Cape Malay Chicken Meatball Curry

It’s not often that I strongly suggest, and by that I mean, implore, that you make a recipe. But. These Cape Malay chicken meatballs are not to be missed.  I made them for Sunday lunch. By Monday, I was ready to make them again. In the 6 years of blogging, meatballs, chicken and cake, have been amongst the most popular recipes on the blog. This is the first chicken meatball recipe. I think it is going to rival Ottolenghi’s Ricotta meatballs, for sure.

Cape Malay Chicken Meatball Curry

Inspired by the flavours of a traditional Cape Malay curry, here is my playful take on one of South Africa’s most loved curries. Leaning on creative latitude and being a avid supporter of, eat more veg, I’ve added grated zucchini to the meatball mixture. It lightens the texture somewhat and pairs well with the chicken. When thinking about what to serve alongside, chutney was the obvious choice. My eye fell to the Pink Lady apples on the counter. After a quick fridge forage, I found more fresh potential for a throw-together apple chutney, come salsa. The flavour is delightfully clean and fresh with a zingy-ness that does wonders to counter the rich tomato sauce. We all agreed it was the making of the dish.

Cook’s Notes :

  1. Chicken mince is leaner than beef with no fat marbling so keep a watchful eye when browning, not to overcook.
  2. The texture of the meatball mixture is soft, almost sticky. Use wet hands to roll the balls.
  3. Freeze the uncooked meatball mixture on an open tray for 30 minutes to firm up.
  4. When cooking the meatballs, use a non-stick pan. Only turn once a golden crust has formed.
  5. Wring the zucchini well to remove as much liquid possible before adding to the meatball mixture.
  6. Do make the salsa.

Cape Malay Chicken Meatball Curry


Cape Malay Chicken Meatball Curry


Cape Malay Chicken Meatball Curry

Serves 4

For the meatballs

500g chicken mince
3 medium-sized zucchini, grated and excess water wrung out
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
5ml (1 teaspoon) ground coriander
5ml (1 teaspoon) ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon fine salt


coconut oil, for cooking
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
2 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
5ml (1 teaspoon) turmeric
5ml (1 teaspoon) brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
5ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
30ml (2 tablespoons) tomato paste
400g tin chopped tomatoes
125ml (1/2 cup) chicken stock
250ml (1 cup) coconut milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Crunchy apple salsa

1 Pink Lady Apple, skin-on, diced
half a cucumber, deseeded, cut into fine dice
a handful of flat leaf parsley and mint, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, sliced
40ml extra virgin olive oil
30ml (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
a scattering of micro herbs, if you like

For the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Roll into evenly sized balls. The mixture makes about 22-24.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide-based pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté the onion until softened, 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or so. Add the spices, mix through and toast for just a minute to intensify the flavours. At this point the onions will look dry and crumbly.

Add all the remaining ingredients, stir through and bring up to the boil. Return the meatballs to the pan, cover and simmer for around 25 minutes until the sauce is thickened and reduced.

For the salsa, combine the apple, cucumber, onions and herbs in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, then season lightly with salt and black pepper. Toss to combine.


For more on the best meatballs, here are some of the most popular recipes on the blog:

Creamy Swedish meatballs with mushrooms

Spanish meatballs

Ottolenghi’s Ricotta and oregano meatballs

North African Chermoula meatballs


6 Comments. Leave new

  • Penny Buchanan
    1 July 2020 1:15 pm

    Hi Biddy
    I just love getting these recipes and have not been disappointed with any of them. All absolutely delicious. Thanks for the inspiration and new ideas. Hope you and your family are all keeping well. Love your cookbook as well!

  • Dianne Bibby
    10 July 2020 10:54 am

    I’m so thrilled to hear you’re loving the recipes, Penny. You’ve made my day! I hope that between the blog and the cookbook there’ll be more than enough new ideas to bring to the table.
    There’s a new Ebook coming shortly. It’s crammed with delicious home food that we’ve been eating during lockdown.

  • Vilde Bruland
    25 July 2020 9:15 am

    Hi Dianne,
    I made these and they turned out really tasty despite a few issues I had along the way. I grew up vegetarian, and I still haven’t figured out how to cook meat properly. I totally failed at browning the meatballs. I was afraid of cooking them too long (there’s nothing sadder than dry chicken). So how do you do it? Temperature? medium? hot? and do you keep rolling them around to brown them all over, or do you leave them until they’re browned on one side and then turn them?

    I recently learned, from a friend who spent several years in South Africa, that what a zucchini is to you is not at all the same as it is to me. In my world a zucchini is synonymous with squash, in yours they’re way smaller. So I might have used way too much! How many grams would you say you use for this recipe? Also, do you grate it coarsley or finely?

    They were amazing, as all your recipes, but I need them to be perfect next time.

    Last question, any chance your book could be shipped to Norway? I’m about to move, and I’d really love to have it on my new kitchen shelf!

    Thanks and lots of love,

  • Dianne Bibby
    26 July 2020 4:33 pm

    Hello Vee. It’s so lovely to hear from Norway! To think these Cape Malay meatballs are living their best life abroad!
    So here’s how I manage to add flavour while still keeping them succulent and tender.
    Brown the meatballs in hot oil over a med-high heat, only turning them over once they’ve formed a lovely golden crust – they will also release from the pan more easily once browned properly. Keep browning then turning gently until there’s good colour all over.

    Too much zucchini can be an issue, especially if there’s excess liquid. Our zucchini are usually quite small. I’d say, about 3cm round by 12-15cm long would be the average size. I’d go with a fine grate here.

    Thank you for your kind words. I’m flattered to think my book could live in your kitchen! Overseas shipping is rather expensive and at this point, only available through Uppercase Bookstores. I’ll link them here. If all else fails, my new Ebook, Beautiful Home Food is available from my website shop. Hope that helps in the meantime. All the best with your move! Di x

  • Thank you so much for that very informative answer! I’m on to try the swedish meatballs now. Very excited!

    Love, Vee

  • Hope those Swedish meatballs were a hit! They’re complete comfort food.

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