Air fryer chicken meatballs are an easy and versatile dinner that the whole family will love. They have a crisp, golden crust surrounding a juicy center and are ready in under a half-hour with minimal cleanup! Go ahead and make a double batch, because these delicious meatballs also freeze really well.
Meatballs are one of my absolute favorite foods. As everyone already knows, they’re great with sauce and pasta (or zucchini noodles) or on a sub. But why stop there? Meatballs are actually really versatile and a nice change of pace when you’re tired of chicken breasts or steak.
I especially like making chicken meatballs because their neutral flavor means that you can:
- Smother them in cream sauce to make Swedish meatballs
- Mix in spinach, garlic, and feta for a Mediterranian inspired dish
- Take a trip to North Arica with a rich brown gavy and prunes
- Add cranberries, celery, and seasonings for Thanksgiving meatballs that taste just like turkey with all the fixin’s
- Add them to soup, like this delicious meatball and farro soup
- Top them with tandoori-inspired curry or even enchilada sauce
You’re only limited by your own imagination when it comes to how to mix things up and create a special and unique meal.
Why make meatballs in the air fryer?
For years, I made meatballs by frying them in a pan of oil and then finishing them in the oven or by making slow cooker meatballs. Recently though, I discovered how great they come out using my air fryer!
Why use an air fryer to make homemade chicken meatballs?
My favorite reason is that it gives the meatballs a fantastic crunchy brown crust while keeping the inside super juicy and tender.
If you’ve ever fried meatballs on the stovetop, you probably know the struggle of trying to keep them round. The side that comes in contact with the pan always flattens out. That isn’t an issue when you cook them in the air fryer, so your meatballs actually look like balls and not weird cubes. They also don’t fall apart the way they can in a slow cooker or in the oven.
Finally, the steady heat of the air fryer cooks the meatballs evenly, so there’s less risk of them burning.
If you haven’t tried air fryer meatballs yet, I definitely encourage you to give it a try soon!
How to make the best chicken meatballs
For maximum versatility, I kept the flavor of these air-fried meatballs relatively neutral but don’t worry, they’re still packed with delicious flavor!
To make them, you’ll need:
- Ground Chicken. For maximum juiciness, I like to use 93% lean chicken. You can buy 99% lean ground chicken breast, but the lack of fat means it will be mmuch drier and I find the texture can be a little gritty.
- Parmesan Cheese. Grated parmesan cheese is best, since it blends into the chicken seamlessly. You can usually buy tubs of freshly grated cheese in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. you can also make your own using a food processor. If it’s all you have, shredded or shaved Parmesan will also work.
- Garlic Powder.
For the juciest meatballs, mix the egg directly into the breadcrumbs and let it sit for a few minutes before adding your other ingredients. This will allow the breadcrumbs to hydrate and soften.
Don’t pack the meatballs too tightly. This can make them tough! Scoop the meatball mix up and gently roll it into a ball, using just enough pressure for them to keep their shape. Dampening your hands will prevent the meat from sticking to them.
For uniformly sized meatballs, use a cookie scoop or a meatballer! I received a meatballer in a swag bag from one of my clients years ago and thought it was the silliest thing at first, but I actually use it all the time. This also helps prevent you from compressing the meat too much. Just scoop the meat up up and gently roll it between your palms to shape.
Can these meatballs be frozen?
Yes! After cooking, freeze the meatballs in a single layer on a cookie sheet until frozen solid. Then throw them in a freezer bag for grab-and-go meatballs whenever you want them! You can heat them in marinara sauce until they’re warmed through, throw them in your Instant Pot, or reheat them in the air fryer for about 10 minutes until they’re heated through. I always like to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature and ensure they’re nice and hot throughout!
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 pound 93% lean ground chicken
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat your air fryer to 390°F. Coat the basket of your air fryer lightly with olive oil.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg and breadcrumbs. Let sit for 2-3 minutes to soften the breadcrumbs.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Mix gently until just combined, being careful not to overwork the meat.
- Use a meatballer or tablespoon to form the mixture into 1 1/2" balls. Roll the balls gently between dampened hands to shape.
- Mist the meatballs lightly with olive oil spray, then arrange them in the basket. Cook for 12 minutes, turning the meatballs halfway through the cooking process. The meatballs are done when the outside is browned and crisp and the inside reaches a temperature of 165°F.