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Vietnamese-Spiced Meatballs in Coconut Broth

Vietnamese-Spiced Meatballs in Coconut Broth

This wonderful Meatballs in Coconut Broth recipe inspired from Gordon Ramsey lens itself easily to adaptation To a low carb lifestyle.  Chicharrones (sometimes called bacon puffs) were substituted for breadcrumbs, 2 Tbsp heavy cream was in for the milk, and the Vietnamese spice mix can be modified to your tastes. It’s a mouth-watering dish and carries all the yin and yang flavors typical of southeast Asian cuisines.

Meatballs in Vietnamese Spiced Coconut Broth
Meatballs in Vietnamese Spiced Coconut Broth

What makes this dish Vietnamese?

Vietnamese cuisine typically features a combination of five taste elements: spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet. This dish incorporates three of the major spices found in Vietnamese cuisine – ginger, garlic and hot chili peppers.

The sweetness comes from the cardamom, cinnamon and ginger rather than sugar, the sour comes in with the lime juice, the spicy from the red pepper flakes, and the salty from the chicharrones and the chicken stock.  It is missing the bitter element, so I might work on that in future renditions.  This was so good as it was though, that I’m hesitant to mess with it!

Meatballs in Vietnamese-Spiced Coconut Broth



  • 2 tsp freshly ground coriander
  • 2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 4 tsp lemon grass paste
  • 2″ root ginger, grated (just shy of  1/2 cup grated)
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 13.5 oz can chicken stock
  • salt (1/2 tsp to 1 tsp)
  • zest and juice from 1 lime


  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried chili flakes, or to taste
  • 2 lb. ground beef (hamburger, but can use ground pork)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 oz bag chicharrones, (aka bacon puffs, pork rinds, pork skins, use panko or breadcrumbs if not slow carb compliant), smashed into crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp oil for cooking
  • salt & pepper to taste


To make the meatballs, saute the onions with a tablespoon of oil for about 5 minutes or until translucent and add garlic for last 30 seconds.  Turn off heat and stir in chili flakes.  Remove pan from heat.

Place ground beef in large bowl and lightly salt and pepper it (about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper).  Smash the chicharrones into fine crumbs (smash them while still in the bag with something heavy) and place them in a separate bowl.  Add the cream to the crumbs and mix with your hands.  The crumbs are to bind the meatballs together, so if you are using breadcrumbs and milk, just add enough to get a moist but not wet mixture.

Add the sauteed onion mix and the crumb mix to the ground beef and mix thoroughly with your hands.  Roll the mix into golf ball sized balls and place on a tray or plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so until they are firm.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium to medium-low heat and cook meatballs until browned, turning them carefully with tongs or a spatula. They are tender and fall apart easily so turn carefully.  Do this in batches so you don’t crowd the meatballs.

Remove meatballs to paper towels or plate (they will not be cooked all the way through yet).  If you have a lot of oil left in your skillet, drain some of this off and then add the coriander, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, chili, lemongrass and ginger and stir into the leftover oil and meat bits for a minute or so.  Whisk in the coconut milk and stock (use the empty coconut can to pour in an equal amount of chicken stock to get the 13.5 oz).  When spices and stocks are mixed, return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer everything gently for 10-15 minutes until sauce has thickened and meatballs are cooked.

Cooking time will depend on size of meatballs and how long they were browned.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add the lime zest and juice and serve in a bowl.

**Note:  it makes a big difference to use coriander seeds and cardamom pods and grind them fresh.

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