Tsukune Recipe

June 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Tsukune are Japanese chicken meatballs. They are also undoubtedly one of my favorite Japanese foods. The best tsukune I have ever tasted was at Smorgasburg at our dear friend Kaoru’s yakitori stand – Yakitori Inglorious. The chicken is incredibly tender and flavorful, while being very clean and pure-tasting. I was shocked when the chef told me the short list of ingredients, but it made sense – incredible food doesn’t always have a ton of ingredients, pure flavor brings out the best in the quality of the ingredients you use.

This recipe comes very close to the amazing tsukune at Yakitori Inglorious. I incorporated some of the secrets the chef was kind enough to share with me, so trust me, this tsukune is delicious!

1. Use chicken breast. There are SO many recipes online for tsukune that recommend thighs, but chicken breasts taste cleaner and are more tender when combined with my special blend of ingredients in the recipe.

2. If you can’t find Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise, use regular mayo.

3. You can easily cook these on a stovetop if you’re not up for breaking out the oven in this summer heat. Just don’t use the skewers and use a non-stick skillet.

4. If using skewers, you’ll need between 24-30 and soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to using.

Introducing…my first video! Check it out and let me know what you think.


Tsukune Recipe

Serves 3-4 or 12 yakitori skewers; 1 hour cooking time


  • 2 medium-sized chicken breast, around 1-1 1/2 lbs, ground in a food processor
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, pureed in a food processor (around 1-1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1/4 tsp of freshly grated ginger/juice
  • 4 tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp miso
  • 1 tsp kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • Tare sauce (see below)


  1. In a large bowl, separate the ground chicken into thirds. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a non-stick skillet on medium heat and cook 1/3 of the ground chicken until fully cooked, around 2-3 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl to cool.
  2. In the large bowl with the rest of the chicken, add the onion, garlic, ginger, bread crumbs, potato starch, sea salt, egg, miso, mayonnaise, and white pepper. Once the cooked chicken is cool, break apart any large clumps so that the mixture resembles coarse sand and mix into the ground chicken mixture. Using your hands, mix well until the mixture becomes very sticky and tacky. (It will look very unappetizing, but press on!)
  3. Fill a small bowl with water. Line two baking sheets with non-stick aluminum foil. Preheat broiler to the “low” setting. Wet your hands just before forming the meat into long oval shapes. Form ground chicken into 12 equal-sized oval shapes and place gently onto lined baking sheets.
  4. If using skewers: take the skewers out of the water and gently insert two each into each tsukune. Cover each exposed wooden skewer with foil, or else they will start smoking and ruin everything (like the first time I tried this…) Broil on low heat for 5 minutes until white and somewhat firm, then gently flip and cook for 5 minutes more on the other side. Then, baste with tare for 4 minutes, then flip them over again and baste and cook for 4 more minutes. Take them out, brush them one last time with tare, and broil on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. They should be nicely caramelized on top.
  5. If cooking on the stovetop: heat a non-stick pan on medium heat with around 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Slowly cook each side until they turn white and firm. Brush each side with tare once or twice, if you use too much tare, it will be too salty. Cook, flipping until each side becomes golden brown and caramelized.
  6. Eat with rice or veggies. If you have very fresh and safe eggs, break apart one egg yolk as a rich and decadent sauce. (We didn’t have super fresh or organic eggs so we did not do this.)

Tare Recipe

Yield: ~1 cup; 10 min. cooking time


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin (rice wine)
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper


  1. Mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil on medium high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until it’s thick enough to coat the back of your spoon.
  3. Remove from heat and cool. You can strain it if you’d like, but not necessary.

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