These easy turkey meatballs are our meal prep secret weapon. They're ready in under an hour, freezer-friendly, and a perfect blank canvas for your favorite sauces, soups, and more!
These ground turkey meatballs are about to be your meal prep BFF. They come together so quickly (just mix everything together and bake in the oven!) and this recipe makes a ton of meatballs that can be frozen for fast meals when you're short on time but want some protein.
3 Things We Love About This Recipe
- It makes enough for multiple meals. In our two-person household, one batch of homemade turkey meatballs is enough for 4 or 5 different dinners. If you have a bigger family, you might get 2-3 meals out of them. This recipe is also easy to scale up for a bigger batch!
- These meatballs freeze really well. Mix, bake, and cool the meatballs as directed, then freeze in an airtight container for up to 4 months. Pop frozen meatballs directly into a pot of simmering sauce when you're ready for them!
- Mild flavors work with your favorite sauces. We kept the seasonings here purposefully simple, so that these meatballs will pair well with any flavors, from a jar of store-bought tikka masala sauce to your grandmother's Sunday gravy!
A few notes on ingredients
These baked turkey meatballs are pretty straightforward, but we want to highlight a few things before you get started:
- We're using three pounds of ground turkey here. That might feel like a lot - but we use so much turkey because we're making a TON of meatballs (and we want them to last for multiple meals!)
- The eggs and bread crumbs in this recipe act as our binding ingredients: They help the meatballs stick together and hold their shape without crumbling apart. Don't skip them! (Need to use an egg substitute? Check out this article: Best egg substitute for meatballs).
- Seasonings! Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper add just enough flavor so the meatballs feel balanced. But the spices are very minimal! We developed this recipe to work with a variety of different cuisines, so we didn't add any especially bold flavors that might compete with the sauces you choose.
- Don't skip the Worcestershire sauce! This small-but-mighty ingredient grounds the flavor of these meatballs and lends an important balance to the recipe. (If you don't have Worcestershire on hand, you can use soy sauce instead).
This is a great base recipe, and it's easy to customize! Some of our favorite riffs:
- Use ground chicken, ground beef, or ground pork in place of the turkey if you like.
- Add a generous handful of shredded parmesan cheese or asiago cheese to these meatballs if you like (it'll give you a bit more umami flavor and a slightly softer texture). You can also stir a scoop of ricotta into these meatballs for extra moisture!
- Add mix-ins if you'd like your meatballs to lean towards a specific flavor profile. We love adding some Italian-inspired flavors (like dried basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, or shredded parmesan), Thai-inspired mix-ins (such as grated ginger, chopped cilantro, or a drizzle of sweet chili sauce), or Korean-inspired flavors (like gochujang, sautéed cabbage or chopped kimchi).
- If you prefer softer meatballs, add up to ⅓ cup of milk to the bread crumb mixture (this forms a makeshift panade: a milk-and-bread paste that's used to keep meat tender).
How to make these meatballs
This recipe comes together pretty quickly! Because these meatballs can be a little messy, we recommend preheating the oven and getting any baking sheets ready before you start mixing everything together.
Mix Everything But the Turkey
Start by adding the eggs, seasonings, and bread crumbs to a large mixing bowl (Image 1, above). Mix everything together until you have a thick paste (Image 2).
Why mix these ingredients on their own first? This step helps distribute the seasonings more evenly throughout the turkey (otherwise, you can end up with a random burst of onion powder in one bite and a pocket of dry bread crumbs in the next).
Mix in the turkey
Once your bread crumb mixture is ready, it's time to add the turkey (Image 3, above). You can use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to mix your meatballs if you prefer, although we find it's honestly easier (and less cleanup!) to just mix everything together with clean hands.
Remove any rings and wash your hands very well, then knead everything together until the bread crumb mixture is distributed evenly throughout the turkey (Image 4). Keep kneading until you don't see any big pockets of the bread crumb mixture left!
Shape the meatballs
Portion out the turkey and roll each meatball between your hands to form a ball (Image 5, above), then place each meatball on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat (Image 6). You can use a large cookie scoop to portion each meatball out if you like, or you can just eyeball it.
Pro Tip: Wet your hands with a bit of cold water to prevent the meatballs from sticking to your palms too much!
Make your meatballs any size you like! We typically make meatballs between 1-1.5 inches in diameter, but you can choose your own adventure here! Shape your meatballs as small or as large as you like (just remember that you may need to adjust the baking time for different sized meatballs).
Bake, Flip, and Bake Again
When the meatballs are shaped, pop them into the hot oven. 10 minutes into baking, pull the baking sheet out (Image 7, above) and use tongs to flip each meatball over (Image 8).
Return the pan to the oven to finish baking. Don't worry if the meatballs want to roll around a little after you've flipped them over - just slide them back into the oven as carefully as you can!
Continue baking until meatballs are golden brown and have reached an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit (we love using our instant-read thermometer to check for doneness!)
Why Flip the Meatballs Halfway Through?
First, because it helps the meatballs brown on more sides (this builds more flavor and gives you a more interesting texture).
Second, flipping the meatballs helps redistribute some liquid and protein within the turkey, which keeps the meatballs moist (it also prevents any watered-down protein from "leaking" out as the meatballs cook, which can look like a goopy, unappetizing white blob).
That said, you can skip this extra step if you want to! If you're just going to freeze the meatballs and put them in a rich sauce later, this flip won't make all that big of a difference.
Storing and freezing
We developed this recipe especially for meal prep, and these meatballs freeze so well! Once they're baked, let the meatballs cool completely, then transfer them to airtight containers (we like to fill deli containers with 2 servings at a time, so it's easy to pull out just what you need later on!)
Store meatballs in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Defrost frozen turkey meatballs overnight in the fridge, or plop frozen meatballs directly into a pot of already-simmering sauce for 10-20 minutes. You can also reheat refrigerated meatballs in the oven, or in a large skillet with a drizzle of your favorite sauce.
Three Food Safety Tips
Any time you're working with raw poultry, it's important to follow food safety guidelines! Three quick reminders for you:
- Cook meatballs to an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit (per USDA). Meatballs should reach 165° F (73.9° C) when you first bake them and again when you reheat them. Use an instant-read food thermometer to double-check the internal temperature!
- Avoid cross-contamination. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw turkey, and sanitize any surfaces that have close contact with the raw meat.
- Don't put frozen meatballs directly into a slow cooker: The low temperature will defrost meat slowly and unevenly, keeping it in a temperature "danger zone" and increasing the risk of foodborne illness. Always thaw frozen meat before putting it in a crockpot. Learn More from the USDA: Slow Cookers and Food Safety.
How to Use These Meatballs
These are the best turkey meatballs — and they're so versatile! Some of our favorite ways to use them:
- Sauce 'em up. Toss these meatballs in your favorite tomato or spaghetti sauce (serve over pasta or zucchini noodles!), an easy tikka masala or curry sauce (serve with rice, cauliflower rice, or veggies), a creamy parmesan sauce, or a hearty mushroom sauce!
- Add them to your favorite soup (they're great in our Tortellini Kale Soup or Pesto Chicken Orzo Soup!)
- Toss them with a bit of pizza sauce and bake on a sandwich roll with some mozzarella for a quick meatball sub.
- Use them as the base for Swedish Meatballs with a quick gravy and a dollop of lingonberry jam or leftover cranberry sauce.
- Toss meatballs in a skillet with a spicy sauce (we love using a 1:1 mix of gochujang and maple syrup, or grabbing one of our favorite Asian-inspired sauce packets from Omsom!) Serve with a quick slaw or salad and top with sesame seeds for extra texture (pictured above).
A few FAQs
Sometimes! You DO need to thaw frozen meatballs in the fridge overnight before adding them to a slow cooker or crock pot. You do NOT need to thaw frozen meatballs if you are placing them directly into a hot oven or a pot of already-simmering sauce on the stovetop.
If you're planning to freeze these meatballs, we actually recommend sticking to dried herbs here (dried basil, thyme, rosemary, and oregano are all great). Fresh herbs will lose a lot of their flavor in the freezer, so they won't make as big of a difference here as dried herbs will. But we love adding a sprinkle of fresh basil or fresh parsley to the finished dish when it's time to serve these meatballs!
Yes - use gluten free bread crumbs instead of panko breadcrumbs if you like.
Don't worry if you notice something that looks like, well, "white goo" leaking from the edges of your turkey meatballs after they bake. This goop (← technical, very professional culinary term) is similar in texture to cooked egg whites. It's a mix of water and protein that's released from the turkey as it cooks and shrinks in a hot oven. This process - called "denaturing" - is common with chicken and some seafood (like the white albumin that sometimes seeps out of salmon). Some brands of turkey (and some methods of turkey processing) will release more of this substance than others, especially if the turkey was previously frozen, but it's not harmful. If it bugs you, you can brush it off and discard it. Flipping the meatballs halfway through cooking helps prevent this water-and-protein mix from leaking out; we also find that denaturing is less frequent with fresh, high-quality ground meat (like organic ground turkey or meat from our local butcher).
We haven't tested an egg-free version of this recipe, but we would start with some of the suggestions in this article on the best egg substitutes for meatballs. The purpose of the egg in this recipe is to serve as a binder: something that helps the meatballs hold their shape as they cook. You can also make something called a panade: add some milk to the bread crumb mixture and let it soak a bit before mixing it into the turkey meat, and it should have a similar effect.
Yes! Fry these meatballs in a large skillet on the stovetop with a bit of olive oil or ghee. Flip them occasionally, and cook until they're golden brown on all sides and reach an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit.
More Easy Meal Prep Recipes
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These easy turkey meatballs pair well with your favorite sauces. Perfect for meal prep!
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
- Salt and pepper to taste (see recipe notes)
- 3 pounds ground turkey
- Heat oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl, mix eggs, onion powder, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper together.
- Add ground turkey to the bread crumb mixture, then use clean hands to mix everything until you have a smooth, uniform mixture.
- Form meatballs approximately 1 inch in diameter, rolling them between your hands to smooth out the edges. Tip: Splash a bit of cold water on your palms to prevent the turkey from sticking to your hands as you shape the meatballs.
- Place shaped meatballs 1 inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 425° F for 10 minutes, then pull the pan out of the oven and use a pair of tongs to flip each meatball over. Return to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes, until meatballs are golden brown and register an internal temperature of 165° Fahrenheit.
How much salt and pepper should I use? The “saltiness” of salt varies by style and by brand, and every person’s palate is different, which is why we always recommend you salt our recipes “to taste” based on your own preferences. When we make these meatballs, we typically use 1 Tablespoon of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and 1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper.
Substitutions and Additions. Use ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, or a combination of ground meats in place of turkey if you like. Add extra mix-ins if you'd like stronger flavors (dried herbs, grated ginger, a scoop of gochujang, or a drizzle of thai sweet chili sauce are all lovely here). Add a handful of grated parmesan or asiago cheese if you like.
Freezing and Storage. Let cooked meatballs cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Thaw frozen meatballs overnight in the fridge.
These meatballs are purposefully light on seasonings, because we want them to pair well with any sauce (from a hearty marinara sauce to a quick curry to a brothy tortellini soup). If you eat these meatballs alone, with no sauce, they may feel a little bland: We recommend pairing them with a flavorful sauce for best results. When you’re ready to eat, bring your favorite sauce to a simmer and heat the meatballs for at least 10-15 minutes, until they’re warmed through and have the chance to absorb some of the flavors from the sauce.
Serving suggestions. Serve these meatballs with your favorite marinara sauce over pasta, toss them with pizza sauce for a quick meatball sub, heat them up in a bit of curry or tikka masala sauce to serve with rice, or toss with a spicy asian-inspired sauce (we love these Omsom sauces!) and serve with a quick sesame salad.
- Serving Size: 4 one-inch diameter meatballs
- Calories: 420
- Sugar: 1.9 g
- Sodium: 675.1 mg
- Fat: 18.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 19.1 g
- Protein: 44.3 g
- Cholesterol: 213.9 mg
Keywords: meal prep, meatballs, pasta