Serve these Sesame Spiced Chicken Meatballs with a tangy chickpea salad for a satisfying and healthy dinner you can make in just about 30 minutes. The tender meatballs are quickly browned, then baked in the oven, while the chickpea salad comes together in a snap.

Small plate of sesame spiced chicken meatballs served on top of a chickpea salad.

These meatballs are adapted from one of our favorite recipes in a favorite cookbook, the original collection from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook, was published ten years ago as of my writing this, and yet remains one we consult time and again.

One of Deb’s hallmarks is making recipes accessible and reducing the use of specialty ingredients — and bless her for it. That said, as a somewhat beleaguered everyday Mom living in the suburbs, I have found it necessary to simplify this particular recipe even further. For instance, even with my generous spice supply, I rarely have the Aleppo pepper and sumac called for in the original recipe. And sadly, I have no bodega down the street at which to casually pick some up.

But, enough about what’s not here. Let’s focus on the positives.

Why You’ll Love This Meal

  • It’s healthy and satisfying. It’s a low carb wonder with plenty of lean protein and big flavors. You won’t need a huge helping to feel satiated.
  • It’s easy to make. Form meatballs, cook meatballs, toss together the salad, serve. No complicated steps.
  • The combination feels unique yet approachable at the same time. Now this is Deb’s magic. The pairing feels like a minor step out of the norm for most family dinners, but at the end of the day it has mostly familiar ingredients and flavors that will remind you of your favorite falafel.
  • It’s easily deconstructed for kids. The meatballs are a pretty safe bet, because they are tender and very uniform. It’s easy to leave some plain chickpeas to the side for them, and round out the plate with any other veggie or fruit they will accept (that day!).

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Prep bowls holding ground chicken, drained canned chickpeas, breadcrumbs, olives, sesame seeds, lemon juice, and seasonings.

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions:

  • Ground chicken. Ground turkey or ground lamb makes a very good substitute.
  • Toasted sesame seeds. A key addition. Don’t stock them/don’t know what to do with the extra? Bake a loaf of seeded Dutch oven bread!
  • Green olives. These add a huge amount of flavor to the chickpea salad! Hate olives? Leave them out or try swapping with another flavor booster you love, like marinated peppers.
  • Lemon pepper seasoning, lemon juice, or lemon zest and black pepper. This is one of the best substitutes for sumac, and more common to keep on hand! If you do have sumac, use 3/4 teaspoon in place of the lemon pepper in the chickpea salad.
  • Breadcrumbs, one egg, and water. To moisten and bind the meatball mixture together.
  • Fresh parsley.
  • Seasonings: cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt. No ground coriander? Add an extra 1/2 teaspoon cumin and a bit of extra lemon zest in its place.

How To Make Chicken Meatballs with Chickpea Salad

Begin by simply combining all of the meatball ingredients together in a medium or large mixing bowl. Stir together gently with a spatula until evenly combined, with no dry spots. The mixture will be soft and mostly smooth.

Scoop out portions of the meatball mixture and roll gently until smooth. Using damp hands helps a lot to minimize sticking.

If you have a cookie scoop, it’s the perfect tool to portion your meatballs very quickly and perfectly evenly.

Briefly brown the meatballs in an oven-safe skillet slicked with a small amount of olive oil.

Do not cook them all the way through just yet, and be sure to work in batches, transferring the browned meatballs to a clean plate while the others get started. For the quickest and best browning action, you want to leave enough space around every meatball to easily access and turn it with tongs or a small spatula.

After all the meatballs are browned, return all of them to the skillet. Bake for about 10 minutes to finish cooking through.

While the meatballs bake, whip up the chickpea salad. Simply combine everything and give it a good toss.

Divide the chickpeas among plates or shallow bowls, top with meatballs, and serve! A little garnish of fresh parsley, fresh-cracked black pepper, or an extra squeeze of lemon juice is a nice addition to taste.

Small plate of sesame spiced chicken meatballs served on top of a chickpea salad.

Tips and Tricks

This recipe is very straightforward, but as always a few tips and tricks go a long way to guaranteeing the best results with the least hassle.

  • Portion Perfectly: Use a cookie scoop to portion out meatballs into perfectly even amounts in no time with minimal mess.
  • Roll with Wet Hands: When rolling the meatballs smooth, you want to keep your hands damp with cool water to prevent sticking. I usually set the plate of portioned meatballs on the counter near the sink, run a thin stream of cool water, and rewet my hands every third or fourth meatball. Quick and easy.
  • Brown in Batches! This is probably the most important tip to remember. Do not overcrowd the pan while the meatballs are browning. Leave enough space to easily turn each meatball from side to side.
  • Test the Temperature: Use an instant read thermometer to quickly and accurately know when the meatballs are fully cooked in the oven. This eliminates guesswork and ensures the meatballs stay tender and soft.

What temperature should ground chicken be cooked to?

The USDA and US Department of Health and Human Services recommend all poultry products, including ground chicken and ground turkey, be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F for food safety reasons.

Close-up of the inside of a tender sesame-spiced chicken meatball.

More Easy Meatball Recipes

If you enjoy a good meatball dinner — and really, who doesn’t? — don’t miss these tasty recipes for za’atar-spiced lamb meatballs, mozzarella-stuffed chicken Parmesan meatballs, and simple baked turkey meatballs with hidden veggies.

If you try these Sesame Spiced Chicken Meatballs, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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5 from 1 vote

Sesame Spiced Chicken Meatballs with Chickpea Salad

Serve these Sesame Spiced Chicken Meatballs with a tangy chickpea salad for a satisfying and healthy dinner you can make in just about 30 minutes.


For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper or mix of about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • olive oil for cooking

For the Salad:

  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup green olives thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper or mix of about 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika smoked if you have, otherwise sweet
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a large oven-safe skillet on top of the stove, and pour in just enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the skillet.
  • In a medium bowl, combine chicken, breadcrumbs, water, egg, sesame seeds, salt, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, lemon pepper, and cayenne. Mix gently with a fork or a spatula, just until the mixture is smooth and evenly moistened.
  • Portion the mixture out into meatballs roughly the size of a golf ball, and place on a plate. Using slightly wet hands, roll each one into a smooth ball.
  • Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add about half of the meatballs to the skillet, leaving enough room around each one to easily turn it after it browns on the first side. When it is nicely browned, the meatball should easily release from the skillet—if you prod it and it sticks, give it another 30-60 seconds on that side. Continue to gently turn until each meatball is browned on a few sides, then transfer them to a clean plate and continue with the remaining meatballs.
  • When all the meatballs are browned, return them all together to the skillet, transfer to the oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  • While the meatballs bake, make the salad. Combine chickpeas, olives, parsley, 1 tablespoon each of the lemon juice and olive oil, lemon pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and kosher salt in a medium bowl. Toss to combine. Taste, and add additional lemon juice, olive oil, or other seasonings as desired.
  • Pile a few spoonfuls of the chickpea salad onto plates or into shallow bowls, top with meatballs, and serve. An extra pop of parsley or lemon zest makes a nice final garnish.


Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 486 kcal, Carbohydrates: 44 g, Protein: 33 g, Fat: 20 g, Saturated Fat: 4 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 138 mg, Sodium: 1142 mg, Potassium: 992 mg, Fiber: 10 g, Sugar: 6 g, Vitamin A: 285 IU, Vitamin C: 3 mg, Calcium: 117 mg, Iron: 6 mg
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