What Are Vietnamese-Style Meatballs?
I don’t know how authentic these beef meatballs actually are—but I can promise you they will blow your taste buds away in the flavor department. The texture is smooth, compact and packed with unbelievable flavors: Thai chilies, ginger, garlic, cilantro and fish sauce are mixed with ground beef to form perfect little round balls that will then be dressed or dipped into a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce.
When I think of South East Asian food I think of punchy, stinky, in your face flavors. These Beef Meatballs may not have the stinky factor but they are very South East Asian nonetheless! They are so tasty you could technically do without the dipping sauce. Blending the ingredients (including the beef) in a blender also changes the texture, making these Beef Meatballs very different from say, Italian meatballs.
A well-known and traditional Vietnamese meatball dish is called Bun Cha.
What Is Bun Cha?
Bún chả is a Vietnamese dish said to have originated from Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s made with grilled, fatty pork (essentially pork meatballs) paired with rice vermicelli noodles, which is a thin noodle, also known as rice noodles.
This dish is also made with tons of fresh herbs and a dipping sauce as well. Although it should produce a slightly different taste than our savory meatballs since our specialized recipe pulls from a different source of protein and other flavor profiles.
Vietnamese Beef Meatballs Ingredients
- Ground beef: I highly recommend using lean ground beef as your protein of choice when making this specific recipe. Although it’s not unheard of for some to opt for ground pork depending on their preference.
- Red onion: Diced red onion will add a great deal of flavor to your meatball—and beneficial health components as well!
- Garlic: Garlic is the strong ingredient that will bring your meat balls to life. They’re going to smell and taste phenomenal!
- Cilantro: Cilantro will give your ground beef a flavor boost.
- Ginger: A small amount of ginger goes a long way. It will add a unique flavor that will be easily enhanced by the other sensational ingredients in this mixture.
- Honey: Honey will add just the right amount of sweetness to this otherwise savory side.
- Thai chili: Thai chili will give your meatballs a mouthful of flavor. If you’re a fan of a little spice, keep a bottle or a jar on hand for future dishes as well.
- Canola or vegetable oil: Any neutral oil with a high smoking point will work for this recipe.
- Fish sauce: See further detail about fish sauce down below!
Beef Meatball Dipping Sauce
- Hoisin sauce: Hoisin sauce is known as a thicker sauce with a strong aroma—often used in Cantonese cuisine.
- Fish sauce: Yes, fish sauce is made from fish but sometimes also krill. It’s been fermented for two years or longer and coated in salt. It’s a common staple seasoning in many Asian cuisines!
- Soy sauce: You may as well get a massive bottle because soy sauce is going to be the most common staple in your southeast Asian pantry!
- Thai chili: Using Thai chilis will add a kick of heat to your dipping sauce. However, it is entirely optional.
- Water: Adding a little water thins the sauce and helps it come together as a whole.
How to Make Vietnamese Beef Meatballs
- Gather all of your kitchen tools and ingredients.
- Put all of the ingredients for the beef balls in a food processor and blend until everything is minced and blended into a meat mixture. Then transfer to a large bowl.
- Put a little oil in your hands, just enough to lightly coat fingers and palms, and use a tablespoon to scoop up the ground meat so the meatballs are the same size. Repeat the process until all of the beef mixture is used.
- In a deep pan, over medium heat (or medium to high), add oil and the meatballs. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the meatballs over, cover and cook for another 5 or until the meatballs are golden brown.
- Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and serve together with beef meatballs. Pour over or use as a dipping sauce.
- Serve with rice, tomatoes and a few cilantro leaves.
The texture is smooth, compact and packed with unbelievable flavors: Thai chilies, ginger, garlic, cilantro and fish sauce are mixed with ground beef to form perfect little round balls that will then be dressed or dipped into a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce.
Vietnamese Beef Meatballs Companion Dishes
Serve these Vietnamese beef meatballs with a side of Japanese rice so the sauce can soak through each grain making every bite even more satisfying. Then garnish with sliced tomatoes and/or fresh cilantro for full effect. Watch our video on how to make Japanese rice with the stove top or rice cooker method for full potential. Once you learn how to make this rice recipe as well, you will have a new, easy side dish to pair with many of our other recipes like smacked cucumber with chili oil or air fryer teriyaki tofu!
And if you’re feeling fun, you can even turn these Vietnamese Beef Meatballs into meatball skewers. In my experience, kids and adults alike love eating off a stick.
What Are Other Delicious Vietnamese Dishes?
Vietnamese food easily wins my heart because of its pungent flavors and healthier ingredients. When I am around Vietnamese food I turn into Ms Pac-Man, munching on anything that’s in front of me. Nothing satisfies me more than a big bowl of pho and some crispy spring rolls wrapped in mint and lettuce when I crave a cheap and tasty lunch.
I also love an authentic, spicy banh mi sandwich. In the United States, specifically in Southern California, popular mainstream restaurants like Mendocino Farms and Veggie Grill proudly carry banh mi-inspired salads too. They are rich with zesty jalapenos, pickled carrots and daikon, covered in an unforgettable sweet chili sauce.
I also love a colorful bowl of bun dressed in plenty of nuoc cham. I still haven’t been to Vietnam, but if I did, I know I would spend most of my time hitting every street food stall in search of new flavor combinations, sipping on carbonated lime drinks while taking in the sights and smells. What’s your favorite Vietnamese cuisine?
Now that you’ve learned more about some of my favorite Vietnamese dishes and about Vietnamese-style meatballs, what’s a delicious meal you’d pair these Vietnamese meatballs with?
Serve this recipe with a side of Japanese rice. Watch our video on How To Make Japanese Rice the stove top or rice cooker method!
Beef Meatballs (Vietnamese)
Savory Vietnamese Beef Meatballs with a Sweet and Spicy Hoisin Dipping sauce.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 people 1x
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: Beef, Vietnamese
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
For the meatballs:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup red onion (finely chopped)
- 1/3 cup cilantro (roughly chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 tablespoon ginger (peeled and finely chopped)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1 Thai chili (finely chopped (optional))
For the dipping sauce:
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 Thai chili (finely chopped (optional)
- Put all the ingredients for the meatballs in a food processor and blend until everything is mixed and minced. Transfer to a bowl.
- Put a little oil in your hands, just enough to lightly coat fingers and palms and use a tablespoon to scoop up the beef mixture so the meatballs are the same size. Repeat process until all the beef mixture is used.
- In a deep pan over medium high heat, add oil and the meatballs. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the meatballs over, cover and cook for another 5 or until meatballs are golden brown.
- Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a bowl and serve together with beef meatballs. Pour over or use as a dipping sauce.
- Serve with rice, tomatoes and a few cilantro leaves.