Meatballs Make the World Go ‘Round

When you think meatballs the first thing that probably comes to mind is a heaping plate of spaghetti and “red sauce.” But the Italian-American classic is just one of hundreds of variations on the meatball that can be found all over the world. Today I’ll show you how to incorporate on-trend global flavors into some exciting new meatball-focused menu items.

Consider the international cuisines that are popular right now, such as Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. Each of these countries and regions is home to meatball dishes that can be adapted for American menus. Here are a few delicious ideas to get the ball rolling!

  • Korean BBQ Pork Meatball Skewers: Traditional Korean meatballs are pan-fried and served on their own or in soup. But this variation is perfect on your appetizer menu, served with gochujang and sesame barbecue sauce for dipping.
  • Vietnamese Meatball Bánh Mì: This spin on the popular sandwich features soy-ginger chicken meatballs, pickled vegetables and sriracha mayo.
  • Beef Meatball Sliders: Inspired by authentic Italian polpette, but with a twist—savory beef meatballs served on mini buttery buns with a generous helping of marinara.
  • Turkey Kofta Platter: Kofta is the all-encompassing term for the meatball dishes of the Middle East that come in all shapes and sizes. Turkey meatballs made with diced onion, red bell pepper, feta and mint bring a taste of the kofta category to your menu.

Often times, the best way to introduce new menu items is through familiar formats or flavors that patrons already know and enjoy. For example, if wings are a top seller on your bar or appetizer menu, consider Buffalo meatballs made from ground chicken, celery, carrots and blue cheese.

Meatballs can be prepared in a variety of ways: steamed, baked, deep-fried or stewed, to name a few. Grilling meatballs over an open flame is a great way to incorporate the intense smoke and char flavors that are on trend right now.

From a food cost perspective, meatballs are an affordable protein option that make great use of pork and beef value cuts and trim. Chicken and turkey meatballs made from dark meat are extremely juicy and flavorful, too.

If you’re ready to get creative with meatball dishes, West Liberty Foods is here to help. We can develop custom meatballs with inclusions such as vegetable particulates and high-melt cheeses, with or without sauces. For our retail partners, we can create frozen skillet kits, complete with sauces and grains or vegetables. Contact us for more information!

– Chef Aliza

“10 Global Meatball Recipes for National Meatball Day,” Food & Wine, March 2015.
Chris E. Crowley, “Planet Meatball: 20 Meatball Varieties Around the World,”, January 2015.
Datassential, On the Menu Trendspotting Report, January 2016.
Donna Berry, “Ground and formed; a meaty opportunity,” Culinology, December 2016.