Forget every other meatball recipe you know because these Air Fryer Chicken Meatballs really are the best ever! Minimal prep, great satisfying flavor, and ultra juicy - what's not to love? Plus, these easy chicken meatballs go great with everything - serve them as an appetizer or for dinner!
The Best Homemade Meatballs
Get ready, because these chicken meatballs are about to become your new favorite go-to recipe. The addition of whole milk, breadcrumbs, and Parm cheese gives them the perfect texture. They’re soft, tender, bouncy, and moist… everything you could ever want in a meatball!
One of the best things about these air fried chicken meatballs is how quick and easy they are. All you’ve got to do is mix the ingredients together in a bowl and form them into meatballs. When your air fryer is ready, pop them in the basket and they’ll be done in 8-12 minutes. Even if you make them in the oven, they still only take 20 minutes to cook.
Because they’re so simple and fast to make, they’re the perfect snack or appetizer to serve on game day or at dinner parties. Add a couple of sauces and side dishes and you’ve got yourself a full meal ready in no time at all.
Why You'll Love It
- They’re so easy and low maintenance! One bowl and no chopping or sautéing needed!
- These meatballs go with literally everything. Marinara, Thai curry, cheese sauce.. it all works!
- Meal prep friendly for a healthy, protein-packed lunch.
- Kids love it! Leave out the red pepper flakes if they aren't a fan of spice but no chance they'll be saying no to these cheesy meatballs
- Ground chicken: I like 92% lean ground chicken. Feel free to substitute with ground turkey. Use dark meat for a juicier meatball.
- Egg: Holds the meatball together.
- Panko breadcrumbs: I love these Japanese breadrumbs because they're larger, giving more texture and airiness. You can substitute with Italian or homemade bread crumbs.
- Milk: We're making a classic panade with milk and breadcrumbs. This helps keep the meatballs moist. The more fat, the better - so whole milk is always my go-to.
- Parmesan cheese: Just enough to add fat (for moist balls!), umami, salt, and cheesy flavor.
- Garlic and onion powder: A great way to add an extra boost of flavor without the hassle of chopping or grating fresh ingredients.
- Red pepper flakes: Adds a very light and subtle spice. Add extra if you really love heat or omit if you prefer.
- Oil spray: As the meatballs cook at a low temperature, you don’t need an oil with a high smoke point — any will do. I always prefer to use avocado oil for its neutral taste.
How To Make It
- Combine ingredients. In a large bowl, add ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, milk, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Lightly whisk the egg first, then use your (clean!) hand or spatula to gently combine. The less you work the meat, the better!
- Assemble. Use a spoon or 1½ tablespoon cookie scoop to divide the mixture into 20 meatballs. They should roughly be the size of golf balls. Wet your hands and roll into balls.
- Air fry. Preheat your air fryer and spray the bottom of the basket with oil. Add the meatballs in a single layer, making sure there's some space in between to allow them to get golden brown. Air fry at 350°F for 8-12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165°F. Flip the balls halfway through. Let cool slightly before serving.
- Each air fryer is different. I tested this recipe with a 6-Quart Instant Vortex. I recommend testing one ball first to determine the best temperature and cook time. Also taste it to make sure it's seasoned to your liking.
- The key to juicy chicken meatballs is plenty of fat. It coats the ground chicken to give you a delicious and juicy mouthfeel. Use whole milk and full-fat Parmesan cheese!
- The milk and breadcrumbs are essential in this recipe because they form a panade. This is a paste that keeps the liquid in your meatballs, making them moist and tender. It works well because the starch in the breadcrumbs absorbs the milk, forming a gel which acts as a protective coating for the meat.
- For every meatball recipe, it's extremely important to not over-mix your meat mixture. This will result in tough meatballs. To mix, wet your clean, non-dominant hand and make a bear claw to gently combine in a couple strokes. Less than 5 seconds should do it.
- I use a 6-Quart fryer, so I can cook all the chicken meatballs in the air fryer at once. If you’ve got a smaller air fryer, you’ll need to cook the meatballs in batches so you don’t overcrowd the basket.
Substitutions & Variations
- To make these healthy chicken balls gluten-free, substitute the Panko breadcrumbs for gluten-free breadcrumbs. You can make your own at home if you’ve got a loaf of gluten-free bread.
- For dairy-free meatballs, use a plant-based milk. You can also swap the parmesan cheese for a plant-based cheese or use nutritional yeast.
- For a spicy twist, add some sliced jalapeño into the meatball mix. You can serve the spicy meatballs with a side of cool guacamole and hot salsa for a Mexican-inspired appetizer.
- Use different herb combos to make your chicken meals more exciting. Try a basil, rosemary, and oregano herb blend for an Italian spin. Or a fennel, basil, and thyme herb mix for a French twist.
- You can also make things more interesting by switching up your dipping sauces. Marinara, sour cream, garlic mayonnaise, ranch, sweet chili, sweet and sour, and buffalo sauce all work great.
- These chicken meatballs are best in the air fryer, but they can also be baked in the oven. To do this, preheat the oven to 375℉, line a baking sheet with foil, and spray it with oil. Spread the meatballs on the tray, spray with a little extra oil, and bake for 20 minutes. Flip them half way through to make sure they cook evenly
Storing & Freezing
Storing: To store these chicken meatballs, leave them to cool to room temperature before storing in an air-tight container. They’ll keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezing: You can store any leftover chicken balls in the freezer for up to 4 months. To do so, leave them to cool to room temperature and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place inside the freezer for 1-2 hours, then transfer the meatballs to a zip-top bag. Squeeze out all the air and don't forget to write a "Reheat by" date!
Reheating: For crispy chicken meatballs, reheat them in the air fryer. Preheat your air fryer to 350℉ or let it heat up for 4-5 minutes. Then air fry for 3-5 minutes until heated through. Add more time if reheating from frozen.
The best way to make meatballs stay together is to choose binding ingredients. This recipe uses egg, breadcrumbs, and milk which help keep all the other ingredients together. They also give the meatballs their light and bouncy texture.
You can easily overcook meatballs and be left with hard, dry meatballs that no one wants to eat. To avoid this, cook them until they reach an internal temperature of 165℉. This ensures that the meatballs are safe to eat while still being moist and juicy.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you’ll have to eyeball it. When they’re ready to eat, the meatballs should be a pale brown on the outside, with a few darker brown flecks. You can cut a meatball in the middle to see if they’re ready. As long as it’s completely white and piping hot, your meatballs are cooked.
Sometimes homemade meatballs fall apart when you’re trying to shape them or during the cooking process. If your meatballs are too wet, try adding more breadcrumbs. I’ve tested this recipe countless times. So as long as you stick to the measurements in the recipe card, this shouldn’t happen to you.
For a complete meal, serve these air fried chicken meatballs with pasta, spaghetti, rice, or zoodles covered in your favorite marinara sauce. They also go great in soup!
Looking For More?
If you are a big fan of the air fryer, I am too! These are my go-to recipes:
- Air Fryer Honey Garlic Chicken Wings
- Air Fryer Cheese Quesadilla
- Air Fryer Crab Rangoons
- Air Fryer Parmesan Potato Wedges
- Air Fryer Beef Taquitos
Air Fryer Chicken Meatballs
- To a large bowl, add all the ingredients except oil. Lightly whisk the egg first, then gently combine all the ingredients together. Make sure you don't over-mix or else the meatballs will be tough. Use your clean hands or a spatula to lightly fold together for just a couple seconds.
- Use a 1½ tablespoon cookie scooper or measuring spoon to divide the mixture into 20 pieces. Roll into balls.
- Preheat your air fryer to 350°F. If your air fryer doesn't have a preheating function, simply turn on and let heat up for 4-5 minutes. Spray the bottom with oil and add the meatballs. Air fry for 8-12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165°F, shaking or flipping halfway.
- To bake: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray top with oil. Place meatballs on top, leaving a little space between each one, and spray with oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until internal temperature is 165°F, flipping halfway.
- Substitute Panko breadcrumbs with Italian style or original breadcrumbs, or make your own.
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