Slow Cooker BBQ Turkey Meatballs

Easy meatballs whipped up in the slow cooker and smothered in zesty BBQ. Dinner or appetizer worthy!

Easy crockpot meatballs whipped up in the slow cooker and smothered in zesty BBQ sauce made from only 2 ingredients!! Dinner or appetizer worthy!

Happy week to you! What’s your story this week. Are you working? Do you have off? Are you traveling? I’ve been in Baltimore for the past few days and am back in the kitchen tomorrow. I’m thinking festive cookies for New Years Eve. Sprinkles for sure. And there will most definitely be confetti, glitter, party hats, and a few pitchers of fruity champagne sangria. I’m usually not gung-ho about NYE but I’m really into it this year. Must be my sangria plans.

After a ridiculous amount of Christmas cookies and food coma-inducing cinnamon rolls, I’m craving steamed vegetables. Well, just anything besides Christmas cookies and cinnamon rolls. I figured you might be as well? If that’s the case, you’re in luck. Today I’m sharing a family-friendly, super simple saucy slow cooker sensation (say that 5x fast!) that not only takes little effort, but is also perfect for entertaining. Or just a weeknight with the family. I love these!

Easy slow cooker BBQ meatballs make the perfect comforting weeknight dinner recipe or crowd-pleasing appetizer. Recipe found on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I made these slow cooker BBQ turkey meatballs when I had my whole family over around Thanksgiving. They loved it. And we did too! In fact, I’ve made them 3 times since for just Kevin and I. When it’s just us 2, the recipe makes tons of leftovers which are perfect for lunch during the week. Think: meatball sandwiches on whole wheat rolls or just alongside of a salad. They’re fantastically versatile.

First thing on your list is to brown those turkey meatballs. Beef lovers: you can use ground beef instead. I always choose a lean ground turkey. Mix up all the meatball fixings like ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings. For the seasonings, I vary them depending on what I have but I’ll suggest my favorites. Definitely garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and a touch of smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is my secret spice weapon. You need to try it in these BBQ meatballs!

I don’t use too much binder for my meatballs because I feel it takes away from their melt-in-your-mouth texture and flavor. Just enough stuff to bind.

Easy slow cooker BBQ meatballs make the perfect comforting weeknight dinner recipe or crowd-pleasing appetizer. Recipe found on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Roll up the meatballs and brown them in a skillet before placing in the slow cooker. There are two key reasons you’re browning them. First, it adds unparalleled flavor. Second, it helps “set” the meatballs so they don’t fall apart in the slow cooker. I don’t have a massive skillet to hold 25 or so meatballs, so I brown them in batches and add them to the slow cooker each batch at a time. Takes about 15 minutes total to brown them all. Not too bad. Completely worth the effort!

Slow cooker ingredients: BBQ sauce, italian dressing, onions. That’s it!! The onions are imperative for flavor, plus they get all soft and soak up all the BBQ goodness. Use your favorite BBQ sauce*, use your favorite italian dressing.

Friends, it’s that simple.

*Shout out to sweet baby ray’s. SBR’s, if you’re reading this… I love you.

Easy slow cooker BBQ meatballs make the perfect comforting weeknight dinner recipe or crowd-pleasing appetizer. Recipe found on sallysbakingaddiction.com

6-8 hours on low and you’re golden! If you have less time, 4 hours on high is perfection. The meatballs are warm, tender, peppery, juicy, and smothered in the BBQ sauce mixture.

You can serve these turkey meatballs with mashed potatoes and veggies, baked sweet potato fries and a salad, with rolls and melted mozzarella for sandwich making, or even with toothpicks as a party appetizer for football games, New Years Eve, entertaining, whatever. The options are endless.

No matter what you do, make sure you serve with all that extra mouthwatering and zesty BBQ sauce. And the onions! Those might just be my favorite part.

Easy slow cooker BBQ meatballs make the perfect comforting weeknight dinner recipe or crowd-pleasing appetizer. Recipe found on sallysbakingaddiction.com

So savory, so easy, so comforting, so damn good.

Slow Cooker BBQ Turkey Meatballs

Easy meatballs whipped up in the slow cooker and smothered in zesty BBQ. Dinner or appetizer worthy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 pounds 92-97% lean ground turkey1
  • 2/3 cup regular or gluten free Panko2 (quick or whole oats work too!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or about 1 Tablespoon minced)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 and 3/4 cups BBQ sauce3
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade Italian dressing3
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
Special Equipment

Directions:

  1. Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, Panko, garlic, oregano, salt, paprika, 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 slow cooker, then top with half of the BBQ sauce and half of the Italian dressing (the rest will go on top).
  3. Coat a large skillet with the olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Lightly brown the meatballs in batches for about 1 minute on each side. (Do not skip this step! So much flavor and it helps set the meatballs so they do not fall apart.) Layer the meatballs into the slow cooker as you're browning each batch. Once all browned meatballs have been added to the slow cooker, pour remaining BBQ sauce and Italian dressing on top.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve warm with sauce and onions. You can enjoy alone or with mashed potatoes and veggies, salad, sweet potato fries, onion rings, with rolls and melted mozzarella for sandwiches, or even with toothpicks as a party appetizer. Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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 slow cooker and cook as directed. OR you can fully prepare 1 day in advance, refrigerate, then cook in the slow cooker 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! Add the shaped meatballs to a large skillet coated with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and saute until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Place on a 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 half of the BBQ sauce and Italian dressing. Add the meatballs and pour remaining BBQ sauce and Italian dressing 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 can use any ground meat you prefer; I always use turkey.
  2. Panko is sold in all major grocery stores. You can use regular (not gluten free) instead. I prefer Panko for texture, but you can use whole wheat or homemade dry breadcrumbs instead. Or even oats, like I suggest. To make your own breadcrumbs 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.
  3. Use your favorite BBQ sauce and Italian dressing. These make up the sauce, so make sure you like their flavor!

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

Easy slow cooker BBQ meatballs make the perfect comforting weeknight dinner recipe or crowd-pleasing appetizer. Recipe found on sallysbakingaddiction.com

More recipes fit for entertaining:

Fiesta corn & avocado salsa is always a crowd-pleaser.

Fiesta Corn & Avocado Salsa recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

And this super simple (and lightened up!) pizza dip recipe. I sneak Greek yogurt into this stuff!

Lightened-Up Pepperoni Pizza Dip

And the one and only bacon wrapped cheesy stuffed jalapeños! Love.

Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Stuffed Jalapenos

See more appetizers and snacks.

See more dinner recipe ideas, too!

49 comments

  1. YES. i love sugar, but after these past few weeks of too much dessert has me reaching for carrots to munch on (plain. which never happens in real, non-holiday life).

  2. As much as I love my sweets and all things peppermint, after the holidays, I feel a need to reset my system. Just staying away from sweets for awhile. When the New Year starts, of course. These turkey meatballs look so delicious and easy to make. I might just have to take out the slow cooker and get started with the cooking. Especiallysince I have a bottle of Sweet Baby Rays sitting in the fridge, waiting to be used.

  3. I love BBQ on anything, and these look tasty! 

  4. I made your chicken chili recipe last night. My family loved it! They also enjoyed the cornbread! Yummy! Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to try more recipes!

  5. I just got a slow cooker for Christmas, and this looks like the perfect large-batch recipe to get me through a busy school week! I love BBQ anything and these look delicious!

  6. Thank you and Happy New Year!

  7. I love BBQ meatballs, but I’ve never tried them in the slow cooker. Definitely happening in the near future!

  8. I’ve made your other slow cooker turkey meatball recipe before and I love it — one of my favourite slow cooker meals, so I’m positive I’ll love this meatball recipe too!

  9. We only ever use Sweet Baby Ray’s. It’s simply the best! And these look like awesome meatballs!

  10. I’m working. This is our busiest time at work (I work at a company that produces educational materials for CPAs), so I feel like I was lucky to have Christmas off! I even worked on Saturday. 

    These. Look. AMAZING. I’m a huge fan of anything that involved BBQ sauce, so I cannot WAIT to try these! Also, for New Year’s I’m making your sangria and pizza dip, as well as whatever sweet thing my friend who’s hosting wants. 

  11. These look soon saucy! 
    Iv’e been on the hunt to find a saucy meatball recipe that ACTUALLY turns out good and I think I’ve found it.
    Thanks Sally, you always provide good, trusty recipes for us.

  12. I’m impressed by how you made something so brown look so delicious. I’d love to try these with mashed potatoes to soak up all of the lovely sauce.

  13. I love homemade meatballs but haven’t ever tried them out of turkey or in the slow cooker. This sounds like an amazing combo!!

  14. Hi Sally- The gingerbread cake was the perfect dessert at our dinner. The family enjoyed it. I made a homemade fondant and made a holly decoration which looked great on the white icing.  We also love sweet bby rays- use it all summer for our bbqs. Enjoy your NYE.

  15. I made it it is great thanks God blessed u a lot

  16. Thank you so much for a healthy dinner recipe. I love when you post dinner recipes! I do need a burst of lean protein lately, to balance out allllllll the cookies. Seriously, so many cookies were consumed this week… I’m craving steamed veggies as well. 

  17. Ugh, meatballs are my weakness. They’re so small and convenient and it’s so easy to just go into the fridge and pop one into your mouth. And the combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s and meatballs is just…..dangerous for me. 🙂

  18. These look delicious, and perfect for a college student such as myself. Is there a way to make these with frozen meatballs? 

  19. Hi Sally, I would really like to make this recipe. There’s only one problem, we don’t have such a thing as Italian dressing in the Netherlands. Can I replace it with something else?

  20. I’m gonna make these tomorrow!  Have bbq sauce, Italian dressing AND onions that need a home!  Lol craving steamed veggies and needing a reset…. I’m there, too.  Sooo many sweets lately… I just bought a couple packages of Brussels sprouts the other day, and roasted some of them with bacon bits…. yummmmm!

  21. I made these for a New Year’s brunch this afternoon & they were a huge hit! I could easily have used a double batch. Multiple people asked for the recipe which I gladly shared. Instead of Sweet Baby Ray’s, I used Cherry Republic’s Spicy Cherry BBQ Sauce. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly with excellent results!

  22. This recipe has my house smelling so good! My husband loved these over garlic mashed potatoes! Today I’m going to put them over a rigatoni pasta. We’ve had this twice in three weeks. Love this!

  23. Which bottled Italian dressing would you recommend? 
    Thanks 🙂

  24. Can I use store bought breadcrumbs?

  25. I only have dry Italian dressing seasoning will that work? 

  26. I am going to make these turkey meat balls today looking forward to tasting them I heard they were really good. Thanks for the recipes.

  27. I made these the other night along with the sweet potatoes fries….oh my, a new favorite dinner! My picky boys devoured them and they were delicious the next day too! Thank you!

  28. Hi Sally! Looking forward to making this recipe today for dinner. I don’t like to change anything when using your recipes. But may I ask, can I leave out the Italian dressing?

    • Hi Danielle! I don’t recommend it because that’s where most of the flavor comes from. You could use another flavor dressing I suppose– one whose flavor would pair well perhaps.

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