Hawaiian Meatballs feature tender homemade meatballs smothered with a sweet and sticky, Polynesian-inspired pineapple sauce for a quick and easy dinner!
Meatballs are such a quick and easy dinner, but I often forget how simple it is to change them up from the typical ol' marinara variety. It's a lot of fun to start with the same base recipe for your meatballs and then experiment with difference sauces. So when I think to go that route, these Hawaiian Meatballs are a surefire family favorite!
As someone whose middle name is Leilani (seriously), I'm what you could call an authority on Hawaiian cuisine. Not really -- ha. I was born in Hawaii but raised in Texas, so my knowledge of Hawaiian food is pretty limited to the three trips I've taken to Hawaii in my adult life...and those trips involved lots of Lava Flows, which may have skewed my memory of the other Hawaiian delicacies we enjoyed. 😉
But I can tell you that I've always had an affinity for pineapple, whether that means eating it fresh, grilling it up for chicken sandwiches, using it to top my pizza, incorporating it into cocktails, or whipping it into a frozen delicacy. And these Hawaiian Meatballs are just another incarnation of pineapple goodness around our house!
If there's a brand of frozen meatballs to which you're partial, feel free to take that shortcut. But honestly, it's pretty darn quick and easy to whip up a batch of homemade meatballs.
So what ingredients will you need?
- Ground beef. I like to use a 85-90% lean ground beef when making meatballs. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or ground pork for half of the beef, if you wish. Or you may even make these Hawaiian Meatballs using all ground turkey. Just be sure to watch the cooking time so that they don't dry out, removing the pan from the oven as soon as the internal temperature of the turkey meatballs reaches 165°F.
- Panko breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are my favorite when it comes to making meatballs, but you may substitute plain fresh breadcrumbs or store-bought dried breadcrumbs as well.
- Milk + egg. For moisture and binding.
- Soy sauce + Worcestershire sauce. For savory flavor.
- Garlic powder, onion powder, + pepper. For further seasoning.
- Crushed pineapple. Finely minced fresh pineapple is wonderful if you have it, but the canned stuff works just dandy. Don't drain it!
- Water + soy sauce. I prefer low-sodium soy sauce. Even so, using solely soy sauce for the liquid would result in an overly-salty pineapple sauce, which is why you'll need to thin it out with some water.
- Honey + rice wine vinegar + brown sugar. For sweetness and depth of flavor.
- Fresh grated ginger. I like to keep frozen ginger or ginger paste on hand for when I don't have any fresh ginger, because they are the closest substitutes to use in a recipe. But in a pinch, I have also used ground ginger in this sauce.
- Cornstarch + water. To make a slurry for thickening.
Feel free to add some crushed red pepper flakes to your sauce if you think you can handle the heat!
And finally, a couple of optional garnishes that add further flavor, texture, and visual appeal to this Hawaiian Meatball recipe:
- Fresh cilantro.
- Sesame seeds. Either white, black, or a combo.
How to Make Hawaiian Meatballs
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
Start off by prepping the meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 400°F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.
- Use your hands to gently yet thoroughly combine all ingredients.
- Scoop meat into 3-tablespoon scoops and gently roll into balls. You should get about 24 meatballs.
- Arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 1-inch apart.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through to the center.
- Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any grease.
- Cover with foil to keep warm.
While the meatballs are baking, you'll want to cook the rice and also make the sauce:
- In another saucepan set over medium heat, combine the crushed pineapple, water, soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and fresh ginger.
- Bring sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer.
- In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together cornstarch and water.
- Stream cornstarch mixture into simmering sauce while stirring.
- Allow sauce to cook for a few minutes until thickened and glossy, stirring occasionally.
Serve your Hawaiian Meatballs over rice with the scrumptious pineapple sauce poured on top. And garnish with fresh cilantro and sesame seeds, if you like!
It's hard to beat homemade Hawaiian Meatballs that are tender on the inside, golden brown on the outside, and topped with a sweet and tangy, thick and glossy sauce that perfectly coats the meatballs and soaks into the rice.
I'm telling you, this is a dinner fit for Hawaiian royalty!
Or maybe just a dinner conceived by a food blogger whose "exotic" middle name got her teased growing up…however you prefer to look at it. 😉
So put on some ukelele/steel guitar tunes, mix yourself a Mai Tai, and get ready to channel some island vibes. These Hawaiian Meatballs will take you straight to the middle of the Pacific from the comfort of your very own kitchen.
And to that, I say...sign. Me. UP!
More Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas
- Slow Cooker Thai Chicken with Peanut Sauce
- Honey-Ginger Shrimp Skewers with Asian Quinoa
- Beefy Cheesy Tortellini Bake
- Homemade Sloppy Joes
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup white OR brown rice, cooked according to package directions
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 12 ounces crushed pineapple, OR finely minced fresh pineapple
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ⅓ cup honey
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix ingredients until thoroughly combined but not packed down. Scoop meat into 3 tablespoon mounds (I use a 3 T. cookie scoop) and gently roll into balls (which should measure between 1 ½ and 2 inches across).
- Arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet, at least an inch apart. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through to the center (cut into a meatball to check for doneness; internal temperature should be 165°F if using a thermometer). Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any grease and cover with foil to keep warm.
- While meatballs are baking, cook rice according to package directions.
- At the same time, in another saucepan set over medium heat, prepare sauce by combining pineapple, water, soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, and fresh ginger. Bring sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Stream cornstarch mixture into simmering sauce while stirring. Allow sauce to cook for a few minutes until thickened and glossy, stirring occasionally.
- Serve meatballs over rice with sauce poured on top. Garnish with fresh cilantro and sesame seeds, if desired.
- You may substitute ground turkey or ground pork for half of the ground beef.
- Finely minced fresh pineapple can be used in place of the canned crushed pineapple. Just be sure to add any fresh pineapple juices to the sauce as well, and add an additional splash of water if the sauce is still too thick.
Post originally published on June 21, 2015, and updated on March 8, 2022.