Instant Pot Meatballs (Chinese Style)

This easy Chinese-style Instant Pot meatball recipe is perfect for your weekday dinners and meal-prep. The juicy, tender chicken meatballs are cooked with a savory, fragrant brown sauce in one pot. Top them on rice or noodles – you won’t be able to stop eating! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Instant Pot meatballs served on rice

Since I published the traditional Chinese Lion’s Head pork meatball recipe, I’ve received so much good feedback. However, that one is a slightly complicated recipe that requires some time and patience to cook. So, we decided to make an easy meatball recipe that takes very little effort to prepare. We used ground chicken for a healthier dish. The sauce is so easy to whip together and creates a super rich and flavorful result that makes these meatballs irresistible!

Glazed Chinese meatballs in a bowl

Why this recipe

  • It uses ground chicken to make a healthier dish with great flavor.
  • It involves very easy prep and uses ingredients that are easy to find, or already in your pantry.
  • You can create the perfect meatball gravy that is thick and rich by simply mixing a few ingredients together. No extra cooking steps needed!
Glazed Chinese meatballs close-up

Prepare the meatballs

These meatballs are very easy to make.

  1. Mix the ground chicken with the seasonings.
  2. Stir until the texture gets smooth and sticky. It’s important to create the sticky texture by mixing for a few minutes, so the meatballs will bind well without falling apart.
  3. Add the breadcrumbs and egg.
  4. Further mix the ground meat to create a firm ball. We prefer to work with our hands but you can use a spatula as well.
  5. To make the meatballs, use a tablespoon and scoop a heaping, well-packed chunk (so it equals 2 tablespoons).
  6. Shape the meatballs using your hands. PRO TIP: coat your hands with a bit of oil so it’ll be easier to work with the meatballs.
  7. Place the shaped meatballs on a tray.
How to make meatballs step-by-step

Cooking the meatballs

  1. Make sure the Instant Pot and the oil are heated thoroughly before adding the meatballs.
  2. We like to brown the meatballs around the edge of the Instant Pot, where more oil is pooled, to achieve a better char.
  3. Add the sauce and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
  4. You will get perfectly cooked meatballs with a thick gravy.
How to cook meatballs in an Instant Pot step-by-step

Isn’t it super simple?

Cooking notes

Browning VS. No-Browning

We’ve tried both methods and found that browning is a MUST.

The meatballs that weren’t browned turned out edible, but looked sad and unappealing.

On the other hand, the browned meatballs turned out much more robust, with a better taste and appearance, and held together better. It was totally worth the extra 10 minutes of cooking time.

TIP: Despite the fact that I usually prefer not to brown meat in the Instant Pot (due to the weak heating element), I found that these meatballs brown easily in the Instant Pot. You might be able to brown all the meatballs in one batch, but it’s easier to brown them in two batches so you have enough space to flip them.

Best brown sauce

Normally, an Instant Pot recipe calls for adding the cornstarch slurry after the pressure cooking is done, to thicken the sauce. However, we found that you can add the cornstarch at the beginning, and it will create a perfectly thickened gravy sauce at the end, without any extra steps.

NOTE: Make sure to thoroughly stir the sauce to dissolve all the cornstarch before pouring it into the Instant Pot.

Store and reheat

These meatballs hold up really well. You can either store them in a sealed container in the fridge or in the freezer. To reheat them, thaw the meatballs overnight in the fridge. I simply pop them in the microwave to heat them up. 

Instant Pot meatballs served on rice close-up

Other easy Instant Pot recipes

Instant Pot meatballs

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

This easy Chinese-style Instant Pot meatball recipe is perfect for your weekday dinners and meal-prep. It creates juicy, tender chicken meatballs and a rich, fragrant gravy in one pot. Top them on rice or noodles - you won't be able to stop eating! {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Instant Pot Meatballs (Chinese Style)

This easy Chinese-style Instant Pot meatball recipe is perfect for your weekday dinners and meal-prep. The juicy, tender chicken meatballs are cooked with a savory, fragrant brown sauce in one pot. Top them on rice or noodles – you won’t be able to stop eating! {Gluten-Free adaptable} To make the dish gluten-free, you will need to use gluten-free oyster sauce and gluten-free breadcrumbs. Use tamari or coconut aminos to replace the soy sauce, and use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: comfort food, Meal prep
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Add and release pressure: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 servings (18 meatballs)
Calories: 87kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms (or 2 fresh shiitake mushrooms)
  • 1 lb (450 g) ground chicken (*Footnote 1)
  • 1 green onion , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , grated
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons reserved shiitake soaking liquid (*Footnote 2)
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 3/4 cup beef broth (or chicken broth) (*Footnote 3)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cooking

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

Instructions

Prep

  • Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with hot water. Let them rehydrate until soft throughout. Gently rinse the mushrooms in the rehydrating water then squeeze out the excess liquid. Reserve the soaking liquid. Finely mince the mushrooms.
  • In a large bowl, add the ground chicken, green onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, 1 tablespoon of soaking liquid, shaoxing wine, salt, and sugar. Mix in a circular motion until it forms a paste that feels sticky, 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the panko and the egg, and mix again until everything comes together in one firm ball.
  • Roll balls of the mixture with the palm of your hand, about 1-2 tablespoons each. Set the rolled meatballs aside on a separate plate.
  • Combine all the sauce ingredients in a medium-size bowl and set aside.

Cook

  • Turn your Instant Pot to the “Saute” function and add oil. Wait until the indicator shows “HOT”.
  • Add the meatballs into the Instant Pot. Leave a small amount of space between each of them. Let them cook without moving, until the bottom side is browned. Flip to brown the other side. It will take a total of about 5 minutes. You may need to do two rounds of browning. In that case, take the browned meatballs out of the Instant Pot, allow the pot to get hot again, and add the next round.
  • Once all the meatballs are browned, turn off the saute function and put any meatballs you may have taken out of the pot back in. Stir the sauce to dissolve the cornstarch completely and pour it over the meatballs.
  • Seal the Instant Pot and make sure the valve is locked. Set to “Manual”, “High pressure”, and cook for 5 minutes. Once done cooking, press the “Quick Release” on the lid or switch the valve to unlock using a spatula (depending on your Instant Pod model).
  • Serve hot over steamed rice or boiled noodles.

Notes

  1. You can also use ground turkey, or a mix of ground pork and chicken to create a more flavorful result.
  2. Use broth or water if you’re using fresh mushrooms and do not have any soaking liquid.
  3. During one of the recipe test runs, we used beef broth because we didn’t have chicken broth on hand. The result turned out SO GOOD. I highly recommend using beef broth if you want a richer sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 87kcal | Carbohydrates: 5.6g | Protein: 8.5g | Fat: 3.2g | Saturated Fat: 0.8g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 131mg | Potassium: 81mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.9g | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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4 thoughts on “Instant Pot Meatballs (Chinese Style)

  1. Susan

    5 stars
    This looks delicious, and I can’t wait to try it! The only problem is that I don’t own an instapot (yet.) Have you made a version of this without one? Any suggestions you have would be great!

    Reply
    1. Karen

      5 stars
      I not only doubled the recipe, I also cook it on the stovetop rather than the instapot because someone in my household has hidden it away and I was too lazy to find it. You brown the meatballs in the pan, add the sauce, cover it and let it cook for 10-15 min (basically until fully cooked) and stir occasionally. The recipe doubled wonderfully, I would recommend adding slightly less bread crumbs if doubling since it tasted a bit too bready for my preference. Chicken broth works fine in place of beef, so I am excited to use beef next time. Thank you for a great recipe! My family of 8 loves all the recipes I’ve tried from your website.

      Reply
  2. James Davis

    5 stars
    I made this as a first meal cooked in my first ever Instant Pot. Everyone was mad because I only made one order of meatballs (18 of them). I added finely chopped cabbage as a nod to my wife’s Russian meatballs which we all enjoy.

    Instant pot pork ribs are next on the menu. 🤗

    Reply
  3. Jeanne

    5 stars
    I made this recipe tonight and it was outstanding!! Over the years I have tried to make chicken meatballs and they always turn out dry and tasteless, but these were just the opposite. They were fantastic!! So easy to make and then only 5 minutes in the InstantPot and you end up with moist, juicy, flavorful meatballs and sauce. I followed your recipe exactly except for the mushrooms. Instead I used cremini (4 smallish) mushrooms only because I didn’t have the shiitake. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.

    Reply