These juicy and flavorful turkey meatballs are so easy to make. They're ready in less than 30 minutes!
Well-seasoned and pan-fried in olive oil, they are so good, whether freshly cooked or served as leftovers.
These tasty meatballs are a huge hit whenever I make them. My kids love them, but it's not just the kids - the adults enjoy them too.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make these turkey meatballs. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Ground turkey thighs: These should be marked as 93% or 94% lean. Ground turkey breast is too lean.
- Mayonnaise: I like to use avocado oil mayonnaise. My favorite brand is Sir Kensington's.
- Dijon mustard: If you have regular mustard you can use that, but Dijon is better. It's thick and creamy, and the flavor is less vinegary and more mustardy.
- Seasonings: I use kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika. It's important to make sure that the spices you use are fresh.
- Chopped fresh parsley: If you don't have fresh parsley you can use 1 teaspoon of dried parsley, oregano, or thyme instead. But the fresh herb does add a nice flavor.
- Olive oil for frying: I use ¼ cup even though about half of it stays in the skillet after frying. But I feel that being generous with the oil helps the meatballs brown better.
Making these turkey meatballs is very easy. Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Mix. Simply mix everything (except for the oil) in a medium bowl.
Portion. Use a 1.5-tablespoon cookie scoop to portion the mixture out into 16 portions.
Shape. Wet your hands and shape the portions into round meatballs.
Heat the oil. Now, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers and smells great, about 2 minutes. Use a very large skillet - at least 12 inches - and make sure it has a lid. But you can also cover it later with aluminum foil if none of your skillets have a lid.
Brown the meatballs. Add the meatballs to the skillet in a single layer. They'll be a bit crowded in there, but I'm frankly too lazy to cook in two batches. However, if your frying pan is smaller than 12 inches, you'll need to cook in two batches. Brown the meatballs all over, turning them frequently, for about 5 minutes.
Finish cooking. The meatballs are nicely browned now, but they are not yet fully cooked. So now, add a bit of water to the bottom of the skillet, cover it with a lid (or with foil), and cook for 3 more minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. An instant-read thermometer inserted into one of them (as I do in the video) should read 165°F.
The mixture is quite sticky, so when forming the meatballs, it helps to lightly moisten your hands. This helps prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands and will help you create smooth meatballs.
Frequently asked questions
No. Make sure you use ground turkey thighs (93% lean) and not ground turkey breast (99% lean). Turkey breast is VERY dry, and the meatballs won't be very good if you opt for using it.
Yes. Instead of pan-frying, you can arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet (use high-heat-resistant parchment), spray them liberally with olive oil, and bake them for about 15 minutes in a preheated 400°F oven. Check to make sure they are cooked through.
When combining the ingredients and forming the meatballs, work gently and handle the mixture as lightly as you can. Overworking it will result in tough, gummy meatballs.
I love this recipe as is and almost always make it as written. But in case you'd like to vary the basic recipe, here are a few ideas for you:
- You can make this recipe using ground chicken thighs.
- Add ½ teaspoon of cumin to the mixture.
- Cook the meatballs in ghee (clarified butter) instead of olive oil.
These meatballs are so versatile. You can truly serve them with anything. Here are a few ideas:
- Serve them on top of mashed cauliflower.
- Serve them with microwave spaghetti squash and marinara sauce.
- Stuff them in a lettuce sandwich with some mayo, sliced tomatoes, and pickled red onions.
- Or just serve them all on their own with a side dish such as roasted Brussels sprouts or broccoli and cheese sauce.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. Reheat them gently in the microwave on 50% power, or do as I do and snack on them cold. 😋
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Juicy Turkey Meatballs
- 1 lb. Ground turkey thighs (93% lean; ground turkey breast is too lean)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (I use avocado oil mayonnaise)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon fine sea salt)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons olive oil for frying*
- In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients except for the oil.
- Using a 1.5-tablespoon cookie scoop, the same one you would use for cookies, scoop out even portions of the mixture into a plate. I usually end up with 16 meatballs.
- With wet hands for easier handling, shape each portion into a round meatball.
- Heat the olive oil in a very large (12-inch) lidded skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers and becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook them uncovered, turning frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add ¼ cup of water to the bottom of the skillet. Cover with the lid and cook until the meatballs are cooked through (their internal temperature should be 165° F), about 3 more minutes.
- Remove the meatballs from the skillet to a serving plate using a slotted spoon. Serve immediately.