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Braised BBQ Chicken Meatballs

This BBQ chicken meatballs recipe calls for braising meatballs in barbecue sauce. This gives you tender and juicy meatballs that are packed with flavor. Make the BBQ sauce ahead of time or use your favorite store-bought bottle, and you’ve got dinner in 30 minutes.

These BBQ meatballs are fabulous over mashed potatoes or my cavatappi mac and cheese. It’s the perfect comfort food that I promise will be a family favorite in your household.

Recipe Inspiration

These BBQ chicken meatballs were adapted from my spaghetti and meatballs. It has ground chicken in place of ground beef, a change of spices, and a braise in a homemade BBQ sauce instead of marinara. Braising gives you soft meatballs that melt in your mouth.

cast iron pan with chicken meatballs and barbecue sauce.

Key Technique: Homemade Meatballs

Many homemade meatballs and meatloaf recipes start out with a standard ratio of one pound of meat to one egg and one half cup of breadcrumbs. This ratio is a great place to start for your own variations to make any type of meatball.

Pick a ground meat or a combination of meats. Add garlic or green onion for flavor and maybe some vegetables or nuts to give texture. Add in some spices.

You can cook meatballs by frying, baking, broiling, or braising. Each gives a slightly different texture.

Tips and Tricks

Making BBQ sauce

Barbecue sauce is easy and quick to make. You chop and saute a few onions and minced garlic. Then add ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and spices and let simmer while you’re preparing the chicken meatballs.

If you’re short on time, you can use your favorite barbecue sauce. But it’s worth making your own at least once if you have a few minutes more.

a pan filled with bbq sauce.

Making the meatballs

Make the chicken meatball mixture while the BBQ sauce is simmering. You can sub in lean ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of the two. But this is one recipe where you won’t notice any difference in flavor with ground chicken.

In a large bowl, first combine your panko and milk. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand. Don’t overwork the meat mixture by kneading it.

chicken meatball mixture in a glass bowl.

Use a medium cookie scoop to get meatballs that are approximately the same size. It’s easiest to shape them all first and put them on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Then, when you’re ready to braise your meatballs, nestle them one by one into the pan in your barbecue sauce.

uncooked chicken meatballs sitting in barbecue sauce.

Simmer on low for about 15 minutes, turning the meatballs over in the sauce about halfway through, until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. You may need to stir the sauce if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.

How to serve BBQ meatballs

Serve these main dish meatballs with your favorite barbecue side dishes. Try them with creamy mashed potatoes or mac and cheese and some coleslaw. Or use them as the protein in a BBQ bowl. Leftover meatballs work great in a meatball wrap.

four BBQ meatballs over mashed potatoes.

FAQs about these BBQ Chicken Meatballs

Can I substitute other ground meats for the chicken?

Yes, this recipe for BBQ meatballs can be made with ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of the two.

Can I make these gluten free?

Yes, I have made meatballs with gluten free panko, and it works perfectly.

Can I freeze these BBQ chicken meatballs?

Yes, leftover meatballs freeze well for three to six months in an airtight container. Freeze them in the leftover barbecue sauce if you have any remaining. Frozen meatballs can be reheated gently on the stove top or in the oven.

a cast iron pan filled with chicken meatballs and barbecue sauce.

Related Recipes

If you love this BBQ meatball recipe, check out the archives for other recipes using ground meat, like these lamb meatballs with pine nuts and raisins, these chicken and apple meatballs, or these chicken Parmesan muffins.

BBQ Chicken Meatballs

5 from 7 votes
Category: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 461kcal
This BBQ chicken meatballs recipe calls for braising meatballs in barbecue sauce to get tender and juicy chicken meatballs packed with flavor. Serve the BBQ meatballs with mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, coleslaw, or your other favorite sides.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce
  • ½ cup panko or other breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro or a combination of the two
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • teaspoon chipotle or other chili powder

Instructions

  • Add the barbecue sauce to a large, lidded frying pan, and heat over low heat.
    2 cups homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce
  • In a large bowl, add the panko and milk and stir together to let the milk soak in while you prepare the other ingredients.
    ½ cup panko or other breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons milk
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients to the bowl and use your hands to gently mix it all together.
    1 pound ground chicken, 1 egg, 1 clove garlic, minced, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro or a combination of the two, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, ⅛ teaspoon chipotle or other chili powder
  • Use a medium cookie scoop or use a spoon to scoop out about 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture. Roll it into a ball and place it onto a plate or piece of waxed paper while you form all of the meatballs.
  • Gently nestle the meatballs into the barbecue sauce, cover the pan, and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes, turning the meatballs once, until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. You may need to scrape the bottom of the pan if the barbecue sauce starts to stick.
  • Serve immediately.

Notes

Use store bought barbecue sauce, or check out my recipe for homemade barbecue sauce.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days. Or freeze leftover meatballs with the BBQ sauce for 3 to 6 months.
Variations
  • Substitute ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of the two in place of the ground chicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 461kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 1762mg | Potassium: 985mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 48g | Vitamin A: 643IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 90mg | Iron: 3mg
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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These meatballs were fantastic! So easy, tender and flavorful. Made the homemade barbecue sauce to go with, which was also delicious. The recipe made 12 meatballs and my husband and I ate 4 each; can’t wait to eat the rest later this week. Maybe next time I’ll make a double batch. Thanks for the recipe! Highly recommended.

  2. 5 stars
    Super yummy and came together really quickly (even more so if you use storebought BBQ sauce). A great weeknight dinner!

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious, and a unique twist on meatballs. Super soft and tender meatballs. Easy to make on a weeknight. Best part was it was toddler approved, and easy to sneak in some veggies.

  4. I just made these for the second time, but this time I also made your Homemade Barbecue Sauce. The first time they were delicious, but these are even better and I think it’s the sauce.

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