Baked Turkey Meatballs – Two versions (Healthy and Very Healthy)

Behold the classic meatball.  It is perfectly unpretentious and timeless.  Its use spans many ethnic dishes from Italian to Asian to Swedish.  I personally love the simplicity of the meatball.  Depending on what spices are used, it can change the entire flavor profile and make it something completely different.  The ease of making meatballs is also an added plus!

When I first started making meatballs, I was a little scared of the meatball making process.  There were so many recipes and it seemed that you had to get the combination of meats just right in order for them to bake up correctly.  The balance of fats, oils and binders needed to be correct so that they did not turn into hard rocks.  So instead of making them myself I resorted first to the frozen kind of meatballs which were okay but meat never really has the same texture or flavor after it has been frozen.  Plus the frozen meatballs were very small and filled with a lot of extra ingredients including preservatives and colors.

Next I upgraded to the fresh, prepared meatball that was offered daily by my grocery store.  While again these meatballs were delicious and easy to bake in the oven, I was put off by the high cost and ingredients that were used.  Most grocery store prepared meatballs are made using a combination pork, beef and sometimes even lamb.  Since these meats tend to be higher in calories and fat I wanted to create a meatball from scratch that was healthier.

The obvious choice for me to make a healthier meatball was ground turkey.  I use ground turkey in a lot of my recipes.  It is fairly inexpensive, has a great moisture content and is low in fat.  I purchase the lean ground turkey which works great for most recipes.  They do offer an even leaner ground turkey which comes only from the turkey breast.  I have tried using this type of ground turkey, however, I find it to be too dry and the taste is very bland.

I have devised this recipe into two different versions.  The first version is a healthy turkey meatball recipe.  This recipe is perfect for families and people who are wanting to follow a healthy diet.   The recipe does call for a small amount of butter which I find helps with the fat and thus the flavor content of the meatball.   Olive oil can be used in place of the butter though some of the richness will be lost.  Ritz crackers help bind the meatball together and also help with retaining some of the moisture so that it does not dry out.

The second version is a very healthy turkey meatball recipe.  This recipe is for people who want to follow a strict healthy diet.  It keeps the recipe at it’s base level with only the healthiest of ingredients.  In this recipe the butter and milk have been omitted.  The whole egg has been replaced with just the egg white.  And the Ritz cracker has been replaced with puffed rice.  Both versions are for a typical Italian inspired meatball.  In order to keep with the healthy route I bake my meatballs instead of pan frying them in oil on the stove.  Baking the meatballs ensures they are cooked throughout (which you want for a poultry product).

Healthy Turkey Meatballs

1 pound lean ground turkey

1 egg

3 tablespoons salted butter (or olive oil)

1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers (or any type of butter cracker)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup whole milk 

2 tablespoons ketchup

3 tablespoons dried parsley

3 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.  Spoon a good sized amount of the meatball mixture into your hand and roll/shape into balls.  The size should be about the size of a golf ball.  Lightly coat a non-stick baking sheet with spray oil (canola, olive or coconut).  The oil coating gives the balls a nice crispy bottom which adds to the flavor of the meatball.  Place rolled balls the baking sheet and bake 35 minutes until browned.  Toss the meatballs in your favorite prepared pasta and sauce.   

Very Healthy Turkey Meatballs

1 pound lean ground turkey

1 egg white

1/4 cup puffed rice 

2 tablespoons low sugar ketchup 

3 tablespoons dried parsley

3 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.  Spoon a good sized amount of the meatball mixture into your hand and roll/shape into balls.  The size should be about the size of a golf ball.  Place rolled balls the baking sheet and bake 30 minutes until browned. Toss the meatballs in your favorite prepared pasta and sauce.   

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