Tsukune (つくね) is Japanese chicken meatballs that are skewered and typically grilled over charcoal served in yakitori restaurants. Since I had received great feedback from readers on my oven-broiled yakitori recipe, I couldn’t wait to share this tsukune recipe! As summer is just around the corner, I highly recommend to bring these skewers out to outdoor grill and enjoy!
Tsukune is usually seasoned with salt or sweet soy sauce – yakitori “tare”. Ingredients for “tare” are similar to teriyaki sauce, but “tare” is much thicker and saltier. When the yakitori “tare” gets caramelized under the broiler (or over the grill), the tsukune becomes incredibly delicious. Slightly charred soft ground chicken with bits of shiso leaves and scallions and drizzled with tare…it’s hard to stop eating just one.
Usually tsukune recipes require eggs or panko to bind the ground meat together so that the meat won’t easily fall apart. However, I learned this trick from my mom to knead the chicken mixture until it becomes pale and sticky. The meat never falls off from the skewers and this method really works!
When you make chicken meatballs, you want to make sure they are fluffy, springy, and juicy. I learned this great technique from The Japanese Grill, one of Mr. JOC’s favorite grill cookbooks, and I’ve been following this method ever since.
With this method, you precook some of the ground chicken first, let it cool, and mix it in with the raw ground chicken instead of making meatballs from all raw ground chicken. This prevents the meat from shrinking too much. Sometimes when you grill meat you end up with much smaller pieces because the meat shrank after cooking. Also, this prevents the meat from losing a lots of juice. Although it an extra step, I find it’s totally worth it! Also, if you can’t find shiso leaves, it’s fine to omit but definitely tastes better with it.
Here’s the video tutorial on how to make Tsukune in the oven!
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- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil and more for coating your hands
- 1 Tbsp. miso (I use awase miso, which is a combination of red and white miso)
- 10 shiso leaves (Perilla)
- 4 scallions (green onion)
- ½ cup Yakitori Tare (Homemade recipe here)
- You will also need:
- 16 5-inch bamboo skewers
- Shichimi Togarashi for spicy taste (optional)
- Soak bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
- Pile and roll up the shiso leaves, then cut into thin julienne slices. Cut the scallion into thin slices.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add ⅓ of chicken and break up the ground chicken into small pieces using a wooden spatula. Cook until no longer pink and transfer to a plate to let it cool.
- Combine the cooked chicken and uncooked chicken in a large bowl and mix well with rubber spatula.
- Add sesame oil and miso and mix well.
- Add the scallions and shiso leaves and combine well with rubber spatula.
- Now with your hand, knead 30 times clockwise. Then knead counterclockwise 30 times. The meat will become more pale in color and sticky. This part is very important for the meat to stay on stick so please do not skip this step.
- Grease the grill rack with brush. I use a roasting pan and rack as it can support the skewers very well while the excess oil drops to the bottom of roasting pan when cooking.
- Lightly coat your hands with sesame oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Scoop a handful of the chicken mixture (1 ½ scoop for my hand using an OXO cookie scoop) and form into a round patty.
- Toss the meat to left and right to release the air pockets and gently squeeze to form the meat into a long oval patty, about 3-4 inches in length. Insert the skewer on the prepared wire rack.
- Lightly sprinkle salt over the chicken skewers.
- Put aluminum foil around the skewers to prevent them from burning.
- Set the broiler to high and wait until the heating elements are hot. Boil in the middle rack, for 6 minutes. Then flip the skewers over and broil more for 4 minutes.
- When both sides are cooked, brush the yakitori sauce on the meat and broil for another 30 seconds. Transfer the skewers to a serving plate and brush the extra sauce on the meat. Serve with Shichimi Togarashi.