This Spicy Chicken Meatballs recipe is totally hands off!! Tender, plump meatballs are browned and simmered in a creamy vodka sauce completely in the oven! Plus, they are meal-prep and freezer-friendly! Serve them as an appetizer, stuffed in a hoagie or with a big plate of pasta! No matter how you serve these up, they are guaranteed to be a hit with your family!
Updated: This post was originally published in January 2018. I took new photos and updated the post below to include more information about chicken meatballs. I also tweaked the recipe to perfection and added step by step photos to show you how quick and easy these moist, saucy and spicy meatballs are to make!
Hi there, friends! Today we are taking a small break from ultra nutritious, super healthy eats. After two snow storms I’m craving something cozy and comforting.
I hope I’m not alone in my need for a cheesy, soul-warming meal! So, who’s with me?!
Spicy Chicken Meatballs
Plump, juicy and tender spicy chicken meatballs simmered and swimming in a creamy, luscious, vodka tomato sauce; topped with decadent, rich burrata, salty parmesan, sweet basil and fresh parsley.
These meatballs are moist, light, incredibly flavorful and highly addictive!
Plus, these saucy meatballs are baked entirely in the oven! No browning on the stovetop and creating a greasy mess here! Just golden brown, tender meatballs with all the silky sauce and melty cheese!
I can guarantee you and your family will love this recipe as much as we do! But then again, what’s not to love about cozy meal made of meatballs, vodka sauce and ooey-gooey cheese??!
What are spicy chicken meatballs?
Chicken meatballs are made of ground or minced chicken meat rolled into a small ball. Spicy meatballs also include other flavoring ingredients such as grated onion, garlic, whisked egg and spicy seasonings like crushed red pepper flakes and chili powder.
Meatballs can be cooked by broiling, baking, frying, steaming or braising in a sauce.
How to keep chicken meatballs moist?
Juicy, plump chicken meatballs are easy to obtain with a few simple tricks!
Tips for moist meatballs:
- Use ground chicken or ground thigh. While chicken breasts are great in the right situation, they make a dry meatball. For the best meatball, use a chicken mixture that is a combination of both ground white and dark meat. Or, you can simply use plain ground chicken thighs. Just make sure you avoid anything marked as “all white meat” or “lean” ground chicken. Tip: If you can’t find ground chicken that is a mixture of both white and dark meat, you can ask your butcher to grind chicken thighs and chicken breasts together for you.
- Use a panade. A panade is a mixture of starch, usually breadcrumbs, mixed with a liquid. While most panades are made with milk or buttermilk, these meatballs are made with the liquid from grated onion for added flavor!
- Mix breadcrumbs and seasoning into the eggs. Mix the seasonings and breadcrumbs (or panade) into the whisked eggs prior to adding the ground chicken. Mixing the seasonings into the eggs first will help prevent over-mixing the meatballs once the chicken is added. Over-mixing will cause your meatballs to be dry.
- Braise or cook meatballs in a sauce. Meatballs cooked or braised in a sauce retain their moisture and are incredibly plump and moist.
- Don’t overcook the meatballs. Overcooked meatballs will turn out extremely dry. Make sure you remove the meatballs from the oven when they are just cooked through.
What sauce goes with spicy meatballs?
Fiery meatballs pair well with a variety of sauces! You can either cook the meatballs in a sauce (as shown here), or you can bake the meatballs and serve them with a sauce on the side for dipping!
- Vodka Sauce (shown here)
- Marinara Sauce
- Spaghetti Sauce
- Alfredo Sauce
- Chili Sauce
- Sweet & Sour Sauce
- Garlic Butter Sauce
- Honey Garlic Sauce
- Buffalo Sauce
- Ranch Sauce
- Firecracker Sauce
What temperature to bake meatballs?
The exact temperature will depend upon the recipe and method of preparation.
This recipe calls for broiling the meatballs in the oven prior to baking. The browned meatballs are then baked in an oven preheated to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
How to prepare meatballs?
These chicken meatballs are incredibly easy to prepare and baked entirely in the oven!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page)
- Preheat oven: Arrange oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to high broil.
- Grate onion and prepare meatballs: Grate the onion into a large mixing bowl. To the same mixing bowl, add the chicken, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, Italian seasoning, chili powder, red pepper flakes and both types of paprika. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together well.
- Form meatballs: Spray your hands lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking. Roll and form the meat into firm, golf-ball sized meatballs, roughly 2 tablespoons of mixture each.
- Add sauce to baking dish: Pour the vodka sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spray a large oven-safe wire rack with non-stick cooking spray. Place the rack securely on top of the baking dish.
- Add meatballs to rack: Place the meatballs on top of the oiled rack. Make sure you arrange the meatballs so that they are over the pan and the juices will drip into the sauce. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with oil.
- Broil: Broil the meatballs (over the sauce) for 8-9 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and flip the meatballs over. Continue to broil for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add meatballs to sauce: Carefully remove the rack of meatballs from the top of the sauce. Stir the sauce, taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the meatballs from the rack into the sauce.
- Bake: Cover the pan and bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through (internal temperature of 165 degrees F).
- Uncover and add cheese: Uncover the pan and break the burrata on top of the meatballs and sauce, evenly distributing the cheese. Return to the oven and bake (uncovered) for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Serve: Garnish with fresh basil and parsley. Sprinkle with more parmesan and enjoy plain or with your favorite pasta or bread!
Make in advance tip: Meatballs can be formed (unbaked) up to 2 days in advance. Roll the meatballs and place them on a plastic wrap-lined tray or pan. Cover the pan with more plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Allow the meatballs to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking or broiling.
How to bake chicken meatballs step by step photos:
What to serve with meatballs?
You can serve meatballs as an appetizer, stand-alone meal, or as an entrée with a side such as spaghetti! These spicy meatballs are fool-proof and make a delicious meal no matter how you choose to serve them!
Side dishes to serve:
- Pasta – Hot, buttery noodles are the obvious pairing for Italian meatballs.
- Hoagie Rolls – Turn your meatballs into a sub sandwich! Just don’t forget to top them with plenty of melty cheese like provolone or mozzarella.
- Polenta – Creamy, cheesy polenta makes the perfect bed for warm, saucy meatballs.
- Mashed Potatoes or Mashed Cauliflower – A big pile of buttery mash is a nice flavor combination for moist meatballs.
- Sautéed Peppers and Onions – A side of tender, flavorful peppers and onions is a lighter pairing option.
- Sauteed or Roasted Mushrooms – Mushrooms enhance the meaty flavor of meatballs.
- Ratatouille – This vegetable side dish is a classic pairing option for meatballs.
What to do with leftover meatballs?
Have a few leftover meatballs but no clue what to do with them? Below are a few ways to transform your leftovers into a brand-new meal.
- Meatballs Sub Sandwich – Warm up the meatballs and serve them tucked inside a hoagie roll. Top with peppers, onions and plenty of cheese for a hearty meal.
- Lettuce Wrap – Wrap meatballs in Boston Bibb lettuce for a lighter sandwich option.
- Pizza – Roughly chop or half meatballs and use them as a topping for pizza.
- Salad – Add meatballs to the top of your salad for added sustenance. Heartier, sturdy salads such as Caesar, kale, or lentil works best.
- Soup – Stir meatballs into your favorite vegetable or noodle soup for added heft and flavor.
- Pasta Bake – Add leftover meatballs to your favorite pasta bake or chop them up and use them to make baked ziti!
How long will meatballs keep?
Meatballs should be stored in an airtight container or zip-closure bag in the refrigerator. Properly stored, meatballs will keep for 5-7 days.
How to reheat meatballs?
These meatballs are incredibly easy to reheat!
To reheat, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Place in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until heated throughout.
Can you freeze meatballs?
Meatballs freeze beautifully! Plus, they are so incredibly versatile, I often double the recipe and hoard them away in the freezer. When I’m in a pinch or don’t know what to make for dinner, they are a lifesaver! Trust me, you will want these spicy balls of joy stashed away in your freezer for quick weeknight dinners!
To freeze raw meatballs: Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap to prevent sticking. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and flash freeze. Once frozen, remove the baking sheet from the freezer and transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe zip-closure bag. Raw meatballs will keep in the freezer for 1-3 months.
These Baked Spicy Chicken Meatballs in Vodka Sauce with Burrata as easy to make, downright delicious and sure to quickly become a family favorite!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to cozy eats!
How to make the best Spicy Chicken Meatballs👇
Golden brown, tender, juicy BAKED Spicy Chicken Meatballs simmered in a creamy, luscious Vodka Sauce and smothered with oozy cheese! This twist on classic Italian meatballs is easy to make and sure to become a family favorite!
Recipe can be scaled up or down by using the slider if you hover your mouse over the number of Servings.
- 1/4 Yellow Onion
- 1 pound Ground Chicken or Chicken Mince (SEE NOTES)
- 2 cloves Garlic – minced or pressed
- 1 large Egg - lightly beaten
- 1/2 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1/4 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan - plus more for serving
- 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes - plus more for garnish
- ½ tsp EACH: Sweet Paprika & Smoked Paprika (SEE NOTES)
- Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
- 5 - 6 Cups Vodka Sauce – homemade or store-bought
- 8 ounces Burrata
Preheat oven: Arrange oven rack to lower-middle position. Preheat oven to high broil.
Prepare meatball mixture: Grate the onion into a large mixing bowl. To the same mixing bowl, add the chicken, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan, Italian seasoning, chili powder, red pepper flakes and both types of paprika. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together well.
Form and roll meatballs: Spray your hands lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking. Roll and form the meat into firm, golf-ball sized meatballs, roughly 2 tablespoons of mixture each. (You should have about 15 meatballs).
Add sauce to baking dish: Pour the vodka sauce into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Spray a large oven-safe wire rack with non-stick cooking spray. Place the rack securely on top of the baking dish.
Add meatballs to rack: Place the meatballs on top of the oiled rack. Make sure you arrange the meatballs so that they are over the pan and the juices will drip into the sauce. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with oil.
Broil: Broil the meatballs (over the sauce) for 8-9 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and flip the meatballs over. Continue to broil for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add meatballs to sauce: Carefully remove the rack of meatballs from the top of the sauce. Stir the sauce, taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the meatballs from the rack into the sauce.
Bake: Cover the pan and bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through (internal temperature of 165 degrees F).
Uncover and add cheese: Uncover the pan and break the burrata on top of the meatballs and sauce, evenly distributing the cheese. Return to the oven and bake (uncovered) for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Serve: Garnish with fresh basil and parsley. Sprinkle with more parmesan and enjoy plain or with your favorite pasta or bread!
- I recommend regular ground chicken for this recipe, not lean ground chicken. While you can use lean, all white meat ground chicken, your meatballs won’t be as flavorful and moist.
- If you don’t have both sweet and smoked paprika, you can use a full teaspoon of just one type of paprika. I personally like the different flavors both provide.
- You can use 2 (24 ounce) jars of your favorite store-bought vodka sauce – just make sure it is a brand you are familiar with and enjoy! The vodka sauce is a large part of this recipe! I recommend making your own – easy homemade vodka sauce recipe can be found HERE.
- If you aren’t crazy about burrata, or can’t find it, you can substitute whole milk ricotta, fresh mozzarella, or a mixture of both!
- To test meatball mixture for seasoning, fry a teaspoon of the meatball mixture in a hot pan. Taste and adjust mixture for seasonings.
- If you don't want the chicken meatball drippings to flavor your sauce, you can place the meatballs on a greased wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and broil them that way instead.
- Tip for forming meatballs: spray your hands lightly with oil to prevent the meatball mixture from sticking to your hands.
- To prepare meatballs in advance: The meatballs can be formed up to 2 days in advance. Place the meatballs on a plastic-wrapped lined sheet pan. Cover the pan with more plastic-wrap and store in the refrigerator.
- To reheat meatballs in sauce: Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Reheat at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes, or until heated throughout.
Recipe Yield: Approximately 15 meatballs
Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 4 servings.
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