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Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized, gluten-free game day or party appetizer!

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com

Ben’s telling me the Super Bowl is going to be a blowout this year. Yay? Nay? Seeing as how I didn’t even know North Carolina had an NFL team prior to last weekend, I’m guessing I won’t be glued to the television to find out, but despite my lack of football knowledge I can totally appreciate the fact that it’s the Super Bowl’s 50th this year, so we’ve decided to plan a super spread including dips, chili, drinks, bites, and Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs to celebrate!

Oh yes, take-out meets football food in these perfectly poppable party bites with just the right amount of tang and spice. If you like Kung Pao Chicken, you’re going to flip for the adorable, 1-bite meatball version!

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com

We’ve been in a meatball making mood over the past couple of weeks. Lincoln’s been requesting them plus they’re easy to make, bake, then freeze and pull out any night of the week for a nearly instant dinner. I use a standard mixture for my everyday meatballs which includes whatever ground meat we have in the fridge, salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, and ketchup, but we wanted to up the ante for the Super Bowl and had us a trial meatball-making run this past weekend.

Test batches included Jalapeno-Cheddar BBQ Meatballs (crazy good but the BBQ sauce kind of overpowered the jalapeno flavor,) Dairy-Free Swedish Meatball Stroganoff (NOPE,) and Kung Pao Meatballs. Spoiler alert – the Chinese take-out inspired bite was our favorite!

Tender chicken meatballs are baked then tossed with a tongue-tingling Kung Pao Sauce, finished with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, green onions, and sesame seeds, and then delivered to your face via toothpick skewer. How much fun is that?!

I feel like I made 100 batches (ok 5) of these meatballs to get the sauce just right. For some reason the sauce from my Kung Pao Chicken Lettuce Wraps wasn’t translating when multiplied to get the right amount for a batch of meatballs, so I decided to start from scratch and finally got that perfect balance of salty, tangy, and just a touch sweet, aka…drool!

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com

Start the Kung Pao Meatballs with 1lb ground chicken. I used 99% lean but you could use a blend of chicken breast and thighs – whatevah you like!

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Add the ground chicken to a large bowl with 1 chopped green onion, 1 whisked egg, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, lots of salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs.

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My gluten-free bread crumb of choice is Rice Chex blitzed in a food processor – works every time! If you don’t need to eat gluten-free I’d recommend panko bread crumbs instead.

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Mix the ingredients together with your hands until just combined (the mixture will be really sticky, but that’s ok!) then form into 16 balls and place onto a foil-lined, nonstick-sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until cooked through.

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Meanwhile, get the super easy Kung Pao Sauce simmering on the stove. That’s just a mixture of gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (dish won’t be GF if using soy sauce,) chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, and a pinch of red chili pepper flakes that’s thickened with gluten-free flour (I used brown rice flour) whisked into water. Simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly then take it off the heat (it will continue to thicken as it cools.)

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Add the cooked meatballs into the sauce then stir to coat. Heavenly!!

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Once the sauce has thickened a bit more, transfer the meatballs onto a platter, drizzle with the remaining sauce, and then sprinkle with chopped peanuts (unpictured here because I’m losing my mind,) chopped green onions, and sesame seeds. Set out a bowl of toothpicks then let your guests go to town!

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs

Description

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized, gluten-free game day or party appetizer!

Ingredients

makes 16 meatballs

  • For the Meatballs:
    • 1lb ground chicken
    • 2 green onions, chopped and divided
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 egg, whisked
    • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
    • Toppings: 1/4 cup chopped peanuts, sesame seeds
  • For the Kung Pao Sauce:
    • 6 Tablespoons reduced-sodium gluten-free tamari or soy sauce (dish will not be GF if using soy sauce)
    • 2 Tablespoons chicken broth
    • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
    • pinch red chili pepper flakes
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons gluten-free flour + 2 Tablespoons water, whisked together

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees then line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray. Add all meatball ingredients except half the green onions (save those for garnish) and toppings into a large bowl then mix with hands until just combined (mixture will be very sticky.) Roll into 16 balls then place onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, combine all Kung Pao Sauce ingredients except gluten-free flour + water in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat then bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium then drizzle in flour/water mixture and whisk to combine. Continue simmering, whisking occasionally, until sauce has slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add cooked meatballs then stir to coat and turn off the heat - sauce will  continue to thicken as it cools.
  3. Transfer meatballs to a platter then top with reserved chopped green onions, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com

You don’t need to wait for the Super Bowl to enjoy these tasty meatballs. Make a fun fusion dinner with the family, or bake for your next girls night or friends get together. Whenever you get around to making them, I hope you enjoy!

Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs are the perfect bite-sized game day or party appetizer! | iowagirleats.com