The Best (Actually Moist!) Turkey Meatballs

updated Mar 28, 2024

An easy step-by-step guide to making great turkey meatballs in marinara sauce.

Serves4 to 6

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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While meatball purists might declare blasphemy, turkey meatballs are actually my favorite meatballs. The reason is twofold. It’s partially nostalgia — the only kind of meatballs my dad made growing up were made with turkey — and partially because I enjoy their lighter flavor and texture.

All too often, however, turkey meatballs are dry and bland, since the meat is lean. Meatballs made with more traditional beef, fattier pork, or a blend of meats tend to get more love. So we took to the kitchen to figure out how to make the juiciest, most flavorful turkey meatballs, and came away with a few smart secrets that yield foolproof turkey meatballs every time. Here’s how to make turkey meatballs you’ll actually want to eat.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Why You’ll Love It

  • These meatballs are super tender, juicy, and full of flavor — I promise no bland, dry turkey here.
  • They’re extremely low fuss. The meatballs cook in the same pan as the sauce for quick and easy clean up.

Key Ingredients in Turkey Meatballs

  • Ground turkey: You need a bit of fat in the meat to give the meatballs moisture and flavor — so now isn’t the time to reach for the leanest ground turkey you can find. Opt for ground turkey that’s 93% lean/7% fat for the best results.
  • Breadcrumbs: If you don’t have any on hand, you can pulse 2 slices of white sandwich bread in a food processor.
  • Greek yogurt: Using plain whole-milk Greek yogurt in the meatballs instead of milk provides more moisture and prevents the meat from overcooking.
  • Shallots: Along with minced garlic and dried oregano bring the classic Italian flavor to these meatballs.
  • Parmesan cheese: Grated Parmesan adds umami to the meatballs. We like Parmigiano Reggiano, but you can substitute grated Parmesan.
  • Marinara sauce: You can use your favorite store-bought bottle or opt for a homemade sauce.

Tips for Making the Juiciest Turkey Meatballs

  1. Use a light hand. When mixing the ground turkey with the dry and wet ingredients, you’ll want to combine them gently. Overworking the mixture will result in tough meatballs, so use your hands to mix in the meat and stop when it’s just combined.
  2. Simmer the meatballs gently in the sauce. These are delicate meatballs, so you’ll want to treat them that way. When adding them to the sauce, make sure the sauce is just gently simmering. This way the meatballs won’t fall apart in the sauce and they’ll have a chance to soak up some of the sauce’s flavorful juices.
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

How to Serve Turkey Meatballs

How To Make the Best, Juiciest Turkey Meatballs

An easy step-by-step guide to making great turkey meatballs in marinara sauce.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 2/3 cup

    fresh breadcrumbs, or 2 slices white sandwich bread (about 1 ounce)

  • 3/4 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup grated)

  • 1

    large shallot

  • 1/4 cup

    loosely packed fresh parsley leaves

  • 3 cloves


  • 1/4 cup

    plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound

    ground turkey (93% lean / 7% fat)

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1 (about 24-ounce) jar

    store-bought or homemade marinara sauce (about 3 cups)


  • Knife

  • Cutting board

  • Food processor

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Wooden spoon

  • Baking sheet

  • High-sided sauté pan

  • Tongs

  • Large plate


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  1. If using white sandwich bread, tear 2 slices into pieces and pulse in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment into coarse breadcrumbs. Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. If using fresh breadcrumbs, place 2/3 cup in a large bowl.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the large bowl with the breadcrumbs as you complete it: Finely grate 3/4 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup). Finely chop 1 large shallot. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Coarsely chop 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves.

  3. Add 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine.

  4. Add 1 pound ground turkey and use your hands to combine it with the breadcrumb mixture until just combined. Do not overwork, which can make the meatballs tough.

  5. Form the meat mixture into 16 to 18 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each), wetting your hands with water as needed to keep the mixture from sticking. Place place on a baking sheet or large plate.

  6. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and pan-fry until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip the meatballs and brown the other side, about 3 minutes more. Return to the plate or baking sheet (the meatballs will not be cooked through).

  7. Pour 1/4 cup water into the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan.

  8. Add 1 (about 24-ounce) jar marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Return the meatballs to the pan. Reduce the heat as needed to simmer gently until the meatballs are cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be shaped and refrigerated for up to 1 day before baking. The meatballs can also be frozen uncooked or cooked. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the meatballs to a freezer container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. If uncooked, thaw in the refrigerator overnight in a single layer before cooking. If cooked, either thaw in the refrigerator overnight or thaw directly in simmering sauce (keep the pan covered) for 15 minutes.

To bake the meatballs: Instead of pan-frying the meatballs, you can also bake them. Place the meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the middle rack in a 400°F oven until lightly browned on the outside and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. They are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle registers at least 165°F. Bring the marinara sauce to simmer in a large high-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven and once the meatballs are cooked, transfer them to the sauce. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and serve.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated on their own or in sauce in an airtight container up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 1 month.

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