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!
It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! My January Whole30 has officially come to a close. If you also made it to Day 30 yesterday, CONGRATS! You should be mighty proud of yourself, and I’m doing the happy dance in my kitchen for you while I drink my morning coffee with a splash of cream (dairy is first on my list in the reintroduction phase).
If you’re still in the middle of your January Whole30 or are considering the challenge in the coming weeks, fear not – I have a few more compliant meals to share with you this week, or you can take a dive into the Whole30 archives to find some tasty inspiration
I’ve done the Whole30 a couple of times now, so I’m pretty familiar with what foods will trigger some uncomfortable reactions during the reintroduction phase, and which foods I’ll happily sail right back into. I tolerate dairy just fine (thank goodness), but grains are a different story.
Since grains will be the last category I add back into my diet (and sparingly at that), I thought it was time I shared my recipe for paleo turkey meatballs with y’all.
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.
These paleo turkey meatballs are incredibly tender and packed with flavor. My ridiculously picky 8-year old declared them “the best meatballs I’ve ever had in my whole entire life!”. And since they’re nut-free, I can pack them into his school lunch. So. Much. Winning.
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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.
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.
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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 Marinara
These paleo turkey meatballs are moist, tender, and incredibly flavorful. The entire family with love with paleo and Whole30 compliant ground turkey 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
Paleo Ground Turkey Meatballs
- 1/2 white onion coarsely chopped
- 1/2 c. loosely packed parsley
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- pinch dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 lb ground dark meat turkey
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp ghee
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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