These easy, tender, and super-flavorful baked turkey meatballs won't weigh you down. They're great on their own, with pasta, or (if you're smarter than average, and aren't we all?) tucked into a classic Italian meatball sub. Don't miss them.
Why we love this recipe
You guys. These meatballs. These TURKEY meatballs. Please hold.
I just got up to eat one. Not even kidding. Except...by one, I mean two. Don't I always?
- Is quick and easy to make
- Leaves you feeling satisfied but not overindulged (unless you want to!)
- Is make-ahead friendly
- Is one you'll return to again and again
What you'll need
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe, along with a few protips.
- For the ground turkey, you can use white meat, dark meat, or a blend. I usually like use a combination of white and dark meats to keep these baked turkey meatballs nice and light but also full of flavor. If you're using all white meat, consider adding a tablespoon of olive oil to the mix for a little additional fat and flavor.
- For the breadcrumbs, you can use fresh breadcrumbs or panko. If you have to substitute dry breadcrumbs, use only six tablespoons.
- You can use shallot instead of onion if you like. I find the flavor of shallots to be borderline magical and often substitute them.
- Pecorino makes a nice alternative to parmesan, if you're in the mood to tinker
- You can also experiment with different leafy herbs. Parsley is great, but you can add or substitute basil, chervil, chives, green onion tops...this is a fun place to play.
Our favorite sources for meat
For years, I've been sourcing our meat from ButcherBox. We love this curated meat delivery service, which provides grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and more from small farms direct to the customer. You can learn more in my extensive Butcher Box review and unboxing.
More recently, we've also become big fans of Cooks Venture for chicken.
How to make it
Here's what you'll do to make this recipe a success. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post.
- Add all the ingredients except the turkey and tomato sauce to a large mixing bowl, and make sure everything is well-combined. Once you add the turkey, you won't want to mix more than you have to, so now's the time to go for it.
- Mix in the turkey with a light touch. You want everything mixed well, but you don't want to compress it too much. Meatballs, whether turkey or not, like to have a little loft to them rather than being super-dense.
- Use a couple of spoons or a small ice cream scoop to divide the mixture into 12 roughly equal portions. In the video and photos, taken many years ago, I didn't do what you should do and gently roll the meatballs between my palms to make them rounder. Live and learn, Umami Girl.
- Bake the meatballs on a sheet pan (I like to line it with parchment or a silpat, but you can spray it with nonstick spray if you prefer) until just cooked through. After that, you can simmer them in tomato sauce or use them however you like!
Expert tips and FAQs
You can! You've got two options. (1) Make them a few hours in advance and leave them at room temperature in a cool kitchen. (2) Make them up to a day in advance, store tightly sealed in the fridge, and the reheat by gently simmering in tomato sauce in a covered pan just before serving.
You can store these babies tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.
You can use any slightly stale bread that you've got, though usually the simpler the bread, the better the breadcrumbs. To make it stale on purpose, leave it out on the counter for a few hours, or bake it in a 200°F oven for 20 minutes.
Tear the bread into pieces and add it to a food processor fitted with the blade. Pulse until the bread turns into crumbs. That's it!
How to serve it
This is great game day food //or weeknight family dinner food // or even cool single lady couple-of-lunches, couple-of-dinners food. Honestly, it's great food to eat standing over the stove with a spoon. I've heard.
We love them:
- With our favorite spaghetti and tomato sauce
- Over zucchini noodles
- On a meatball parm sub (helloooo, New Jersey!)
- On pizza
- By themselves, alongside a simple green salad with a great dressing
Love lightened-up comfort foods?
So do we. You might also like some of our other favorites:
For the meatballs
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs or panko
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup minced yellow onion
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Big pinch ground cayenne
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- A few good grinds black pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey (dark meat or a combination of white and dark meat)
- 3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce or mine (see note)
For the subs
- 4 good rolls
- 6 ounces mozzarella cheese
For the Meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the center. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silpat, or spray with cooking spray.
- Into a large bowl place the bread crumbs, milk, onion, garlic, parsley, cheese, fennel seed, oregano, salt, egg, and pepper. Mix together well with a fork.
- Add ground turkey and use fork to mix well but without overworking.
- Use two spoons or a small ice cream scoop to portion the mixture into 12 roughly equal parts. Then roll each meatball gently between your palms to make it spherical.
- Space the meatballs evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip with a spatula and bake 5 minutes more, until just cooked through.
- Heat tomato sauce in a medium pan, then add meatballs and simmer for a minute or two.
For the Subs:
- Split each roll in half, top with three meatballs, some sauce and a couple of slices of cheese (plus some extra grated parmesan or pecorino if you like).
- Broil until cheese is melted, close sandwich and serve immediately.
- If you'd like to substitute dry breadcrumbs, use only six tablespoons.
- To ensure light, tender meatballs, you won't want to mix more than necessary after you've added the turkey, so be sure to mix the other ingredients together thoroughly before adding the turkey.
- Here's the recipe for my favorite tomato sauce.
- You can make these up to a few hours in advance and leave at room temperature, or make them a day in advance and store in the fridge. Reheat by simmering gently in tomato sauce in a covered pan.
- Store leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week.
- Nutrition information for this recipe is for meatballs only.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 417Total Fat: 13.4gCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 3.1gProtein: 34.3g