These paleo turkey meatballs are moist, tender, and incredibly flavorful. They’re seared to add an extra layer of depth, then baked and smothered with an easy marinara sauce. This is a paleo and Whole30 compliant ground turkey recipe the entire family will love!
Meatballs. Adults love ’em, kids love ’em, and so they’re so darn easy and forgiving. They’re superhero food.
Meatballs make an appearance on our menu on the regular. I pack them into my son’s lunch, toss them with sweet potato glass noodles for a fast and easy dinner, and I’ve even been known to have them for breakfast when I’m on a Whole30.
Meatballs are such a staple around here because they’re super flexible, can fit about a million different flavors and cuisines, and are the ultimate freezer stash. I like to make them in double or triple batches and then freeze the leftovers for those nights when I just cannot.
And I often just cannot when I’m Whole30-ing, so these paleo turkey meatballs have saved the day a time or two (or, um, ten).
These are a hybrid of my paleo beef kofta meatballs and my grandmother’s classic recipe for Sunday sauce with meatballs. They’re of course completely gluten-free and grain-free, but they’re also nut-free. YAZ.
These paleo turkey meatballs are incredibly tender and packed with flavor. You can serve ’em naked, but I like them smothered with a Whole30 compliant marinara sauce served alongside grilled seasonal vegetables. My ridiculously picky 8-year old declared them “the best meatballs I’ve ever had in my whole entire life!”. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement, then I’m hanging up my apron and calling it quits.
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Tips for Perfect Paleo Turkey Meatballs
Ground turkey meatballs have a reputation for being a little dry, and a lot bland. But they needn’t be. With just a few tips and tricks you’ll be making moist, flavorful paleo turkey meatballs like a boss.
Tip #1: Skip the Flour Substitute.
That’s right, these guys are completely free of any paleo flour substitute, which tends to dry out the meatballs and add a touch a mealiness. We’re gonna go ahead and skip that.
Tip #2: Use Dark Ground Turkey Meat for Flavor Packed Paleo Meatballs
Turkey breast is very low in fat, and while it can be super tasty sliced and slathered with gravy, it’s a harder sell to make ground turkey meatballs that are packed with flavor.
Dark meat has more fat and a gamier flavor, and is therefore an exceptional meatball choice. I buy mine at Mom’s Organic Market or from my local co-op, but I’ve found it at my chain grocery store on occasion as well.
Tip #3: Season Thoroughly, and Don’t Overmix.
It may seem counterintuitive, but I use my food processor to ensure my ground turkey meatballs are packed with flavor without over-handle-ing them.
Since we’re not using a binder or flour substitute, the meat will be very, very wet. Thoroughly incorporating the seasoning into super moist ground turkey without overworking the meat is a challenge by hand. The pulse function on a food processor gets the job done perfectly without compacting the meat too much. Just be sure to pulse, not blend.
After you’ve formed your paleo turkey meatballs, you’ll give them a good sear in a cast iron skillet. Searing the meatballs helps them keep their shape (they’ll fall apart if you bake them without searing) and gives them yet another hit of flavor from caramelizing in the fat.
Sear the meatballs in batches, and keep them moving around in the skillet so they don’t flatten and loose their round(ish) shape. I do this using a highly scientific method I like to call The Jiggle and Flip Maneuver.
I keep my tongs in my right hand, and my left hand on the handle of the skillet (covered with an oven mitt – safety first y’all). While the meatballs are browning, I gently jiggle the pan, while flipping the meatballs with the tongs. These keeps them moving around and browning on all sides.
After they’ve been browned, return all of the meatballs to the cast iron skillet and then pop the whole thing into the oven to finish baking. The result? Deeply flavorful, tender and moist ground turkey meatballs.
I serve these with a basic marinara sauce that’s loosely based on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s robust and flavorful, but not so powerful that it will compete with the flavor from the meatballs. I start the marinara first, and it’s ready by the time the meatballs are done in the oven.
This recipe makes four generous servings of ground turkey meatballs. Make a double-batch, and save half in the freezer for a quick and easy “save the day” dinner. To do so, either freeze the meatballs in the sauce in an airtight container, or individually freeze the meatballs for grab-and-go portions.
To do so, place the meatballs without sauce into a gallon sized ziplock bag. Lay the bag flat and place onto a baking sheet. Arrange the meatballs in the bag so that they lay in a single layer with a little space in-between. Place the meatballs into the freezer on the baking sheet and freeze overnight. The next day, the meatballs will be individually frozen. Remove the bag from the cookie sheet and store the bag in the freezer.
To serve, defrost a portion of meatballs in the microwave on the defrost setting, then gently reheat in a cast iron skillet on the stove.
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Looking for more easy, flavorful, paleo ground turkey recipe ideas? Try my ground turkey breakfast hash with peppers and summer squash. Topped with a simple fried egg, it’s a warm, filling and nutritious paleo breakfast.
Paleo Turkey Meatballs with MarinaraPrint Recipe Rate This Recipe
Paleo Marinara Sauce
- 3 tbsp ghee divided
- 1/2 white onion diced to 1/2"
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 350*.
- Start the marinara sauce. Place a saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp ghee and heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and saute, stirring continuously, until fragrant, an additional 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste, and stir until incorporated into the onions and garlic.
- Add the tomatoes and the last two tablespoons of ghee and stir until the ghee is melted into the sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low. Cover and simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is deep red in color, 25-30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and remove from heat.
- Add the chopped onion, parsley, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 10-15 seconds, or until the ingredients are finely minced.
- Add the spices, salt, and pepper to the mixture and pulse a few times to incorporate, scraping down the sides as needed to ensure an even distribution.
- Break up the turkey into small chunks and add it to the onion and herb mixture, then add the egg yolk. Pulse the mixture 8-10 times, or until the ingredients are just barely incorporated.
- Roll approximately 1 heaping tablespoon of the turkey mixture into a meatball and set aside. Repeat with the remaining turkey mixture until you have approximately 18 uniformly sized meatballs. The meatballs will be very soft and moist at this stage, and you might want to lightly coat your hands with a little melted ghee or coconut oil to prevent the meat from sticking too much.
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tbsp ghee and heat until it shimmers. Add about a third of the meatballs to the pan. With your left hand on the handle (use an oven mitt, as the handle will get hot), and with tongs in your right hand, gently shake the pan, and flip the meatballs around with the tongs. The “jiggle” keeps the meatballs moving, and turning with the tongs helps them keep their shape. Continue to jiggle and flip until the meatballs are golden brown on all sides. Remove the browned meatballs using the tongs and set aside on a plate. Repeat with the remaining batches until all of the meatballs are browned.
- Return all of the meatballs to the skillet in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, 15-18 minutes.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven and toss in the marinara sauce. Top with additional fresh parsley, and serve immediately. These keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen without sauce for up to two months.
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