Winter Nights Call for Light, Fresh, & Comforting Red Curry
I always love a cozy curry, but my obsession really peaks in the dead of winter when I’m craving feel-good comfort food. Dishes like my Thai-Style Green Curry & Butternut Squash Red Curry are just that, & this one-skillet Red Curry Meatballs recipe totally fits the bill too. It’s creamy, cozy, & loaded with light & fresh flavors that brighten any chilly day.
While serving curry with meatballs isn’t exactly traditional, something about it just makes so much sense. Juicy turkey meatballs are easy to make, & since they’re studded with a generous amount of garlic, scallion, ginger, & cilantro, they pack a ton more flavor than your average sliced chicken or shrimp curry.
Plus, as the meatballs simmer in a creamy coconut red curry sauce with peppers & onions, they soak up even more flavor! It’s a one-pan meal – ready in 30 minutes or less with minimal clean-up involved! – that tastes rich & cozy and light & fresh all at once. Major dinner win!
Red Curry Meatballs Recipe Highlights
Ever since we first shared this easy red curry meatballs recipe back in 2018, it’s been a go-to weeknight dinner at our house. As well as a favorite at thousands of PWWB readers’ houses, too! If it’s new-to-you, you’re in for such a treat! This recipe is…
FLAVOR-PACKED. These curry turkey meatballs are loaded with fresh & warm aromatics like scallions, ginger, cilantro, & garlic. Little flavor bombs!
A ONE-SKILLET WONDER. Browning the turkey meatballs in the same pan used to soften the veggies & simmer the coconut red curry sauce creates incredible depth of flavor, plus there’s only one dish to wash at the end of the night. A weeknight dinner win!
PURE COZINESS. Rich & comforting and light & fresh all at once, these red curry meatballs are the perfect feel-good pick-me-up on a chilly evening. A recipe you’ll come back to time & time again!
Curry & meatballs are the perfect match! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make these Red Curry Meatballs, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
There are 2 main components in this curry meatball recipe: ginger turkey meatballs & a creamy red curry sauce. The meatballs come together with a few classic meatball staples like breadcrumbs & garlic, but they’re spiced up with plenty of aromatics & herbs for a Thai-inspired twist. While the red curry sauce is easy to make, it is important to source the best coconut milk & curry paste you can find. A quick trip to your local Asian grocery store is well worth it!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Ground turkey – While you could opt for ground beef or pork, I like using a leaner protein like ground chicken or turkey. Be sure to use at least 93% poultry to ensure the red curry meatballs stay nice & juicy!
- Aromatics – Green onions, garlic, & fresh cilantro add tons of fresh flavor to the curry meatball filling. While fresh ginger gives each bite warmth & a bit of kick.
- Panko breadcrumbs – These Japanese-style breadcrumbs are my favorite for meatballs thanks to their light & airy texture. If you happen to have homemade breadcrumbs on hand, feel free to use them instead.
- Veggies – Aromatic veggies like red onion & bell peppers load the skillet up with feel-good flavor & texture. These features are signature to classic Thai-style red curry.
- Coconut milk– Good coconut milk is creamy, smooth, & thick. A good indicator is it doesn’t separate when you open it! While you can find coconut milk at most conventional grocery stores nowadays, you’re more likely to find the extra-creamy & flavorful stuff at a local Asian grocery store.
- Red curry paste – Not all red curry pastes are created equally! A good curry paste has a rich, complex flavor &, in my experience, most store-bought brands in the “international” aisle at conventional grocery stores don’t cut it. Maesri curry paste is the only curry paste I use because it’s flavorful, mildly spicy, & made with real-food ingredients. It also doesn’t contain shrimp paste or fish sauce (both of which are common in curry pastes), making it more allergen-friendly.
- Lime – Just a squeeze finishes the rich curry with a bit of brightness, creating the perfect balance.
Curry paste is the base for many Thai curry dishes & adds tons of powerful flavor with minimal effort. It’s typically slowly simmered into a sauce made with coconut milk – just like this meatball curry recipe!
Curry Paste 101:
- What is curry paste made of? ⇢ Pre-made curry paste is an easy way to add bold, aromatic flavor to tons of dishes. It’s typically a wet mixture made from a blend of chilies, galangal (Thai ginger), lemongrass, shrimp paste, garlic, & spices like turmeric, chili powder, & cilantro. Red, yellow, & green curry pastes differ based on the type of chilies. While we’re using store-bought to make curry meatballs, you can also easily make from-scratch curry paste. The key is sourcing the right ingredients from your local Asian grocery store.
- So what is red curry paste? ⇢ Red curry paste is made with a variety of dried red chilies like bird’s eye chilies or Thai long chilies. Dried is key to a red curry – they have a unique earthy flavor compared to fresh chilies. It’s rich & fiery & fantastic.
- PWWB’s go-to curry paste ⇢ We solely use Maesri curry paste in our kitchen. It’s rich in flavor, only mildly spicy & allergen-friendly since it doesn’t contain shrimp paste or fish sauce like most brands. Plus it’s made with only real-food ingredients like chili pepper, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal, coriander, cumin, & cardamom. You can find it at most Asian grocery stores or purchase it online.
A few other curry FAQs:
- Is it better to use curry paste or powder? Curry paste is full of concentrated flavor & commonly used in Thai cuisine while curry powder is a blend of dried, ground spices. What you choose is dependent on what you’re making! Curry paste is ideal for Thai-style curries & dry curry powder is used more in Indian-style dishes. It’s hard to substitute one for the other because they have very different flavor profiles & heat.
- What is the difference between Indian and Thai red curry? Indian curry may seem similar to Thai curry when it’s served, but the cooking technique is very different. Indian red curry is a low & slow process of cooking down tomatoes & onions with dried spices until everything transforms into a curry. Thai red curry is made with a curry paste & often thickened with coconut milk. These red curry meatballs are inspired by Thai curry!
How to Make One-Skillet Red Curry Meatballs
The beauty of making curry turkey meatballs all in one skillet is every single flavor layers as you cook the dish. You very intentionally sear the ginger turkey meatballs, cook down some veggies, & simmer red curry sauce all in one pan so you don’t lose any flavor as you go.
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Make the ginger turkey meatball mixture. Combine all the curry meatball ingredients – ground turkey, green onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, cilantro, & ginger – & use your hands to mix just until combined. Why? ⇢ Overworking results in tough, dry meatballs – the opposite of what we’re after!
Form & brown the meatballs. Roll the mixture to form 12 curry turkey meatballs, taking care not to compact the meat. I love to use a spring-loaded scoop to make it easy! Cook in the skillet until each side is nicely browned. Why? ⇢ Browning the ginger turkey meatballs first gives them extra flavor before they simmer in the red curry sauce. It also leaves flavorful bits (called fond) at the bottom of the pan, which helps build an even more flavorful red curry sauce.
Cook the aromatics & build the red curry sauce. Remove the meatballs & add the onion & bell peppers to the skillet. Let them soften, then brown in the red curry paste & add the coconut milk. Tip! ⇢ Be sure to scrape up the browned bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan as the sauce builds!
Simmer. Cook the browned turkey ginger meatballs with the curry sauce for about 10 minutes. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice. Why? ⇢ Lime balances the rich flavor of the coconut & curry with a little freshness. Don’t skip it!
What to Serve with Red Curry Turkey Meatballs
A simmering skillet of curry turkey meatballs is one of my favorite sights & smells on a chilly weeknight. Once you dig in, it will warm up from the inside out!
Red curry turkey meatballs are perfect over a pile of fluffy brown or white rice because the grains absorb all the richness in the curry. You definitely need something to soak all the flavor up! You can also serve curry turkey meatballs with other grains like quinoa or even cauliflower rice.
If you’re looking for a side with your red curry meatballs, try adding more veggies. The skillet is already loaded with peppers & onions but some extra veg always ups the feel-good factor! Sautéed broccoli, bok choy, or cabbage all pair perfectly with this red curry meatball recipe.
We can’t wait for you to try these Red Curry Meatballs! They’re an easy way to warm up any weeknight with tons of flavor. Such a favorite here at the PWWB House, & we think you’ll be surprised by how simple it is to make curry at home!
If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE hearing about your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Flavor-Packed Meatball Recipes
While serving Thai-style curry with meatballs might not be exactly traditional (in my experience), something about it makes so much sense for home cooks – you can pack each bite with so much more flavor than your standard sliced shrimp or chicken!
That’s exactly what you’ll find in this recipe. The meatballs are studded with a generous amount of fresh aromatics like ginger, garlic, cilantro, & scallions. Once the meatballs are browned in a skillet, they gently simmer in a Thai-inspired coconut red curry sauce so they stay really tender.
In my experience, the secret to making a restaurant-worthy red curry sauce is all about choosing the right red curry paste. My preferred brand is Maesri (learn more about it in the Ingredient Spotlight, above, or the Recipe Notes, below), but TL;DR, it’s well worth a quick trip to your local Asian grocery store to find a curry paste that is extra fragrant, layered, & complex.
These red curry meatballs have been a PWWB reader favorite ever since we first shared the recipe in 2018 – it’s super quick & easy (a one-skillet dinner, ready in 35 minutes or less!), but it has incredible depth of flavor (enough to rival your favorite takeout!). I hope you love it as much as we do! ♡
for the meatball red curry:
- ginger turkey meatballs, below
- 2–3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
- 1 red onion, sliced ½-inch thick
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced ½-inch thick
- 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, sliced ½-inch thick
- 3–4 tablespoons red curry paste (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk or cream (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 lime, juiced
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: white rice or grain of choice, thinly sliced green onions, finely chopped cilantro, lime wedges, etc.
for the ginger turkey meatballs:
- 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey (see Recipe Notes)
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Form the ginger turkey meatballs: Add the turkey, panko breadcrumbs, cilantro, ginger, green onions and garlic to a medium bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Use your hands to mix just until combined – take care to avoid over-mixing. Divide the curry meatball mixture into 12-15 equal portions, then gently roll each into a meatball slightly larger than the size of a golf ball, rolling just until smooth – take care to avoid pressing the meatballs together too compactly. For quickness & ease, I like using a spring-loaded scoop. The mixture yields 12-15 1 ½-inch meatballs.
- Brown the meatballs: Add 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the meatballs to the skillet. Working in batches as needed to avoid overcrowding the skillet, cook the meatballs 2 minutes per side, until deeply browned. Transfer to a plate & repeat with any remaining meatballs.
- Cook the aromatics: Once the meatballs have browned, soften the onions & peppers. If needed, add in an extra splash of coconut oil to the skillet. Add the onion & bell peppers, seasoning with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the peppers & onions begin to soften slightly, 4-5 minutes. Add the curry paste to the skillet, stirring to combine. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the curry paste is deeply browned & fragrant.
- Simmer the curry: Add the coconut milk to the skillet. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the skillet – that’s where the flavor is! – & stir to combine. Add the meatballs back into the skillet. Simmer 8-10 minutes, turning the meatballs a few times to coat in the sauce, until the curry sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through. Finish with a fresh squeeze of lime juice, and stir to combine.
- Serve immediately, spooning the meatball curry over rice or your grain of choice. Finish with thinly sliced green onions & finely chopped cilantro as desired. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Ground turkey or chicken: Ground turkey or chicken: The secret to seriously juicy & tender red curry meatballs is using the right poultry. Whether you decide to use ground chicken or turkey, it needs a decent fat content, otherwise the meatballs will dry out. Look for at least 93% lean, though if you can find 90-92%, that’s even better! If you’re purchasing from your grocery store’s butcher counter, ask for ground turkey/chicken thigh or dark meat.
- Curry paste & coconut milk: Not all curry pastes are created equally!!! In my opinion, generally speaking, the curry paste sold at most conventional grocers is not great – it completely misses the layered, complex flavor of really good curry. I’m obsessed with Maesri curry paste – it’s flavorful, mildly spicy, & made with real-food ingredients. (It’s also allergen-friendly since it doesn’t contain shrimp paste or fish sauce!). You can find it at most Asian grocery stores or order it online.
- Storage & Reheating: Transfer cooled ginger turkey meatballs & red curry sauce to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through, adding a splash of water or chicken stock as needed to help them steam up & loosen any sauce that may be on the meatballs.
- 15-20 Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this recipe comes from prepping & forming the red curry meatballs. Take care of some of this in advance & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
- Mix & form the turkey meatballs according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. You can roll out the meatballs immediately or save the rolling for dinnertime; either way, the mixture will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (15 minutes active)
- Chop the veggies. Thinly slice 2 large bell peppers & 1 medium onion. Store in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (5 minutes active prep)
Keywords: skillet red curry, easy red curry recipe, ginger turkey meatballs, ginger chicken meatballs
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.