Lion's Head Chinese Meatballs are a popular Chinese New Year dish that we enjoy almost every year. Tender and juicy homemade pork meatballs are packed with Asian seasonings and tossed in a sweet and sticky sauce. They are a delicious, flavourful, and comforting meal that you can make in just 30 minutes. Serve these meatballs over a plate of steamed rice, fried rice, or noodles.
What are Lion's Head Meatballs?
Lion's Head Chinese Meatballs (狮子头) are the ultimate Asian comfort food. You can enjoy these pork meatballs any day of the year, particularly during Lunar New Year or for any big celebration. The meatballs get their name because of their shape, which resembles a lion's head. Lions are a very auspicious symbol in Chinese culture and represents prosperity, strength, and vigor. You may have seen a traditional lion dance during big celebrations like Chinese New Year (we even had one at our wedding!), or a lion's statute outside of temples and palaces. It is undoubtably an important symbol in Chinese culture.
There are different ways to prepare lion's head meatballs. Most traditionally, they are steamed with cabbage. You can also fry them or bake them. You can serve them as is or toss them in a sauce. Plus, the sauce is completely customizable. We prefer a sweet soy sauce, but you can use sweet chili sauce, honey garlic, or even a creamy sauce.
For more Chinese New Year recipes, browse our top 50 Chinese New Year recipes.
To make lion's head Chinese meatballs, you will need the following ingredients
- ground pork
- green onions
- seasonings - Shaoxing cooking wine (or mirin), soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, fresh ginger, garlic, salt, and ground black pepper (or white pepper).
For the sweet soy sauce, you will need:
- soy sauce
- chicken broth
- brown sugar
- sesame oil
- flour - or cornstarch
How to Make the Best Lion's Head Chinese Meatballs
- Prepare the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine pork with breadcrumbs, eggs, Shaoxing cooking wine, green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well until uniform in consistency.
- Shape the meatballs. Divide pork mixture into 5 equal pieces and roll into meatballs with your hands. Wear disposable gloves when handing meat to avoid contamination.
- Cook the meatballs. You can cook the meatballs in the air fryer or in the oven:
- In the air fryer: Place meatballs in a single layer in the air fryer and cook at 375F for 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 160F when measured on a meat thermometer. Set aside.
- In the oven: Place meatballs in a parchment-lined quarter sheet baking pan and cook in a 375 preheated oven for 40 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 160F when measured on a meat thermometer. Set aside.
- Make the sweet soy sauce. In a small mixing bowl, add soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, sesame oil and flour. Whisk well to combine until flour and sugar dissolves. Transfer the sauce into a shallow saucepan and heat over medium for 3-4 minutes. Continuously stir until desired consistency is reached.
- Serve. Add meatballs to the saucepan and toss well to coat evenly. Garnish with green onions and serve warm with a bowl of steamed rice, fried rice, or noodles, and drizzle any extra sauce from the pan on top.
Freezing and Storing Instructions
- How to store: Store lion's head meatballs in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply reheat in a steamer or in a shallow saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of water if the sauce thickened up too much in the refrigerator.
- How to freeze uncooked meatballs: You can freeze uncooked lion's head meatballs by placing them on a quarter sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Then transfer to the freezer and freeze until hard, about 1 hour. Then, transfer the meatballs to a freezer bag or freezer-safe airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- How to cook from frozen: Allow the meatballs to thaw overnight in the refrigerator first, then cook as per recipe instructions on the stove.
- How to freeze cooked meatballs: Freeze cooled cooked meatballs by transferring into an airtight container or freezer bag. I would recommend freezing before mixing with the sauce, and making a fresh batch of sauce when ready to use.
More Ground Meat Recipes
- Crispy Bottom Shanghai Pan-Fried Pork Buns
- Beef Potstickers (Dumplings)
- Sticky Honey Garlic Meatballs
- Mini Meat Pies with Soy Sauce
- Spicy Dan Dan Noodles
- Swedish Meatballs
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