These ground turkey meatballs are juicy and packed with flavor. They’re lighter and healthier than traditional beef and pork meatballs but seasoned generously with fresh herbs, parmesan, salt, pepper, a small amount of red chilli and a little olive oil to ensure they stay extra moist. With just 40 minutes of cooking and prep time, you can rustle some up on a weeknight. Or if weekend meal prepping is more your thing, I highly recommend making a large batch and freezing a few portions for later.
My goal was to make a turkey meatball that was just as flavourful and juicy as a beef or pork meatball. After a few attempts, and some dry substandard meatballs later, I nailed it.
'These are great, I don't think I'd know they're turkey' said my husband.
The post contains additional information and helpful tips to ensure the recipe turns out great the first time. Please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end if you are in a hurry!
- ✅ 5 reasons why you'll love this recipe:
- 🛒 Ingredients and variations:
- 🧑🍳 Ground Turkey Meatballs in 4 easy steps
- What’s the best way to cook turkey meatballs?
- Serving suggestions:
- 👍 Top tips
- 🙋 FAQs
- 📦 Storage and make-ahead tips
- 😋 Check out my other easy and freezer-friendly Italian recipes
- Ground Turkey Meatballs
✅ 5 reasons why you'll love this recipe:
- Juicy and packed with flavor
- Quick and easy to prepare
- Healthier than traditional meatballs
- Freezer friendly
🛒 Ingredients and variations:
- Ground turkey thighs have a higher fat content than breast and are better for achieving moist and juicy meatballs.
These ingredients help to hold the meatballs together:
- Breadcrumbs - you can make your own or use shop-bought breadcrumbs. Avoid panko breadcrumbs. Their larger size makes them less effective at binding and is likely to result in crumbly meatballs.
- Milk - both full-fat and semi-skimmed work well.
- 1 egg
How to make homemade breadcrumbs: Heat your oven to 150°C or 300°F. Blitz a few slices of white bread in a food processor until they are ground into fine crumbs. Place them in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until slightly golden.
Turkey meat doesn't have as much flavor as beef and pork, which is used in traditional Italian meatballs. I've seasoned my Turkey Meatballs generously to ensure they are super tasty.
- Fresh herbs - I recommend a mixture of parsley, oregano and basil, but two or even one of these is fine if you make sure the volume is the same. I strongly suggest using fresh herbs instead of dry herbs as these are much more effective at adding flavor.
- Parmesan - adds an additional salty flavor to the meatballs
- Chilli - for a little additional heat, feel free to add more if you like your meatballs spicy
- Onion - make sure it is chopped very finely
- Crushed Garlic
- Salt & pepper
🧑🍳 Ground Turkey Meatballs in 4 easy steps
1. Mix the breadcrumbs and milk
Combine the breadcrumbs and milk and set aside for 5 minutes.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients together
Add the remaining ingredients to the breadcrumb mixture and incorporate with your hands.
Roll the mixture into even ping-pong ball-sized balls.
How do I get even-sized meatballs?
Using an ice cream scoop to form the meatballs is the quickest and simplest way to ensure all your meatballs are the same size. You can also weigh them.
Set a frying pan to a medium/high heat and add a little olive oil. When the oil is hot add the meatballs to the pan and fry for 10-15 minutes, turning often until all sides are brown.
What’s the best way to cook turkey meatballs?
I have found frying gets me the juiciest meatballs. Just place a frying pan on a medium to high heat, add olive oil and fry for 10-15 minutes, turning regularly until the meatballs are lightly browned all over.
This is the healthier option. Meatballs can be baked at 390F or 200C for 20 minutes and broiled on a high heat for a couple of minutes to brown them.
This is the speediest method. Spray the air fryer basket with olive oil spray, set the air fryer to 400F or 200C and cook for 7-10 minutes turning halfway.
Note that the cooking times for meatballs will vary depending on the size of the meatballs.
- Spaghetti and marinara sauce: this is my favorite and the most traditional way to enjoy meatballs. One batch of my Easy Marinara Sauce recipe produces the perfect amount of sauce for these turkey meatballs. You can also serve them with ready-made sauce if you are in a hurry. Either way, make sure you grate plenty of fresh parmesan on top.
- Courgetti / zoodles and marinara sauce: for a healthier version of the above.
- Meatball sandwich: my husband loves this and it's a great way to use up a small portion of leftover meatballs. Choose whichever bread you fancy. (Ciabatta is our go-to).
👍 Top tips
- Finely chop the onions and herbs - to avoid large clumps in your meatballs and ensure their flavors are evenly distributed
- Use ground turkey thighs instead of breast - it’s fattier than ground turkey breast and produces juicier meatballs. Meatballs made with ground turkey breast can be a bit dry.
- Ensure the meatballs are cooked through before serving - I always cut into one to check that the meat is no longer pink. The internal temperature should be 75°C or 165°F.
Too much or not enough binder is the most likely cause of meatballs that don’t stick together. Most meatball recipes contain breadcrumbs and egg to hold them together. Using more breadcrumbs than needed will prevent the meatballs from sticking and this will also be the case if there are not enough.
The meatballs should be combined gently with your fingers to get the best texture. Tough meatballs are often a result of overworking the mixture and can also be caused by over cooking them.
The easiest way to check the doneness of meatballs is to cut into one to check the meat inside is no longer pink. You can also use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature has reached 165F or 75C.
Oats or crackers are commonly suggested substitutes for breadcrumbs. However, it’s not advisable to switch breadcrumbs for flour because it’s not a binder and it won't help to hold the meatballs together.
Turkey is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals including iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and B vitamins. It’s also lower in saturated fat than beef or lamb so is considered a healthier choice.
📦 Storage and make-ahead tips
Meatballs freeze well so are ideal for batch cooking. Cooked meatballs will also keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be frozen cooked or raw for up to 3 months.
Freezing cooked meatballs
My preference is to freeze the cooked meatballs in marinara sauce and reheat in a saucepan or the microwave. It's worth making a large batch and storing a few portions in the freezer for speedy weeknight dinners.
To freeze cooked meatballs without sauce, place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper when cool, put into the freezer and transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container once frozen.
Freezing uncooked meatballs
Form the meatballs, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place them in the freezer for a few hours. Once they are frozen, you can put them into a freezer bag or container.
😋 Check out my other easy and freezer-friendly Italian recipes
If these turkey meatballs are up your alley, you should check out some of my other easy Italian recipes. My marinara sauce is flavourful and tastes great with ground turkey meatballs and can also be tossed onto pasta for a super speedy meal. If you’re after hearty pasta dishes that you can make ahead and freeze well you should try my tuna pasta bake, pesto lasagna or nduja lasagne.
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