Spicy Date Tamarind Meatballs

Spicy Date Tamarind Turkey Meatballs

Hi people! I hope you’re enjoying the warm weather out there. I am currently wearing only one layer over a tank top, which is a crowning achievement here in Seattle. I’ve been eating loads of salads, spicy foods, and drinking cold-brewed coffee to celebrate the temperatures. Luckily the delicious Date Syrup from last week was handy as I was throwing together this Indian flavored appetizer. If you haven’t already made the syrup, it’s a quick and yummy totally-worth-it project. 

Date Tamarind Turkey Meatballs

If you are vegetarian or not feeling meaty, just give the sauce a try! It’s fabulous for dipping well, anything in it, as it’s essentially a chutney. Pita? Naan? Pappadum? Toast? Shrimp? Or how about as a super speedy salad dressing, with a splash of vinegar?

I chose to use ground turkey thigh meat, not because turkey is “healthy” or I am afraid of beef, but because I really enjoy the flavor of turkey. Thigh, that is. Breast meat can get awfully dry and one-note if you don’t brine it or roast it with much fat.

Feel free to use beef, lean or less lean, ground chicken (that sounds lovely actually!), pork, or ground shrimp or fish. Each will come with a slight difference in cooking time and moisture content, so be prepared to adjust things slightly as always. The balls are a little loose, so if you plan on serving for finger food, consider using those adorable little hors d’oevre forks. Mine went straight from oven to fingers to face, so that’s also an option.

What else: if you do not have glutinous (sweet/Mochiko) rice flour, substitute regular white rice flour, oat flour, or white flour. It’s merely to help bind the meat a bit more, but it’s such a small amount that you won’t truly taste it.

You may be able to find tamarind paste pre-bloomed and ready–use that if you have it!

Finally, if you have a spicy tooth, consider adding more chile. My pepper was spicy, but blended with the other flavors, I still wanted to dip the meatballs in Sriracha…but that may be because I’m a Sriracha addict. No joke.


Turkey meatballs

Spicy Date Tamarind Meatballs

Sweet, spicy, and tart meatballs for finger food, salad toppers, or beer snacks! 


  • For sauce:
  • 1/3 c. diced onion
  • 1/3 c. warm water
  • 1 T. dried tamarind, bloomed in 1-2 T. hot water
  • 2 T. date syrup
  • 1 T. cilantro
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 3/4 t. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 serrano pepper (or other spicy green chile), chopped


  • For meat:
  • 1/2 # ground turkey thigh (or meat of choice)
  • 2 T. Spicy Date Tamarind Sauce (above)
  • 2/3 c. cooked rice
  • 1 T. glutinous rice flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 t. kosher salt
  • several grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 t. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 chopped serrano pepper (or other spicy green chile)
  • 1 t. cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Make sauce: saute onion in a small amount of oil until softened but not necessarily thoroughly cooked. Remove from heat and add bloomed tamarind.
  3. Add to a food processor, along with rest of sauce ingredients. Blend thoroughly and taste to check seasoning.
  4. Add 2 T. sauce to ground meat and remaining ingredients. Mix with hands. You may desire to cook a small piece on the stovetop to check the sauce and seasoning. Keep in mind you will be serving the meatballs with remaining sauce for pleasurable dipping. Yum.
  5. Form gently into balls; mixture will be wet.
  6. Place on a parchment, oiled baking sheet, or Silpat.
  7. Bake 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are lightly browned and meat is firm throughout. Serve aside dipping sauce.