My Turkey Italian Meatballs are juicy and packed with flavour. They are also lighter and healthier than the more traditional beef and pork meatballs. I love a good meatball but I am trying to stick to one portion of red meat each week. This means I am often on the lookout for white meat or veggie versions of my favourite red-meat recipes.
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.
I have used turkey thigh mince. It is better at producing moist and juicy meatballs than breast mince because it has a higher fat content. Turkey meat is less flavourful than pork and beef so my meatballs are seasoned generously with fresh herbs, parmesan, salt, pepper and a small amount of red chilli. I've also added a little olive oil to the mixture to ensure they stay extra moist.
Frying is my cooking method of choice. I tried baking the meatballs, but they just weren't as juicy, although these meatballs can be baked if you are looking for a healthier option. I always serve mine with spaghetti and my homemade Easy Marinara Sauce with plenty of parmesan on top.
These meatballs are very easy and relatively quick to make. It's perfectly feasible to rustle some up on a weeknight but I also recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and producing a job lot. They freeze well and make excellent speedy dinners on busy days.
- Ground turkey thigh mince - thigh mince has a higher fat content than breast mince and is 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.
- 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 flavour 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 flavour.
- Parmesan - adds an additional salty flavour 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
Turkey is leaner than other meats like beef and pork and can sometimes be a little dry. Adding a small amount of olive oil to the mixture keeps the meatballs moist and juicy.
How to make Turkey Italian Meatballs:
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
3. Form the meatballs
Roll the mixture into even ping-pong ball sized balls.
4. Fry the meatballs
Set a frying pan to a medium/high heat and add 2 tbsp of 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.
- Spaghetti and marinara sauce: this is my favourite 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 remaining meatballs that are not quite enough for a main meal. Choose whichever bread you fancy. Ciabatta is our go-to. I also find it's best to cut the meatballs in half first, especially if they are on the large side.
Baked or fried?
My preference is to fry the meatballs. Baking is the healthier option, but I always find they are a little dryer and less juicy when baked. If you would prefer to bake them simply place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for around 20 minutes at 200°C or 400°F.
Top tips for perfect Turkey Italian Meatballs
- Finely chop the onions and herbs - to avoid large clumps in your meatballs and ensure their flavours are evenly distributed
- Use turkey thigh mince instead of breast - thigh mince is fattier than breast mince and produces juicier meatballs. Meatballs made with breast mince 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.
Leftovers and freezing
Meatballs freeze well so are ideal for batch cooking. Cooked meatballs will also keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Meatballs can be frozen cooked or raw for up to 3 months. 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.