These Sesame Cilantro Meatballs Are Great for Dinner or Your Bento Box

Fifteen years ago I competed in a food and wine pairing competition in NYC. It was a huge honor and super intimidating. I had to cook in front of BIG Food Network names and Al Roker was the MC. The swag bag contained a Gourmet magazine (when it was still being published) which I read on the flight home. A recipe for Asian inspired chicken meatballs was featured as an appetizer. I couldn’t stop thinking about them because they looked so good. I made them soon after I got home and they were a hit. These Sesame Cilantro Meatballs are my interpretation of that recipe and are still made frequently!

Ingredients in Sesame Cilantro Meatballs

Six ingredients make up these super flavor meatballs: ground chicken (or turkey), cilantro, green onions, sesame oil and salt. Sometimes I add finely chopped mushrooms to up the nutritional value and stretch the meat. You can bake them or dredging them in flour then shallow frying. I made the mistake of frying the first time I made them and now that’s the expectation. Though they are equally tasty and infinitely easier to just bake them. That’s how I make them when my boys aren’t eating with us.

What to Serve with Sesame Cilantro Meatballs

I love the flavors of Asian food almost as much as Mexican. Due to the Asian leaning flavors of cilantro and sesame oil, I tend to go that direction with sides. I serve either Asian coleslaw or rice and veggies. The requisite dipping sauce is simply equal parts coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and rice wine vinegar. Besides these typical ways to serve the meatballs, you could also drop them into Pho or Ramen and they would be right at home. Want something a little more interesting? Here are some of my favorite Asian inspired ways to use them from my site:

  • With Asian Slaw – You can grill the cabbage or leave it raw, either way these meatballs go great with it and this is what I most often serve with them.
  • Make Thai Meatball Coconut Soup – Exchange the meatballs for the chicken. This soup comes together fast so make it while the meatballs then just add them when they come out of the oven.
  • Shaved Veggie Salad and Peanut Sauce – Skip the shrimp and serve the meatballs instead.
  • Vietnamese Spring Rolls – While the meatballs are baking, make these and have a fun Asian appetizer night. Serve the meatballs on little wooden skewers.

Make-Ahead Directions for Sesame Cilantro Meatballs

You are going to want to make extras for a couple of reasons:

A) they are addictively delicious, so much so that I make two pounds and we NEVER have leftovers

B) they are great for meal prep or freezer stashing.

All you need to do is follow the directions as written (either baking or frying) then:

  • Meal Prep: divide into meal prep containers with your chosen sides.
  • Freeze: Lay them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Freeze completely then transfer to ziploc or Stasher bag.

Easy Peasy!

Sesame Cilantro Meatballs

If you want to stretch your budget, add mushrooms that are super finely chopped. They are undetectable and add lots of nutritional value, too.


  • Meatballs
  • 1 lb ground chicken or turkey

  • 4 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped, optional

  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

  • 3 green onions, finely chopped

  • 2 tsp sesame oil

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • cornstarch, tapioca flour or potato starch for frying, optional

  • coconut oil or avocado oil for frying, optional

  • Dipping Sauce Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos or soy/tamari sauce

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

  • red pepper flakes, chile garlic sauce or Sriracha to taste for spicy


  • Mix all ingredients except the cornstarch in a bowl.
  • Using a cookie scoop or a small spoon, form 1″ balls and set on a cookie sheet.
  • Baking Directions
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and cooked through and no longer pink at all. (Safest way to know: A digital thermometer will read 165 degrees.)
  • Frying Directions
  • Lightly coat the meatballs in cornstarch.
  • Heat 1″ of oil in a large cast iron skillet.
  • Carefully add enough meatballs to make a single layer and fry until golden brown
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel covered cookie sheet to drain.
  • Test and see if they are done by breaking one open and making sure they are no longer pink or you can test with digital thermometer.
  • If they’re not done, remove paper towel and move to 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
  • Place in the oven for 10 minutes to cook through.
  • Dipping Sauce
  • Mix ingredients together and serve in tiny bowls for dipping

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