This is my simple and classic family recipe for crockpot turkey meatballs. They’re spiced just right, easy to prep, and the texture is extra tender. To really lock in the flavor and moisture, I recommend quickly pan searing the meatballs on the stove before starting them in the slow cooker. These meatballs are a versatile dish—you can serve them plain alongside a salad and cheese breadsticks, as meatball sandwiches, or with a plate of spaghetti.
One reader, Isabel, says: “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.”
These turkey meatballs are a feel good, fill-you-up kind of dish that you can put on the table without much prepwork. You can certainly make these with 2 lbs of ground beef, but I often prepare them with ground turkey.
Tell Me About These Crockpot Turkey Meatballs
- Flavor: These delicious turkey meatballs will get you all the compliments without all the work. The secrets? Garlic, onions, and a little parmesan cheese. Each does wonders by adding heaps of flavor to this crockpot dinner recipe. Add some herbs and a little pepper to round things out. The flavor additions are pantry staples, so you don’t need anything fancy here.
- Texture: By using a mix of extra lean ground turkey (about 98% lean) and lean ground turkey (about 93% lean) for the meatballs, we’re able to keep the meatballs light, moist, tender, and still full of flavor. You can absolutely use all lean meat, but I would avoid using 2 lbs of extra lean because you’ll miss that fat and flavor. Compared to other recipes, the meatball mixture is light on the breadcrumbs. Too much can take away from the meatball’s melt-in-your-mouth texture, so add just enough to get the job done.
- Ease: This uncomplicated, no-frills meal can be ready on the table with minimal work. Don’t skip searing the meatballs on the stove before cooking them in the slow cooker. This step takes about 10-15 minutes total, and then it’s the slow cooker’s time to work.
- Time: This recipe is the answer to a busy week when “what do I make for dinner?” comes up often. You can start the turkey meatballs ahead of time. Having company over tomorrow? Brown the meatballs as instructed and keep them in the refrigerator until the following day before popping them into the slow cooker. Or freeze now to enjoy during the colder months. Or cook today and cook on low tomorrow just before dinnertime. See recipe below for the many make-ahead options!
Searing the Turkey Meatballs
We can skip this step when making chicken meatballs which bake in the oven, but take them time to complete this imperative step here. Gently searing the turkey meatballs before placing in the slow cooker browns the exteriors and seals in all the juicy moisture. (Flavor, flavor, flavor.) If you skip this step, the meatballs will just crumble in the crockpot. I recommend the same step in these BBQ turkey meatballs, too.
I like to keep the sauce very simple since the turkey meatballs pack so much flavor. Use a couple large cans of crushed tomatoes and layer sliced sweet onion in the slow cooker, too. Make sure you don’t use reduced salt or salt-free crushed tomatoes and if you can find fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or with basil added, that’s great! This slow cooker recipe has tons of sauce, which is perfect for sandwiches or if you’re serving them with spaghetti.
More Favorite Dinner Recipes
- Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken
- Minestrone Soup
- Sausage Stuffed Peppers
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili
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 turkey*
- 1 pound 92-93% lean ground turkey*
- 2/3 cup (40g) Panko breadcrumbs*
- 3 Tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
- 1/3 cup (30g) grated or shredded parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced
- two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes*
- optional: chopped fresh basil for serving
- Beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, Panko, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, parmesan, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, 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 & Freezing Instructions: 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Glass Mixing Bowl | Baking Sheet | Slow Cooker (4-quarts or larger) | Skillet
- Crockpot: You need a 4 quart or larger slow cooker.
- No Slow Cooker? No Problem! Prepare through step 2. Add the shaped meatballs to a large skillet coated with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and sauté 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.
- Turkey: You need 2 pounds 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: 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 (121°C) until dry, about 12-14 minutes. This makes around 2/3 cup.
- Adapted from Eating Well magazine.
Keywords: crockpot turkey meatballs, turkey meatballs