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.
The meatball was decent, but the dipping sauce didnt do it for me. Maybe would taste better if you garlic chili paste and some lime.
Love these ! I had no Thai chili’s nor cilantro, so I used Gochujang and lemongrass and cooked them in my air fryer for about 6 mins. Turned out fantastic ! Thank you
Thank you Lynn! 🙂
This sounds like a nice change from basic meatballs.
I really love this beef meatballs a Vietnamese cuisine.
Absolutely delicious! So flavoursome and relatively easy to make. Definitely in our “keeper” recipe book, thanks for the recipe!
These were awesome! I boiled mine like you woukd for pho and they turned out amazing! Had it with my grandfather’s teriyaki recipe. Having more for breakfast today! Definitely going to quadruple the recipe next time so I can freeze them.
Just made your recipe to add to my second ever homemade pho. Success, success, success!!! Making these in the blender gave them a nice texture that was a perfect match to the thin stripes of meat and tripe. Thank you so much for sharing.
You’re welcome Auggie! 🙂
I made this just now but I added the oil in with the honey and fish sauce because it was listed that way. Was that a mistake or the oil that was listed was for frying…either way hope it turns out
Hi Donna, my apologies for the mistake, the oil was for frying. I changed recipe plugins last week and now have to look at recipes individually to make sure they transferred well. This one unfortunately didn’t. I hope your meatballs were still delicious!
Hi Christina, I had these last night and they’re delish. Just had a small issue with the dipping sauce. The hoisin and soy combination made it too salty. I tried compensating with sugar and sweet soy sauce but to no avail. Any thoughts on how to go about it?
Hi Harry, you can use only hoisin if you’d like or buy pre-made sauce. I am love with House of Tsang’s Szechuan Spicy sauce. It has some heat but is so good!
Maybe take the hoisin sauce (if that is the flavor you like), add some water to the point that is your saltiness level and thicken with a small amt of cornstarch slurry. That way you have the taste and thickness of hoisin without it being too salty. Just a suggestion. I know that some people want the same flavor but need to cut back on their salt intake.
Yummy! But I found that the meatballs burned when cooked as directed over medium high, covered. So, for the second batch, I par baked them in the oven for some time before finishing them in the oil. Was I not supposed to add oil to the meatball mixture as well? I’m just wondering what I did wrong.
Hi Christina, you followed the steps correctly! I think your burners are probably more powerful than the ones I have in my kitchen 🙂 Next time you can try to cook them covered in a pan on low and see if this works. I bet it will! 🙂
Thank you, I will give that a try!
Me and fish sauce are not on speaking terms, so I decided to modify this a little bit and use Worcestershire instead. I’m pleased to report that it was delicious. 😉
Haha! I’m glad you were able to find a good substitute for the fish sauce since it has such a unique flavor. I love Worcestershire sauce, happy to know it did the trick!
I think you may find this a bit of interesting information regarding your sauce substitute.of Worcestershsire sauce for Fish sauce.
Fish sauce is very similar to Worcestershire sauce. Both are based on fermented fish. That is why you can easily use equal parts of fish sauce as a substitute for Worcestershire sauce.
I had a dislike for fish sauce until I found information about a chef recommended brand of fish sauce which is Red Boat 40°N Fish Sauce. It made all the difference for my culinary excursions.
Just tried this tonight and loved it… thanks for sharing. ..
You’re welcome Tam and thank you!
I made these tonight for my kids. My 4 year old ate them up and he doesn’t like to try new foods. I baked mine for 30 min in a 350° oven. Paired it with rice and broccoli. Only thing I would add next time is salt and pepper to the met balls before cooking….otherwise great flavor!!
That’s so great Madreem, it’s good to know that kids also love these meatballs. Thank you for sharing!
Hello, I and my clients LOVE these meatballs. I’m a personal chef in NYC. In your photo of ingredients, I noticed salt & pepper. However they are not listed on the ingredient list. I do add salt even with the fish sauce…just wondering if you do add salt.
Hi Richard! I also do add salt as I think it rounds up all the flavors nicely. I’m so happy to hear you and your clients love the meatballs – do you serve them with the dipping sauce or do you have your own sauce/topping?
Hi, I use your amazing dipping sauce. So good!
I was super excited to try these, hoping they would be pretty close to the beef meatballs we’ve had at our local Pho places. I used a food processor and followed the directions and ingredients. Because I was making a faux pho at home(ha ha!), I made the first half by simmering them in broth. I tried one and the texture was completely different. And not in a good way. So I switched to pan frying them and hoped they would be better. But the texture was the same. I’m not even sure how to explain the difference…The ones at the pho places tend to be more firm, together, provide some resistance when you bite into them. The flavor was great and I thought they smelled fantastic. But the texture just wasn’t what I was hoping for.
We really love this recipe, it’s become part of our regular dinner rotation 🙂
That’s wonderful Cortney! Thank you for sharing!
Made this for dinner tonight, and it was delicious ! So many great flavors ! Thank you for sharing !
Thank you Myriam! 🙂
I made these tonight with tofu instead of beef and baked them at 350. So tasty!
What a great idea Mei! Did you use firm tofu?
How do you think this would fair with pork instead of beef? feeling sick and was going to get some neck bones to make a pho and add meat balls to it…
ps, looks delicious and your pictures are awesome!
Hi Heidi! I think any type of meat will taste good since there’s so much flavor imparted into each meatball. Feel better soon!
do you do instgram or facebook..would love love to give you a shout out.
fixen to get going on my noodles and condiments. briefly seared my meatballs then STEAMED above the cooking pho broth…FREAKING AWESOME. they are bouncy, juicy and I can’t wait to pop them in my mouth!
Ah, maybe that’s the secret! Sear and then steaming! 🙂
Searing and leaving them to steam with the lid on really does make a difference 🙂 . I think the meatballs you have at the Vietnamese restaurant are not entirely made of beef which is why the texture is different. You know you can get those at the Asian grocery store in the frozen section! We get them for pho and they are delicious! Look for fish balls, they should be right next to them. I agree with you that these meatballs are not the best for soups, they are much better on their own with a dipping sauce 🙂
These are awesome!! Just made it. I accidentally put the oil in with the meatballs and didn’t make them large enough but hey they still tasted very good. Had the little one helping me out and she loved them too. We are going to make a triple batch and freeze this weekend! Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome Dee! I’ve never tried freezing them, what a great idea, I’ll be doing the same thing here!
Looks fabulous! Quick question…could I use ground turkey instead? =)
Hi Ligaya! I don’t see why not, they may be a little drier with ground turkey but I’m sure they will still taste great!
I just tried these tonight, and they were amazing! I didn’t have enough patience to make the dipping sauce, but the ginger in the meatballs and the fine texture from putting them through the food processor made these hands-down the best meatballs I’ve ever made. I didn’t even realize until after they were cooking that I didn’t have to use any eggs or breadcrumbs, either, and all of my no-breadcrumbs meatballs have been serious flops up to this point. I will absolutely make these again and again and again!
Hi Deanna, these are also my favorite meatballs, we find them addictive! So glad you loved them too, thank you for sharing!
I need meatballs for a luncheon. Thought about using frozen meatballs and pouring the dipping sauce over them and let them cook on low in the crockpot. Do you think this is a good idea? Look forward to checking out your site!
I say why not, give it a try! I’m sure it will taste great too 🙂
This recipe was absolutely delicious! Made the meatballs for dinner tonight and my Vietnamese fiancé loved them. The only downfall was my blender not being able to handle the meat blend, which only means I need a new Food Processor to make these again. Thanks a bunch for this share!
Thank you so much Jani for the comment! I’m very flattered that your Vietnamese fiancee loved them, what a huge compliment that is! My blender is also almost dead, I guess we will both be asking for the same gift this Christmas! 😉
I gave these a try tonight… very tasty ingredients!! 🙂 Thanks so much for posting the recipe! I was wondering if you could offer any insight on the method. After the first 5 minutes there was a lot of liquid in the pan. Is that normal? Then I had a hard time turning them without some of them crumbling. Do I need to cook them longer before turning? I can’t figure out what I did wrong! Any help would be great, ’cause I definitely would love to try it again. Thanks!
There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid in the pan, did you put the mixture in the blender before shaping the meatballs? The meatballs should feel firm when you shape them, I’m wondering if it could be the type of ground beef that might have caused this to happen. How did the mixture feel in your hands as you were shaping the balls?
I didn’t have a Thai chili, so I added some Siracha to both the meatballs and dipping sauce. Tasted just as good to me! Great recipe!
Wonderful! I’m a big fan of sri racha and will put it on everything!
Looks yummy. Can the meatballs be used in pho?
Sumaiya, Yes absolutely! They are delicious in pho! 🙂
Thanks it’s an interesting recipe I hope I can handle it
This looks so so so delicious that I am trying them this weekend! Found your blog via Tastespotting and so glad I did! Love your blog and definitely will be reading in the future because I need to expand my horizons when it comes to Asian food.
Thank you Maria, always makes me happy to hear that more people want to learn to cook Asian food 🙂 And you’ll quickly see how easy it is to prepare!
Hi caroline I had to make enough for a big crowd and did not have enough fun sauce so substituted half amount of oyster sauce instead .yummyyyy thanks so much I love Asian food
Your Vietnamese Meatballs look great!
Thanks Carrie, they are slightly addictive (I can’t stop making them!) 🙂
Wow, these are SO up my alley! I can’t wait to try them!
Thanks Rachel! 🙂
These look and sound amazing! I love meatballs and also like the idea of using the blender to mix them!
Thank you Lila! The blender does make the prepping a lot easier 🙂
Can I just say how delicious these look?! Spotted you on Foodgawker, thanks for sharing such a lovely recipe 🙂
I’m terrified of Thai chilis (they just intimidate me) but I’m gonna conquer my fear for these meatballs! They look awesome!