Easy and flavorful Baked Turkey Meatballs are perfect for appetizers, spaghetti night and meal prep for lunches and weeknight meals. Customize this versatile recipe for picky eaters or cuisines.
2023 Update: This recipe was originally shared in January 2013. I have updated this recipe and the post. The post now includes new photos, as well as more tips and tricks. I hope you love these versatile meatballs!
Baked Turkey Meatballs Recipe
The ultimate comfort food is a big batch of spaghetti and meatballs, if you ask me. Chilly weather? Bad day? Miss your mom? There’s not much a few hearty meatballs, pasta and some garlic bread can’t fix.
I don’t have a drop of Italian blood running through my veins, but my mother has a badass meatball recipe, taught to her by an old friend’s Italian grandmother.
These meatballs are so wonderful, in fact, that I cannot eat them at any restaurant because they just won’t measure up.
Sadly, this is not my mother’s meatball recipe… but this is a pretty darn good replacement for a girl who no longer lives in the same town as her mother and cannot justify shipping meatballs halfway across the country to fulfill an Italian food craving.
One of the charming things about these meatballs is that they are (1) made of turkey and (2) baked, so they’re a little leaner than the traditional beef meatballs. Another good thing is that they are just as scrumptious.
This is a simple, straightforward recipe that I know you’re going to love. Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Why I love this recipe:
- Meatballs are so versatile. They work for pasta dishes, appetizers, sandwiches, weeknight meals or meal prep lunches.
- Kids love eating meatballs, so they’re especially great for picky eaters.
- Since these are made with turkey, they’re a little healthier than the traditional beef, but this recipe works with ground pork, beef or chicken, too.
Make a double batch and freeze some for later. Perfect for a last-minute party appetizer or a busy weeknight.
Uses for meatballs
Most people think of meatballs when it comes to spaghetti. However, as delicious as that is, meatballs have so much more potential than that.
Here are some other ways to eat this delicious recipe:
As an appetizer: Serve these ground turkey meatballs with toothpicks or skewers and some marinara sauce for dipping.
On a sandwich: Who doesn’t love a meatball sub? Throw a few of these ‘balls, some mozzarella and some sauce on a hoagie bun for the best sandwich of your life.
For meal prep: Put a few of these meatballs alongside some salad greens, cooked pasta and some sauce into a bento box or meal prep boxes for a protein-filled lunch. You could also coat these meatballs in an Asian sauce (like this honey sriracha sauce) and enjoy them over rice.
On pizza: Pizza night is a weekly staple at our house. Meatballs are a great topping for meat lovers. Try them on this grilled pizza.
In soup: Meatballs in soup? Are you sure, Erin? Yep, I’m sure! My friend Melissa’s minestrone soup with meatballs is one of our go-to recipes.
What you need to make this recipe:
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- Sheet pan
- 1-tablespoon scoop
- Toothpicks or skewers, if serving as an appetizer
- Herb leaf remover, if using fresh herbs
- Mezzaluna knife, if using fresh herbs
- Instant-read meat thermometer
Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Ground turkey — turkey that is 93% lean works best for this recipe.
- Breadcrumbs — the gluten in breadcrumbs helps to hold the meat together. Both panko or regular bread crumbs both work. I like panko better.
- Egg — this is the binder for our meatballs and keeps them from falling apart.
- Kosher salt — sea salt also works.
- Black pepper — use freshly-ground pepper, if possible, for the best flavor.
- Basil — basil gives its light, peppery flavor to these ‘balls.
- Oregano — common in Italian cooking, oregano brings its pungent, slightly bitter flavor.
- Onion — yellow or white onions work well.
- Garlic — you can use minced or press a fresh clove.
Customizations and substitutions
This recipe is so versatile. Here are a few ways you can customize it.
You can use either dried herbs or fresh herbs if you’ve got them on hand. Both work. If using fresh herbs, use 2 ½ teaspoons minced oregano and 1 ½ teaspoons minced basil.
Feel free to use Italian seasoning instead if you need a shortcut.
If needed, you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of regular.
This recipe can work with ground beef, ground chicken and ground pork. Use what you’ve got.
How to make Baked Turkey Meatballs
These are easy, tasty meatballs that I’ve been making for years. Let’s get into how to make them perfectly every time.
First, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375°F.
Then line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
You can also place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet to prevent the meatballs from sitting in their juices, which results in a cleaner ball shape. (I used to do this, but the clean-up of the cooling rack makes me crazy, so I forgo it now!)
In a large bowl, add the turkey. Measure out the breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, onion and garlic.
Use your hands to mix the ingredients until incorporated. You can use a silicone spatula instead, but these just mix better with your hands. Don’t be afraid to get messy — just make sure to wash your hands really well once you’re done!
We make ‘em small for our kids, but they could be made larger. Just keep in mind the cook time will change depending on the meatball size.
Once the meatball ingredients are combined, form palm-sized meatballs (with your hands or with a cookie scoop) and place them on the prepared baking sheet. You don’t want them to touch, but you can put them pretty close together if you’re making a double batch.
Bake the meatballs for 25-30 minutes or until done. Toss with your favorite marinara sauce and serve with pasta or serve alongside it as an easy appetizer.
How long to bake turkey meatballs
How to know when they’re done? The key is the internal temperature. We need 165°F for poultry. This is non-negotiable. Rare turkey is not a thing. Don’t do it!
Get an instant-read meat thermometer if you don’t have one. If you have varying sizes on your tray, check the biggest ones as they will have a different temperature than the smaller ones.
How to store meatballs
Let them cool completely. Then store in a food-safe, airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. You can store them with the sauce or with the sauce in a separate container.
To reheat, you can warm them in the oven covered with foil at 300°F for about 15 minutes or until warmed through.
How to freeze meatballs
This recipe can be easily doubled for meal prepping or planning, if that’s a thing you can do. You can also freeze cooked meatballs and reheat later.
(I like to make a double batch: one batch to eat now and one batch to freeze for later.)
To freeze meatballs: Let them cool. Then place on a baking sheet lined with a new sheet of parchment paper. Freeze for 1 hour on the tray (this keeps them from sticking together). Then transfer to a freezer-safe ziptop bag or airtight container.
To reheat frozen meatballs: Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover them with foil. Bake at 300°F for about 45 minutes or until cooked through.
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
- Meatballs make a great appetizer. Serve them with marinara sauce on the side and some skewers.
- Set up a spaghetti bar for a dinner party. Let guests serve themselves plain spaghetti with their preferred amount of sauce and meatballs. Set out some mozzarella and parmesan cheese for toppings!
- Make the meatballs smaller for kiddos or larger for bigger mouths. Be sure to adjust the cooking time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bake fresh meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes in a 375°F oven.
The oven is the best way to cook meatballs so they can be heated through evenly and stay in tact.
Meatballs can be cooked on the stove, but when you move them around there is a greater risk of them sticking together and falling apart.
Quick tips and tricks to making the best Baked Turkey Meatballs
- Fresh herbs will have a stronger flavor than dried herbs.
- For a cleaner shape, cook the meatballs on top of a wire rack on a baking sheet.
- Use an instant read thermometer* (affiliate link) to check when they are done.
More pasta and meatball recipes:
- Enchilada Meatballs
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Baked Turkey Zucchini Meatballs
- Sausage Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce
- French Onion Steak Pasta
- Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
- 1 lb. ground turkey 93% lean
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs panko or regular
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon dried basil or 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh basil
- 1 ¼ teaspoon dried oregano or 2 ½ teaspoons minced fresh oregano
- 1 medium onion about 1 ½ cups chopped or 200g
- 1 garlic clove minced
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- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside. (You can also place a cooling rack on top of the baking sheet to prevent the meatballs from sitting in their juices, if you'd like to do this. I used to, but the clean up of the cooling rack makes me crazy, so I forgo it now.)
- In a large bowl, measure out the turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, onion and garlic.
- Use your hands to mix the ingredients until incorporated.
- Once the meatball ingredients are combined, form palm-sized meatballs (with your hands or with a cookie scoop) and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs for 25-30 minutes or until cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Toss with your favorite marinara sauce and serve with pasta or serve alongside it as an easy appetizer.
Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her…