Recipes > Lunch/Dinner > Simple Turkey Meatballs Base Recipe

Simple Turkey Meatballs Base Recipe

These turkey meatballs are a much healthier choice than their greasy counterparts; they are full of nutritious ingredients, including lean turkey, fresh herbs, and extra virgin olive oil.
simple turkey meatballs base recipe on a plate with fresh greens

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. Substituting turkey for beef helps cut saturated fat and still provides quality protein. This simple turkey meatballs base recipe provides plenty of flavor and moisture to satisfy your meatball cravings!

Three Must-Know Cooking Skills

For recipe success, learn how to:

Learn how to slice and dice like a pro in our knife skills 101 course!

Culinary Tips for the Best Turkey Meatballs

If you have picky eaters, dice the onion or shallot finely so that they don’t notice them. 

When mixing the ingredients, don’t overwork the meat. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out tough.

A portion scoop makes forming the meatballs fast and easy and keeps your hands from getting messy.

Cook the meatballs directly on the pan. Don’t use parchment paper; it prevents browning.

Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Cook turkey meatballs to 165ºF for food safety.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Oil for the Pan: substitute cooking spray.
  • Ground Turkey: substitute ground chicken, ground salmon, or a mixture of ground beef and mushrooms or beans. We don’t recommend fully substituting red meat as it is higher in saturated fat and might require recipe modifications.
  • Shallot or Onion: use white, yellow, red, or green onions.
  • Panko Bread Crumbs: substitute plain, whole wheat, or seasoned bread crumbs, but cut back on the added salt if you do. Panko is typically very low in sodium. If you want turkey meatballs without breadcrumbs, leave them out!
  • Fresh Herbs: use any variety, such as Italian parsley, cilantro, dill, basil, etc. If you plan to use pesto, don’t add additional herbs (unless, of course, you want to!).
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: substitute canola oil or avocado oil.

Base Recipe Variations

Remember that this is a base recipe, so the goal is for you to customize it to your taste! Keep it simple or spice it up!

Use these additional ingredients for even more flavor and texture.

  • Pesto: use homemade or store bought. Use in place of the chopped fresh herbs.
  • Cheese: we recommend strongly flavored cheeses because just a little bit goes a long way. Asiago, blue, feta, goat, gorgonzola, and parmesan are some of our favorites.
  • Tomatoes: use diced fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, or rehydrated from dried.
  • Green Chiles: substitute ½ diced jalapeño pepper or ¼ serrano pepper, seeds removed.
  • Garlic: substitute 1 teaspoon pre-minced garlic, 1 teaspoon garlic flakes, ½ teaspoon granulated garlic, or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Spices or Dried Herbs: use chili powder, coriander, cumin, paprika, or your favorite spice blend. Dried herbs such as rosemary, dill, oregano, and thyme also complement turkey meatballs well.
  • Citrus Zest: use lemon, lime, or orange zest.

When selecting ingredients, it can be helpful to think of a cuisine or flavor profile you are trying to achieve. Italian, Mediterranean, Greek, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and Latin are just some cuisines to consider. Use your creativity and imagination! 

Want some turkey meatball flavor inspiration?

Use these recipe variations for inspiration, then have fun exploring other flavors, ingredients, and textures!

Equipment Recommendations

Use these kitchen tools for recipe success:

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Is this turkey meatballs recipe healthy?

Not all meatballs are healthy on their own, but they can definitely be included in a well-balanced diet. These turkey meatballs are a much healthier choice than their greasy counterparts; they are full of nutritious ingredients, including lean turkey, fresh herbs, and extra virgin olive oil.

Turkey

Turkey is a lean source of protein. It is also rich in B vitamins and minerals, such as iron. 

Fresh Herbs

Not only do fresh herbs add a pop of freshness and flavor to a dish, but they add nutrition too! Herbs are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health and help fight diseases.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean Diet. It contains high amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols which may reduce inflammation. In this recipe, it replaces the saturated fat typically found in 100% beef meatballs.

Learn more about health benefits of different foods in our book, To Your Taste!

Serving Suggestions

Serve these meatballs as an appetizer with a dipping sauce or build a meatball sub, salad, or wrap. Depending on the flavor combinations you choose, serve turkey meatballs in sauce with pasta or turkey meatballs with gravy over brown rice.

These meatballs are an easy finger food for kids. Pair with roasted vegetables and a salad to make a beautiful Whole Life Plate

How to Store and Reheat Turkey Meatballs

Cool leftover meatballs completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Leftover meatballs can also be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze, place on a baking sheet and freeze. Once the meatballs are partially frozen, transfer to a freezer-safe bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before heating.

To reheat, place meatballs on a pan and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven to heat to 350ºF. Once the oven hits 350° F, your meatballs should be warmed and ready!

Want more healthy and simple dinner recipes?

Try out these delicious recipes!

Bean Burgers Base Recipe

Burrito Bowls Base Recipe

Whole Grain Pasta Base Recipe

Healthy Beef Tacos with Mushrooms

simple turkey meatballs base recipe on a plate with fresh greens

Simple Turkey Meatballs Base Recipe

This is one of the base recipes featured in our Whole Life Meal Plan. This simple turkey meatballs base recipe provides plenty of flavor and moisture to satisfy your meatball cravings!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 20 meatballs

Ingredients
  

Base Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground turkey, 93% lean or more
  • ¼ cup finely diced shallot or onion
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs (whole grain suggested)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Dash pepper

Mix-ins to YOUR taste

  • ¼ cup pesto
  • ¼ cup diced fresh or sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup shredded or crumbled cheese
  • 4-ounce can diced green chiles
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced (~1 teaspoon)
  • ¼-2 teaspoons spices and/or dried herbs
  • 1 teaspoon citrus zest

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF. Brush a baking sheet with the oil.
  • Place turkey in a large bowl. Add shallot, bread crumbs, oil, egg, salt, pepper, and any additional mix-ins. Mix until just combined.
  • Create golf ball-sized meatballs with your hands or a portion scoop and place on the pan, spaced ~1” apart.
  • Cook meatballs 12-14 minutes or until cooked through to 165° F. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Enjoy!

Notes

When mixing the ingredients, don’t overwork the meat. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out tough.
 
Check out these recipes for flavor inspiration!
Greek Turkey Meatballs
Indian Meatballs with Raita
Garam Masala Spiced
Turkey Pesto Meatballs
Keyword Simple Turkey Meatballs

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