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An Asian twist on an Italian favorite! This barbecue-like sauce is full of the punch of vinegar, sweetness from honey, and umami from the oyster and soy sauce. Try this Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with a side of Sesame Kale and whole wheat couscous for a savory lunch or dinner. 

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous

Last year I got on a magazine-subscribing craze and subscribed to probably four or five different food magazines, for inspiration. These included Eating Well, Food & Wine, and Cooking Light. I always dog ear a bunch of pages in each magazine when they come in, but almost never get around to making any of them. The recipe I’m sharing today is adapted from Cooking Light! 

Their version was served with a creamy polenta and sauteed spinach. We had a giant box of whole wheat couscous sitting in our pantry so I decided to sub that in for the polenta, which would be much easier to make (couscous cooks in less than 5 minutes). I also added honey to the meatball sauce, because I felt it needed a little sweetness to balance out the salty/umami flavors from the ketchup and oyster sauce.

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous

I also subbed in kale for the spinach, because I was planning on making a huge batch of spinach pasta for our lunches for the week and didn’t want to overdo the spinach. Kale can be tricky– I’ve found the best way to get rid of the bitterness is to *massage* the kale with oil (I wonder if it prefers a Swedish or deep tissue?) and let it sit for a while to soften up. 

The sauce is a mixture of ketchup, sriracha for heat, oyster sauce for umami, Worcestershire, soy and honey. It’s tangy, savory, and sweet all at the same time. The meatballs are tossed in the sauce, and served on top of the sesame kale and couscous. I’ve discovered that my fiance’s favorite grain is couscous– and when it’s whole wheat you can’t even tell the difference! Just one serving has 7g of fiber and 8g of protein. 

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous

We had this for dinner last Sunday night and I ate the leftovers for lunch this week! The ingredient and steps look long, but really once you get everything prepped and going it comes together quickly. 

Here’s the recipe for Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous:

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous

Servings 4
Author Emily Weeks, RDN, LD


For the kale:

  • 10 oz kale
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • splash of low sodium soy sauce

For the couscous:

  • 1.5 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1.5 cup whole wheat couscous

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1.5 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1.5 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1.5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • sesame seeds for garnish


  1. Massage kale with the sesame oil for about 3-4 minutes. Let rest while you prep the other ingredients.

  2. Bring water and butter to a boil, add couscous. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. fluff with a fork and set aside.

  3. Combine turkey and sesame oil in a bowl and form meatballs, using a tablespoon portion. Makes about 18 balls. Set aside.

  4. Whisk the sauce ingredients together.

  5. In a large pan, heat to medium, add the butter and kale. Cook until wilted, then sautee for 3-4 more minutes on low heat and add a splash of soy sauce. Remove from pan and set aside.

  6. Heat the pan again over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add meatballs, cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add the sauce and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until done.

  7. Serve meatballs over couscous with a pile of sesame kale.

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs with Sesame Kale and Couscous


  1. Aah this looks sooo good! I’ve never had whole wheat couscous. Is the texture much different?

    1. Regular couscous is made from semolina wheat (aka white pasta flour), while whole-wheat couscous derives from the whole grains of durum flour which has a much higher protein and fiber count.

      You really can’t taste the difference, except for a slighhhtly nuttier note.

  2. i made an indian style meatballs today….your version with turkey (and that sauce) sounds so good. im always tempted to buy magazines esp when im traveling but i dont know what to do with it when im done reading. sometimes i find it to be a waste although it gives me joy while reading it.

    1. Haha we should have a meatball party :) I always feel the same way after reading magazines…. I wish there was some place to donate them. I hate just recycling them or throwing them away.

  3. This is my ideal dinner! I love the combo of meatballs with kale. Beautiful photos, too! :)

    1. Thanks Jamie! :)

  4. It looks so simple and absolutely delicious!

    1. Its pretty tasty, thanks for visiting!

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