Bento Balls (Aka French Hamburgers)

Total Time
1hr 10mins
Prep 20 mins
Cook 50 mins

My kids and I spend Wednesdays out in the woods either hiking, biking, or letterboxing. We have to take a huge lunch with us and usually it's a Japanese-style bento with onigiri, some protein item, and lots of vegies and pickles. More often than not, my kids will pick this for the's basically a french hamburger recipe that has been adapted for our bento lunches. Cooking time will vary with how large your patties are. The sauce is a true basting sauce and these will not be in a soupy sort of base. The point of bentos is to make the food as fuss-free to eat as possible. The meat mixture is soft and a bit tricky to work with, but the result is a moist patty that doesn't need condiments and isn't a rubbery hard superball.

Ingredients Nutrition


  • 1 cup fine dry breadcrumb
  • 1 cup havarti with dill (grated)
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 3 tablespoons dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or salt-spice mix of your choice, we prefer a Creole seasoning)
  • 12 cup cottage cheese (or 1/4 cup dairy of some sort)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 12 lbs ground turkey

  • 12 cup butter (melted)
  • 12 cup ketchup
  • 1 -2 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment or foil.
  2. Lightly coat the parchment or foil with cooking spray.
  3. Mix the bread crumbs, havarti, horseradish, dried onion, salt (or spice-salt mix), cottage cheese, and egg together in a large bowl. (Please note that the horseradish should be prepared, i.e., the creamy kind that is mixed with mayonnaise. We use the Beaver brand.).
  4. Allow to stand for 5 minutes to soften the bread crumbs.
  5. Mix in the ground turkey.
  6. The meat mixture will be very soft.
  7. Form the meat into balls that will fit into your bento box(or on your plate).
  8. Flatten slightly so that the meat is formed into shapes resembling patties.
  9. Place in the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, make the basting sauce by combining the melted butter, ketchup, and soy sauce.
  11. Carefully turn the patties over and put them back in the oven until 20 minutes before the meat is cooked through.
  12. **********.
  13. The time to finish cooking will depend on how large you made your patties.
  14. I use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.
  15. **********.
  16. Approximately 20 minutes before the meat cooks through, baste one side of the meat with the sauce, returning to the oven for 10 minutes.
  17. Turn and baste the other side and return to the oven for the remaining 10 minutes.
  18. Let cool, add to your bento box, and have a great day hiking.


Most Helpful

The 3 tablespoons of horseradish in this dish was overpowering. It tasted like strong seafood coctail sauce. I am willing to make this recipe again with maybe a quarter amount of the prepared horseradish.

wheelinthesky January 22, 2006

Made for the Aus/NZ recipe swap March 2008. The photo is the second time I've made these. The first time was so good that we ate them all! We had friends over for a BBQ. Before they arrived I made the little patties and baked them in the oven until just cooked then poured over the basting sauce. Then when we were ready to eat, we put them on the BBQ and got nice grill lines on them. This time I made them in the oven as directed. The only change I made was to use chicken instead of turkey since we can't get turkey mince here. Also my Havarti didn't have dill in it but there is plenty of dill in the field next to my house. I cook with dill a lot! The combination of dill and horseradish is very interesting. Interesting in a good way. On a non-cooking note, I would like to add that it is fascinating what you learn on 'Zaar. I had never heard of letterboxing before. I imagined going round stuffing junk mail in people's mailboxes. A quick google and I find out that it's more like a treasure hunt crossed with orienteering. As I said, fascinating!

RonaNZ March 13, 2008

Oh, yum! I just took these out of the oven, and they are wonderful! Soft as pillows, with a very assertive horseradish flavor and hints of dill and cheese. They are tender and moist, I can't wait to try them in my bentos this week! I used 93% lean ground turkey, straight horseradish (not the kind with mayo), ricotta instead of cottage cheese, and bulldog sauce for glazing. After 20 minutes they were very nearly done, so I glazed both sides and put back in the oven for 10 more minutes. Now they are perfect and ready to enjoy! Thanks for a great new bento item!

IngridH October 22, 2011

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