Bola-Bola (Filipino Meatballs)

published Mar 10, 2024
Bola-Bola (Filipino Meatballs) Recipe

These tender and juicy meatballs will always hit the spot.


Makes23 meatballs

Prep20 minutes

Cook20 minutes

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overhead shot of meatballs piled on a plate with a small bowl of sweet chili sauce.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

I grew up eating many Filipino classics, from lumpia shanghai (crispy egg rolls) to lugaw (rice porridge). Those classics often mirrored what my mom liked to eat when she was a child in the Philippines or what she knew how to cook. Because of that, I was a latecomer to the splendor that is bola-bola (Filipino meatballs), which translates as ball-ball. I had them for the first time at my mom’s friend’s house in my late teens and I was immediately hooked. Each crispy, deep-fried sphere of well-seasoned ground pork encased a juicy center that was bursting with rich umami flavors.   

Bola-bola can be served a number of ways. You can pile them onto a platter and serve them with an assortment of dipping sauces (sweet chili sauce and spiced vinegar are my faves), tuck them into buns or pandesal (Filipino rolls), throw some onto a rice bowl for lunch, or keep it super casual and plate them up with frozen french fries. Whatever you do, these meatballs will always hit the spot. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • Frying the meatballs gives them a crisp exterior and a beautiful golden-brown color while keeping the insides juicy and flavorful. Baking could never!
  • Bola-bola are wonderfully versatile — they can be eaten as an appetizer paired with a dipping sauce, transformed into a filling meal with steamed rice and a roasted veg, or dunked into a bowl of warm broth for a comforting soup. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

Key Ingredients in Bola-Bola

  • Ground pork: This is the key to tender and flavorful meatballs.
  • Vegetables: I call for carrot, onion, and some garlic, which add color, flavor, and texture. If you have some red bell pepper or ginger around, you can most definitely add those in as long as the total amount of grated veg doesn’t exceed 1 cup.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: Helps bind the meatballs and keeps them moist. In a pinch, you can substitute regular breadcrumbs if that’s what’s in your pantry.
  • Seasonings: Soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce (or what I call “the trifecta”) season the meatballs with loads of umami flavor. I often mix together equal parts to toss with noodles, stir-fries, and fried rice. 

Bola-Bola (Filipino Meatballs) Recipe

These tender and juicy meatballs will always hit the spot.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 23 meatballs

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 1

    medium carrot

  • 3 cloves


  • 1 pound

    ground pork

  • 1/2 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 tablespoon

    soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    fish sauce

  • 2 teaspoons

    oyster sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups

    neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable, for frying

  • Sweet chili sauce, for serving

  • Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)


  1. Grate 1 small yellow onion (1/4 cup) on the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Peel and grate 1 medium carrot (3/4 cup) and 3 garlic cloves on the small holes of the box grater into the bowl. Add 1 pound ground pork, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix together with your hands until evenly combined.

  2. Scoop out the mixture in 2-tablespoon portions (about 22 meatballs) and roll between damp hands until a smooth ball forms. Place on a large plate.

  3. Heat 2 cups neutral oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until 350ºF, about 8 minutes. Line a baking sheet with a wire rack and/or paper towels. Fry 10 to 12 meatballs at a time: Using tongs, add to the hot oil and fry, flipping halfway through, until cooked through and golden-brown all over, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to the rack or paper towels. Serve with sweet chili sauce alongside for dipping and cooked white rice if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be fried up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat in a 350°F oven or air fryer until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.