Herb Packed Turkey Meatballs

Earlier in the summer, a group of friends and I gathered at an epic pop-up white dinner in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. We dressed in white from head to toe and brought along food to share. As one of the table hosts, I wanted to bring something heartier than a salad or cheese plate, easy to transport, not too heavy, and that would be enough for 16 people without breaking my wallet.

While thinking about what to make I remembered this sweet and sour mini-meatball dish that my mom used to make when we had large family gatherings. The meatballs were small and you could eat several without filling up. They made for a great appetizer.

For the past few years I’ve been playing with ground turkey meat on and off. I’m actually not a fan of turkey meat (even on Thanksgiving) but it’s healthier than red meat. We also only use kosher meat in our home and it’s way easier to find ground turkey than it is to find ground chicken. The (fun) challenge with meatballs is transforming the turkey into a dish that’s packed with flavor and not too dry.
I very clearly remember my moms meatballs being teeny tiny and so I tip my hat to her on, what must have been, crazy amounts of patience to make so many. When it comes to meatballs, I didn’t inherit that patience.

For this recipe, and for the dish I made for the popup over the summer, I shaped medium sized balls. When using my hands started to take forever I began experimenting with spoons. Turns out a tablespoon measure makes a perfect two-bite ball.It also keeps the meatballs from getting too dense and leaves things way less messy. I’m typically not the most graceful but somehow meatballs always took me to a new level of gracelessness and I’d find myself disinfecting, as I went along, to clean up bits of turkey from the strangest places.

In taking on the “making turkey flavorful and not dry” challenge, I’ve experimented with loads of different spices/fillings and sauces. This recipe comes out on top. It’s all about herbs and bright lemon freshness paired with fruit and spice.
While these definitely paired perfectly with the summer months there’s nothing about them that wouldn’t be just as great when the temperature drops a few degrees.

So, in honor of heading back to work and school let’s make fun and delicious meatballs. They are truly perfect for a weeknight meal. They can store easily for a few days and won’t dry out if reheated in the sauce. Serve them in a roll, on some rice, or for fast access… just stick a fork in ’em.

Herb Packed Turkey Meatballs in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Serves: 16-18 meatballs depending on size

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey Meat
  • 2.5 Tbsp Chopped Parsley
  • 2 Tbsp Chopped Mint
  • 1 Tbsp Chopped Dill
  • Zest of 1 lemon or about 1 Tbsp
  • 1 Shallot Minced or ½ of a small white Onion Minced
  • 1 Egg
  • ½-3/4 cup Breadcrumbs (I prefer Panko)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Pepper to taste*
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Fruit Preserves - My favorites are Peach or Apricot
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice
  • 3 Tbsp Ketchup
  • ½-1 tsp Dried Red Pepper Flakes
  • ½ Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  1. Place all the ingredients (minus the olive oil) in a large bowl and use your hands to bring it all together (this is my favorite part!). If the mixture feels very wet add a ¼ cup more breadcrumbs. Too much breadcrumb and your meatballs won't hold together. Mix till all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  2. On the stovetop, over medium-high, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of an oven-safe heavy bottomed pot or pan. Use your favorite method of shaping meatballs or grab a rounded bottom tablespoon measure and scoop out the meat mixture. Using a second spoon (a regular spoon from your cutlery set is fine), scoop out the meat from the tablespoon by going around the inside curve of the measuring spoon. You should now have a mostly round ball on your spoon. To round it more you can pass it back to the tablespoon and use the curve of the spoon to gently pat the top of the ball into place. Pass it back once more and drop it into the hot oil.
  3. WorkIng in small batches, brown 4-6 balls at a time. Turn them gently in the oil so they have a nice golden crust on each. Each batch should take 4-6 minutes. When done remove them to a plate lined with a paper towel to rest until the sauce is made.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F
  5. In the same pot the meatballs cooked in, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce making sure to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pot into the sauce. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 5-10 minutes. Gently place all the meatballs into the sauce and spoon sauce over their tops if they aren't submerged.
  6. Cover the pot and place on a middle rack in the oven. Let cook covered for 10 min. Remove the lid and let it cook another 10 minutes uncovered.
*A fun tip on how to taste if your meat mixture is seasoned well: break off a very little piece and toss it into the pan to cook. Taste it and then adjust your seasoning if needed!