Sweet and Sour Meatballs

The whole family will love these soft and tender sweet and sour meatballs for their taste and texture in a wonderfully balanced sauce. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Meatballs with sweet and sour glaze over rice

Sweet and sour meatballs are a favorite with everyone, young and old. It’s probably because that balance of sweet, sour, and savory elements all come together for a sauce you can’t resist. Plus, the meatballs come out with this very soft and tender texture that is a brilliant contrast to the bounty of crunchy colorful vegetables within.

It’s a dish that looks bright and cheerful on your table. And while many sweet and sour meatball recipes use tons of sugar, you can feel good about this one. I’ve found a way to limit the sugar so you get a sauce that is still sweet and delicious without making you guilty.

Meatballs with sweet and sour sauce
Sweet and sour sauce meatballs over rice


One thing you’ll love if you’re a parent is that I’ve hidden plenty of veggies in these meatballs. Along with the breadcrumbs, they render the texture so soft and fluffy. And with that sauce, your kids won’t notice that they’re getting more veggies in every mouthful. 

Ingredients for making meatballs

When you’re done prepping, your table should have the ingredients below before you start cooking.

Ingredients for making sweet and sour sauce meatballs

If you’d like your sweet and sour meatballs to be slightly spicier, I recommend blending either sriracha or chili garlic sauce into the ketchup. If you have kids, you can keep some of the sauce less spicy for their portions so that everyone is happy.

Chinese meatballs with sauce in a pan

Cooking process

In my steps below, I’ll show you how to make these super-easy meatballs. You’ll never buy the store-bought ones again! They taste so good and once you make them once, you’ll want to make them for every meatball occasion.

Sweet and sour sauce meatballs cooking step-by-step

I love making sweet and sour meatballs on a busy weeknight. The ingredient list might look long but it’s quite easy to put together. Make enough of them so that you have leftovers and you will have a wonderful lunch to enjoy the next day, as well.

Sweet and sour meatballs closeup

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The whole family will love these soft and tender sweet and sour meatballs for their taste and texture in a wonderfully balanced sauce. {Gluten-Free adaptable}

Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs

The whole family will love these soft and tender sweet and sour meatballs for their taste and texture in a wonderfully balanced sauce. {Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make this dish gluten-free, use dry sherry instead of Shaoxing wine. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs (or panko), and use tamari to replace soy sauce.
Course Main
Cuisine Chinese
Keyword home style
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings (20 meatballs)
Calories 414kcal
Author Maggie Zhu


  • 1 lb (450 g) ground chicken
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/4 yellow onion , minced
  • 1/2 carrot , minced
  • 2 garlic , minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs)


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 yellow onion , chopped
  • 1 red or yellow pepper , chopped (I used half red and half yellow pepper but you can use either)


  • 3 tablespoons ketchup sriracha, and/or chili garlic sauce (homemade or store-bought) (*Footnote 1)
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic , grated
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch


  • Combine the sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to mix well and set aside.
  • Add the chicken, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, onion, carrot, and garlic into a large bowl. Beat everything together with a spatula until it becomes sticky, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and breadcrumbs and stir to incorporate.
  • Coat your hands with a light layer of oil (it helps you to form the meatballs without sticking too much to your hands). Add one heaping tablespoon of the mixture into your palm and shape it into a round ball. Place it onto a large flat plate or tray. Repeat to shape the rest of the meatballs.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the meatballs into the pan without overcrowding them. Let the meatballs brown for 1 to 2 minute, then flip and brown the other side for another 1 to 2 minutes. Once both sides are browned, flip the meatballs on their sides and brown for another 4 to 5 minutes. Roll them occasionally to brown all sides evenly. Once done, remove the meatballs onto a large plate and set aside.
  • Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the onion and pepper. Stir fry until the onion turns slightly pale golden on the edges, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Stir the sauce again to thoroughly dissolve the cornstarch and pour it into the pan. Stirring constantly to bring the sauce to a boil and cook until it is thickened. Turn off the heat and transfer everything to a large serving plate.
  • Serve the meatballs with the sauce over steamed rice and enjoy as a main dish.


  1. Depending on your personal preference, you can use ketchup, hot sauce, or a combination of both. Personally I like to use 2 tablespoons ketchup and 1 tablespoon sriracha. It gives the sauce more character and it doesn’t taste very spicy.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 414kcal | Carbohydrates: 42.4g | Protein: 26.2g | Fat: 15.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.9g | Cholesterol: 138mg | Sodium: 1162mg | Potassium: 832mg | Fiber: 2.3g | Sugar: 14.5g | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 3mg

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.

More delicious easy chicken recipes 

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


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.
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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Recipe Rating

10 thoughts on “Sweet and Sour Meatballs

  1. Andrew

    Loved it and super simple!!! Just one quick question, I make the mistake a lot I think, why does my sauce get so sticky and thick? It still tastes great but I want more sauce for tomorrow… really enjoyed the recipe!!! First time making meatballs of any cuisine too!!! Thank you

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Andrew, I just realized that I had a typo and it should be “2 teaspoons cornstarch” instead of 2 tablespoons. So sorry for this!
      I’m glad you still liked the dish. I hope you will cook this again and get a better result the next time.

  2. David Smith

    In your regards to this recipe: “Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs”. I received this recipe in an email a couple of days ago. My wife and I both thought it looked good, like a recipe we would like to try. We saw in the recipe in the recipe heading “FRY”, it called for a bell pepper. (Bell Pepper to us is a green pepper). We also noticed in the recipe picture, there were red and yellow peppers, and apparently there was no green bell pepper used. Which brings me to the question; “Are we supposed to use red and yellow peppers or a green bell pepper”? Under the heading: ‘HOW TO MAKE SWEET AND SOUR MEATBALLS’ picture #3 and #4 both show red and yellow peppers with the onion and or meatballs. We would like clarification on this, as you know…there is a different taste to be considered between the different peppers. Thank you for your clarification when it is available…and thank you for your time>

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi David, sorry for the confusion! Yes I did use a mix of red and yellow peppers (half each) so I put 1 pepper in the recipe. I’m going to update the recipe now for clarity. Re your question, I do think red and/or yellow peppers will work better because they are sweeter and work very well with the sauce. That being said, it’s OK to use green as well.

  3. David Smith

    EASY SWEET AND SOUR MEATBALLS (RECIPE): A: in the “Ingredients” it calls for 1/2 carrot (minced) … “STEP 2 “: Add the chicken, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar, white pepper, onion, CARROT, and garlic into a large bowl. B: “Fry” does not call for CARROT … “STEP 5” Turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the onion, CARROT, and pepper.
    So…my question is: IS THE 1/2 CARROT TO BE DIVIDED UP ONTO 2 – 1/4 CARROT PIECES, OR IS THERE A CARROT AMOUNT NOT LISTED IN “FRY”? We made this recipe using the 1/2 carrot 9(minced) in the meatballs and only yellow onion and peppers called for in the “FRY” part of the recipe. Can you clarify this for me?

    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi David, sorry for the confusion! I added some carrots to the frying process when testing the recipe, but decided to skip it for the final version to make the recipe shorter. But I forgot to edit the instructions. Just updated the recipe and now it’s correct.
      PS. your approach was right – adding the minced carrot to the meatballs and only use onion and peppers in the sauce.