Turkey Meatballs — So good you won’t know it’s not red meat!

turkey meatball recipe

We used to only make meatballs with ground beef or a combination of ground beef and ground pork.  I had an awesome source for affordable, grass fed and grass finished meat.  Unfortunately, the law of supply and demand kicked in and my source became way too expensive for our family.  I’ve turned to making a lot of things with ground turkey lately and actually have come to prefer it.  It is lighter than ground beef in texture and can be flavored in many different ways.

Turkey meatballs are something I make for my family a couple of times a month.  The kids love them — Mr. 2-year-old can eat his weight in them.  And, I don’t feel bad about him eating that many either because they are pretty healthy.  Well, other than pan frying them for a bit, but you can bake them if you prefer.

I usually make a double batch when I am going to the trouble of making meatballs.  I only add half of them to the sauce after browning and let the other half cool.  Then I freeze them for a quick weeknight dinner.  All you have to do is pop them in some sauce and cook them for about 45 minutes.  If you want them to cook faster, you could always pull them out and let them thaw overnight in your fridge, too.

What you need to make a batch:

1 lb ground turkey (NOT turkey breast only!)

1 egg

1/3 Cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2-3/4 Cups breadcrumbs (make your own from stale French/Italian bread that you grind up in your food processor — don’t throw that stuff away!)

1 Tbs olive oil plus 1 Tbs butter


Mix all the ingredients, except the olive oil & butter,  with your hands in one large bowl.  Get your kids involved!  My two oldest kids love to get their hands dirty and mix these things.  You don’t want to over mix your meat — just mix it until everything is incorporated and the egg is mixed in.  If you need to add more breadcrumbs because the mixture is too sticky, go ahead.  Just know that the more breadcrumbs you add, the denser your meatballs will be.  Don’t over-mix or they will become tough.

Once mixed, form into balls.  I can usually get about 14 golf ball sized meatballs from a pound of turkey.

Heat your oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Once hot, add your meatballs, leaving about 1 inch between meatballs.  After a couple of minutes, use a spatula to coax your meatballs from the pan, then tongs to flip them.  Because turkey is so lean, they will stick and you don’t want to lose that beautiful carmelized side of your meatball.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, then put them in your simmering pasta sauce (yes, you should be simmering pasta sauce when making meatballs, silly — it is a golden rule).  Don’t be tempted to taste your sauce for at least 30 minutes because these babies are not fully cooked yet, but make sure you stir the sauce every now and then.  You don’t need to be ingesting raw turkey — eew!

After about 30 minutes, take out one meatball and cut it in half to make sure it is done.  There should be no pink.  When in doubt, cook them longer.

Serve with some pasta and a salad and watch them disappear.

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