These Thai Tom Yum meatballs with ground chicken have all the Thai flavors rolled up into one herbaceous bite. The famous flavors come through with Tom Yum paste and fresh aromatics in this delicious appetizer. Healthy, flavorful, and extra addictive!
I LOVE creating original recipes using classic Thai dishes. It's like creating art on a white canvas; these meatballs are a delightful masterpiece I'm extremely proud of. I've been doing a Tom Yum series on my blog and always think about new ideas to make each recipe healthy.
So I can come up with this perfect meal prep food, and I'm truly obsessed. If you love Tom Yum, you'll want to add this recipe to your collection of delicious and healthy Thai food menus!
Why this recipe works
- It’s a great party appetizer for game days or parties!
- It’s super simple to make, chop up the ingredients and mix everything and roll it into balls
- Its flavor explosion with all the herbs used
- It’s incredibly healthy, perfect for a clean eating food
- Great for meal prep, they are easy to portion out
- These freeze well, cooked and uncooked, great for making in large batches to use later for dinner or parties!
Ingredients for making Thai Tom Yum Meatballs with Ground Chicken
- Ground meat. Ground pork, chicken, beef, or turkey works great for this recipe.
- Oil. Or as needed for pan frying. Use high smoke point cooking oil like vegetable, canola, coconut, avocado, or grapeseed oil.
- Tom yum paste. Homemade or store-bought is fine. If you like strong Tom Yum flavors, add more paste to your meatballs mixture
- Garlic. Adds extra garlic for a very herbaceous flavor.
- Shallot. Use purple, sweet, or white onions if shallots aren't available. But Shallots are highly recommended!
- Cilantro stems. Cilantro roots are ideal. But they are nearly impossible to find in the US.
- Lemongrass. Make sure they are finely minced for this recipe. The large fibrous chunks can get unpleasant to bite into. These can be found in your Asian market. Fresh ones are best but frozen or pasted are fine to use too.
- Galangal. Also need to finely minced the galangal. Find galangal at your local Asian market. I normally don't recommend ginger as a substitute in Thai cooking, but for this recipe, it's ok. It's not the main ingredient. The flavor can be slightly flexible.
- Kaffir lime leaves, finely minced. Read up on Kaffir lime leaf and substitutes here. Find fresh or frozen lime leaves at your Asian grocery.
- Egg. It helps binds all the ingredients together in the meatballs
- Rice Panko. A Japanese style bread crumbs. Find these at your local Asian markets
- Fish sauce. Soy sauce will do in a pinch as a substitute.
- Tamarind or lime juice as a tangy sour seasoning for the meatballs.
- Optional ingredients. Add Thai hot peppers, jalapenos, chili flakes, or ground white or black peppers for extra spiciness. Use red bell peppers for less spicy meatballs. Chilli flakes can be used as substitutes.
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make Tom Yum Meatballs
Step 1. Chop ingredients well into small pieces—especially the aromatics.
Step 2. Add all the ingredients to the ground meat in a large bowl.
Step 3. Mix well, using a spatula or your hands. Kitchen gloves are handy here.
Step 5. Over medium heat, add oil, then fry the meatballs. Cook until done, 5-6 minutes per side. Cook in batches if necessary.
Step 4. Rolls the Tom Yum meatballs into golf ball-sized pieces.
Step 6. Garnish with chopped spring onions, lime wedges, red chilis, cilantro, or julienned kaffir lime leaves. Enjoy!
Helpful kitchen tips
- Have a plate lined with paper towels ready to place the cooked meatballs and absorb extra oil for less fat.
- Ice cream or Cookie scoop works well to use for even-sized meatballs
- Kitchen gloves are handy when rolling the meatballs. They don’t stick together
- Rub a small amount of oil on your hands if you don’t have Kitchen gloves.
- If the meat sticks to your fingers, Rinse your hands with water before rolling more.
- Use medium to low heat if the meatballs start to brown too quickly.
- The smaller pieces will take less time, especially in the air fryer or oven. See notes below on Variations on how to cook these chicken meatballs.
Ideas for serving Thai Tom Yum meatballs
- Serve with Thai sweet and sour dipping sauce or Thai Sriracha spicy sauce. (My favorite!)
- Serve on a tray with thinly sliced vegetables like cabbage, romaine lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, celery, or napa cabbage tray
- Serve as a complete meal with jasmine rice as a main dish. My favorite is to serve as finger food next to sticky rice. Fun for kids and adults alike.
- Use them to add to soups for extra protein and flavors!
- Make it vegetarian by using ground-up tofu or tempeh.
- If using ground beef, add an extra tablespoon of oil to help ease the dryness of the meat. Sometimes I do this to ground turkey meat if it looks too dry or the meat is lean.
- The air fryer works great too. Lightly spray the meatballs before cooking with cooking spray and cook at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Check at the halfway point to shake the air fryer and be sure the meatballs are evenly browned.
- These can be oven baked too! Bake the Tom Yum meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until cooked to 165-175 degrees. Turn halfway and use cooking spray to grease the meatballs so they don't get too dry. Don't overbake, or you will get crispy meatballs that are not too pleasant to taste. (;
Helpful kitchen tools
- Large skillet, cast iron
- Non-stick large skillet, Caraway. (A splurge, my new favorite non-stick pan)
- Kitchen gloves
- Air fryer
More Thai recipes you'll love
- Authentic homemade Tom Yum paste
- Tom Yum Goong
- Authentic Red curry paste
- Easy Pad Thai with shrimp
- 5-minute Peanut sauce
- Glass noodle salad
- Krapao, Thai stir fry with holy basil
- Different types of Thai Rice noodles
- Pork belly stirs fry with green beans.
Tom Yum sauce or paste is made from fragrant Thai herbs like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallot, garlic, dried chilis, tamarind paste, and shrimp paste. The paste is either pounded together.
There are many recipes for Thai meatballs, depending on what flavor profile you want to create. I used homemade Tom Yum paste for this original recipe to season ground meat and fresh aromatics, panko,fish sauce, and lime juice.
The difference between Tom Kha and Tom Yum is the use of coconut milk to make Tom Kha more creamy and less spicy. However, variations of Tom Yum soups use coconut and evaporated milk to add richness and creaminess to Thai soups.
Tom Yum has similar ingredients to Thai red curry pastes like Prik Khing and Gaeng Kua (basic red curry paste). The spices and herbs used are very similar except for Tom Yum paste being more sour and tangy than all the other Thai pastes.
If necessary, use Thai red curry paste and add 1 tablespoon of tamarind concentrate (tamarind juice, sauce, or pulp). Lime or lemon juice works great and is the sour agent to create the tangy Tom Yum flavor.
Yes, you can! You can make these Tom Yum meatballs in large quantities and freeze them raw for cooking later.
They are perfect as make-ahead dishes for dinner parties, backyard BBQs, game-day appetizers, and meal prepping! Store them in a freezer bag or an airtight container for up to 3 months.
These are my favorite drinks and cocktails to serve with meatball recipes.