Seasoned with thyme and sage, baked Turkey Meatballs are a quick and easy way to enjoy the flavors of Thanksgiving without all the fuss of a preparing a whole turkey. Serve them over mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables with caramelized onion gravy (no drippings required!) for the ultimate comfort food dinner.
Baked turkey meatballs of every variety are a staple in this house year-round. They’re quick and easy for dinner, freeze like a dream, and are one of the few proteins both of my kids will eat without complaint – and let’s be honest, that last bit is the most important!
In the summer I make them Italian-style with fresh tomato marinara, for our January Whole30 I reach for my paleo version, and in the fall I love them with caramelized onion gravy over mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.
How to make baked turkey meatballs
These turkey meatballs are decidedly more “Thanksgiving-style” than “Italian-style”, seasoned with thyme and sage, then smothered with caramelized onion gravy. Use dark ground turkey meat for superior flavor and tenderness.
- Combine ground turkey with one egg, dried parsley, thyme, and sage, diced onion and celery, salt and pepper, and some panko-style breadcrumbs.
- Mix the meatball mixture until it’s just barely combined, being careful not to overwork it, which can result in dense, tough meatballs. I mix using the most versatile tool in my kitchen – my (clean) hands!
- Scoop a heaping tablespoon of meatball mixture into your hands, roll it into a ball, and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and rubbed with a little oil.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes in a 400°F oven, or until they reach 165°F on an instant read thermometer.
How to Make Sweet Onion Gravy
Take your baked turkey meatballs next level by smothering them with onion gravy. Turkey + gravy always equals heaven, even in meatball form. Caramelized onions bring so much flavor to this gravy – no drippings required!
- Start by caramelizing thinly sliced vidalia onion. Sautee the onion with a pinch of salt in olive oil over medium heat.
- The key to perfect caramelized onions is two-fold: time, and moisture. As the onions start to cook down, they’ll release their moisture content and eventually start to dry out, so have some broth handy and add a bit to the pot every now and then to keep the onions moist.
- Once they’re deep golden brown, add a clove of smashed garlic, a cup of broth, and a sprig of thyme. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and the thyme leaves are starting to fall off the stems.
- Fish out the thyme stems, transfer the onion mixture into a blender, and process until smooth. Finish it off with a pat of butter and a splash of heavy cream. The cream isn’t necessary, but it adds some really nice body to the finished gravy. Taste for seasoning and add cracked black pepper and a little more salt (if needed).
Our best tips for perfect turkey meatballs
- Use dark ground turkey meat! With slightly more fat than ground turkey breast and a gamier flavor, dark ground turkey meat makes an excellent meatball.
- Finely mince the onion and celery for best texture.
- Rub a little olive oil on your hands before mixing and then again before forming the meatballs (reapplying as necessary as you form them). This will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands too much, and the extra fat will give the meatballs a nice caramelized crust and a kick of extra flavor.
- Use a thermometer to check for doneness. Yes, you can slice one open, but turkey meat can be a little deceiving. An instant read thermometer is the best way to check for properly cooked meat.
- A small cookie scoop will yield perfect portions (about 1 tablespoon) for bite-sized meatballs!
How to store and freeze
In the Fridge: store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
To Freeze: place the cooked meatballs onto a baking sheet, leaving a little space between each. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until the meatballs are solid (about an hour or two). Place the individually frozen meatballs into a gallon sized freezer bag, press out the air, seal, and stash! Frozen turkey meatballs keep up to 2 months in an air-tight bag.
To Reheat from Frozen: (1) place a serving of meatballs into a microwave safe bowl, cover with a plate, then heat for 90 seconds; (2) to defrost a whole batch, transfer the storage bag to the fridge over night to thaw and gently reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
Are turkey meatballs healthy?
Turkey is a great substitute for beef if you’re mindful of red meat consumption. The other white meat, turkey is lean and packed with protein. One serving of turkey is also loaded with B vitamins and minerals (source).
Turkey meatballs can also accommodate a fairly wide array of dietary requirements:
- Dairy Free: as written, the meatball recipe is dairy free. Finish the gravy with two tablespoons of ghee instead of butter and cream.
- Low Carb: 12g net carbs per serving (that’s 6 whole meatballs y’all!).
- Gluten Free: substitute gluten free pank0-style breadcrumbs with excellent results.
- Paleo or Whole30: I do NOT recommend making these with almond flour for a grain free version. Once baked, they turned out too dry for my taste. I much prefer pan-seared, then baked, whole30 meatballs. You can find my go-to recipe for paleo and whole30 turkey meatballs here.
What to Serve with Baked Turkey Meatballs
- Sauce: these were made (literally) to pair with our caramelized onion gravy.
- Mashed Potatoes: mini Thanksgiving dinner with all the traditional flavors? Heck yes! We love these over mashed potatoes with roasted brussels sprouts or carrots.
- Low Carb: serve with cauliflower mash, plenty of dressing, and sautéed spinach or kale.
More Meatball Recipes
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Turkey Meatballs with Caramelized Onion GravyPrint Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
Caramelized Onion Gravy
- 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 c chicken broth
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp cold butter
- 1 tbsp heavy cream
- Start the gravy. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small sauce pot over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and toss to coat in the fat. Sautee, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add broth, a tablespoon at a time, as needed to keep the onions moist and to prevent scalding.
- Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with olive oil spray or rub with 1 tsp olive oil.
- Place the ground turkey, minced onion and celery, egg, breadcrumbs, and all seasonings into a large mixing bowl. Wash your hands, then rub half a tablespoon of olive oil onto your hands. Using your oil hands, mix until all ingredients are thoroughly distributed, but do not overmix.
- Form heaping 1 tablespoon portions of the mix into meatballs and place onto the baking sheet, leaving space between each. Apply more olive oil to your hands as needed to prevent sticking and to give each meatball a thin coating of oil.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake 15-18 minuter, or until the meatballs are golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Finish the gravy. Add the smashed garlic clove, 1 cup chicken broth, and fresh thyme to the onions. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and the thyme leaves are falling off the stems.
- Pour the gravy ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the cold butter and heavy cream, and blend one final time. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and additional salt (if needed).
- Serve the meatballs warm, smothered with sweet onion gravy. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days. See notes for freezing instructions.
- In the Fridge: store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
- To Freeze: place the cooked meatballs onto a baking sheet, leaving a little space between each. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until the meatballs are solid (about an hour or two). Place the individually frozen meatballs into a gallon sized freezer bag, press out the air, seal, and stash! Frozen turkey meatballs keep up to 2 months in an air-tight bag.
- To Reheat from Frozen: (1) place a serving of meatballs into a microwave safe bowl, cover with a plate, then heat for 90 seconds; (2) to defrost a whole batch, transfer the storage bag to the fridge over night to thaw and gently reheat on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.