Turkey Meatballs

February 20, 2021

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Delicious Turkey Meatballs! Ground turkey is mixed with breadcrumbs, flavorful onion, garlic, parmesan cheese and herbs, then formed into bite size rounds and oven baked.

It’s an incredibly tasty recipe inspired by my popular beef and pork based meatballs.

Close up photo of baked turkey meatballs.

Easy Ground Turkey Meatballs

These are a tender, even juicy meatball that’s brimming with flavor. And they are very easy to make and only take about 15 minutes to bake.

Since they are made of leaner ground turkey they are a healthier alternative to the fattier ground beef or pork based meatballs, yet they are still incredibly delicious!

Perfect for those days when you’re craving a comforting and cozy Italian meal!

To keep that healthier options going you can serve atop baked spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles for a tempting meal you can feel great about eating.

Ingredients used to make turkey meatballs.

Baked Turkey Meatballs Recipe Ingredients

  • Dry bread crumbs: I highly recommend using homemade if possible, they are a breeze to make. Store-bought will work too if needed.
  • Milk: I just use 2% milk. Anything but skim is preferred.
  • Parmesan cheese: Preferably use a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano. Don’t use the powdered parmesan from the shelf here the flavor isn’t anywhere near the same.
  • Yellow onion: Be sure to mince very small, the same size as minced garlic so there are no crunchy onions in the meatballs by the time they are baked through.
  • Garlic: Preferably use fresh minced garlic.
  • Fresh basil and parsley: Fresh herbs will offer the best flavor but in a pinch you could sub 2 tsp dried parsley and 1 tsp dried basil.
  • Dried oregano: You can also use 2 tsp chopped fresh oregano if you have some on hand.
  • Lean ground turkey: I use 93% lean but anywhere from 85% – 93% lean is great.
  • Egg yolk: I’ve found with turkey meatballs that the egg white can dry them out (since they are already lean). So instead, all they need is the egg yolk to help bind.
  • Salt and pepper: This can be a little tricky since you can’t really season “to taste” but I think about 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper is a happy medium, then at the end you can season the sauce if more is needed.
  • Olive oil: This is used to help keep the meatballs from drying out while baking and encourage browning especially on bottom where there’s contact with the baking sheet.
  • Marinara sauce: My personal store-bought favorite is Rao’s Tomato Basil but you can use any favorite you prefer.

Scroll down for full recipe with amounts and print option.ground
Collage of four photos showing first for steps of mixing turkey meatball ingredients.

How to Make Ground Turkey Meatballs (Oven Method)

  1. Heat oven, prepare pan: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a rimmed 18×13 inch, preferably dark non-stick coated, baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Hydrate bread crumbs: In a large mixing bowl, toss together bread crumbs with 3 Tbsp milk. Let rest a few minutes. If crumbs seem dry moisten with another 1 Tbsp milk. Toss mixture with a fork to separate clumps.
  3. Add seasonings: Add parmesan, onion, garlic, parsley, basil and oregano and toss mixture.
  4. Add in turkey, seasoning and egg yolk: Add in ground turkey. Sprinkle salt and pepper over evenly. Break egg yolk and drizzle over turkey (this will help it end up more evenly distributed).
  5. Mix by hand: Toss and blend mixture with clean hands until ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  6. Roll into meatballs: Divide meatball mixture into 16 equal portions (about 40g or a little over 2 Tbsp each). Roll into balls.
  7. Set on baking sheet and brush with oil: Align meatballs on prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly apart. Brush tops and sides with olive oil.
  8. Bake meatballs in oven until cooked through: Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Check bottoms of meatballs, if they are golden brown, turn to opposite side, if not let them continue to sit upright and brown on bottom.
  9. Cook through to 165 in center of meatballs (check temp of some in center and edges), about 5 minutes longer.
  10. Warm marinara sauce: Meanwhile, heat marinara sauce over low heat in a large saucepan, covered.
  11. Toss finished meatballs with sauce: Toss cooked meatballs with marinara sauce and serve warm, garnished with more parsley and basil (if desired) and parmesan.

Collage of six images showing shaping turkey meatballs, aligning and baking on baking sheet then cooking in marinara sauce.

How to Cook Turkey Meatballs On the Stovetop

Another option to cook the meatballs is to use the stovetop. To do so:

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add meatballs, spacing evenly apart.
  3. Let cook, turning occasionally, until browned on the exterior and cooked through in the interior to 165 degrees. Reduce burner temperature slightly if needed while cooking.
  4. Alternatively you can brown meatballs on the exterior, then add to marinara sauce, cover and simmer in sauce until meatballs are 165 in center.

Turkey meatballs in marinara sauce in a saucepan.

Helpful Tips

  • I like to use Jenni-O brand turkey here because it’s not as wet as other brands of turkey and is easier to work with.
  • Start with cold ingredients for less sticky meatball mixture.
  • If it does happen to be a little sticky, dip hands in water before rolling. If that still doesn’t do the trick, toss a few extra tablespoons of breadcrumbs into the mixture.
  • Work to maintain an even size of meatballs so they bake even and finish at the same time.
  • I highly recommend an instant read food thermometer here to taste for doneness. Judging by color isn’t always accurate and they may end up over-baked.
  • Test several meatballs on different areas of the baking sheet for doneness. Sometimes those on the outer edges can cook hotter than those in the center.
  • Careful not to over-cook meatballs much beyond 165 – 170 degrees in center or they can start to dry since this lean turkey.

Variations

  • Substitute ground chicken in place of ground turkey.
  • You can also use Panko in place of standard bread crumbs. Use a scant 1/2 cup.
  • Make smaller or larger depending on desired size preferred, just keep even and cook through to center.
  • Use Pecorino Romano cheese in place of parmesan cheese.
  • Try with all parsley and skip the basil (use 4 tbsp).

Turkey meatballs and marinara sauce shown over spaghetti pasta.

What to Serve with Turkey Meatballs

Close up photo of baked turkey meatballs.
5 from 3 votes

Turkey Meatballs

Flavorful, tender and juicy meatballs! Lean ground turkey is mixed with breadcrumbs, flavorful onion, garlic, parmesan cheese and herbs, then formed into bite size rounds and oven baked. Makes about 4 meatballs per person.
Servings: 4
Prep20 minutes
Cook15 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, homemade or store-bought
  • 3 - 4 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup (1.2 oz) finely shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving if desired
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey, very cold, I recommend Jennie-O since it's less wet and sticky
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce (I recommend Rao's Tomato Basil)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a rimmed 18 by -13-inch, preferably dark non-stick coated, baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl toss together bread crumbs with 3 Tbsp milk. Let rest a few minutes. If crumbs seem dry moisten with another 1 Tbsp milk. Toss mixture with a fork to separate clumps.
  • Add parmesan, onion, garlic, parsley, basil and oregano and toss mixture.
  • Add in ground turkey. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over. Break egg yolk and drizzle over turkey (this will help it end up more evenly distributed).
  • Toss mixture with clean hands until ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  • Divide meatball mixture into 16 equal portions (about 40g or a little over 2 Tbsp each).
  • Roll into balls (if mixture is a little sticky dipping hands in water before rolling can be helpful).
  • Align meatballs on prepared baking sheet spacing evenly apart. Brush tops and sides with olive oil.
  • Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Check bottoms of meatballs, if they are golden brown turn to opposite side, if not let them continue to sit upright and brown on bottom. Bake through to 165 in center of meatballs (check temp of some in center and edges), about 5 minutes longer.
  • Meanwhile heat marinara sauce over low heat in a large saucepan, covered.
  • Toss cooked meatballs with marinara sauce and serve warm garnished with more parsley, basil (optional), and parmesan.
Nutrition Facts
Turkey Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 338 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 136mg45%
Sodium 1615mg70%
Potassium 915mg26%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 29g58%
Vitamin A 1644IU33%
Vitamin C 24mg29%
Calcium 193mg19%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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9 Comments

  • Michelle R

    I’ve made a lot of turkey meatballs and I have to say hands down these
    are the best! Super moist and very flavorful and I didn’t even add the
    cheese. This will definitely be my go to recipe, thanks so much for sharing it.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I love to know you enjoyed these Michelle! Thanks for taking time to leave a review!

  • Kay

    Easy, delicious, and healthy! I made it along with spaghetti and the whole family enjoyed it. I did replace some of the fresh herbs for dried ones, but came out perfectly fine. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Thanks for your feedback Kay! I’m so glad your family enjoyed them!

  • connieg

    I’m sorry, but onion does NOT belong in meatballs. Never. Ever. Aside from that, it’s a nice recipe. :)
    And if I’m going to cheat and not make gravy homemade, Rao’s is the way to go!

  • Angelina

    A decent recipe for ‘healthier’ Meatballs. I’ve been making ‘Healthy Meatballs’ pretty much the same way for quite some time, with only minor changes to your recipe to suit my family. I use Panko breadcrumbs, which I season ‘Italian Style’. Oh yes, I ALWAYS use “Jennie- O Gr. Turkey”, whenever I want a healthier alternative to beef. I typically use my own homemade Marinara Sauce – whenever I have any in my fridge or freezer. Otherwise, I use “Prego”, which has the BEST flavor of all the other ‘jarred’ sauces. You suggested using “Rao’s”, ….SERIOUSLY??? I heard SO MUCH about their sauce, so I bought a jar. What a disappointment! I actually made a much better tasting Marinara Sauce when I was 15 yrs. old! I found “Rao’s” to be very flat in flavor. I can’t understand why anyone would rate it so highly. If that’s where people’s taste buds lie, then “I” should open my own Italian Restaurant in NYC (where people can wait several months for a reservation. (Read “Rao’s” website, …what a joke!). As an experienced cook, may I suggest using “Prego”, when & if you ever need a shortcut. DON’T waste your money on “RAO’S”, unless you have NO taste buds, and & don’t care about the flavor of your sauce. You probably won’t post my opinion, but I hope you will.

    • Marcy Knecht

      People can easily say the same thing about “Prego”. It’s just a matter of opinion….Speaking of opinion there are many ways to get one’s across without sounding condescending, just saying…….