These baked turkey meatballs are tender and healthy, made with lean ground turkey, breadcrumbs, and a secret ingredient that makes them SO juicy. This easy Italian turkey meatball recipe is great on pasta, in meatball subs, or makes a great appetizer served alongside marinara sauce.
When I'm all out of the ideas and have ground meat of some kind in the house, odds are I'll make meatballs.
They use ingredients I always have on hand and are really easy to make: combine ingredients in a bowl, scoop, and cook. And while pan-fried meatballs are a classic, I lean toward baking them to keep things on the lighter (and even easier) side.
While Sunday sauce with meatballs and sausage is the most basic yet delicious way I make beef meatballs, a few extra tricks turn these Italian turkey meatballs into a flavorful and better-for-you treat.
Reasons to Love These Meatballs
- The secret ingredient: grated onion. The moisture in one-quarter cup of grated onion adds some flavor and ensures lean ground turkey can indeed yield juicy turkey meatballs without pan frying.
- Ground turkey is high in protein like ground beef, but generally contains less fat, including less saturated fat.
- Once you make a batch of baked turkey meatballs they have so many uses. Beyond a classic pairing with pasta or by themselves with marinara dipping sauce, these are excellent in meatball subs, as a topping for meatball pizza, in gnocchi bakes, soups etc.
- Turkey: Your preferred lean/fat percentage of ground turkey will work here. If your ground turkey is very finely ground and on the moister side (like the Butcher Box ground turkey pictured above), you may have to add more breadcrumbs.
- Breadcrumbs: Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs provide nice flavor all the while helping retain moisture (the breadcrumbs soak up juices). Regular or panko breadcrumbs can be used in their place -- just bump up the dried spices and seasonings accordingly.
- Parmesan: Freshly-grated Parmesan or another hard Italian cheese like Pecorino Romano is recommended for the best flavor.
- Onion: Grating an onion releases a ton more moisture than dicing one does, leading to juicy baked turkey meatballs. Please be careful when you grate it as it can get slippery.
- Add all of the Italian turkey meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Using your hands (disposable gloves are great for this) or a spoon, combine all of the ingredients thoroughly and evenly. The mixture doesn't need to be entirely uniform, so it's okay for there to be some chunks of ground turkey remaining amongst it all. Take care not to over-mix as this can cause tougher meatballs.
- Scoop evenly-sized meatballs onto a large sheet pan. You can put them fairly close together as they don't expand or anything as they cook.
- Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the largest meatball registers 165°F on a meat thermometer. And that's it! They're ready to serve.
Mixing meatballs by hand (versus vigorously stirring with a spoon or something electric) helps ensure that you don't overmix the meat, which can lead to tougher meatballs with a less-than-ideal texture.
Baked turkey meatballs are fully cooked when the center of the largest meatball reaches 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read meat thermometer. That's the safe minimum internal temperature for ground poultry, per FoodSafety.gov.
These meatballs will stay refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. They're also great to freeze (both by themselves and in sauce) for 3-4 months.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- I always use a cookie scoop to help ensure evenly-sized meatballs. Keep in mind if using a scoop smaller or larger than one with a one-and-a-half tablespoon capacity, you'll want to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- While you can slice a meatball open to check it's color, I highly recommend a food thermometer to take all of the guesswork out of checking for doneness. It's one of my most often used kitchen tools, from checking on meats, water warmth for homemade pizza dough, and even for testing when breads are fully cooked.
- Recipe Variations: A variety of substitutions can work here. When altering this recipe, check the consistency of the combined meatball mixture before scooping and baking. Adjust the ingredients as needed if it's too wet or too crumbly.
- Ground chicken or plant-based ground meat substitute can be used in place of the ground turkey.
- Vegan Parmesan can be used to make this recipe dairy-free.
- Pre-made or store-bought Italian seasoning can be used in place of the individual dried herbs and spices.
- Crushed red pepper can be omitted entirely, or bumped up in quantity if you like more of a zip.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Italian Baked Turkey Meatballs
- 16 ounces (454g) ground turkey
- ½ cup (70g) Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- ½ cup (40g) grated Parmesan
- ¼ cup (52g) grated onion
- ¼ cup (12g) chopped fresh parsley
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cloves garlic pressed/minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper optional, more to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
- Add all meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir or mix until just combined. I like to put on a pair of disposable gloves and mix everything with my hands.
- Using a 1 ½-Tablespoon cookie scoop (or two spoons), form meatballs and place evenly spaced on the greased baking sheet. If not using a scoop, try and make the meatballs as close to the same size as possible so they cook evenly.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center of the biggest meatball reaches 165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer.
- Be careful when grating the onion as it can become slippery. I like to use a cut-resistant glove.
- A smaller or larger cookie scoop may be used - just adjust the cook time up/down as needed.
- The quantity of crushed red pepper as written provides more flavor versus spice. Increase the amount if you'd like these meatballs to be zippy.
- Serving Suggestions: Serve these baked turkey meatballs over pasta, as meatball subs, sliced up as a homemade pizza topping, in pasta or gnocchi bakes, chopped up in soups, or simply by themselves with warm marinara dipping sauce.
- Storage Instructions: Keep leftover cooked meatballs refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. They can also be frozen, either in a freezer bag by themselves or in a container with sauce, for up to 3-4 months.
I made them yesterday I had no parsley so I used everything else and then I over baked them they were clearly over cooked and they were still amazing . I can’t wait to try it with parsley and the correct bake time. It was delicious.dont omit the pepper flakes they are just good not overwhelming. Also turkey has been on sale lately for about$2.50 a pound this is a great recipe thanks
So glad you liked them, Linda! Love a good sale on turkey...I always stock the freezer. 🙂
Colette D says
i know this is way off point. But I would really love it if you didn't use disposable gloves. Nothing is disposable. so bad for the environment. Just dig in and get dirty.
Sorry about that. I'm just trying to spread the word.
Meatballs are great.
Hi Colette, thank you for this important reminder. I utilize many ‘green’ kitchen products and strategies, including bringing canvas grocery bags to the store, being mindful about food waste, recycling, reducing paper towel usage, glass storage containers, not using single-use cups/plates/flatware, etc., but I know we can always do more. I’m fairly tough on my hands and frequently have small cuts on my fingers, so to be cautious I do wear gloves when getting in there with raw poultry. Your comment prompted me to search on Amazon and I see a variety of biodegradable ‘disposable’ gloves that I wasn’t even aware existed. I will give them a try instead!
Betsyann F says
Taste absolutely great!! But why do my meatballs ooze when baking?
I'm so glad you like them! That 'ooze' is mostly coagulated protein and probably a little bit of fat, too. I notice it often with baked meatballs. After they bake I'll pick them up from the baking sheet with tongs and leave the 'ooze' behind. Hope that's helpful! 🙂
Wow! These were amazing! I just substituted Mrs. Dash Italian seasoning because I didn’t have the other seasonings. Delish! My hubby hates ground turkey and he ate them! How many meatballs does your recipe make? I got 18!
Sorry for my late reply, Lisa, but so glad you liked them! Great tip on substituting Mrs. Dash. Funny thing is I always count my meatballs! I get around 18-19 usually, depending on how precise I measure. 🙂
Made these with a great marinara and zoodle dish! They are amazing, so juicy and flavorful! Will totally be making these again
So glad you like them! 🙂
Haven G Shaw says
Don't understand the high level of salt in the Nutrition Facts chart yet only 1/2 tsp in the recipe. Could this reflect salt in Parm cheese?
Hi Haven, you're correct, Parmesan definitely contributes to the sodium. So do the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, though the amount of sodium will vary depending on the brand. To reduce the amount of sodium per serving, you can substitute an equal amount of panko breadcrumbs for the Italian seasoned ones. Then just bump up the seasonings to your taste.