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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 4 quart or larger slow cooker (here is the one I own-- I have it in white)
- 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.
- Place onion slices in the bottom of the crockpot, topped with 1 can of crushed tomatoes.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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