GF Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Asian Chicken Meatballs

Gluten free Vietnamese meatballs
Gluten free Vietnamese meatballs photo by Oksana Charla
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Calories: 559

The secret to moist Vietnamese meatballs is to brown them on both sides, cover them and then steam them about 5 minutes on low heat. This intensifies the flavor and delivers great texture. This dish can be doubled or tripled for entertaining. If you can’t find ground dark meat chicken, have your butcher grind 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Meatballs 101

Reduce Calories & Add Fiber

  • Replace ground beef or pork with ground dark meat chicken or turkey.
  • Replace heavy cream with half-and-half and plain yogurt.
  • Replace rice or corn noodles with spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies, such as zoodles (zucchini noodles) or butternut squash.

Juicy Meatballs (Crispy Outside with a Flavorful Center)

  • For delicious texture, add gluten-free breadcrumbs (panko crumbs are best) and egg or egg replacer to the meatball mixture.
  • To cook, place meatballs in a lightly oiled baking pan. Add a small amount of chicken or beef broth to the pan and bake meatballs in a 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Alternatively, brown meatballs on both sides in a skillet; cover and let steam about 5 minutes.

Versatile Meatballs

  • Hoagie-style Place meatballs on the bottom half of a gluten-free bun. Top with marinara sauce and cheese of choice. Close the bun and enjoy!
  • Hors d’oeuvres Make bite-size meatballs (reduce cooking time accordingly). Serve mini-meatballs with a flavorful dipping sauce. Don’t forget the toothpicks and napkins.

Make Ahead

  • Cooked meatballs freeze well. (Don’t freeze raw meatballs.) Make a triple batch and freeze extras in zip-top bags for quick meals.
  • To freeze, place meatballs on a cookie sheet and freeze until solid. Then transfer to zip-top bags and store in the freezer. Reheat by simmering meatballs in sauce 15 to 20 minutes; alternatively, warm them in a covered pan in a 350°F oven until hot.
  • Frozen beef meatballs are good up to 3 months. Frozen chicken and turkey meatballs are good up to 6 weeks.

Food editor Beth Hillson is a chef and cooking instructor. She is founder of Gluten-Free Pantry, one of the first gluten-free companies in the United States, and author of Gluten-Free Makeovers and The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten Free (Da Capo Lifelong).

Yields 4 servings


  • 1 pound ground dark meat chicken
  • 2 green onions, white portion finely chopped (green part removed and reserved for another use)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1-2 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped, or
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Vegetable oil of choice, for frying meatballs


1To make the meatballs, place ground chicken, onions, garlic, cilantro, fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, sugar, pepper and chili flakes in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.

2Remove mixture from refrigerator and roll into 1-inch meatballs.

3Place oil in a large skillet, using just enough to coat the bottom, over medium-hot heat. When oil is hot, add meatballs. (You may want to do this in two or more batches, depending on the size of your skillet.) Fry meatballs about 2 minutes or until browned on one side. Turn and fry another 2 minutes, watching to make sure they don’t brown too quickly. Reduce heat to low and cover pan, letting meatballs steam about 5 minutes or until they’re cooked through. Serve at once. (If not served immediately, refrigerate and reheat briefly before serving.)

1 serving contains 559 calories, 15g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 96mg cholesterol, 581mg sodium, 80g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 7g sugars, 24g protein.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowls

6-8 Bibb lettuce leaves or a variety of lettuce leaves
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
½ cup shredded carrots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
12 ounces vermicelli rice noodles or brown rice noodles, cooked according to package instructions
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Mint, roughly torn, for garnish

1. To assemble dish, divide lettuce, cucumber, carrots and garlic equally among 3 or 4 bowls. Place an equal handful of cooked noodles next to each. Then top with meatballs. Garnish with cilantro and mint.
2. Generously drizzle Vietnamese Dipping Sauce over noodles and meatballs, reserving some sauce for dipping. Use chopsticks or a fork to mix everything together.
3. Serve with additional Vietnamese Dipping Sauce on the side.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Double or triple this recipe for extra sauce. If fish isn’t part of your diet, replace the fish sauce with 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos. Adjust flavors to your liking.
2 tablespoons fish sauce or 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes

1. Place fish sauce, sugar, honey, vinegar, water, garlic and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl and mix well to combine.
2. Set sauce aside about 10 to 15 minutes to let flavors meld.
3. Taste and add a bit more vinegar, fish sauce or even water to adjust the balance of sweet-sour-salty to your liking.
Each tablespoon of sauce contains 15 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 265mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 4g sugars, 0g protein, 2Est GL.