Easy as ABC- Apple Bourbon Chicken Meatballs

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | March 8th, 2021 | Appetizers, Recipes, Tapas Monday

This week I’m focusing on spherically shaped foods. I’d say it’s a week of meatballs but some of the recipes are for veggie balls. I know that calling a spinach-based ball a meatball is offensive to some. I also am not going to refer to this week as ball week, so here we are with spherically shaped food week.

Meatballs may be my favorite meat-based food to create. There are so many options when making a meatball:

  • What sort of ground meat(s) will I use?
  • Do I want to add other ingredients, such as shredded apple or cranberries?
  • What spices and herbs will I include in the meatball?
  • Will the meatball be served with sauce?
  • What flavors do I want to highlight in the sauce?
apple bourbon chicken meatballs

Some good news

There are no right or wrong answers to those questions. All that exists is unlimited potential. I get to let my mind wander through my virtual rolodex of flavors and textures, once I have a starting point that is. I start with one central ingredient, be it in the sauce or the meatball, and build from there.

For this recipe, I started with the idea of an apple-based sauce. Honestly, I was hoping to work with apple cider, but apparently it can’t be found in the Florida panhandle at this time of year. I switched to apple juice with great hesitation. I’m not a fan of it, but I hoped it would deliver the flavors I wanted.

apple bourbon chicken meatballs

More good news

The apple juice worked really well. To temper its inherent sweetness I began by sautéing onions to bring a bit of a bite to the sauce. The addition of bourbon helped mellow out any overt sweetness and gave the sauce some smokiness. Granted, the sauce does have a bit of sweetness to it, but it’s an appropriate amount, to my palate anyway.

When you get ready to make these meatballs, I have a couple pieces of advice. (1) If at all possible, make these meatballs the day before you want to serve them. After simmering in the sauce for an hour, cool and refrigerate overnight. That extra time will allow the meatballs to become even more flavorful. (2) Although noted as optional, I recommend topping your meatballs with cubed Granny Smith apple. The contrast in texture, flavor, and temperature makes for an extra delicious snack.

apple bourbon chicken meatballs

Easy as ABC- Apple Bourbon Chicken Meatballs

Michele Pesula Kuegler

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes

Course Appetizer

Servings 24 meatballs



  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup grated Granny Smith apple
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Cubed Granny Smith apple optional



  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Combine ground chicken, grated apple, egg, garlic powder, cloves, 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, salt, and black pepper in a large bowl.
  • Mix well with a spoon or your hands.
  • If mixture is still wet, add remaining 1/4 cup bread crumbs.
  • Shape mixture into golf ball size; place on baking sheet.
  • When all meatballs are formed, bake for 20 minutes.
  • While meatballs bake, make sauce.
  • Preheat small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add butter, stir until melted.
  • Add onion, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle flour over onion, stir frequently for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly add apple juice, whisking constantly.
  • As the sauce starts to thicken, add bourbon, whisking to combine.
  • When sauce starts to boil, reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • After removing meatballs from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to saucepan.
  • Simmer meatballs in sauce for an hour or more.
  • If desired, serve meatballs with a few apple cubes on top for color and crunch.

Keyword meatballs
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