smashed chicken meatball sliders

There was a moment a dozen or so years ago when sliders were all the rage on restaurant menus. Precious little burgers (the traditional slider) and more clever ones like meatballs and fritters would teeter with tweezer-applied toppings on tiny buns and unless you unhinge your mandible to engulf (slide?) your wobbly prey whole, it was a bit of a mess too. So why am I channeling the year 2009? Sliders have been having a renaissance in my kitchen this spring because I finally realized their size is perfect for smaller eaters and makes for far more appetizing leftovers than, say, a cold burger with several bites removed, sogged into a day-old bun.

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A couple months ago, I made Jessica Merchant’s (delicious) sticky bbq chicken meatballs and had an immediate urge to return to the flavors, smashburger/slider-style, for a weeknight meal for a sunny spring day. First we make a chicken meatball mixture seasoned with scallions, garlic, and smoked paprika. While it briefly chills, we make a quick buttermilk slaw, slice some pickles, and then, if you’re me (read: persnickety) and don’t love most bottled bbq sauce, you’re going to make a quickie version in the same skillet where you’re going to turn the meatballs into little sizzly smashburgers. Together on a butter-toasted bun, this was one of our favorite family dinners this month and a rare hit with everyone. I should just stop cooking while I’m ahead, right?

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Smitten Kitchen Keepers is six months old today! I just noticed the date and simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that a book that included a tour with 32 events in 22 metropolitan areas, a book that so many of you are still tagging me in photos of dishes you’re cooking from it daily, has only been around for 6 months. I’m thrilled that this warmer weather means you might be able to cook some of my summery favorites in the book: zucchini cornbread and tomato butter, snow peas with pecorino and walnuts, cucumber salad with garlicky dill yogurt, clam chowder with bacon croutons, zucchini and pesto lasagna, and crispy chili garlic butter shrimp (our dinner tonight!), raspberry crostata, strawberry summer stack cake (my birthday cake next month), blondie chipwiches (in my freezer right now). I hope you love them as much as we do.



6 months ago: Green Angel Hair with Garlic Butter
1 year ago: Simplest Mushroom Pasta
2 years ago: Classic Shortbread
3 years ago: How I Stock The Smitten Kitchen
4 years ago: Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth
5 years ago: Fig Newtons and Cripsy Tofu Pad Thai
6 years ago: Granola Bark
7 years ago: Caramelized Brown Sugar Oranges with Yogurt and Potato Pizza, Even Better
8 years ago: Why You Should Always Toast Your Nuts (Please!) and Obsessively Good Avocado-Cucumber Salad
9 years ago: Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons and Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
10 years ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast and Bee Sting Cake
11 years ago: Over-the-Top Mushroom Quiche and Banana Bread Crepe Cake with Butterscotch
12 years ago: Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart
13 years ago: Baked Kale Chips and Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting
14 years ago: Artichoke-Olive Crostini and Chocolate Caramel Crackers
15 years ago: Spring Panzanella and Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake
16 years ago: Arborio Rice Pudding and Gnocchi with a Grater


smashed chicken meatball sliders-08

Smashed Chicken Meatball Sliders

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs, such as panko
  • 1 tablespoon milk or water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 scallions, minced, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • Slaw
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 to 3 cups thinly-sliced or diced cabbage, any variety
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Assembly
  • Butter to toast buns; oil to cook meatballs
  • Slider buns, such as potato or Hawaiian rolls
  • Barbecue sauce, bottled or from the quickie recipe, below
  • Thinly-sliced pickles

Prepare the meatballs: Combine chicken, crumbs, milk, garlic, half the scallions, the paprika, salt, pepper, and egg in a large bowl with a fork, mixing until just combined. Transfer bowl to fridge while you prepare the slaw.

Make the slaw: Whisk buttermilk, mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and remaining half of scallions from the meatballs in a large bowl and add cabbage, tossing to evenly coat it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

[Here is where, if you’re unhinged enough to make your own barbecue sauce, you can do so using the quickie recipe at the end. But there is truly no need to do this to make a great meatball slider, promise.]

Toast your buns: In a large frying pan, the same one where you’ll cook your meatballs, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Place your buns, cut-side down, in the pan. Cook until cut sides are golden-brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plate or platter where you’ll assemble your sliders.

Cook the smashed meatballs: Remove chicken meatball mixture from fridge and, using wet hands for a smoother shape, roll into the size and number of meatballs you’ll want — this is determined by the size of your buns. Be sure to roll the meatballs smaller than the bun so that they will fill it out once smashed.

Heat your large frying pan over high heat for a minute, then coat with about 2 tablespoons oil. Place your first few meatballs in the pan and let them sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute before using a heavy spatula to flatten them until they’re about 1/2-inch-thick. Season meatballs with an extra dusting of salt and pepper. Cook until they’re crisp and deeply browned underneath, about 3 to 4 minutes — reduce the heat to medium-high if they’re cooking much faster — and flip each, cooking on the second side until it is also browned underneath, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer meatballs to prepared buns and repeat with remaining meat.

To finish: Spoon barbecue sauce onto each meatball, top with a few sliced of pickle, and a small heap of slaw, and eat right away.

Quickie Barbecue Sauce: Combine 1/3 cup ketchup, 3 tablespoons each molasses and apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon chili powder or smoked paprika (or half of each) in a skillet and bring to a simmer, stirring, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into a bowl for serving; wipe out pan and continue to use it to toast the buns and cook the meatballs.

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90 comments on smashed chicken meatball sliders

  1. Bentley

    Drooling over the slaw here, these are a must soon! Totally team unhinged homemade BBQ lol Probably going to try with ground pork since it’s already in the freezer though…And yes totally have the raspberry crostata on my short list!

    1. Jenn

      I can’t wait to hear how it goes! And where do you get Daring Chicken? I’m also vegetarian and was thinking about trying Trader Joe’s vegetarian ground turkey…

      1. Juliana

        It worked so well! I needed a little more egg to bind, but that’s it. We get daring at whole foods, but their website lists loads of places now, depending on your region. Even GoPuff sells it near us.

    2. Jess

      I made these for my grandparents and they were a big hit. I’ve been vegan for 4 years, and I’m grateful to have this blog where I know EVERYTHING is great!

      My octogenarian guests thank you!

    3. Anne

      I make it using cooked red lentils instead of chicken for the sliders. Not as much structural integrity as chicken, but tastes awesome, and vegan since you don’t need the egg

  2. Erin Hibshman

    Ooh – I have everything except the buns in my fridge/freezer! I know exactly what will be for dinner at least one night this week. YAY for warmer weather!!

  3. Leslie

    Question-the recipe description says you seasoned the meatballs with scallions, but the recipe calls for green onions-which is it actually?

    1. Aurora

      We have an egg allergy in our house, and I’ve found that Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer works great in meatballs.

    2. deb

      Flax egg, perhaps? Hm, I just remembered I have a meatball I sometimes make with no egg or crumbs, just 1 tablespoon cornstarch. I usually use pork, which is fattier. But it might be worth tinkering with, maybe adding a spoonful of oil so it’s moist enough.

    3. Amanda

      You don’t really need the egg. They will be a little more falling apart, but not too bad. I make turkey burgers that way all the time.

  4. Scott

    I’m assuming, with the sweet BBQ sauce, that you go with a savory pickle. Or do you prefer a bread & butter? I like both, wondering which you went with.

  5. Theresa

    I am counting down the days till I get the ingredients and make this! Looks so tasty! I have to confess that I’ll probably use bottled BBQ sauce and bagged coleslaw mix LOL

  6. Patty Tomko

    My husband wanted regular, boring turkey burgers for dinner but then Deb’s email arrived to save the day….well, at least dinner. The chicken meatball/pattie was flavorful on its own but with the slaw and bbq sauce it became amazing. My mouth is watering as I write this comment. Thank you for coming to my rescue and making me look like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen!

    1. deb

      I think you could but it might be best to smash them first and of course don’t move them until they’re firm enough to hold together. You could also put a cast-iron skillet right on the grill, and cook them in it.

  7. Angela

    This recipe saved dinner last night! LOL Made it with what we had in the house: ground turkey, served on milk bread and bottled BBQ. Taste like summer!

  8. Camille

    Does no one remember the origin of the term “slider,” from Midwesterners who made jokes about the tiny burgers from White Castle, and what they might invoke upon one’s constitution?

  9. S Rose

    I need to speak in defense of “a cold burger with several bites removed, sogged into a day-old bun” because evidently nobody else has the courage. Depending on the toppings, they can be legit better than anything else in the fridge. I get the ick factor, though – a strong function of whose several bites they were, though.

    1. k

      S Rose, count me in as a lover of leftovers, no matter their appearance. I’d eat that cold burger in a heartbeat, especially for breakfast!

  10. Maddie

    Delicious! A great way to use up the last little bit of buttermilk always lurking in my fridge after another buttermilk recipe…
    I made with pre-sliced “coleslaw mix”, though I do wish I’d chopped it up a bit more to adapt to slider size…

  11. MadeleineC

    These were very good, and not complicated to make. Don’t let the three-part recipe scare you off! As I had it on hand, I used part of a bag of pre-shredded mixed vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and carrot), which saved some time and tasted fine.
    I wonder though: is the buttermilk really necessary in the slaw dressing? When a recipe calls for buttermilk and I don’t have any, I use the old substitution trick of mixing regular milk with a little vinegar, but the slaw dressing has vinegar in it already. I went ahead and put another teaspoon of vinegar in the liquid measuring cup and added whole milk to make up the 1/3 cup, but I’m not sure that additional teaspoon of vinegar made much difference.
    Thanks for another recipe that will be in our regular rotation, Deb!

    1. flitcraft

      Yogurt, thinned with a little milk to buttermilk consistency, subs fine for buttermilk in most recipes. In fact, if you have homemade yogurt, you can thin it with some of the whey!

  12. Rebecca

    These were amaze-balls! I didn’t have breadcrumbs so added some almond meal and mushrooms and picky kids and grown ups alike gobbled them up..double the recipe!

  13. Lex

    This post gave me a huge wave of nostalgia for your old meatball sliders recipe—it was one of the very first ones I checked out and planned to make off your site, back in 2009 when it was published. I was 12 at the time, just learning to cook on my own, and now at nearly 27, I’m known as the friend who cooks… and am still a regular reader of the site/maker of your recipes. Just wanted to take this chance and say thanks for sticking with us all these years and the many many gems of culinary advice shared over that time!

  14. Wendy

    Really yummy, quick, dinner! I doubled for a family of five (two hungry teenagers) and we had two leftover. Made the quick BBQ sauce with pomegranate molasses and it was perfect! Served the sliders with a fruit salad and everyone devoured them!

  15. barb

    these were fantastic, and so easy! we added slices of small tomatoes which was extremely cute. we aren’t BBQ sauce people so we skipped that element but they were so flavorful regardless. delicious!

  16. Sarah

    I love having sliders for dinner (your crispy oven pork is awesome). I’ll make a slaw/salad that will last in the fridge for a few days (broccoli slaw, often) and we’ll have sliders or sandwiches for a few days. We’re crazy busy recently and it’s a good way to avoid takeout and eat something relatively healthy.

  17. Claire

    I served these with oven fries from the site and chipwiches from the book for dessert, it was a hit! In the slaw I skipped buttermilk and added some fresh dill that I needed to use up. Came out fine!

  18. Amanda

    I made those tonight and they were so simple and SO delicious. Especially if you use a pre-shredded coleslaw mix. The first time I’ve ever finished a recipe ahead of the estimated time. 😊

  19. Donna Landers

    These smashed chicken meatball sliders were amazing! My husband and I are looking forward to the leftovers for lunch!
    Thanks Deb for another winner!

  20. Judy HM

    I looked through the site and no one asked this question yet. What about making them into four regular sized burgers?

    1. Molly Barry

      I just did this, since I only had regular burger buns. My kids ate 2 each. I doubled the recipe (was a bit nervous on quantity) and ended up with 10 burger sized ones. They were delicious!

  21. Christianne

    I’ve bookmarked the whole recipe, but just made the slaw today as a side to bbq chicken and cornbread. Delicious, and just what I actually want and never get in a creamy slaw. I will make it again, and again, and again!

  22. These were great! I grilled them on my BBQ instead of frying them and I put them in whole grain pitas instead of using slider buns. They were amazing. I was a little worried they’d stick on the grill but I grilled them on slightly lower heat than I use for beef burgers and they didn’t stick at all. I always use a nonstick cooking spray and did with these as well.

  23. Jess

    East and delicious; family asked to put on the list of recurring dinners. I used the other half of the cabbage to make the cabbage & cauliflower tahini salad, also on the site, on the side. Thanks Deb!!

  24. Rosie

    As always, these look amazing and I’m going to try them this week. Deb: I want to make extra so I can freeze some. Would you recommend freezing the patties raw or cooked?

  25. MJ

    Made this last night and everyone loved it! After slicing the cabbage and mixing it into the sauce, I used my kitchen shears to further mix/cut, making the slaw even more slider-perfect. This was super easy and will be a repeat in the future!

  26. Caroline

    Made these as a quick weeknight meal and loved them! I have never thought of putting buttermilk in slaw but I will have to repeat. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Carrie

    Do not sleep on these folks–they are so delicious–a wonderful combination of flavors and textures that did not disappoint It was a 10/10. The entire family loved it. I followed recipe almost exactly–had to make a buttermilk sub with milk and vinegar, and used bottled sweet/smoky bbq.

  28. Lindsay

    These are kick ass !! The meatball technique for a burger is genius – so much flavour & perfect consistency. Used pre-shredded coleslaw mix for the topping and was a great addition to the sweet-smoky burger despite the fact that I didn’t have buttermilk on hand for the dressing. Got 8 sliders out of the mixture which is plenty for my 2-person household. Will be making these again soon :)

  29. Maura

    Thank you Deb! These went over huge with my hungry college kiddos! Didn’t change a thing. I’ve always wanted to try making my own bbq sauce so this was fun!

  30. Amanda

    These were delicious and I’ll definitely make again! I missed the part about dividing the scallions, but the full amount was still tasty in the burger :) I leveraged some homemade bbq sauce from another recent meal. Now I just need to find some recipes for my leftover buttermilk.

  31. Patricia Dudziec

    How do you suggest you make one large burger? I’d love to place the large patty on a lengthwise sliced pack of Hawaiian kings rolls and then slice it all into little individual sliders.

    1. k

      I would try this: pack the meat mix into a square or rectangular pan(s) that will create a giant patty (at the thickness you prefer) that will fit in your largest skillet. Chill the patty, then carefully decant it into the hot skillet. Alternatively, you might have to use the oven: heat it to, say, 450-500F with a sheet pan inside. Remove the hot pan, dash it with oil, tip the patty into the hot pan, and roast it a few minutes (or until the surface touching the pan is well-colored). Carefully flip it and bake it until done.

    2. Kristen

      Patricia, I made the recipe just as written, using Kings Hawaiian Rolls. They were the perfect size for mini sliders. My store had 2 flavors, the (regular?) sweet roll, and a savory butter roll. I used the savory since both the BBQ sauce and the slaw were sweet-ish.
      I made each meatball/smashburger about 1 oz – 1.2 oz.
      I got about 16 little burgers per pound of chicken.
      Maybe you were trying to not have to make individual burgers, I don’t know…but to me making that one large burger seems precarious. Let us know if it worked for you!
      I doubled the recipe and took a platter of these little guys to a party – and they were a hit!!
      A definite Keeper!! Thanks Deb!!

  32. Piper

    These were excellent, and very easy. I used angel hair shredded cabbage and Stubb’s Sticky Sweet bbq sauce. The coleslaw was a big hit!

  33. Meera

    These were absolutely fabulous!!! Was totally blown away.

    We used the quick sauce for our burgers and store bought BBQ sauce for our kiddo because the quick sauce was a little on the spicy side. Absolutely phenomenal.

    Made pretty much as is except I forgot to add the second half of the scallions to the slaw…whoops.

  34. Jennifer

    Made these as directed except subbed ground turkey for the chicken. Really tasty and so easy!! I truly prefer chicken/turkey burgers over beef. Slaw was also great-simple and tasty!

  35. Katie

    This was a hit with the rest of the family! Even my sometimes vegetarian daughter ate them and commented, “Mom, these are good enough to stop being a vegetarian for.” Definitely making again!

  36. Lisa Kelso

    Totally delicious! I made the chicken burgers exactly as written and the cole slaw almost as written (substituted whole milk yogurt for the buttermilk since that’s what I had). We’re gluten free and gluten free panko worked perfectly in the burgers. I highly recommend this recipe and will be making this again very soon. One thing I don’t entirely get the point of cooking-wise but will be doing it again because why not since it’s fun – what do you gain by making the meat into a meatball first and then smashing it, that you wouldn’t get from just forming it into a burger in the first place?

  37. Caterina

    The burgers and the slaw were both amazing. I subbed turkey for the chicken. Served the burgers on brioche buns. Will be making these on repeat for sure!

  38. Becky

    Fantastic as written! I also tried a version using Deb’s poolside slaw and the meat mixture from her wonton soup recipe- turned out amazing

  39. Bianca

    I made this last night and I am obsessed! This is the first time I’ve ever made chicken patties and I like them more than the beef variety now. The chicken was surprisingly juicy and had great flavor. I always assumed that chicken patties would be dry but I was proven wrong

  40. Whitney Murray

    This recipe is absolutely delicious and savory. My 3 kids loved it! They even ate the cabbage slaw and commented, “this is the best burger we have ever had.” Good thing I doubled the recipe. The only thing I changed was to add a few extra breadcrumbs. (I used ground dark meat chicken) We will be saving this recipe for the future! I have probably made 30 to 40 of your recipes and I love every single one.

  41. Elizabeth

    Fantastic dish that we loved! Used Hawaiian dinner rolls (no slider buns at my local store), packaged slaw mix with Litehouse Coleslaw dressing and Kinders Mild BBQ sauce. Added dill pickles, then ate till we were stuffed. Making it again this week and I see this being in regular rotation around here. Thanks, Deb!

  42. Kate Nicholson

    Making these, again, tomorrow. Huge hit in our house–especially with the barbecue sauce. Took five minutes to make, and with the molasses, not overly sweet at all.

  43. Joni Bateman

    Made these for dinner tonight. I got 11 Kings Hawaiian roll size sliders. Used packaged slaw mix with the dressing recipe. Delicious!!

  44. sarah clark

    Wow! Genius recipes. Always looking for fresh takes on simple ingredients and your ideas fill the bill! Gotta get your cookbook out for friends back east!
    Thank you.

  45. Mom24

    I apologize in advance, I made them, but I changed them a lot. These were really good. I doubled the amount of chicken and made 10 patties instead of doing the smash meatballs so I could do them on the grill and not have a pan to clean. Twelve might have been better. I had leftover garlic bread that I whizzed up in my mini food processor. I added cheddar. I did not add milk or water or the green onion or garlic because of the garlic bread and because it was fresh. I did use the smoked paprika and salt and pepper and 2 eggs. When I formed the patties I sprinkled them with Kinder’s BBQ rub. I enjoyed them a lot.

  46. Mels

    We loved this! I had to make some changes due to a dairy allergy (used unsweetened almond milk and plant based butter), which worked beautifully. I ended up making 5 large patties that were 4ish ounces each since I had regular sized buns on hand. The meat was seasoned perfectly and all the components worked so well together. Thanks for a solid winner, Deb!

  47. Suzanna

    I’m sorry if this has been asked already, but I’m curious about the serving size. When you say 8 servings, does that mean that it will make 8 meatballs to smash or does it make more? Typically I think of sliders as being at least two per person. Thank you!

  48. Beatrice

    These look awesome and will make them this week. What do you suggest pairing them with? Potato salad? Caesar salad? Any and all suggestions appreciated.

  49. Kelly

    I have made it twice now.

    First time, used GF bread crumbs. Second time, I pulsed old fashioned oats in the food processor and used those.

    I can’t find slider sized GF buns, so I just take some GF bread and large biscuit ring and press out smaller size “buns” – toast them up in skillet and they work great. A huge hit.