I really love when I can get away with spending very little time on dinner but still make something flavourful and exciting. It feels like I’m cheating a bit and I absolutely love it.
These sweet and spicy (and super saucy) hoisin freezer meatballs are exactly that.
A super easy weeknight meal that goes from freezer to pan (and then to plate) in no time. Add a side of 5-minute Asian sauteed cabbage with garlic, sesame & chilli and some rice (or even noodles if you want to live on the wild side 😝) and you’ve got a complete meal with ka-pow pow flavour on the table in less than 30 minutes. My kind of weeknight friends.
I also really love the freezer-readiness of these meatballs. Freezer meatballs are a special class of food with a special place in my heart. Ever since I perfected this melt-in-your-mouth coconut curry meatballs recipe a few weeks ago, I’ve been totally obsessed with the (completely underrated) range of a meatball….especially when it’s slowly poached in its own sauce until juicy and tender. Nothing like it. My days of searing meatballs may be behind me.
But anyway, the freezer-readiness of this meal is a total bonus. Not all meats respond well to freezing and rapid thawing in a sauce – but ground meat is sooo forgiving which makes it one of my go-to proteins for fast weeknight meals. I always have a few packets of ground meat in the freezer – premixing and shaping into meatballs just makes the meal happen so much faster.
What you’ll need to make these sweet & spicy freezer meatballs
Ground meat: Ground meat is the main ingredient of course. For this recipe I used about 1 kg / 2 lbs of ground beef. You can also substitute lean ground beef, ground pork, or even ground chicken/turkey. I’m working on a vegetarian version of these too made with lentils and will post as soon as it’s ready.
Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs act as a binder and introduce moisture into the mix, which prevents the meat from seizing up and getting hard. This is a crucial ingredient to get tender meatballs. Some people like to soak the bread/breadcrumbs in milk or other flavourful liquid before adding to the meatballs – I was aiming for quick in this recipe so I didn’t do that I just added it all to the bowl. If you don’t have breadcrumbs but have a few slices of bread lying around you can easily substitute – just soak a roughly equal amount of bread in the sauce, mush it up with your hands until it’s a slurry and add it to the meat.
Sauce: For this recipe I used 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup of water, 3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce, and 3 tablespoons of sriracha. The sauce is really just an assortment of flavouring ingredients and liquids that go into the meatballs to make them flavourful and moist. A surprising amount of liquid will absorb into 1 kg / 2 lbs of meat which is great because it means extra soft meatballs.
Aromatics: 3-4 mashed garlic cloves, 2cm piece of ginger mashed or finely diced, 2 stalks green onion sliced thinly, and 1-2 red chillies (depending how much heat you like) sliced thinly and seeds optional again depending how much heat you like.)
Carrots: I love sneaking some vegetables into my meals. In this case the carrots bulk up the meatballs and add some natural sweetness and extra carrots. I added julienned carrots but if you don’t have a food processor you can also just chop them up very finely like you could with the ginger.
An egg: The egg holds the whole shebang together. Don’t skip the egg 😉
How to freeze meatballs for easy meals
After mixing and shaping the meatballs they just need to be frozen. The proper way to do this (provided you have a proper full-sized North American freezer) is to lay them out in one layer on a parchment lined sheet pan, place the whole sheet pan in the freezer until they’re solid and then move them to a plastic container for more compact freezing.
But I live in Europe and have a tiny euro sized freezer so I don’t have the luxury of freezing my meatballs in one layer. Maybe you also have a small freezer or limited freezer space (who really has the freezer space for a whole sheet pan anyway?! I certainly never did even when I lived in America.)
No matter – I just layered the meatballs in a plastic container between sheets of parchment paper and put them in the freezer that way.
One of the containers was even on it’s side causing the meatballs to squish together a bit. But you know what? The meatballs still turned out fine – nary a lumpy ball in sight.
How long can the freezer meatballs be frozen?
You can freeze the freezer meatballs up to a month.
I wouldn’t go much longer than that because freezer burn can set in. They may not go bad but they won’t get any better with time so try to make them within a week or two of freezing for optimal results.
How to prepare the sweet & spicy hoisin sauce & quickly cook the freezer meatballs
Preparing the sauce is simple and will take about 5-10 minutes of hands on prep.
Hoisin sauce: This recipe calls for 3/4 cup of hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet and umami condiment made from fermented soybean paste used widely in Chinese cuisine. Hoisin has a similar taste and appearance to terikayi sauce. It’s readily available at many supermarkets and Asian markets around the world and has become a fridge staple in my kitchen since it’s a super easy way to add more complex Asian flavour to dishes like this one. It also keeps basically forever so you can just store a bottle in the fridge for easy use when you’re feeling something Asian.
Aromatics: Garlic, ginger and hot red chili pepper are the aromatics in the sauce.
Red pepper: 1 whole red pepper cut into thin strips adds vegetal sweetness and a pop of color to an otherwise brown affair. You could also add some carrots if you were so inclined.
Cornstarch or flour: This recipe has about 2 teaspoons of cornstarch that acts as a thickener for the sauce. Cornstarch is a pantry staple in my kitchen because it’s a silky smooth thickener for sauces and makes a nice and crunchy coating on fried chicken (among many other uses). You could also substitute an equal amount of regular wheat flour if you don’t have cornstarch.
Soy sauce: About 3 tablespoons of soy sauce to start and near the end of simmering, taste and see if you need any additional salt.
Side dishes to go with the sweet & spicy hoisin meatballs
I served these meatballs with a side of jasmine rice and this super easy 5-minute sauteed cabbage with garlic, sesame and chili pepper. Spicy garlic cabbage is a great complement to savoury sweet meatballs.
Plus, it’s so quick and easy to make that you can throw it together while the meatballs are simmering.
So that’s it friends. Sweet & spicy hoisin freezer meatballs sauced and ready to go. Sprinkle those bad boys with some green onion (cut on a diagonal for fancy points) and black + white sesame seeds for that extra pop of pizzazz and you’ve got yourself an easy weeknight meal that will knock your socks off.
Sweet & Spicy Hoisin Freezer Meatballs
These sweet & spicy hoisin freezer meatballs are prepared in advance and ready to deliver quick and easy weeknight meals with uncompromising flavour.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 45- 50 meatballs 1x
- Category: Quick & Easy Meals
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Asian
1 kg / 2 lbs ground beef
4 heaping tablespoons breadcrumbs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons sriracha
4 cloves of garlic, mashed or minced
2 cm / 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, mashed or minced
1–2 spicy red chili peppers, thinly sliced
2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
1 small/medium carrot (about 1/2 cup) julienned very finely or minced
Sweet & Spicy Hoisin Cooking Sauce
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, mashed or minced
2 cm / 1 inch piece of ginger, mashed or minced
1 small hot chili pepper, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons cornstarch or wheat flour
3/4 cup of hoisin sauce
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons of soy sauce (plus more to taste)
2 tablespoons sriracha (or to taste)
1 stalk green onion, sliced
1 teaspoon each of white and black sesame seeds
Make the freezer meatballs: Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix with your hands until incorporated. Use your hands or a scoop to shape them into roughly golf ball sized balls. Place the meatballs in a plastic freezer-safe container in single layers between sheets of parchment paper and put directly in the freezer. Freezer for up to a month.
Prepare the sauce: Heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the aromatics and saute a minute or so until aromatic. Add the cornstarch or flour and stir until incorporated. Pour in the hoisin sauce, water, soy sauce and sriracha. Stir to make sure everything is incorporated and press out any lumps in the starch. Increase heat to high and simmer until the sauce begins to steam (about a minute) and then reduce heat back to medium.
Cook the meatballs: Add the meatballs to the sauce without thawing. Rotate each meatball so it’s coated in sauce and then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. After simmering, if the sauce seems too thin increase the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered until reduced (maybe another 5 – 10 minutes).
Taste & garnish: Taste the sauce and add any additions you think are necessary. More spicy sriracha or salty soy sauce for example. When ready to serve top the meatballs with more sesame seeds and green onion. Serve hot.
Keywords: freezer friendly, freezer meatballs, Asian meatballs, weeknight meals, easy weeknight meals