I haven’t made meatballs in a realllyyy long time, probably at least a year. I had found amazing turkey meatballs at Sam’s Club a couple of times and I just haven’t been able to find any others that come even close. They were made with 100% turkey rather than beef and I didn’t even cook them in a sauce, they didn’t need it. I just baked them plain – they were that good! Plus, you could eat about 4 or 5 of them for the same amount of calories as you get in a regular store-bought beef meatball (and they were the same size, I promise). I have no idea what brand they were but I have not seen them for a long time. 🙁 I’ve been very sad about that, very very..
I don’t think any other store-bought meatball will ever come close in my mind, so I decided to make my own meatballs. The result was these delicious BBQ infused turkey meatballs, packed with vegetables – yes I said that right – vegetables! Along with herbs, some vegetables add a very nice, fresh flavor you don’t get in a store-bought meatball.
It did take me a couple of tries to get the right flavor so the meatballs felt complete and flavor-packed, so I am going to share what I learned about making lean turkey meatballs:
1. Don’t skip searing the meatballs prior to baking. Searing meat adds a lot of flavor and lean turkey needs that flavor boost. There’s actually a second reason I had to sear these meatballs: the first time I made them, they were practically being poached in a turkey and vegetable broth because all the juices ran out while in the oven and prevented any sear that I thought would occur while baking. So searing them first also allowed the juices to drain and add more flavor to the meatballs prior to baking.
2. Always add a flavor-booster to a lean meatball mixture, such as tomato paste or BBQ sauce, otherwise it will taste like something is missing.
Here are the meatballs that I made at first (without searing and without BBQ sauce):
See the difference?
Searing does flatten the meatballs a bit, but who cares? I’d rather have a more flavorful meatball than a perfectly round one.
Hope you enjoy these BBQ infused turkey meatballs as much as I did!
- 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey (or ground turkey of choice)
- ½ red bell pepper, chopped in large pieces
- ½ large onion, chopped in large pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 large handful of fresh spinach
- ¼ cup fresh dill (or more)
- 4 Tbsp BBQ sauce of choice
- 3 Tbsp egg whites (or 1 whole egg or 2 egg whites)
- 1 slice of bread
- 3 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- In a small bowl, break up slice of bread into pieces and cover with milk to soak for a few minutes. Use a spoon or fork to mash it up after soaking.
- In food processor, combine bell pepper, onion, garlic, spinach, and dill. Process until mixture resembles salsa (at least that’s what it looked like to me!). Everything should be finely diced. If you have a smaller food processor, use smaller batches.
- Place ground turkey into a large bowl, add in bread, egg whites, items from food processor, oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix well but don’t over-mix. Add in BBQ sauce and mix until it’s evenly spread throughout.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Then get a baking pan ready - line with foil and grease.
- Use your hands or a spoon and a hand to make meatballs. I make about 1.5 inch meatballs. Spray skillet with cooking spray and place each meatball that you roll directly on skillet. Sear meatballs on medium-high heat until they are nicely browned, about 4-6 minutes, flipping them half way through.
- After removing meatballs from skillet, place them on the greased baking pan.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping them over half way through. I like to use a meat thermometer and check for 165F.