I love to use turkey as an alternative to beef when I’m craving something hearty and comforting yet light and lean. You can even substitute ground turkey in recipes that traditionally use beef, as I did in my Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie. For other comforting recipes with turkey, try this 3 Bean Turkey Chili and my Turkey Pumpkin Chili.
Full List of Ingredients
Aside from turkey and zucchini, all you need are a few pantry staples to throw together these turkey zucchini meatballs. We’re using crispy Panko breadcrumbs for texture, lots of yummy Italian seasonings for flavor, and an egg to bind everything together. Here’s the full ingredient breakdown:
- Grated zucchini (from one large zucchini)
- Ground turkey: You can use lean meat or dark meat. Dark meat will be more flavorful and rich than lean ground turkey, but it’s completely up to your personal preference.
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Chopped scallions
- An egg
- Seasoning: Italian seasoning, onion powder, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and ground black pepper.
Substitutions & Optional Add-Ins
While I enjoy the simplicity of these easy turkey meatballs, the recipe also offers a great base for ingredient add-ins that amp up the flavor. It’s also very substitution-friendly, allowing you to accommodate the ingredients you have on hand or your dietary preferences or restrictions. Here are some suggestions:
- Breadcrumbs: I love the crunch and crispiness of Panko breadcrumbs, but feel free to use regular breadcrumbs if Panko isn’t available. They even make gluten-free breadcrumbs for a great option that you can substitute if you follow a gluten-free diet! Or, for extra flavor, you can use seasoned bread crumbs if you can find them at your local grocery stores.
- Meat: If turkey isn’t your thing or if you’d like to take advantage of the meat you have on hand, you can easily substitute another ground meat for your meatballs with zucchini. I recommend ground pork, beef, or chicken.
- Onion: If you don’t have any scallions on hand (also known as green onions), you can use half of a grated onion instead. Just be sure to remove as many juices as possible using a colander or a double layer of paper towel, as we want to prevent the tender meatballs from becoming mushy. You can also substitute a teaspoon of onion powder if you don’t have a fresh onion (this will be in addition to the 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder that the recipe already calls for).
- Garlic: For an easy alternative to fresh garlic, simply substitute a teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Cheese: To add extra richness and a nutty Italian flavor, add a half cup of shredded parmesan cheese to this turkey meatballs recipe.
- Fresh herbs: If you want this recipe to be similar to the famous Ottolenghi turkey zucchini meatballs, you can add in fresh herbs such as fresh basil, parsley, mint, or dill. I recommend adding a total amount of about half a cup of herbs.
- Low carb, Whole30 or keto ground turkey meatballs: You can make a keto turkey meatball recipe or Whole 30 turkey meatballs by simply using an equal amount of almond flour instead of panko breadcrumbs.
How to Make Ground Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini?
What’s better than a flavorful, healthy, and comforting recipe that comes together in only 30 minutes? Baking turkey meatballs is as simple as mixing the ingredients together, shaping them into meatballs, and popping them in the oven. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:
- Prep for baking: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
- Shred the zucchini: Use the larger holes of a box grater to shred the zucchini. Place the shredded zucchini in the center of a clean kitchen towel, gather up the sides of the towel, and squeeze to remove as much juice as possible. It should yield about one cup of shredded zucchini. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the ingredients: In the same bowl, combine ground turkey, Panko, scallions, egg, garlic, onion powder, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Roll into balls: Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to divide the mixture into smaller portions. Wet hands with a little water and roll each portion into a small, golf-sized ball. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake: Cook the ground turkey meatballs in oven for 15-18 minutes or until they reach 165 degrees F when measured with a thermometer.
- Serve: Serve the meatballs on a bed of pasta or with your favorite sauce.
How to Serve?
These turkey and zucchini meatballs are delicious to enjoy on their own, but they also pair beautifully with various sauces and sides. Amp up the Italian flavor with a tomato sauce, make it Mediterranean with a yogurt drizzle or keep it traditional by serving on a bed of pasta. Here are my serving recommendations:
- Serve it with a simple tomato sauce: While the meatballs are baking, simmer your favorite tomato sauce over medium-low heat on the stove, so it’s nice and hot when the meatballs are done. If you’re looking for an easy, homemade tomato sauce, try my Tomato Basil Sauce. You can even sprinkle on some parmesan cheese to complete the dish!
- Drizzle it with a yogurt dip: Meatballs are a popular Mediterranean dish, and in Turkey, we love to pair them with a creamy, tangy Tzatziki Sauce. You can also whip up a Greek Yogurt Dill Sauce or this sesame-based Yogurt Tahini Sauce for Middle Eastern turkey meatballs. Serve them on a generous dollop of your yogurt sauce of choice, or simply drizzle it right on top.
- Make pasta or zucchini noodles with meatballs: Name a more classic combination than spaghetti and meatballs! We have plenty of pasta dishes here on the blog that would pair perfectly with these tasty meatballs. Try this spicy, creamy Gigi Hadid Vodka Pasta, this easy, 30-minute Green Pasta, or a tangy, zingy Lemon and Ricotta Pasta. If you follow a low-carb diet but would still like to enjoy your meatballs with a pasta dish, you can serve them with veggie-based noodles like these Butternut Squash Noodles. Or, make turkey meatballs and Zoodles (zucchini noodles).
- Serve it in a roasted spaghetti squash: If you’ve never had a spaghetti squash, you’ll be amazed by how much it actually resembles spaghetti! Simply cut your squash in half, roast the spaghetti squash, and serve the meatballs inside each half. It offers a fun presentation and is a great low-carb option, too.
How to Store, Reheat, & Freeze?
While these healthy turkey meatballs are easy to whip up for quick weeknight family dinners, this is also a good meal prep recipe for busy weeks ahead. Here are some tips for storing, reheating, and thawing your meatballs:
- Store: You can store your leftover homemade turkey meatballs with or without tomato sauce. Either way, let them cool to room temperature before placing them in an airtight container. They will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.
- Reheat: You can reheat your leftovers in the microwave or in the oven. Microwave in 30-second intervals, making sure to stir them after each interval. You can also reheat your turkey meatballs in the oven. I recommend low heat (300 degrees F) for about 5 minutes or so. Alternatively, you can heat up the meatballs in your tomato sauce on the stovetop.
- Freeze: If you decide to serve your turkey meatballs with tomato sauce, you can freeze the meatballs with the sauce in an airtight container. However, I find it easier to freeze the meatballs individually so they don’t stick together. Place the leftover cooked meatballs in a single layer on a large baking sheet, let them freeze, and then store them in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container. However you choose to freeze them, they should keep for about 2 months.
- Thaw: Thaw your frozen meatballs overnight in the fridge and reheat once completely thawed.
During my recipe testing, I learned a few techniques and tricks that will help you achieve expert results on your first go! Here’s what you need to know:
- Don’t worry about spacing: Unlike cookies, these lean turkey meatballs won’t expand as they cook. You can place them pretty close together on your baking sheet, which will hopefully prevent you from needing another baking sheet (because who wants to wash more pans than needed?).
- Wet your hands: The turkey mixture is a little sticky, so I found that wetting my hands before rolling the meatballs prevented the mixture from sticking to my hands and making a mess.
- Use a cookie scoop: For evenly-sized meatballs, use a small cookie scoop (affiliate link). Ensuring they are the same size will also help them cook evenly.
- Remove excess juices: While it may be tempting, especially if you’re in a rush, don’t skip the step where you squeeze the juices from the grated zucchini. This step only takes a second and will yield juicy baked turkey zucchini meatballs instead of mushy and soggy ones.
As with other types of meat, the ideal internal temperature for oven-baked turkey meatballs is 165 degrees F. I recommend using an instant read thermometer for easy, accurate measuring that removes the guesswork.
For properly cooked, moist turkey meatballs that retain a juicy, tender center, I recommend baking them at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. The temperature of turkey meatballs should reach 165 degrees F, so I also recommend using a thermometer to ensure they’re cooked properly.
Your recipe for turkey meatballs is likely mushy because the meatball mixture has a lot of moisture. To prevent this problem, make sure to remove as much excess moisture as possible from any veggies you add to the mixture, especially the grated zucchini (or grated onion, if using). I’ve found that the best way to remove the juices is to squeeze the grated veggies in a clean kitchen towel.
The key to preventing the turkey mixture from falling apart is the addition of an egg. Eggs act as binding agents that help the ingredients adhere and stay together while baking. As a rule of thumb, use one egg per pound of ground meat. The addition of breadcrumbs in these turkey panko meatballs also helps to bind the mixture together, as well.
Turkey is a lean meat that’s a great source of protein, loaded with important B vitamins, and rich in several minerals, among other health benefits. Because of these benefits, turkey can help you achieve your weight loss goals as long as you consume it in reasonable portions.
Other Ground Meat Recipes You Might Like
I love to use various types of ground meat for easy weeknight meals, as it cooks quickly and pairs well with a variety of flavor profiles. If you’re looking for more quick and easy meals with ground chicken or beef, check out these recipes below:
- Ground Chicken Bolognese
- Turkish Meatballs with Ground Beef
- Pasta Bolognese Recipe
- Meatball and Potato Bake
If you try these Meatballs with Ground Turkey and Zucchini or any other recipe on Foolproof Living, please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. And if you took some pictures, be sure to share them on Instagram using #foolproofeats so I can share them on my stories.
Zucchini Turkey Meatballs Recipe
- 1 cup grated zucchini from one large or two small zucchinis ~ 190 grams
- 1 pound ground turkey meat
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs ~ 40 gr
- ½ cup chopped scallion both white and green parts ~56 gr
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Prep the zucchini: Shred the zucchini using the large holes of a box grater. Place it in the middle of a clean tea towel, collect it from the sides, and squeeze as much liquid as possible. You should have about 1 cup of shredded zucchini. Transfer it to a large bowl.
- Mix the ingredients: Add the turkey, panko breadcrumbs, chopped scallions, minced garlic, onion powder, Italian seasoning, paprika, red pepper flakes, egg, salt, and black pepper into the bowl. Mix until fully combined.
- Shape the meatballs: Using a small cookie scoop or a large spoon, divide the meat mixture into small golf-size balls. Each ball should be around 0.88 oz. Roll each turkey meatball between your palms and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake: Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes or until the internal temperature of a turkey meatball reaches 165 degrees F when a thermometer is inserted in the middle.
- Serve: Enjoy it with your favorite sauce, or serve it with pasta.
- Store: You can store your leftover meatballs with or without tomato sauce. Either way, let them cool to room temperature before placing them in an airtight container. They will stay fresh in the fridge for about 3-4 days.
- Reheat: You can reheat your leftovers in the microwave or in the oven. Microwave in 30-second intervals, making sure to stir them after each interval (especially if you’re reheating them with tomato sauce). You can also reheat your turkey meatballs in the oven. I recommend a low-heat oven (300 degrees F) for about 5 minutes or so. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to serve your meatballs with tomato sauce, you can heat up the meatballs in the sauce on the stovetop.
- Freeze: If you decide to serve your turkey meatballs, you can freeze them with the sauce in an airtight container. However, I find it easier to freeze the meatballs individually so they don’t stick together. Place the leftover meatballs in a single layer on a large baking sheet, let them freeze, and then store them in an airtight container or freezer-safe plastic bag. However you choose to freeze them, they should keep for about 2 months.
- Thaw: Thaw your leftovers overnight in the fridge and reheat once completely thawed.
- Can I cook the turkey meatballs in a skillet instead of baking them in the oven? You sure can. To do so, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook, turning often, for 2-3 minutes on each side (a total of 5-6 minutes) or until the internal temperature of turkey meatballs reaches 165 degrees F. Transfer the pan-fried meatballs to a plate or place them right into warmed tomato sauce. Serve immediately.
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