Tender and juicy with a simple and quick homemade sauce, these Dairy-Free Turkey Meatballs are big on flavor, but low on fuss. This recipe is ready in under 45 minutes and is 100% family-friendly. Gluten-free variations available!
This recipe was originally published January 26, 2021. It was updated with new photos and recipe information on September 13, 2023.
Table of contents
- Why You'll Love these Dairy-Free Healthy Turkey Meatballs
- Ingredient Substitutions
- How to Make Healthy Turkey Meatballs
- Recipe Pro-Tips
- Recipe Variations
- Serving Suggestions
- Storage Directions
- Dietary Adaptations
- Tools Needed to Make This Recipe
- More Italian-Inspired Dinners
- More Healthy Dinner Recipes
These stress-free healthy turkey meatballs are a perfect protein to top a warm bed spaghetti or to serve alongside crisp air fryer broccolini or heavenly air-fryer garlic bread. This flavorsome meal will feed your whole family and may even leave you with food for the week.
As the fall season rolls around I love a dinner that smells of warmth and comfort. However, I also appreciate a meal that doesn’t take 5 hours and will also act as a healthy meal prep dish we can actually forward to.
Those recipes can be hard to come by and that’s where these healthy ground turkey meatballs win. They are delicious with basically anything you plop them on top of, and their basic scrumptiousness makes them an easy choice as a go-to meal in my home.
Not only can they provide a wealthy amount of nutrients, but they also taste of warm comfort that is quite welcome as the cool sweater weather comes to stay.
The dairy-free turkey meatballs don’t leave me ready to pass out from a food coma, but definitely help us rest easy with full bellies after a long day. These protein-packed ground turkey meatballs are truly a house-hold game changer.
Why You'll Love these Dairy-Free Healthy Turkey Meatballs
- Simple & Easy. These are the best turkey meatballs because they are ready in just 40 minutes. Believe it! Homemade meatballs in under an hour.
- Flavor-Packed. The casual everyday spices bring a luscious flavor profile to every bite.
- Versatile. Create a last-minute meatball sub. Add them to your albondigas. Top them over fluffy brown rice. Eat them with a fresh bed of dairy-free mashed potatoes. The possibilities are endless!
- Dairy-Free. Without any milk or butter, these healthy ground turkey meatballs are a favorite for everyone.
- Protein-Rich. Turkey is one of my favorite ways to get loads of protein and nutrition, fueling me up after a busy day.
Tasting like they took hours of slaving in the kitchen, these healthy meatballs come together in a snap and please almost any palate.
- Ground Turkey: A combination of breast and thigh meat is best for juicy turkey meatballs.
- Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage: Raw or bulk sausage is best. This combination is a delicious addition for the meatball mix to add an elevated flavor profile.
- Large Eggs: An essential binder to keep meatballs intact. Use eggs at room temperature.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Gives the meatballs a luscious texture. See my notes below to make this recipe gluten-free.
- Tomato Paste: This enhances the deep tomato flavor of the marinara sauce, creating the most succulent dairy-free turkey meatballs.
- Garlic Powder: Salty and nutty. An easy but necessary addition for the ground turkey.
- Dried basil + Oregano + Red Pepper Flakes: Classic herbs to bring out savory and mild spice flavor.
- Unsalted Canned Diced Tomatoes: You can also use salted (regular) canned diced tomatoes, but you will want to decrease the salt in the sauce to ¼ teaspoon.
- Red Wine Vinegar: An unexpected star of the show, this vinegar brings out and ties together all the flavors of the dish
- Granulated White Sugar: Use just a bit of sugar to bring out the flavors of the tomatoes.
- Olive oil: A smooth base to begin the cooking.
- Baby or Frozen Spinach: Optional, but adds extra flavor and effortless nutrition.
Meat Substitution: Use ground chicken, ground beef, or ground pork in place of ground turkey for flavorful and moist meatballs.
Breadcrumb Substitution: Use the same measure of rolled oats, rice panko, or gluten-free panko bread crumbs for traditional panko breadcrumbs.
Homemade Tomato Sauce Substitution: Substitute a bottle of storebought pasta sauce for the homemade sauce for an even easier meatball recipe!
How to Make Healthy Turkey Meatballs
Step 1: Combine the meatball ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Use a food processor for extra ease and quick combining.
Step 2: Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the meatball mixture or roll the meat into ¼ cup large meatballs and place onto parchment paper. Either method requires identical meatballs for even heating.
Step 3: Mix or whisk together the tomato sauce ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl.
Step 4: Saute the meatballs in a large non-stick skillet until browned.
Step 5: Pour the tomato sauce into the skillet with the meatballs and simmer for 22-24 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and darker red.
- Ice Cream Scoop: Use an ice cream scoop to create identical turkey meatballs. This will help to ensure the proper cook time for each serving. You will only need to check the internal temperature of one meatball.
- Don't Crowd the Meatballs in the Pan: The meatballs will brown the best and cook more evenly if they aren't crowded while cooking.
- Lightly handle and flip the meatballs while sauteing: It is very easy to smush or deform the ground turkey meatballs as you cook them, so gently flip them and don't press down on them with your spatula. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce uncovered: This will help the sauce evaporate as it cooks, helping it to thicken up and develop flavors.
While this recipe is designed to keep it simple and easy, these additions take your flavor profile to another level.
- Fresh Herbs: Add 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh basil to the turkey meatball recipe to create a greater depth of fresh flavor. Fresh herbs give fresh flavor!
- Parmesan Cheese: If you do not need the turkey meatballs to be dairy-free then you can use ⅓ cup parmesan. This would also create an ideal Italian turkey meatball.
These healthy ground turkey meatballs can also be served as an appetizer! Stick a toothpick and serve them on a platter and you are ready to go.
Whether you want to go traditional or innovative, these meatballs are tasty served with any of the following:
- Spaghetti Squash
- Zucchini Noodles
- Healthy Mashed Potatoes
- Meatball Sub
- Roasted Veggies
And of course, these meatballs are also delicious on meatballs subs!
Storage: Use an airtight container to store for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
Freezing: Use a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. Freeze the meatballs as individual servings pre-shaped for easiest defrosting. Move the frozen meatballs to the refrigerator to defrost for 18-24 hours before serving or defrost them on low in the microwave.
Reheating: Use medium-low heat on the skillet to keep the meatballs from getting chewy. Stick them in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave for a minute before rotating.
Extra Lean: Use lean turkey to minimize fats.
Gluten-Free: Use the same measure of rolled oats, rice panko, or gluten-free panko bread crumbs.
Yes! Ground turkey meatballs are considered to be healthy. They are nutritious, full of lean protein, and do not contain any dairy.
Though I like the simplicity and texture of the quick homemade tomato sauce in this recipe, you can definitely use a premade marinara sauce in its place.
There are approximately 75 calories in each turkey meatball. This calculation is approximate, however, so for an exact nutritional estimate of this recipe, contact your dietitian or other nutritional professional.
Meatballs need a binder for them to stick together while cooking. This recipe uses common binders -- eggs and breadcrumbs -- to achieve this. Other common binding agents are oatmeal, rice, and even flour.
Tools Needed to Make This Recipe
- Cookie Scoop
- Parchment Paper
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 12" non-stick skillet
- Heat-safe spatula or turner
- Silicone spatula or scraper
More Italian-Inspired Dinners
- Bucatini Pomodoro
- Zucchini Lasagna
- Beef Ragu (Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot Recipe)
- Minestra SoupButternut Squash Farro with Crispy Breadcrumb
- Butternut Squash Farro with Crispy Breadcrumbs
More Healthy Dinner Recipes
- Turkey Sloppy Joes
- Roasted Butternut Squash Farro with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs
- Thai Salmon Panang Curry
- Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Slow-Cooker Honey BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
- Easy Baked Sriracha Lime Salmon
- Citrus Salmon Power Bowls
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