Meatballs are classic comfort food, so let me show you step-by-step how to make the best baked turkey meatballs. What to serve with meatballs? Lots of things! They are versatile and economical, plus they are great for meal prep and freezing. Let's get started.
If you have meatball recipes in your file for beef meatballs or pork meatballs, try these ground turkey meatballs for a nice change of pace. It's easy to make a double batch and freeze extra for future meals.
Why You'll Like This Recipe
- Ground turkey is a lean, healthy, high-protein choice.
- Turkey meatballs are great for meal prep.
- Ground meat is budget-friendly.
- Make them gluten-free or not.
- Even picky eaters like them.
- Baking meatballs is the best method, easier than stovetop.
- Ground turkey: Choose 93% lean ground turkey for juicy turkey meatballs with lots of flavor.
- Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are a binding agent for meatballs. When I'm out of homemade breadcrumbs, here is the packaged brand I use, or you can use wheat breadcrumbs.
- Milk: Milk is used to soak the breadcrumbs forming a paste called a panade (pah-nod), a traditional type of binder for meatballs. It lightens the meatballs.
- Egg: Another binding agent helping meatballs hold together and retain their shape.
- Fresh herbs: Fresh parsley adds garden flavor and color. Buy the flat leaf or Italian parsley.
- Dried herbs: Dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend works for more flavor. Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh herbs so you use less.
- Onion: For moist and flavorful, not bland, turkey meatballs.
- Parmesan: Use finely grated or ground Parmesan cheese. It's good for topping the meatballs when you serve as well. It adds a salty, savory flavor umami flavor. Buy it in the cheese department (skip the cans).
- Garlic: The aromatic companion to onion. See my tip on zesting below.
- Seasonings and spices: Sea salt, ground black pepper, and red chile flakes.
Please see the recipe card for measurements.
For ground turkey: If your store does not have 93% lean ground turkey you can still make terrific baked turkey meatballs with 99% ground turkey. No ground turkey? Substitute ground chicken (93%) or lean ground beef (10%).
How do I cook turkey meatballs in the oven? Bake them on a rimmed baking sheet or cookie sheet lined with baking parchment for easier clean-up. A quick spray of non-stick on the parchment helps too. The steps are below.
Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F
Step 2: Mix herbs, onion, egg and meat. Mixed and ready to portion.
Step 3: Soak the breadcrumbs and milk for 2 minutes, then mix in the onion, Parmesan, eggs, herbs, garlic and seasoning. Next add the meat and gently mix with your hands. Don't squish or over-mix the meat for tender meatballs.
Step 4: Portion meatball mix, roll into balls, and place in a single layer. How do you make perfectly round meatballs? Use a small cookie scoop also called a disher. The perfect size for bite-sized meatballs is either the #40 or the size #50. Buy them online or at a restaurant supply. Alternatively, use a rounded tablespoon for an approximately 1 ¼"meatball.
For fine garlic, use a microplane zester. Great trick.
Chef's Tip on working with meat: Wearing disposable food handling gloves makes mixing the meat easier. Alternatively, wet hands with a little water or a quick spray of non-stick like this one. This applies when rolling the meatballs too.
Step 5: Bake meatballs in the oven until a digital instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads to an internal temperature 165°F. The baking time is short, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven for serving or cool to freeze.
What goes good with meatballs for sauce? While marinara is delicious, there are other terrific options for sauce. And you don't have to drown or smother the meatballs. Some sauces work better as dipping sauces, served on the side.
- Tomato marinara sauce or tomato sauce is traditional but there are other options. Use your favorite sauce or a quick and easy homemade marinara.
- Make a simple garlic olive oil butter sauce: Mix half melted butter with half extra virgin olive oil and either a little garlic powder or finely chopped (zested) fresh garlic clove. Add some fresh chopped parsley for color. It's light and tasty.
- Try a simple garlic butter sauce: Mix half melted butter with half extra virgin olive oil and a little garlic powder, onion powder, and finely chopped fresh garlic cloves. Add some fresh chopped parsley for color. Smear the chopped garlic into a paste with the back of your knife before adding.
- Try an Asian-inspired sauce like sweet-sour Hoisin sauce, either homemade or bottled, or try teriyaki.
- Your favorite barbecue sauce is another good option for dipping.
- Recently I used this Brown Sugar Buffalo Sauce recipe from my friend Aleka for serving turkey meatballs as appetizers at a Superbowl party. They were a huge hit! The sauce is delicious, buttery, a little sweet with the perfect level of heat. I added a little apple cider vinegar for some tang. Tip for a smooth sauce below. To reduce sugar, use golden brown monk fruit instead.
Chef's tip: Make what is called a "slurry" before adding cornstarch to a recipe like a sauce. Add the cornstarch to an equal amount of water in a small bowl and mix until smooth, then add. This helps avoid clumping. If it still clumps, smooth it out briefly in the blender.
Meatball Serving Ideas
Serve meatballs as a main dish or as an appetizer for cocktail meatballs (with toothpicks) for watching your weekend games. They are terrific for a potluck.
What to Serve With Meatballs Instead of Pasta
What goes with meatballs other than pasta? Try these options:
- Zucchini noodles
- Add to a baked spaghetti squash
- Creamy polenta or grits (mix in more Parmesan)
- Creamy mashed potatoes
- Cauliflower rice with herbs
- Creamy cauliflower puree
- Serve them on their own in a bowl with sauce, with a side of green vegetables
- And of course for a classic spaghetti dinner sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Here is the best gluten-free brand.
Not really for the primary cooking as they will all stick together. The best way is to bake them in the oven first, then use a slow cooker or Instant Pot to keep them warm with a sauce for serving or to re-heat.
Turkey meatballs last in the refrigerator for up to 2 days safely.
Yes, you can make turkey meatballs ahead of time and freeze them. After baking, freeze them individually on a baking sheet for a few hours, them place in an airtight container. Be sure to label and date the bag or container. Turkey meatballs freeze for 3-4 months. To thaw frozen meatballs, place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
More Turkey Recipes
For another hearty classic, make a batch of this Instant Pot beef stew.
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Baked Turkey Meatballs
- Cookie scoop or disher, #40 or #50 or a 1 tablespoon measure
- 6 tablespoons Plain or Italian breadcrumbs (2 ounces) GF or wheat, or homemade or packaged
- 6 tablespoons milk
- ½ cup finely chopped or grated onion
- ¼ cup finely grated or ground Parmesan
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped or finely zested
- ½ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon red chile pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey 93%
- Pre-heat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet (half sheet size) with parchment or foil and a quick spray of non-stick or oil spray for easier clean-up.
Blend Meatball Mix
- First, add the breadcrumbs and milk together in a small bowl and allow them to stand for 2 minutes. While they are soaking, add the rest of the ingredients to a medium bowl and stir. Mix in the soaked breadcrumbs, then the the ground turkey. Gently mix the meat with your hands until fully combined. Use either food handler gloves or lightly oil or spray your hands. As your hands get sticky, wipe them off and re-spray, then complete rolling the meatballs.
- Using a disher (see note at end) or a generous tablespoon full, gently roll the portions into round balls and place them onto the sheet pan. Meatballs should be about 1 ¼″ in diameter (almost 1 ounce).
- Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes or until a digital thermometer reads 165°F in the center.
Add Sauce and Serve
- Serve with your sauce of choice, alone, or over one of the suggestions below.
- To portion meatballs equally, use a small cookie scoop also called a disher. The perfect size cookie scoop for bite-sized meatballs is either the #40 or the size #50. Buy them online or at a restaurant supply. Using one is the fastest way to make meatballs.
- The recipe yield is approximately 30 meatballs for the #50 size.
- To serve: try meatballs over polenta, pasta, zucchini noodles, baked spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice, cauliflower puree, served alone in a bowl, or as an appetizer with toothpicks.
- To get the garlic fine, use a microplane zester.
- For larger meatballs: If you want to make them larger you can. Sizing in dishers is the opposite of what you'd think. The smaller the number, the larger the size. Adjust your baking time.
- The sauce in the photo lead photo is 4 T unsalted butter, 4 T olive oil, 1 finely chopped or zested garlic clove (or sub powdered garlic) and chopped parsley. Melt together and stir.