Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs (冬瓜丸子汤)

5 from 13 votes
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Winter melon soup is a soothing and comforting dish that is indispensable during the cold winter months. The winter melon is cooked in a fragrant broth until tender, with extra juicy pork meatballs that have a melt-in-your-mouth texture.The soup is very easy to prepare and tastes especially fulfilling. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Homemade winter melon soup with meatballs

This winter melon soup with meatballs is one of our family’s winter staples. My mom likes to make it on the days that she’s run out of made-ahead meat dishes and is short on time. Although this is a clear broth soup that is loaded with vegetables, the meatballs make it truly satisfying and comforting.

Creating the most tender and juicy meatballs

Having cooked all her life, my mom insists that the meatballs in the winter melon soup be fork-tender and juicy to make this dish excellent. Here are a few tricks she taught me:

  1. Use ground pork that is not too lean. A lean:fat ratio of 7:3 is ideal.
  2. Beat a lot of liquid into the ground pork to add moisture to the meatballs. 
  3. Add plenty of aromatics to make the meatballs very fragrant.
  4. Cook the meatballs for just enough time so they’re not overcooked. She would remove the meatballs from the pot while cooking the winter melon. And at the end she’d turn off the heat and cover the pot to steam the meatballs.

It might sound like a lot of work! But with these extra steps, the meatballs will end up so tender that not only you can cut it with a spoon, but it will also melt into your mouth when you bite into it.

Winter melon soup with meatballs close-up


What is winter melon

Winter melon is an essential vegetable for many Chinese families. It can be stored for months and is primarily consumed during wintertime, when there is less variety of fresh veggies available at the market.

Winter melon can grow into a very big fruit, like the size of a large pumpkin. At the supermarket, you’re most likely to see winter melons sold by the slice due to their extreme size. It has a mild taste, and has a similar texture to that of a radish when raw. But once cooked, it will turn very tender and absorb the flavor of the broth it’s cooked in.

How to prepare winter melon

When you cook with winter melon, you need to remove the thick rind and the seeds. To do so:

  1. Cut the winter melon crosswise into 3 to 4 pieces.
  2. Place each piece meat-side down and use a knife to cut off the rind. Because the rind is very tough, you want to slice about 1/4” (4 mm) off, rather than simply peel off the outer layer.
  3. Place the winter melon seed part up. Use your knife to slice off the seeds, along with the adjacent soggy part that feels. 
  4. Once the rind and seeds are removed, slice the winter melon into 1/2” (1 cm) thick large bite-size pieces.

Mise en place

Once you’re done with prep, your table should have: Mixed ground pork, chopped winter melon, chopped cilantro, broth and salt. If you do not like the taste of cilantro, use a few slices of ginger in the broth instead.

NOTE: the mixed ground pork is quite runny, and it is supposed to be like this to create very tender meatballs.

Ingredients for making winter melon soup with meatballs
Winter melon and pork meatballs soup

How to cook winter melon soup with meatballs

  1. Bring the broth to a simmer. Use a spoon to roll up the mixed ground pork to form a ball, then gently drop it into the soup. 
  2. Once all the meatballs are added, cook them for 1 minute, then immediately transfer them to a plate. This step ensures the meatballs are not overcooked.
  3. Add the winter melon and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the edges just turn semi transparent.
  4. Transfer the meatballs back to the broth. Turn off heat and cover to steam for 5 minutes.

That’s it! 

NOTE: When cooking winter melon soup, be careful not to overcook the melon, as it will turn very soft quickly. Always check the texture of the melon every 2 to 3 minutes and stop cooking when it starts to turn soft and semi-transparent. It will break apart and become mushy if overcooked.

Making winter melon soup with meatballs step-by-step
Chinese winter melon soup with meatballs


I love cooking with winter melon because it has a nice tender yet meaty texture once cooked, and it tastes like the broth you cook it in. 

The winter melon soup recipe here is my family’s favorite way to enjoy winter melon. By adding meatballs, you can easily turn a very light soup dish into a fulfilling one. And you can easily replace the pork broth with chicken broth, or even use water with a bit of chicken bouillon.

Pair winter melon soup with these dishes

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Winter melon soup is a soothing and comforting dish that is indispensable during the cold winter months. The winter melon is cooked in a fragrant broth until tender, with extra juicy pork meatballs that have a melt-in-your-mouth texture.The soup is very easy to prepare and tastes especially fulfilling. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs (冬瓜丸子汤)

5 from 13 votes
Winter melon soup is a soothing and comforting dish that is indispensable during the cold winter months. The winter melon is cooked in a fragrant broth until tender, with extra juicy pork meatballs that have a melt-in-your-mouth texture.The soup is very easy to prepare and tastes especially fulfilling. {Gluten-Free Adaptable}
Use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine, and tamari instead of soy sauce to make this dish gluten-free.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: homestyle
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings



  • 6 oz (170 g) ground pork (lean:fat ratio 7:3)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger , grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs (700 to 900 g) winter melon
  • 4 cups pork broth (or low-sodium chicken broth) (*see footnote)
  • 2 slices ginger (Optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt , or to taste (use 1/4 teaspoon salt if using store-bought broth)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro , chopped (For garnish)


For the meatballs

  • Combine the ground pork, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, minced ginger, salt, egg white and water in a medium-sized bowl. Stir with a spatula to mix well. Add the cornstarch. Mix until the ground pork becomes pasty and sticky. Set aside to marinate.

For the soup

  • To prepare the winter melon. Chop it into 3 to 4 pieces. Use a knife to slice the rind off and discard it. Cut off the soft inner part and discard it. Slice the winter melon into even 1/2” (1 cm), large bite-size pieces.
  • Add the broth and ginger (if using) to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn to medium-low heat. Use a spoon to scoop about 1 tablespoon of the ground pork mixture, shape it into a ball, and add it to the soup. Make the meatballs one at a time. After the last meatball is added, cook for 1 minute. Stir the soup gently 2 to 3 times. Immediately transfer all the meatballs to a plate and set aside. The meatballs should be cooked on the outside but still raw inside.
  • Add the winter melon to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Turn to medium heat and boil until the winter melon is almost cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. The edges of the winter melon should have turned semi-transparent.
  • Add the meatballs back into the soup. Bring the soup back to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the soup to sit for another 5 minutes. The residual heat will further gently cook the meatballs so they remain super tender and juicy. Add the salt and mix well. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Add cilantro to the soup and serve hot.


  1. Traditionally, the dish is made with homemade pork broth. After moving to the US, I often use store-bought chicken broth. I found both methods delicious, but chicken broth will benefit from a few slices of ginger in the soup. You do not need the ginger if using pork broth.



Serving: 1serving, Calories: 179kcal, Carbohydrates: 18.5g, Protein: 12.2g, Fat: 6.5g, Saturated Fat: 2.4g, Cholesterol: 28mg, Sodium: 757mg, Potassium: 487mg, Fiber: 1.7g, Sugar: 14.5g, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 1mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Thalia @ butter and brioche says:

    Never tried a soup with winter melon before! This is totally something delicious I need to try.

  2. Bonnie Eng says:

    I love this recipe! What a great time to post on it, just in time for things to lighten up in the New Year. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas Maggie! Thanks for posting this! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Maggie, as always, thank you for taking the time to explain things so clearly and share your knowledge about things that are new to me (i.e. winter melon). I love reading your posts, I learn and get inspired! That’s a rare combination 🙂

  4. Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine says:

    5 stars
    I’ve always been curious how to use winter melon- I can buy it in Kuala Lumpur. I am looking forward to your recipes and learning how to use some of the local produce I can get over there!

  5. Helen @ Scrummy Lane says:

    I’ve never heard of winter melon before, so thank you for introducing me to it! I think it would be absolutely delicious with those pork meatballs. The soup looks just exquisite!

  6. Culinary Flavors says:

    I would love to try this winter melon. I have no idea if this is sold here in Greece. I haven’t seen anything like this! Your soup looks very appetizing! I wish to you a very Happy and Festive New Year!

  7. Kathleen | HapaNom says:

    5 stars
    I see winter melon at the grocery store from time-to-time, but never knew what to make with it! This looks like such a wonderful recipe – I can’t wait to try it!

  8. Jannie says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Love it- taste just like mom’s 😉

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks for stopping by Jannie! Glad you like this one and yes, it definitely reminds me the taste of home 🙂

  9. Helen says:

    My mom makes something similar with cucmber instead of winter melon. Have you heard of that?

  10. Mallow87 says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have a lovely neighbor who brings me winter melon all the time. Now I know what to do with it!

  11. Erika says:

    5 stars
    I have made this dish several times now and it never gets wasted! Thank you for this delicious and easy recipe to follow. I sometimes add sliced bittermelon to this soup the same time I cook the wintermelon. It turned out great also!

  12. Linda says:

    5 stars
    LOVED IT. Followed the basic premise, but used hairy melon and added tofu & snap peas. The meatballs I followed to the letter and the tender, gingery bites were wonderful. My family didn’t make it this way but I’m going to from now on. Thank you!

  13. Kata says:

    5 stars
    Fast, easy, delicious, minimal cleanup. I love this soup, it tastes like a blanket on a cold winter’s day

  14. Keshia Smith says:

    I didn’t see footnotes for the pork broth. Can you tell us what that all included? I’d prefer to use the traditional pork broth, so can it be bought at an Asian market.? Thanks!

  15. BM says:

    5 stars
    Made exactly as per directions. Meatballs are amazingly moist! Overall, a lovely flavor – very satisfying. I will use for my breakfast. This recipe is a keeper – thank you!

  16. Sabrina says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, what a godsend you are. This is winter melon soup recipe is exactly what I’ve been looking for for year – something I craved from my childhood!I added vermicelli noodles and made the meatballs using tofu, turkey and pork to be healthier. Homey, delicious, it was PERFECT!

  17. Rita Hilton says:

    Recipe is simple and easy to use. Looking forward to prepare

  18. Sherry says:

    5 stars
    I was given two of these Hugh squash? And knew nothing about them. Thankfully I found your sight. I will be making your recipe soon. Will let you know how my family enjoys it.
    Thanks for teaching ume how to cook with a new food.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Sherry, have fun with winter melon! It’s one of my favorite veggies and I hope you like it 🙂
      I have another recipe that is perfect for it:
      It’s a radish recipe but you can use winter melon, just make sure to cut the pieces bigger (like in this soup recipe) because the squash is not as firm as radish and they will turn very soft once cooked through.

  19. Kim says:

    I can’t wait until winter so I can try this! I’m looking forward to trying winter melon this year. I am also a New Yorker and my dad is a former produce manager in the suburbs, so he’s going to help me find some for a good price. I can send you info!

    • Maggie says:

      Ohhhh that sounds so exciting! I LOVE winter melon but it’s quite hard to find.
      Do let me know if you can find a reliable source. I’ve been reluctant to post winter melon recipes because it’s not very common.
      I think I’ll do more recipes this year 🙂

  20. Niki says:

    5 stars
    I had forgotten about Winter Melon! I used to live in Beijing and ate this soup often. I was so happy to find some in a Chinese market here in Toronto. I followed your recipe but used half shrimp and half pork, and stuffed it into some tofu puffs. It was so delicious!

    • Maggie says:

      Stuffed tofu puffs sound SO GOOD! Can’t wait to try it myself next time.
      Glad to hear you like the dish. I make it often whenever I can find winter melon 🙂

  21. France from Montréal says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! First time I cook winter melon. Thank you so much!

  22. Leanne T says:

    5 stars
    I love your recipe. The texture of the meatball is great, very soft but the shape is holding. I omit the ginger, put in spring onion. Thank you!

  23. Jeanie chu says:

    5 stars
    One of my favorite dish, and i make chicken meat balls for my soup. I raised the melon this year and was blessed to share with others. I am trying to store one up for the winter months to enjoy at the end of the season. Planning to raise another crop of melons for 2022. A fan of Dong Qua.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you like this one! It’s a family recipe and I enjoyed it growing up 🙂
      It’s very impressive that you grow your own winter melon! I’ve never tried because I was afraid the melon grow so big and I cannot finish eating one before it goes bad.
      Are they easy to grow? I’m tempted to try it out next year.

  24. Valeria says:

    I used to eat this all the time when I lived in Beijing, it’s simple but delicious! Unfortunately I can’t find winter melon where I live now… what would you suggest as an alternative? Not the same for sure but… other than green leaf veggies, what would work well, here?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      I think a nice alternative is radish because their texture turns tender just like winter melon. The best is daikon radish if you can find it. But other radishes work as well.
      Green leaf veggies are great too. I like baby bok choy and napa cabbage (highly recommend). Other green veggies will work as well.

      • Valeria says:

        Will try! Thanks so much

  25. Cheena B says:

    The meatballs were great! So tender! Unfortunately I would have to drive 2.5 hours to a market that might have wintermelon I decided to try it with collard greens since they are available right now. After initial cooking of the meatballs, I cooked the greens one bunch at a time. Used more ginger in the broth because the greens are more assertive than delicate
    wintermelon. It turned out really well especially with a nice squeeze of sesame oil. I had always cooked wintermelon soup with Virginia ham, so I am looking forward to trying this with wintermelon. Thank you for all your recipes! I really miss home cooking.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      So happy to hear you made the soup! I think collard greens would work great and yeah more ginger definitely helps. Next time you can also try radish with the soup, I think it has a nice tender texture that is similar to winter melon once cooked. Thanks for leaving a positive review 🙂

      • Cheena says:

        When you mention radish, do you mean the small supermarket version with red skin, or luobo? Thank you again for your wonderful recipes and stories!

      • Maggie Zhu says:

        Luo bo works better. You can also use daikon.

  26. B says:

    Hi Maggie
    Thank you for this lovely recipe.
    How do we change the ingredients if we use only chicken or beef and not pork?
    Look forward to your reply.

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