Braised BBQ Chicken Meatballs

This BBQ chicken meatballs recipe calls for braising chicken meatballs in barbecue sauce to get tender and juicy meatballs that are packed with flavor. Make my sweet and tangy BBQ sauce ahead of time or use your favorite store-bought sauce, and dinner’s ready in 30 minutes.

These BBQ meatballs are fabulous served over mashed potatoes or my cavatappi mac and cheese. They’re the perfect comfort food that will soon be a family favorite in your household like they are in mine.

cast iron pan with meatballs and barbecue sauce.
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Why you’ll love this recipe

Here, listen to some readers tell you why they love these BBQ chicken meatballs:

 

Super yummy and came together really quickly (even more so if you use store-bought BBQ sauce). A great weeknight dinner!

Super-easy to make and super-delicious! Braising the meatballs in the sauce made them melt-in-your mouth tender.

Ingredients

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.

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.

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations and substitutions

  • Substitute ground beef, ground pork, or a combination of the two in place of the ground chicken. But, honestly, there’s no lack of flavor with these chicken meatballs.
  • Bake or saute the meatballs briefly before braising to get a crusty exterior.

Recipe tips and tricks

About braising

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

Braising means cooking meat slowly in a small amount of liquid in a closed pot. Whether you’re making boneless pork ribs, pulled duck breast, or spaghetti and meatballs, slow braising cooks meat so it’s tender, not tough. If you are someone who needs to fry your meatballs, you can always fry and then braise, like in this turkey meatball Stroganoff.

Make the BBQ sauce

The 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.

large frying pan filled with bbq sauce.

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.

Make the meatballs

Start to make the chicken meatball mixture while the BBQ sauce is simmering.

In a large bowl, first combine your panko and milk. A little bit of milk adds fat and flavor to the chicken meatball, and this panade helps to keep the meatballs tender.

Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix by hand. Don’t overwork the meatball mixture by kneading it.

glass bowl filled with mixture of ground meat and herbs.

Tip from the wise quacker: 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 in a large frying pan.

Simmer the chicken meatballs in the BBQ sauce 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.

cast iron pan filled with  meatballs and barbecue sauce on a green linen on a wooden table.

What to serve with BBQ chicken meatballs

Serve these main dish meatballs with your favorite barbecue side dishes:

Do you love meatball and veggie meatball dinners? Check out more options for meatballs and what to serve with meatballs for dinner.

four BBQ meatballs over mashed potatoes on a black plate on a wood table.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make these BBQ chicken meatballs ahead of time?

The FDA says that you can store ground chicken for 1 to 2 days, so you can definitely make the meatballs ahead of time by a day or two if you want to reduce the recipe time.

How should I store leftover meatballs?

Leftover chicken meatballs can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Can I freeze these meatballs?

Yes, leftover meatballs freeze well for up to three 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.

Can I make these gluten free?

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

Want more quick and easy chicken recipes? Make these cast iron chicken breasts or Dutch oven pulled chicken.

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.

Recipe

BBQ Chicken Meatballs

5 from 5 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.
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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

This recipe will make about 18 BBQ chicken meatballs.
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 up to 3 days. Or freeze leftover meatballs with the BBQ sauce for up to 3 months.

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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11 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. Thanks so much, Amy, for letting me know. I really love these meatballs, and I’m glad you did too!

    2. 5 stars
      Super-easy to make and super-delicious! Braising the meatballs in the sauce made them melt-in-your mouth tender. Used store bought sauce—will try your homemade bbq sauce recipe next time!

  2. 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.

    1. Thanks, Susan! I’m so glad you AND your kiddo loved these BBQ chicken meatballs as much as we do in my home.

  3. 5 stars
    Super yummy and came together really quickly (even more so if you use storebought BBQ sauce). A great weeknight dinner!

  4. 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.

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