This meatballs and rice recipe is inspired by the Filipino dish Bola Bola. Bola Bola is typically deep fried, but this version is baked, making it a bit healthier and easier to clean up.
Serve with rice and my Asian Dipping Sauce for a quick weeknight dinner or alone as a party or game day appetizer!
When I'm in the mood for a fun food, I usually turn to meatballs and rice! This take on the Filipino Bola Bola is great for plenty of reasons.
- Quick and easy to make - about 20 minutes of prep and 20 minutes to bake.
- Versatile - you can serve these beef and pork meatballs as an appetizer or as a main dish.
- Goes great with just about anything - rice, pasta, veggies, or salads.
Because of my Asian heritage, I'm always recreating delicious, comforting meals, like this meatballs and rice recipe, that remind me of the flavors I grew up eating. Another great dinner recipe idea is my Ramen Noodles with Beef - a yummy mix of noodles, ground beef, cabbage, and mushrooms.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Bola bola meatball ingredients are easy to find. I shopped for this recipe at Walmart.
Ground beef - I like to use 85% lean for this recipe for the best texture. You can go leaner if you are used to it, but fattier cuts usually make better meatballs. You can also make this entirely with ground beef or ground turkey.
Ground pork - this adds flavor and fat. Bola bola can also be made with just ground pork. Or, you can skip the pork and use all beef, if preferred.
Egg - used as a binder. I used a large sized egg.
Onion and garlic - be sure to use fresh garlic for this recipe, not jarred or bottled. The flavor will not be the same unless you use fresh garlic. You can also try fresh green onions in place of yellow, just be sure it's chopped finely.
Breadcrumbs - I used panko breadcrumbs because it's light, not dense. You can use dry or fresh breadcrumbs if that's what you have on hand.
Soy sauce - I always use a low sodium version. Try tamari, coconut or liquid aminos, or even fish sauce as a substitute.
Toasted sesame oil - the nutty taste of sesame oil is hard to match. You can substitute with any other oil if that's all you have on hand, but it will not taste the same.
See recipe card for quantities.
Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 C.
Step 1 - Add all meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until combined.
Step 2 - Form about 20 to 22 meatballs that are 1.5 inches big. I use my hands, but you can use a spoon or small scooper. I love this scooper set because you get three sizes that you can use for a variety of recipes.
Step 3 - Place on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper. If using foil, spray with non-stick spray. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-22 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 F or 71 C.
Step 4 - If desired, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Brown meatballs in batches until browned and crisp.
Serve bola bola with rice, sliced green onions, sesame seeds, and a drizzle of Creamy Asian sauce.
Here are a few suggestions on how to change up this meatballs and rice recipe.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper to the meat mixture before cooking. Adjust to taste-- just a ¼ teaspoon will add some heat! You could also drizzle with sriracha or another hot pepper sauce before serving.
- Gluten free - omit or use gluten free breadcrumbs and soy sauce. Always check ingredient labels if you have a dietary restriction.
- Keto or low carb - omit breadcrumbs or use keto approved bread and make your own breadcrumbs. Serve with roasted broccoli or cauliflower rice.
- Sweet and sour meatballs and rice - after baking, simmer in your favorite store bought or homemade sweet and sour sauce.
- Meatballs and rice with gravy - after baking, simmer in your favorite gravy. Here's a delicious one to try!
- Asian bowl - fill serving bowl with rice. Place meatballs in one section, this carrot cumber salad in another section, and some sliced avocado in another section. Top with sesame seeds and drizzle with Yum Yum Sauce.
Rice dishes to serve with bola bola
This is the Instant Pot I use to make these delicious rice recipes.
Storage and reheating
Store leftover meatballs covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave or a 350 F (177 C) oven until heated through.
For longer storage, freeze cooled meatballs in a freezer safe storage bag or container for up to three months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator for best results.
Thaw using a microwave on the defrost function. Heat to safe internal temperature and use immediately.
Once thawed, use immediately. Don't refreeze.
Cooking meat perfectly is hard! Oven temperatures can vary greatly and can result in dishes being dry and overcooked, or undercooked and unsafe to eat. For best results, always use a meat thermometer. I love this one and use it all the time!
Using fattier meats help to keep the meatballs moist. Also, don't over handle the meat, just mix and form them gently.
Be sure to use the egg and breadcrumbs. They act as binders to keep the meat together.
After forming the meatballs, you can refrigerate them for up to an hour before cooking. This step isn't necessary when baking, but can help meatballs keep their shape when frying.
Porcupine meatballs are made with ground beef and uncooked rice simmered in a tomato sauce. They were common during the American Great Depression of the 1930's.
More easy dinner ideas
Meatballs and Rice
- ½ pound ground beef-85%
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 cup onion finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely minced
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Rice for serving
- Green onions, sliced
- Sesame seeds
- Creamy Asian Sauce
- Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 C.
- Add all meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until combined.
- Form about 20 meatballs that are about 1 ½ inches big (I use my hands, but you can use a spoon or small scooper). Place on a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment paper. If using foil, spray with non-stick spray. Bake in the center of the oven for 20-22 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 150 F or 65 C.
- If desired, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Brown meatballs in batches until browned and crisp.
- Serve with rice, sliced green onions, sesame seeds, and a drizzle of Creamy Asian sauce.
Tips to keep your food and you safe!
- Wash your hands before preparing food
- Cook ground meats to a minimum temperature of 160 °F (71 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Store leftovers promptly