Waikiki Meatballs Recipe: A Tasty Ground Beef Recipe From the 1970s by Donna John

Beef Budget-friendly Dinner
7 months ago

Waikiki Meatballs Recipe: A Tasty Ground Beef Recipe From the 1970s

Growing up, when my mom took my brother and I to the grocery store with her, my brother was begging for the candy bars while I wanted the gourmet cheeses from the deli. Cooking and food was an interest of mine from a very young age. When I was 9 years old, I cooked my family dinner for the first time all by myself. I chose a recipe out of my mom's Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library called waikiki meatballs. They were Hawaiian-style sweet-and-sour ground beef meatballs with pineapple and bell pepper. That recipe is one I remember fondly, and after many, many years, I made it again with a few tweaks.

This easy meatball recipe will not be put away again in a yellow box in my kitchen. This 30-minute recipe is now part of my dinner recipe rotation. The meatballs are juicy and tender, and the quick sweet and sour sauce has just the right balance of flavors.

To make these meatballs you will need ground beef, cracker crumbs, onion, an egg, fresh ginger, milk, olive oil, cornstarch, brown sugar, pineapple chunks (save the juice!), white vinegar, soy sauce and a bell pepper (red or green). I took some liberties with the original recipe to take it out of the 1970s (see Recipe Notes for original recipe amounts and ingredients).

I served these flavorful meatballs and their sauce over brown rice, but they would also be delicious over Asian noodles or even in lettuce wraps. Add a fresh vegetable (I sautéed some sugar snap peas) and you have a quick dinner everyone will devour. Maybe one day it'll bring up good memories for you, like it does for me.

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Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6


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Recipe Notes

  • The original recipe called for 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. I seasoned with salt and black pepper to taste.
  • Shortening was the cooking oil of choice in 1971, but I went with healthier olive oil.
  • A 13.5-ounce can of pineapple tidbits in heavy syrup was in the original recipe. That size can is not available anymore, so I used a 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks in it's own juice. I don't think heavy syrup is needed with the brown sugar in the recipe. I didn't use all of the can, just added pineapple until it looked like enough for us. But you could use the whole can.
  • I used low-sodium soy sauce instead of regular soy sauce.
  • The original recipe called for green bell pepper. I prefer sweet red bell pepper, so used that. You could use green or even do a combination of both.
  • In the original recipe, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger was called for, which I'm assuming meant ground ginger. I used one frozen Dorot ginger cube, which equals 1 teaspoon fresh ginger. Next time I will add two. You can also grate your own fresh ginger root.
  • I used evaporated milk, but you could use regular milk or even nut milk.
  • The bell pepper is added right at the end in the original recipe and gets very little cooking time. I wanted mind crisp-tender, so added it right before the sauce.
  • For more color, garnish with fresh chopped green onions.
  • Add some crushed red pepper for a little spice.

Here's how to make it: 

  1. Combine the ground beef, cracker crumbs, onion, egg, ginger and milk in a mixing bowl. Season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Form into meatballs.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and cook until browned on one side.
  4. Flip them over and brown on the second side. Remove the meatballs to a plate.
  5. In a small bowl of glass measuring cup, whisk together the cornstarch and brown sugar. Stir in the reserved pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce.
  6. Add the chopped red pepper to the skillet and cook 1 minute. Pour in the pineapple juice mixture and bring to a gentle simmer.
  7. Simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and black pepper, if desired.
  8. Add the meatballs and desired amount of pineapple chunks.
  9. Continue to cook, stirring to coat the meatballs and pineapple, about 2 to 3 more minutes.
  10. Serve over rice.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving

Calories: 371

Total Fat: 12.1g

Saturated Fat: 3.6g

Cholesterol: 129mg

Sodium: 303mg

Total Carbohydrate: 27g

Dietary Fiber: 0.6g

Total Sugars: 18.3g

Protein: 36.6g

Vitamin D: 3mcg

Calcium: 40mg

Iron: 22mg

Potassium: 585mg

Recipe cooking times, nutritional information and servings are approximate and provided for your convenience. However, 30Seconds is not responsible for the outcome of any recipe, nor may you have the same results because of variations in ingredients, temperatures, altitude, errors, omissions or cooking/baking abilities. This recipe has been analyzed by VeryWellFit. However, any nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and it is up to the individual to ascertain accuracy. To ensure image quality, we may occasionally use stock photography.

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Elisa Schmitz
What a great story, Donna John ! I can just picture you in the kitchen back in the day, cooking for your family as a child. So sweet! And this recipe is definitely a keeper. So fun, thanks for sharing!

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