Tsukune: Japanese grilled chicken meatballs with shishito peppers

I’ve been racking my brains about what to write about this week and the calendar presented a solution: its Memorial Day weekend in this part of the world, the unofficial start of summer. So to kick off the BBQ season here’s a recipe for tsukune (つくね), Japanese-style grilled chicken meatballs. Yakitori – literally grilled chicken – are one of my favorite things to eat, Japanese or otherwise, and I’ve had countless variations over the years. But this rendition – lightly adapted from a recipe in Food and Wine Magazine – is one of the best I’ve ever had.

Tsukune: Japanese grilled chicken meatballs with shishito peppers
Cuisine: Japanese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chick thighs, chopped (makes about 8 meatballs)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2" piece ginger
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • 4-5 shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 2 tbsp shiro miso (white miso)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 shishito peppers
  • salt
  • canola or other neutral oil for grilling
  • 4 bamboo or metal skewers
  1. If using wooden skewers, soak in cold water for a few hours.
  2. Thinly slice half of the ginger and garlic and finely mince the other half (keeping them separate).
  3. Place the soy sauce, mirin, sliced garlic and ginger, and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat for about 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust flavors (the sauce should be a bit sweet). Remove from stove and set aside.
  4. In a food processor finely mince the mushrooms, ⅔d of the diced scallions, and chicken. Transfer to a bowl and add the miso, minced ginger and garlic, sesame oil, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. Mix until well blended.
  5. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium-low and cook a third of the chicken mixture, using a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat, until almost done. Stir back into the bowl and mix well with the uncooked mixture.
  6. Place a broiler pan over a foil-lined baking pan to catch drippings. Lightly grease with oil.
  7. Shape the ground meat into ¾"-thick, 3"-diamater patties. Thread 2 patties and shishito each per skewer and place on the broiler pan. Once all the skewers are prepared refrigerate the pan for 15-20 minutes until the meat is firm.
  8. When ready to cook turn on the broiler on high. Brush the patties and peppers lightly with the oil and sauce and cook for 4-5 minutes until slightly charred. Turn over, baste with the sauce, and grill for another few minutes until done.
  9. Garnish with the remaining scallions and serve hot.


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