What isn’t there to love about meat in ball form? Meatballs are fun-sized, filling, and rank as one of the ultimate comfort foods. While American meatball dishes are delicious—shout out to the red-sauce classic spaghetti and meatballs—there are countless other ways to prepare balls that don’t involve pairing them with pasta.
If you’re feeling like your meatball game has gotten tired, it’s time to shake things up. We’ve rounded up the best recipes from around the world, so you can transform your everyday bite-sized meat loaves into an international feast worth celebrating. Experiment with frying, boiling, or even flattening these bad boys, and spicing them up with everything from chili powder to miso paste. Whatever recipe you go with, you’ll end up looking like the impressive globetrotter you were destined to be.
Here are some of the best meatball recipes from across the globe.
What it is: IKEA may be even more well know for its meatballs, or köttbullar, than for its affordable furnishings. Traditionally served with gravy, potatoes, and loganberry sauce, the Swedish staple only takes a few easy steps to make. (If you opt for the pre-made frozen variety, all you need is a stove-top.) The IKEA recipe calls for “rusk flour,” but you can can simply substitute Japanese panko or regular breadcrumbs. Bonus: In Australia, you can get your IKEA meatballs delivered. (Photo: IKEA)
Best recipe: IKEA
Indian Lamb Kofte
What it is: Indian cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey cooks her rich lamb meatballs in a curry flavored with green chillies, turmeric, and garam masala, then serves them atop fragrant jasmine rice. For a twist, wrap the meatballs in parathas and pair with raita and fresh mango chutney. (Photo: Good Food Channel)
Meatballs and Red Sauce
What it is: This iconic Italian-American dish has become a comfort-food staple served in red-sauce restaurants around the globe. While many believe spaghetti, meatballs, and marinara comes from Italy, you won’t be able to find the dish on menus in the motherland. The true Italian meatball is polpettes, traditionally eaten alone or inside soup. Regardless, if you’re looking for a step up from your usual Italian-American meatball recipe, you might as well follow the lead of iconic East Harlem red-sauce joint Rao’s. The restaurant’s secret? Combine lean ground beef with pork and veal, and add tons of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese. (Photo: Instagramfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Best recipe: Rao’s via New York Times
What it is: If you’ve tried albondigas soup made by a Mexican abuela, you know that nothing much compares. Simmering the meatballs in a tomato-and-beef broth spiced with chipotle peppers keeps them super-moist. White rice, cilantro, and avocado are the ideal garnishes. (Photo: Food52)
Best recipe: Food52
What it is: The Dutch bitterballen is a veal meatball typically served as a savory snack with mustard. The balls are breaded and deep-fried until golden, making them a perfect accompaniment to beer. (Photo: Instagram/@sacolaph)
Best recipe: Cees Holtkamp via Eva in the Kitchen
What it is: These hearty pork meatballs are laced with bacon and liver, and doused in a buttery onion gravy. The name might have you a little confused, but don’t get it twisted—there is nothing derogatory about these balls. Faggot derives from the Northern British term that means “uncased sausage.” (Photo: Instagram/@blaineypoo123)
What it is: This Shanghai dish, consisting of big pork meatballs surrounded by cabbage and noodles, got its name because it resembles a shaggy lion’s mane. Cecilia Chang, “the mother of Chinese Cooking,” offers a recipe for Lion’s Head laced with water chestnuts, ginger, and soy sauce, cooked in a chicken broth until tender. (Photo: Flickr/CurryPuffy)
Best recipe: Cecilia Chiang via Splendid Table
What it is: Indonesia’s national street food, bakso, is a savory soup featuring meatballs and noodles, typically garnished with bok choy, wontons, tofu, crisp fried shallots, and hard-boiled egg. The dish was a childhood favorite of President Obama, who spent several years in Indonesia. Bakso can be made with fish, pork, chicken, or beef. (Photo: Flickr/Vivera Siregar)
Best recipe: The Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia Bangkok
What it is: Tsukune are a fantastic snack to have with a pint of Kirin at home, or out at an izakaya. These chicken meatballs are often molded into a dumpling or skewered like a kebab. The meat is typically fried or baked, then topped with a yakitori sauce. (Photo: Flickr/Arnold Gatilao)
Best recipe: Namiko Chen via Just One Cookbook
What it is: These grilled beef meatballs are crispy, juicy, and delicious. Pair with pita bread, lemon, and tzatziki for a Grecian feast. (Photo: Flickr/Alpha)
Best recipe: Joshua Bousel via Serious Eats