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Traditional Yakitori Tsukune
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Traditional Yakitori Tsukune Recipe (Grilled Japanese Chicken Meatballs)

Total Time35 mins
Keyword: Yakitori Tsukune
Servings: 24 meatballs, 1 1/4 inches in diameter


For the Tsukune (chicken meatball):

  • 1lb / 450g chicken breast mince, ground
  • 8 oz / 50g chicken fat, finely minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg, large
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 1 tsp ginger juice (squeeze the juice out of grated ginger)
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbsp cornflour or cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tbsp sake

For the sauce:

  • 4 oz / 40ml soy sauce (normal Japanese soy sauce)
  • 4 oz / 40ml mirin
  • ½ tbsp sugar


Making the Sauce:

  • Add all the sauce ingredients to a pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for around 5 minutes until the quantity reduces by about a third. The time taken to reduce the sauce depends on the size of the pot; the larger the pot, the faster the sauce reduces.

Making Tsukune:

  • In a bowl, add the chicken mince, chicken fat, and salt. Mix thoroughly until the chicken mince becomes sticky.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients except 1 tablespoon of sake. Mix well.
  • While mixing, gradually add the remaining sake to the bowl. The mixture should be soft but not too soft. Do not add all of the sake if the mixture becomes too soft to grab by hand and form a ball.
  • Boil some water in a pot and coat a cutlery spoon with a little bit of oil.
  • Grab chicken mince with one hand (the Ieft hand if you’re right-handed, or the right hand if you’re left-handed) and squeeze out mince between the thumb and the index finger. The mince should come out forming a round shape.
  • Take the formed meatball with the spoon and drop it into the pot with boiling water. Repeat this for the rest of the mince.
  • Boil the meatballs for 5 - 7 minutes until cooked through. The cooking time depends on the size of the meatballs. When the meatball floats and feels light when you pick it up, it’s ready.
  • Take the meatballs out and set them aside. Cook the meatballs in small batches so that the surface of the boiling water has no more than one layer of meatballs floating.

Grilling Tsukune:

  • Heat the griller, griddle, or BBQ.
  • Oil the rack where you’ll place the meatballs.
  • Thread Tsukune onto flat skewers.
  • Using a brush, baste tsukune with the sauce and grill for a couple of minutes until the meatballs are slightly burnt.
  • Turn over the skewers and cook for an extra 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Baste with the sauce then cook for 30 seconds on both sides.
  • Serve right away.