Crockpot Turkey Meatballs.

This is my favorite recipe for classic crockpot turkey meatballs. They’re spiced just right, incredibly tender, filled with tons of flavor, and there’s hardly any work involved.

Lean Turkey Meatballs that are packed with flavor and so easy to make in the slow cooker!

I’ve gotten a few requests for everyday dinner recipes. Stuff I eat on the regular. Because as much as I’d love to live off of chocolate croissants and only chocolate croissants, it’s just not in the cards for me. Dream world.

I was thisclose to sharing this turkey meatball recipe with you last winter, but chickened out because let’s face it. There are no sprinkles, chocolate, peanut butter, unicorns, rainbows, or sparkles hiding inside.

But now that we’ve all gotten a little more used to dinner recipes and such, I believe it’s time. These crockpot turkey meatballs are one of Kevin’s favorite meals. And judging by the amount he’s seen me eat (and still wants to marry me??), one of my favorites too.

Lean Turkey Meatballs that are packed with flavor and so easy to make in the slow cooker!

This is my no-frills, no complications, good ole meatball recipe. I don’t eat much beef, so I make them with ground turkey instead. It’s a feel good, fill-you-up kind of meal that you can put on the table without doing much work at all. That’s the perk of a slow cooker = all the comforting homemade goodness with none of the actual homemade work.

It’s a beautiful thing.

I like to make a big batch for the two os us, so we can eat it during the week. Meatball subs toasted with provolone on Sundays, a couple meatballs paired with a caesar salad and a side of cheesy garlic breadsticks during the week, piled on top of spaghetti on Friday night, or directly out of the tupperware. Cold. I really like them that last way…???

For the meatballs, I like to use a mix of extra lean all-natural ground turkey (around 98% lean) and lean all-natural ground turkey (around 93% lean). I highly suggest you do the same as well; this way the turkey meatballs are on the lighter side, but still pack a ton of tenderness and flavor. Win-win meatball situation.

I don’t use too much binder because I feel it takes away from their melt-in-your-mouth texture. Just enough to get the job done – to bind. Add a little spice, garlic, and grated parmesan cheese round things out. Pantry staples, nothing fancy here.

Lean Turkey Meatballs that are packed with flavor and so easy to make in the slow cooker!

In terms of flavor, the parmesan does wonders inside the meatballs! Also: the onions. They give a ridiculous amount of flavor to this crockpot recipe.

The most important step before going into the crockpot is to sear the meatballs after they’ve been formed. Searing quickly on each side helps hold all the juices inside the meatball (flavor flavor flavor), while gently browning the outside. Don’t skip this step – your meatballs will crumble all over the place in the crockpot.

The sauce is so simple. Since the meatballs pack so much flavor, all you reed are some canned crushed tomatoes and an onion. Nothing more, nothing less. It makes a ton of sauce, perfect for all you sauce lovers like me.

These crockpot turkey meatballs are the answer to your busy, chaotic weekend and weekday life. Make them ahead of time. Having company over tomorrow? Brown the meatballs as instructed and keep in the fridge until the next morning then pop in the crockpot. Or freeze now to enjoy during the colder months. Or cook today and simmer tomorrow just before dinnertime. So many make ahead options.

These tasty turkey meatballs will get you all the compliments without all the work.

Lean Turkey Meatballs that are packed with flavor and so easy to make in the slow cooker!

Since they’re so mind-numbingly simple, you can spend more time on dessert. I don’t know what pairs well with meatballs, but you can’t go wrong with death by chocolate.

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

This is my favorite recipe for classic crockpot turkey meatballs. They're spiced just right, incredibly tender, filled with tons of flavor, and there's hardly any work involved.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound 97-98% lean ground turkey1
  • 1 pound 92-93% lean ground turkey1
  • 2/3 cup (40g) Panko2
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (22g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion sweet onion, sliced
  • two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • chopped fresh basil for serving, optional
Special Equipment

Directions:

  1. Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, Panko, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, parmesan, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Mix everything up just so the ingredients are combined - avoid overmixing. Roll into desired size balls - mine were slightly larger than a golfball. Place all rolled meatballs on a large baking sheet.
  2. Place onion slices in the bottom of the crockpot, topped with 1 can of crushed tomatoes.
  3. Coat a large skillet with remaining Tablespoon of olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Lightly brown the meatballs (only 6-8 meatballs at a time) for about 1 minute on each side. Do not skip this step - read above for why. Layer the meatballs into the crockpot as you're browning each batch. Once all browned meatballs have been added to the crockpot, pour remaining can of tomatoes on top.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6-6.5 hours. Serve with pasta, as meatball subs, plain, etc. No matter how I serve them, I always top with a little chopped fresh basil. Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  5. Make ahead tip/freezing: Prepare meatballs through the browning step; cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day or freeze up to 2 months. Add to crockpot and cook as directed. OR you may fully prepare 1 day in advance, refrigerate, then cook in the crockpot on low for 45 minutes or until warmed. Freeze cooked meatballs in sauce for up to 2 months. Defrost before reheating as desired.

Recipe Notes:

No slow cooker? No problem! Prepare through step 2. Add the shaped meatballs to a large skillet coated with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and saute until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer back to the large baking sheet. Repeat with all meatballs since they cannot all fit into the pan at once. Turn off heat. Pour off any excess oil. In a very large pot, add the sliced onions and 1 can crushed tomatoes. Add the meatballs and pour remaining can of crushed tomatoes on top. Turn the heat to low-medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, the flavors blend, and the meatballs are cooked through, 25-35 minutes.

  1. You need 2 lbs total ground turkey. I like to use a mix of extra extra lean and lean for best flavor, while keeping them on the lighter side.
  2. Panko is sold in all major grocery stores. I prefer Panko for texture, but you may use whole wheat or homemade dry breadcrumbs instead. To make your own for this particular recipe, you can trim the crusts from 2 slices of stale whole wheat bread. Cut bread into pieces and pulse in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Spread breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 12-14 minutes. This makes around 2/3 cup.

Adapted from Eating Well magazine

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Pair the crockpot meatballs with these Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

Roasted Garlic Cheesy Breadsticks

Two more healthier dinner ideas: Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad – a weekly regular in this house, for sure!

Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad

110 Calorie Crustless Veggie Quiche— pair with some sautéed veggies for a super light dinner!

Healthy Crustless Veggie Quiche @sallybakeblog

See more dinner recipes.

These Lean Turkey Meatballs are packed with flavor and SO EASY to make in the slow cooker!

134 comments

  1. Sally,

    When you sear the meatballs should they appear totally cooked before placing in the slow cooker or should they still be a little pink?

  2. I made these 2 nights ago and WOW they are amazing!! They are soo flavorful. I made them exactly the way the recipe states. My fiance and I have been eating them for lunch and dinner all week. One night we had them with penne pasta, the next night we had them alone with a salad, and another time we had them in a small hoagie roll. THEY ARE DELICIOUS and sooo happy they are healthy! 🙂 I was even surprised that the canned tomatoes with the onions were just as delicious. I was debating using a prepared tomato sauce in a jar but so glad I didn’t. Great recipe!! Thank you!!!

  3. Great recipe. I brown the meatballs in the oven. I put them on parchment paper on the cookie sheet in the oven at 475 until they were brown. Took less then 10 minutes. Easier than doing batches in a skillet.

  4. Can you cook on high for less time in crock

  5. If I want to double the servings size to about 50 turkey meatballs, do I just double all the ingredients? This is my first attempt at making a meatball, as well as being a cooking novice, so I want to make sure that I am doing it right from the beginning. Thanks.

    • Yep! Simply double the ingredients.

      • I made them for my friend’s graduation party and it was a HUGE hit! I thought I would have some leftover to take home with me, after making over 50 of these turkey meatballs, but it all got devoured. I am saddened but elated. Now I need to make more for myself.

        Everyone said it tasted great but I felt like it was missing something – I’m not sure what. Do you have any suggestions on another tasty herb/ingredient that I could add to this recipe to add more flavor? Also, I thought my batch of turkey meatballs were on the drier side; what should I add/do to make it more moist?

        Thank you so much!!

      • Maxine, how about a dose of italian blend seasoning to perk up the meatballs or sauce? (I suggest McCormick)

  6. Could I add cooked spinach to this and if so how much should I add?

  7. I forgot to ask.  Would ground beef work well with these?

  8. Love Love love this recipe. What I was wondering about is nutritional information.  I searched you under “my fitness pal” and lots of info for baked goods but not for the Turkey meatballs. Any plans on adding it? Thanks. 

  9. Made these for a big meal with guests and it was a hit! Meatball (and spaghetti) are the ultimate comfort food and this turkey variation makes it a light treat, leaves you wanting seconds (and thirds). Also loved the idea of simply making it in the crockpot! So fun and delicious! 

  10. instead of using crushed tomatoes, can I sub for a pasta sauce to give it more flavor? or is the tomato sauce just fine with flavor? 

    • Tomato sauce works too! I love crushed tomatoes for texture. This is a recipe that can be adapted easily to what you prefer.

  11. Your recipe is a little hard to follow at first. What exactly do I do with the egg once it’s beaten? Add all of the meat and stuff to it? You say to beat it in a large bowl and then place the other ingredients in another large bowl. I’m just confused and I want to try the recipe, but I don’t want to do it wrong. 

  12. Thank you!  My husband has been asking for homemade meatballs for years and was always nervous to try to make them.  I decided using the slow cooker was going to make it easier on me and I was right.  Super and easy and soooo flavorful!  I have to go to the store and make another batch, hubby is going right through them!  Thanks!  These are awesome!

  13. If I double the recipe do you know how long they will take in the crock pot?

    • Not off the top of my head. If your crockpot is much larger– as it should be to fit the double amount– it shouldn’t take too much longer. I’d check the meatballs periodically.

  14. I have these in a crockpot now for a church potluck. I tasted one meatball to check for doneness and I have a few thoughts: first, I usually use my own meatball recipe but thought I’d give this a try. I followed the exact recipe except I grated the garlic rather than mince it because I think the flavor distributes a little better that way. I cooked this on high in the slow cooker and after 3 hours, they already seem done. I’ll let them go a little longer to see if they become a bit more tender. These seem extremely dry and somewhat bland. I pretty much make my meatballs the same way as these but I use ground chicken not turkey, and I add about a tablespoon of ketchup and a quarter to 1/2 cup milk and seasoned bread crumbs not panko. I also do not use any egg. Second, I like the idea of crushed tomatoes adding texture to the sauce but alone it is quite bland. I think mixing a jar of pasta sauce with the crushed tomatoes would add more flavor.  In the future I will stick with my own meatball recipe but I will definitely use your slow cooker & crushed tomato ideas.

  15. I made these for dinner tonight and was so disappointed to discover they were really bland. The problem was lack of salt. The amount of salt that the recipe calls for is inadequate for 2 lbs of meat. I realize that the grated cheese adds saltiness as well, but even so, it was very bland. 

  16. Ahh man, I totally messed these up. Totally forgot that Jennie-O sells ground turkey 1.3 lbs per package, so I used all of both packages (2/3 lbs extra of meat). I’m going to have to try these again…your recipes have not let me down yet!!

  17. These were sooo good! I made them last night for my family and they were tender and filled with flavor. Will definitely make again! I also cooked these on high for 4 hours and it worked perfectly. 

  18. Just wanted to say, Sally you have renewed my love for baking and cooking. I have 2 teens and two toddlers and my teens think I’ve gone nuts. Almost every day I have a Sally special recipe on the go! Everything gets gobbled up. Love love love your go to muffin recipes exc. tonight we are trying these meatballs but with extra lean ground beef. Family says mashed potatoes as a side. Has anyone every paired these meatballs with mashed taters ?

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. My husband could eat mashed potatoes with any meal! I hope you and your family enjoy the meatballs!

  19. I made these tonight but with chicken mince as I didn’t have turkey on hand. They were AMAZING! Juicy, tender and the perfect balance of flavours. I didn’t alter a thing. For those wondering I didn’t have much time so cooked in the slow cooker on high for 3 hours. They turned out great. Thanks for the amazing recipe 🙂

  20. Made these last night for dinner and they were delicious!! I cooked them on high for 4 hours. I did not have any basil, but the canned tomatoes had basil inside. I was worried because I only had one 28oz can but it still turned out to have enough sauce. I used whole wheat bread crumbs because I did not have any panko. I also added one Serrano pepper to give it a little kick!! Then I stuffed the middle with shredded mozzarella cheese. I decided to do this because I did not have any Parmesan cheese. I will be making these again soon!! Yum!!! 

    Thanks for the great recipe!! 

  21. Hi Sally!
    Can I prep (make and sear the meatballs) the night before and then just refrigerate and add the sauce and put in crockpot in the morning?  Thanks!

  22. Do I need both types of turkey?

  23. I made these meatballs yesterday!! They were so good! I didn’t have dried oregano or dried basil so I used Italian seasoning instead! Lots of flavor and I made exactly 25!

  24. This recipe is very good version of healthy meatballs .My family love it.
    I made only one change,before brown raw meatballs I coated them with little regular bread crumbs ,and they came out perfect.Next time if I will be make this recipe again/soon/ i will not put onion in tomatoes sauce it is not necessary.I used fresh herbs too.I recomended this recipe already my friends.This taste good and definetly is healthy version.Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  25. Sally,
    Your recipe says to cook on low for 6 to 6.5 hours, but if I want them done faster than that, can I cook them on high for shorter time? If so, how long do you think will get the job done?

  26. I looooove this slow cooker recipe. It’s my go to fur sure! Sadly the recipe didn’t convert over to the fast version in the saucepan. The sauce was super liquids and didn’t thicken up, despite being on the stove for 35 mins. A true bummer. Will stick to the slow cooker!

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