No more boring chicken meatballs! These Firecracker Chicken Meatballs are delicious on their own, but SO much better with the sweet, savory and spicy firecracker sauce! Perfect for a party or fun dinner!
This is one of my Appetizer recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
Firecracker chicken is a recipe with so many great flavors. It’s sweet, savory and spicy all at the same time! If you’re a fan of sweet heat, firecracker chicken is for you.
This recipe takes all those amazing flavors, and pops them into fun meatballs!
We love them as a fun dinner, but they’re also great to make for parties, lunches or meal prepping, since they store and reheat well.
Plus, since they’re made in the air fryer, there’s no need to heat up your house with a hot oven. But don’t worry, I’ve included oven directions as well, in case you don’t have an air fryer.
How to make firecracker chicken meatballs?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Make sauce. While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce and let it cool a bit.
- Assemble meatballs. These are a hearty 2″ diameter meatballs.
- Air fry. Make sure you spray the basket, add the meatballs, spray the tops, and then air fry.
- Turn over. Flip the meatballs over and continue cooking until done.
- Dip and air fry. Dip the cooked meatballs in the sauce, then add them back to the basket to air fry another couple of minutes. This adds that sticky glazed texture!
- Serve. We like to serve these with any remaining sauce on the side for dipping.
Using a “cookie” scoop is the best way to make uniform looking meatballs. I like to use this scoop, and it should yield meatballs that are about 2″ in diameter. Once you scoop them, just a quick roll in between your palms should give you a great looking meatball. If you find the meat is sticking to your hands, wet them or spray them lightly with cooking spray before handling the meat.
Variations of this recipe
- Turkey – ground turkey is a great substitute if you don’t have ground chicken. In general, the higher the fat content, the more moist the meatballs will be.
- Sriracha – we really like the flavor of regular hot sauce, but if you love sriracha, it also works really well in this recipe.
- Less heat – to reduce the amount of spiciness in this recipe, I would start by reducing or even omitting the red pepper flakes.
- Oven – if you don’t have an air fryer, no worries, you can absolutely bake these in the oven instead! Detailed oven instructions will be in the “Chef Tips” section at the end of written recipe card.
The base for a firecracker sauce is hot sauce, brown sugar and cider vinegar. But this version also has soy sauce, garlic powder, and some red pepper flakes.
I think the flavor is really balanced with this firecracker sauce, it’s not too hot, and not too sweet. However if you’re sensitive to spice, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar vs hot sauce.
Absolutely! For a super quick and easy dinner idea, pick up a bag of your favorite frozen pre-made chicken or turkey meatballs and cook according to the package directions. Toss with the firecracker sauce and you’re good to go!
Making firecracker chicken meatballs ahead of time
One of my favorite things about this recipe is how it can be made ahead.
The meatballs can be rolled, covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
They can also be rolled, placed on a wax paper lined baking sheet and frozen for 1 hour, until hard. Once hardened, add the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator and cook as directed.
Leftover chicken meatballs should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eaten with 4 days or so.
I love the larger, rectangular basket, and the basket is nonstick, removable, and dishwasher safe!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp minced chives optional but recommended
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 lbs. ground chicken or ground turkey
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp minced parsley optional – for garnish
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup hot sauce we normally use Franks
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt use less if your soy sauce was regular instead of light or reduced sodium
- 1/2 – 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Make firecracker sauce
- In a small saucepan, add all firecracker sauce ingredients (brown sugar, hot sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, and red pepper flakes).
- Cook over MED heat, stirring often, until sauce is combined and thickened. This will take about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Be aware the sauce will thicken as it cools, but if it gets TOO thick during the cooling process, add a teaspoon of water at a time until it reaches the consistency you're looking for.
Make the meatballs
- In a large mixing bowl, add olive oil, garlic, chives, salt, onion powder, pepper, smoked paprika, and eggs, and whisk well to combine.
- Add the ground chicken, panko, and Parmesan cheese and use your hands to combine, being careful not to over mix. Over mixing meatballs can yield meatballs that are tough, instead of tender.
- Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
- Scoop meat (we like to use a cookie scoop), and form into meatballs, roughly 2 inches in diameter.
- Spray the basket of the air fryer with nonstick cooking spray (we like to use an olive oil or avocado oil spray), then add meatballs in a single layer. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to cook in batches.
- Spray the meatballs with nonstick spray and air fry at 400°F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes is up, use tongs to flip meatballs over, spray again with oil spray, then air fry another 5-7 minutes.
- Meatballs are done cooking when an instant read thermometer reads 165°F.
- Remove meatballs and dip them, one at a time, in the firecracker sauce. After dipping one, return the meatball to the air fryer basket and repeat for all remaining meatballs.
- Air fry for 2 more minutes, then remove and serve with any remaining sauce. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.
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- Recipe will yield around 18-21 meatballs.
- Calorie information is for one serving, which is around 3-4 meatballs. However the calorie count assumes you’re using the entire sauce, which isn’t generally the case.
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
- Cook sauce as directed.
- Assemble meatballs as directed.
- Add meatballs to prepared baking sheet, and bake for about 12-13 minutes, until cooked through.
- Dip meatballs, one at a time, in the sauce, then add back to baking sheet and bake another 2 minutes or so.