You’ll never miss what’s missing from these Healthy Italian Meatballs. With a nod to the classic Italian style, they’re (hand)packed with flavor from both ground beef and pork, plus fresh herbs, onion and, of course, lotsa garlic.
You won’t find any filler in these grain and gluten free meatballs, so they’re adaptable for many diets including keto, Whole30, and paleo. Sear and simmer in your favorite marinara.
I try pretty hard to not get too swept up in dietary adaptations. I have my fair share of compliant classics for keto, Whole30, and paleo (and more) dietary accommodations, but I try really hard not to push the boundaries too far.
Keto mac and cheese isn’t a thing on this little site, nor is vegan steak. We keep it real, with healthy-ish spins on the classics, and that is good enough for me and my family’s ever-changing needs and picky palettes.
But when you stumble across a simple modification that is almost too good to be true, you can’t not let people in on the secret. I can hear that British lady on TikTok right now: “Show me the life hack that you randomly saw one day that is now an unconscious standard practice in your life. Ah’ll go furst…”
Here it is (and I know Big Breadcrumb is gonna come for me): you don’t need filler in your meatballs. You simply don’t. Fillers aren’t binders. You can and should use a binder (our healthy meatballs call for egg yolk) but you don’t. need. filler.
Whether you’re going gluten free, cutting carbs, or heck, maybe you’re just too short or lazy to get the canister from the top shelf in your cupboard, you can rest assured that flours and breadcrumbs and thickeners and starches are NOT required to make a delicious meatball, and ditching them only makes for a healthier one (or a compliant one, wherever your dietary ship is currently docked).
What Makes These Filler-Free Meatballs Healthy?
Yes, yes “healthy” is subjective, but when it comes to a recipe like this one for healthy meatballs, the word healthy generally translates to clean – aka, free from wheat, sugar, or anything white. And these babies deliver! Our Whole30 and keto meatballs are:
- Completely gluten and grain free: zero fillers here! Not even almond flour (so they’re nut free too!)
- Dairy free: (psst! you can always top with cheese if you “need” it.)
- Made with clean, whole food ingredients you can easily source from your local grocery store.
- (CAN YOU REWORD SLIGHTLY SO IT’S NOT AN EXACT COPY FROM TURKEY MEATBALLS, GOOGLE DOESN’T ALWAYS LIKE THAT) Gut Friendly: if you practice a gut-friendly diet, you know that plant-based diversity is key. This healthy turkey meatball recipe incorporates fresh herbs like basil and parsley, plus onions and garlic. It’s a great way to add additional plant-based ingredients into a meat-based recipe.
For some folks, gluten-free flour blends and nut flours are a lifesaver (sometimes literally). But for others? Well, it just gets in the way of a good time.
Instead of focusing on finding the perfect fill-in fillers for healthy recipes, we focus on key ingredients for flavor and easy cooking techniques that take care of texture. Here’s all you’ll need to make Italian style gluten-free meatballs:
- Fresh Herbs: fresh parsley and basil add bulk and tons of flavor.
- Onion: we like a sweet Vidalia onion, but white or yellow work too.
- Garlic: a staple in any meatball recipe, healthy or not! Fresh is best, but garlic powder works in a pinch (use ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder per clove of garlic).
- Ground Beef and Ground Pork: a combination of beef and pork is much more flavorful than just one or the other. If you only use one, we prefer ground beef.
- Egg Yolk: the yolk is the binder that keeps the meatballs formed; omit the white to ensure the mixture isn’t too wet and sticky (remember, there aren’t any bread crumbs that need to be moistened!).
- Dried Herbs: dried basil, thyme, and oregano round out the flavor profile
How to Make Healthy Italian-Style Meatballs
Healthy Italian Meatballs are just like grandma’s, only gloriously grain-free. Form a stable crust – and build more flavor – by pan searing in olive oil. Then simmer meatballs without bread crumbs in our Whole30 marinara sauce (or your favorite compliant brand in a jar). Freeze for future meal prep, or just nosh on the leftovers for the rest of the week.
- Finely mince the onion, parsley, basil, and garlic in a food processor.
- Combine the minced alliums and herbs with the ground beef, ground pork, egg yolk, and dried herbs in a large mixing bowl; mix with your (clean) hands until well combined.
- Form quarter cup portions of the mixture into round meatball shapes.
- Sear the meatballs in batches in a single layer in a heated, oiled skillet. Brown on all sides, turning every 2 minutes.
- Bring a pot of marinara sauce to a simmer, and add the meatballs to the pot as they brown.
- Simmer in the marinara sauce, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are cooked through – at least 20 minutes, and up to an hour.
- Sear then simmer… that is the (authentic Italian) way!
- Finely mince the onions and herbs for best texture. A food processor works perfectly, but your own two hands and a trusty chef’s knife can get the job done.
- Be sure to brown on all sides – this holds the meatballs together when they simmer in the sauce and adds additional flavor.
- Feel free to use your favorite jarred (compliant as needed) marinara sauce. We’ve tried, and like, jarred sauces from Primal Kitchen and Thrive Market.
- Fresh herbs can be substituted for dried, but you should consider replacing the bulk they provide; use 1 teaspoon of dried parsley and/or basil in place of the fresh herbs. Try baby spinach! Use about a cup of loosely packed baby spinach in place of the herbs, and finely mince as you would the fresh herbs.
Healthy Meatball Serving Suggestions
In my house, we’re all perfectly content just stabbing meatballs with a fork and stuffing them down our gullets “as-is,” but if you prefer to eat like civilized human beings, you can absolutely make a meal out of ’em:
- Keep it classic with marinara sauce (that one’s Whole30) or creamy tomato sauce (if you tolerate dairy) and a grain free pasta (we like Banza!)
- Need something more “robusto?” Go for the gusto and keep these keto meatballs on hand for Sunday Sauce.
- Whole30 meatballs are surprisingly tasty served over mashed potatoes or cauliflower potatoes.
- They also work really well with simple veggie preparations like sautéed zucchini, zoodles, or roasted spaghetti squash.
Can I Make These Meatballs Ahead of Time?
You sure can! All meatballs are great for meal prep, but it’s important to remember that the meatballs will NOT be fully cooked after browning, so be sure to read the full instructions.
- For weekly meal prep: prepare as directed and store in an airtight container in the sauce for up to 5 days. (You can probably stretch to a week, but we ate them all before we even came close to having to sniff test.)
- Freeze individually: instead of finishing the meatballs in the marinara sauce, place them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and transfer to a 350°F oven. Bake 15-18 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F using an instant read thermometer. Then, transfer the baked meatballs onto a clean baking sheet and place in the freezer until firm (about an hour). Toss the frozen meatballs into an airtight container or ziplock bag and freeze up to 3 months. Reheat individual meatballs in the microwave for about 90 seconds.
Did you make these healthy meatballs? I’d love to know how they turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
Healthy Italian Meatballs (No Bread Crumbs!)Print Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- ½ medium Vidalia onion
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley
- ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tbsp olive oil, or avocado oil
- 6 cups marinara sauce, use our Whole30 Marinara sauce, tomato cream sauce, or your favorite jarred sauce or recipe
- Place onion, parsley, basil, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely minced.
- Combine the ground beef, ground pork, minced alliums and herbs, salt, dried basil, dried thyme, pepper, oregano, and egg yolk in a large bowl. Mix using your (clean) hands until well combined.
- Form the mixture into 2-ounce meatballs (scant ¼ cup) and set aside on a baking sheet. This makes approximately 24 meatballs.
- Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the meatballs in a single layer (about 8 at a time), turning every 2 minutes until well browned on all sides, 8-10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the skillet and return to the baking sheet; repeat with the remaining meatballs.
- Heat the marinara sauce in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until simmering. Add the browned meatballs to the sauce. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce until cooked through, at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. (Alternatively, see Notes for baking instructions).
- Bake the Meatballs. Sear the meatballs as directed, then place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Transfer to a 350°F oven and bake 15-18 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Nutritional information reflects meatballs only. Check the recipe card for our Whole30 marinara sauce for nutritional content for that recipe.