Added fresh cilantros, scallions and mint made this so tasty.

  • Have made these more than once and OH MY!! They are indeed flavor bombs!! The whole family loved them 🙂 Now a favorite in our rotation.

    • Reply
  • Jen,
    This was the first recipe I tried and have been a huge fan ever since. This recipe is on regular rotation in my home. So good! Your recipes are well written, easy to follow and always turn out with only minor tweaks for personal preferences. I have become a better home cook since discovering your site/cookbook. Thank you for the delicious recipes! Can’t wait for your next cookbook❤️

    • ❤️

      • I made these vietnamese meatballs and served them with white rice for dinner and were a total hit. My husband and sons loved them and it will definitely go into my recipe book. Thanks Jenn!!

  • These are so yummy! I have made them a few times and both toddler and husband were happy. Recently to make them Whole30 compliant, I subbed soy sauce for coconut amunos, panko for almond flour and peanuts for cashews. Great for dinner with Cauliflower Rice and leftovers for lunch with an asain Chopped Salad

    • — Janella Churchill
    • Reply
  • My husband and I LOVE these meatballs! They are so flavorful and super easy for a weeknight. We always have leftover sauce which we pour over anything we can – a simple roasted veggie and tofu with some rice and this sauce and you have another meal!

  • This is a great recipe. I have made it twice now and both my husband and I love it. I use a mix of turkey and beef and that works just fine. The sauce is excellent and I use a sushi rice for the side which makes it even better. I particularly appreciate the recipe having me bake the meatballs, rather than fry them, which is so much healthier and does not impact the flavor or texture at all. I regretted not making more last time and freezing them but plan to do so next time I make them. Definitely try them. Everything I have made on this website has been excellent!

  • I was a bit unsure if my family would like this with three kids, but everyone loved it! I served the sauce on the side and we had it over cauliflower rice. I did scale back a tiny bit on the fish sauce for the sauce due to the kids. I didn’t want it to be too fishy. Easy and filling for a weeknight dinner. Also, I did make the meatballs ahead and reheat them, but they didn’t lose anything in doing that.

  • Another easy, yet delicious recipe from Jen. We visited Vietnam last year and I now am obsessed with their food. This is satisfying and make great leftovers. Enjoy.

  • These are absolutely bursting with flavour. I make them often and everybody loves them. They are such a nice change and easy to make and freeze really well.
    Honestly, I have tried a lot of Jenn’s recipes and each and every one is no fail and delicious!

    • — Julie Ann Wilton
    • Reply
  • My husband would also agree and call these “flavor bombs!” This recipe does yield a lot and I would bring them into work the next day and they are just as popular with my co-workers. This would be a great recipe for a party appetizer. We add extra sesame oil and fresh chilis to make this really spicy. We do a little less cilantro too, just a personal preference. I have used pork/beef as the recipe suggests, but I have made this also with ground chicken and it is still delicious.

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