Who says ground beef is the only option for making meatballs? These turkey meatballs are full-flavored and robust—and a fantastic way to sneak extra veggies into your diet. The spinach keeps the turkey juicy and moist as it cooks, ensuring the meatballs won’t turn out dry. They taste fantastic with your favorite pasta sauce and noodles, and they’re equally delicious on a meatball sandwich or pizza.
As a bonus, this simple recipe requires only six ingredients and 30 minutes. You don’t even need a cutting board to pull it off!
What is the best way to cook turkey meatballs?
Some recipes call for browning meatballs in a skillet, but we prefer to bake turkey meatballs in the oven. Baked meatballs are more hands-off because there’s no need to turn them throughout the cooking process. And you won’t have to worry about grease splattering all over the stovetop.
If you prefer to cook meatballs in a skillet, we recommend finishing them in a sauce, like we do with Swedish meatballs. The stovetop’s direct heat is more intense than the oven’s, and finishing the meatballs in a moist environment helps them maintain a tender texture.
Ingredients for Turkey Meatballs
- Ground turkey: Light, 93% lean turkey is a great option. For a deeper, richer flavor, use dark ground turkey made from the thighs and drumsticks. If you happen to have a meat grinder or the right KitchenAid attachment, you can grind your own blend from boneless turkey thighs.
- Spinach: Thaw the spinach overnight, and make sure to squeeze out all the excess water before cooking. Too much moisture can make the meatballs fall apart and give them a soggy texture.
- Egg and bread crumbs: These are the binding ingredients. They help the meat and other ingredients come together and ensure the meatballs hold their form.
- Onion: Grated onion adds moisture to the meatballs. To cut down on dishes, skip the cutting board and grate the onion directly into the bowl with a cheese grater.
- Seasoned salt: We things simple and use a flavorful seasoned salt. Feel free to make a custom blend with your favorite Italian herbs and spices.
Step 1: Prepare the spinach mixture
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a bowl, combine the spinach, egg, bread crumbs, onion and seasoned salt.
Step 2: Make the meatball mixture
Add the turkey to the spinach mixture. Mix lightly but thoroughly.
Editor’s Tip: Be careful not to overdo it here. Overmixing the meat can lead to tough meatballs, so gently work the mix until it’s just combined.
Step 3: Shape the turkey-spinach meatballs
Grease an oven-safe rack and place it in a shallow baking pan.
Shape the meatball mixture into 2-inch balls, and place them on the rack. There should be enough mixture to create 12 turkey meatballs.
Editor’s Tip: Use a cookie scoop to guarantee evenly sized meatballs.
Step 4: Bake the meatballs
Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Drain meatballs on paper towels.
If desired, serve with pasta.
Editor’s Tip: What’s the best way to know when meatballs are finished cooking? A meat thermometer! Turkey meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 165°.
- Use fresh spinach: One 10-ounce package of frozen spinach is about 1-1/2 cups of cooked spinach. So, you’ll need about 1-1/2 pounds of fresh spinach. Cook it using your favorite technique for sauteed spinach. Then, squeeze out any excess liquid.
- Skip the spinach: Use sauteed kale, mustard greens or Swiss chard instead of spinach. Or swap in fresh herbs like chopped basil, oregano, rosemary or parsley.
- Mix up the meats: You can substitute any ground meat to make these spinach meatballs. For an extra-tender meatball, consider mixing rich meats like ground pork or 80/20 beef with turkey or chicken.
- Make them cheesy: Hard cheeses like Parmesan, Grana Padano or Romano are classic choices for meatballs.
How to Serve Turkey Meatballs with Spinach
Serve turkey meatballs in any recipe that calls for regular meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs is classic, but there are plenty of meatball recipes that go beyond pasta. For a simple preparation, combine the meatballs with a sauce and spoon them over polenta or cauliflower rice. A side of garlic bread, roasted vegetables or a side salad is never a bad idea. Or, use them to make meatball casserole, as a topping for flatbread or meatball pizza, or serve them as a meatball sliders appetizer.
When it comes to sauce, the possibilities are endless! Try pairing any of these sauces with turkey meatballs.
- Tomato sauce: Go the traditional route with a simple pasta sauce.
- Alfredo: Use your favorite Alfredo sauce to give the meatballs a creamy finish.
- Chimichurri: Amp up the herbaceous vibes and make meatballs with chimichurri sauce.
- Pesto: Add richness with pesto.
- Barbecue: Make a unique sandwich or pizza with barbecue meatballs.
- Teriyaki: Turn meatballs into a party appetizer and make sweet and tangy teriyaki meatballs.
How to Store Turkey Meatballs
Store the cooked meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. To reheat the meatballs, bake them in a 350° oven until they reach an internal temperature of 165°. Or add them to a pot of sauce and simmer until heated through.
How to Freeze Turkey Meatballs
Meatballs freeze exceptionally well, so don’t be afraid to double (or triple) this recipe. Let the meatballs cool completely. Freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to an airtight container. They’ll last for up to three months.
Let the meatballs thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and reheat as directed.
Turkey Meatballs Tips
How do you keep turkey-spinach meatballs from falling apart?
It’s important to use the right amount of binding ingredients in spinach meatball recipes, like bread crumbs and eggs. The spinach adds extra moisture, which can make the meatballs soggy or fall apart.
If you don’t want to use these specific ingredients, make sure to add a suitable substitute. Panko, crushed crackers, almond meal or oats can be used instead of bread crumbs, although the substitution may affect the flavor and texture. The best substitute for eggs is “flax eggs,” a mixture of 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water.
Why are my turkey meatballs tough?
Turkey meatballs can turn out tough and dry for several reasons. Very lean meat (like 99% lean ground turkey) doesn’t contain as much moisture as fattier meats. Lack of moisture can make meatballs dry and tough, so consider adding a splash of milk to the egg mix to moisten the bread crumbs.
It’s also possible that the meat mixture was overworked, causing it to become dense. Mix the meatballs gently, and use a scoop to form the meatballs to avoid overhandling.
Can you make turkey meatballs in the air fryer?
You can absolutely make turkey meatballs in the air fryer! Cook the meatballs in a single layer in a 380° air fryer until they’re browned and heated through, 12 to 15 minutes. Every air fryer is a little different, so the cooking times may vary. Check out our air-fryer meatball recipe for more tips and tricks.