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These super-flavorful turkey meatballs can be baked in the oven or cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. Seasoned with cumin, paprika and packed with fresh herbs, these meatballs make a light, delicious meal served with vegetables and salad greens, or with your favorite sauce. This recipe makes a batch of meatballs for dinner in less than 30 minutes.
This is a great meatball dinner idea that really pleases everyone around the dinner table!
In this recipe, flavorful turkey meatballs are spiced-up with Middle Eastern-inspired seasonings and fresh herbs. They’re light, healthful and super-easy to make, either on the stovetop or baked in the oven.
Ideally, the best pan-fried or baked turkey meatballs are juicy little nuggets, with one bite leading to the next one (which also happens with big Italian meatballs). I mean, who doesn’t love it when meatballs are perfectly sized for popping into your mouth?
Ingredients for turkey meatballs
This turkey meatball recipe is gluten-free (does not contain bread crumbs).
- Ground turkey: You can use either lean ground turkey (turkey breast) or fattier dark (turkey thigh) ground turkey to make meatballs. With that in mind, I recommend using the dark meat if possible. The extra bit of fat in turkey thighs adds more flavor compared to breast meat, which adds flavor AND keeps the meatballs from becoming too dry. By the way, ground chicken thigh makes fantastic chicken meatballs. Feel free to swap out the meat if you prefer.
- Spices: Pantry spices come in handy to season these meatballs, including ground cumin and paprika (sweet or smoked will work).
- Herbs: An abundance of fresh herbs really perks up the savory flavor of these meatballs and sets them apart. I love to use a combination of fresh cilantro, mint, chopped parsley, and fresh basil. Use whatever you have on hand. Swap out with 2 teaspoons of dried herbs (such as oregano, basil or tarragon) instead.
- Sriracha: Just a small amount of this spicy condiment adds a touch of heat and tanginess. Substitute with your favorite hot sauce.
- Onion: The recipe calls for grated red onion, a technique that adds flavorful onion juice to the meatballs mixture. You can also use a white or yellow onion or finely chopped green onions.
- Garlic cloves
Note: This recipe makes about two dozen turkey meatballs.
- Because they’re not oversized, the meatballs will cook through quickly, in about 10 minutes on the stovetop. To double check for doneness, insert the tip of an instant read thermometer halfway into a meatball to check that the internal temperature is about 165 degrees.
- Cook them in one batch in a single pan on the stovetop — I use my favorite 12-inch nonstick skillet — but they’re just as easy to make in two batches in a slightly smaller pan.
- Baked turkey meatballs: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet line with parchment paper (for the easiest clean-up). Bake 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
Tips and serving ideas for turkey meatballs
- Freezer directions: To freeze, arrange the meatballs in one layer on a tray and freeze until solid. Transfer to a ziplock bag or other airtight container and freeze 1-2 months.
- The meatballs are perfect to serve as a simple meal and also as a snack or appetizer with toothpicks on the side, along with creamy homemade hummus or whipped feta sauce for dipping.
- Make a one-dish meal with turkey meatballs: Serve them in bowl on top of your favorite healthy whole grain (brown rice, farro, quinoa, etc.) and some roasted or raw vegetables, and other condiments, such as:
- A handful of arugula, spinach or other tender greens
- Zucchini noodles
- Sliced cucumbers
- Salad sprouts
- Crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese
- A generous blob of thick, plain yogurt, sour cream or tahini sauce seasoned with lemon juice.
- My favorite Simple Green Herb Sauce goes perfectly with these meatballs!
Turkey meatballs are also really delicious in a sandwich, stuffed into warm pita bread along with some salad greens and tangy yogurt sauce drizzled over them.
Tender, Tasty Turkey Meatballs (Ready in 20 Minutes!)
- 1 ½ pounds (675 g) ground turkey, dark thigh meat preferred
- ½ red onion, grated on a box grater
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, chopped parsley, mint or a combination, plus additional for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) olive oil
- In a large bowl, combine turkey, onion, cilantro, garlic, egg, cumin, paprika, salt, sriracha and cayenne pepper. Mix until combined, then form into 1 1/2-inch diameter meatballs with damp hands, or a small cookie scoop.
- Stovetop directions: Heat the oil a 12-inch nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Arrange meatballs in pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 total. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 more minutes. To check for doneness, insert the tip of an instant read thermometer halfway into a meatball to check that the internal temperature is about 165 degrees.
- Baking directions: Preheat the oven to 425 (220 C) degrees. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or line with parchment paper for easy clean up. Bake 8 minutes. Turn the meatballs over with a spatula or tongs and bake 8-10 more minutes, until cooked through.
- Sprinkle the meatballs with fresh chopped cilantro (or other fresh herbs) and serve.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Storing meatballs: Meatballs will keep in the refrigerator 3-5 days. Freeze in an airtight container up to 2 months.
- Tips: Wet your hands with a little water when forming the meatballs to make them less sticky.
- Serve the meatballs with your favorite tomato sauce, or with sliced cucumber, salad greens, feta cheese and simple green herb sauce for a light, healthful meal.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.