An investigation of America’s most famous meatballs would quickly start with the red sauce-coated ones on spaghetti and quickly end with the gravy-coated type of Swedish persuasion. Both are perfectly charming. But they are only beginning to scratch the surface of the United Nations meatballs that exist all over the world, encompassing many forms of albondigas, pellet, köfte, and more. Small round patties are an almost universal vehicle for transporting sauces and spices, or for stretching portions of meat.
It’s time to experience the many nuances of meatballs. Here are 10 from around the world that you can cook in the comfort of your own kitchen, plus a bonus herbal scoop for those who don’t make meat.
The basics first: The classic Italian meatball requires a mixture of beef and pork, plus plenty of tomato sauce and Parmesan to spice it up. Have a loaf of bread handy for dipping and sliding. Get our Basic Italian Meatball Recipe.
Like a convertible sofa bed, Swedish Meatballs are versatile with multiple functions (no wonder they’re Ikea’s favorite). Serve them on toothpicks for a retro appetizer, make them the centerpiece of your assortment, or pour them over egg noodles for a hearty, gravy-soaked meal. Get our Swedish meatballs recipe. (Or try IKEA’s Swedish Meatballs Recipe.)
Kofte is sort of a catch-all term for the many types of meatballs that can be found throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. Turkey, however, might just be the capital of kofte, due to the great variety that you can find there. Our recipe harnesses some of their most essential flavors, including the tangy flavor of sumac and the spicy hints of cumin and paprika. Get our Turkish Köfte Recipe.
Frikadeller is Denmark’s quirky entry into the meatball game. Unlike their rounder counterparts, they’re slightly flattened, resembling miniature burgers. And while most other meatballs depend on bread to keep them plump, these little patties use oats to enhance their taste and texture. Get the Frikadeller recipe.
You can count on Japan to cook up the perfect marriage of meatballs with the grill. Prepared like a yakitori, these pieces of chicken on skewers can become smoked and crispy over charcoal before being brushed with a tare of sweet soy sauce. Get the tsukune recipe.
If you want proof that meatballs are more than just meatballs, look no further. This Shanghai classic is filled with voluminous and aromatic ingredients, from vibrant ginger to crunchy water chestnuts. Get the Lion’s Head Meatballs Recipe.
Your local Thai restaurant can prepare their green curry with your choice of chicken, beef or pork. But bouncy fish balls are a must in central Thailand. Not only are they fun to eat, but they look quite majestic glistening in the coconut broth. Get the Kaeng Khiaw recipe.
In Vietnam, meatballs can be found in sandwiches, swimming in bowls of pho, on noodles, just about anywhere. These rolls even manage to cram them into delicate, thin rice wrappers, with a brilliant mix of herbs and pickled vegetables. Get our Banh Mi Recipe with Rice Paper and Pork Meatballs.
These Mediterranean-inspired meatballs are made with lamb, but if you find the taste too cheerful, you can always season a mix of pork and beef with mint, garlic, cumin, cinnamon. and cilantro for a worldly touch. And the Greek yogurt sauce with lemon, cuin and mint is a must, especially if you are wrapping them in flat bread. Get our Lamb meatballs recipe.
Because everyone wants to have fun. Plant-based falafels are delicious already, but stuff them with salty feta cheese for a welcome surprise. Get our Feta Stuffed Falafel Recipe.