Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

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.”

turkey meatball on a wood spoon in a crockpot

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.

If you appreciate the convenience of using a slow cooker for chicken & corn soup, chicken chili and honey teriyaki chicken, you’ll love it even more for meatballs. 


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!

turkey meatballs in a white bowl

Searing the Turkey Meatballs

Take the time to complete this imperative step. 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.

2 images of turkey meatball ingredients in a purple bowl and turkey meatballs in a slow cooker

Meatball Sauce

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.

turkey meatballs in a crockpot

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turkey meatball on a wood spoon in a crockpot

Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Total Time: 6 hours, 35 minutes
  • Yield: 25 medium size meatballs
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. Crockpot: You need a 4 quart or larger slow cooker. Here is the one I own.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Adapted from Eating Well magazine.

Keywords: crockpot turkey meatballs, turkey meatballs

2 images of turkey meatballs

54 Comments

  1. These look absolutely delicious !
    Would halving this recipe work- I only have one pound of ground turkey on hand? Would the amount of sauce matter if less meat was used?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Yep, you may halve the entire recipe and use only one 28-ounce can tomatoes.

  2. Unfortunately, my family isn’t a huge fan of tons of sauce… (?!!) Would it be possible to halve the amount of sauce, but still keep the rest of the recipe the same? Thanks!

    1. The meatballs will dry out if they are not cooked while being submerged in sauce. Perhaps you can serve them without all the sauce they are cooked in.

  3. Well Sally, I held up my end of the bargain & made this delicious recipe on Sunday & I have to say I totally loved it! I initially promised my fiance I would share some of my leftovers with him but since I likely won’t get to see him again until this Saturday we’ll have to wait & see how many are left! 😉 Haha can wait to see what other delicious crock pot recipes you have to share with us!

  4. I made this recipe on Monday night and served it for Tuesdays dinner. It was nice having the meatballs in sauce ready to go. They were very tasty and a healthy alternative to my veal pork and beef ones. Thanks Sally

  5. These meatballs are so light, fluffy and delicious. What a great recipe!

  6. To anyone who is looking for a tender meatball look no further. I made this with 1lb of turkey and just 2(14oz) cans of tomatoes. It did the trick. Bonus was that my extremely finicky-eater 5 yr old actually ate this happily. 🙂 Smiles in the end!

  7. Made these yesterday and my husband could NOT stop raving about them. I served them over white rice and they were pretty darn good. Tonight will be with spaghetti.

    Every recipe I’ve made from your blog has been SO DELICIOUS!

    Thanks so much Sally.
    R.

  8. These will be done cooking at 3:30 and I want to serve them at 7:30- should I leave them in the crock pot set on warm for 4 hours or take them out and reheat?

    1. set on warm until ready to serve. enjoy!

  9. Made these on Halloween night and everyone loved them! Just wanted to say thank you! I’m going to make them again for dinner one night this week since they were suc a hit. 🙂

  10. I definitely want to try these out. But I have two questions.
    1. Is the tomato sauce absolutely necessary or can it be made without it?
    2. After you slow cook them for 6 hours and freeze them, what is the best way to reheat it besides the microwave?

    1. I would look for a different sauce recipe that you like– I don’t suggest cooking the meatballs in a crockpot without sauce. You may reheat frozen meatballs on the stove until heated through.

  11. 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?

    1. Nope– a little pink is fine. They cook fully in the cooker.

  12. 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!!!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. Yep! Simply double the ingredients.

      1. 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!!

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

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

    1. Definitely! I would start with a cup and add more if you’d like.

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

    1. Definitely.

  17. 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! 

  18. 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? 

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

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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. 

  22. 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. 

  23. Shannon Arnold says:

    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 ?

  24. 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 🙂

  25. Vasiliki Giannopoulos says:

    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!! 

  26. 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!

    1. Yep. That’s what I’ve done prepping them ahead of time before. Cuts down on prep time in the morning.

  27. Do I need both types of turkey?

    1. You don’t– you can use 2 lbs of any ground turkey.

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. Katrina Russell says:

    I just want to say this is my boys FAVOURITE meal, anytime I ask them what they want the answer is always meatballs! I have even prepped them in advance so we can take them camping. We have egg and dairy allergies so I have to cut out the parm cheese and instead of the egg we do ground flaxseed substitute and they turn out great every time! 

    1. Wonderful! I’ve heard of using ground flaxseed for egg but haven’t tried it here. So happy it works for your family!

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