Juicy homemade meatballs are smothered with a sweet and sticky, Polynesian pineapple sauce in this quick and easy recipe for Hawaiian Meatballs.
Meatballs are such a quick and easy dinner, but I often forget how simple it is to change them up from the typical ol' marinara variety. It's a lot of fun to start with the same base recipe for your meatballs and then experiment with difference sauces. So when I think to go that route, these Hawaiian Meatballs are a surefire family favorite!
As someone whose middle name is Leilani (seriously), I'm what you could call an authority on Hawaiian cuisine. Not really -- ha. I was born in Hawaii but raised in Texas, so my knowledge of Hawaiian food is pretty limited to the two trips I've taken to Hawaii in my adult life...and those trips involved lots of Lava Flows, which may have skewed my memory of the other Hawaiian delicacies we enjoyed. 😉 But I can tell you that I've always had an affinity for pineapple, whether that means eating it fresh, grilling it up for chicken sandwiches, or using it to top my pizza. And these Hawaiian Meatballs are just another incarnation of savory pineapple goodness around our house!
If there's a brand of frozen meatballs to which you're partial, feel free to take that shortcut. But honestly, it doesn't take long at all to whip up a batch of homemade meatballs. It's as simple as combining ground beef (you can swap out a portion of that with ground turkey or ground pork, if you prefer), breadcrumbs, a splash of milk, an egg, and seasonings. Roll them into balls, arrange them on a baking sheet, and bake until tender on the inside and golden brown on the outside.
While the meatballs are cooking, you can whip up your sauce. Finely minced fresh pineapple is wonderful if you have it, but crushed pineapple will work just fine as well. Then the remaining ingredients add a bit of Asian/Polynesian flair to the pineapple base -- soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, honey (oh, and you can add some crushed red pepper flakes if you think you can handle the heat!). The result is a sweet and tangy, thick and glossy sauce that perfectly coats the meatballs and soaks into the rice. Garnish with sesame seeds and fresh chopped cilantro and you've got a dinner fit for Hawaiian royalty! Or maybe just a dinner conceived by a food blogger whose "exotic" middle name got her teased growing up...however you prefer to look at it. 😉
So put on some ukelele/steel guitar tunes, mix yourself a Mai Tai, and get ready to channel some island vibes. These Hawaiian Meatballs will take you straight to the middle of the Pacific from the comfort of your very own kitchen. And to that I say sign. Me. UP!
Hawaiian Meatball Recipe
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup white or brown rice, cooked according to package directions
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 12 ounces crushed pineapple, or finely minced fresh pineapple
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix ingredients until thoroughly combined but not packed down. Scoop meat into 3 tablespoon mounds (I use a 3 T. cookie scoop) and gently roll into balls (which should measure between 1 1/2 and 2 inches across).
- Arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet, at least an inch apart. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through to the center (cut into a meatball to check for doneness). Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any grease and cover with foil to keep warm.
- While meatballs are baking, cook rice according to package directions. In another saucepan set over medium heat, prepare sauce by combining pineapple, water, soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and fresh ginger. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Stream cornstarch mixture into simmering sauce while stirring. Allow sauce to cook for a few minutes until thickened and glossy, stirring occasionally.
- Serve meatballs over rice with sauce poured on top. Garnish with fresh cilantro and sesame seeds, if desired.
Adapted from Family Gone Healthy
More Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce
- Honey-Ginger Shrimp Skewers with Asian Quinoa
- Beefy Cheesy Tortellini Bake
- Asian Chicken Salad
- Homemade Sloppy Joes