Soft and tender turkey meatballs, flavored with fresh lemon, sage, thyme, and rosemary, served with a rich and warm lemon sauce for a nutritious and low-fat weeknight dinner that will keep everyone coming back for more.
When I first made this dish, I was skeptical. Meatballs with lemon? The only meatballs I’d had up to that point were stuffed with mozzarella and drowning in rich red tomato sauce. But on my quest for dinners that were more than the same meals I’d been eating my whole life, I made these meatballs and… They are so addicting. Something about the perfectly balanced acidity of the lemon sauce and the tender turkey combo just keeps me coming back into the kitchen to snack on meatballs.
Whenever I make these, I have to hide them from myself so my husband can have some too. He has made many meatballs in his career as a chef, and even he admits that these are the BEST meatballs. I think everyone should make them, but it’s also dangerous cause you will want them over and over again?
What do I need to make Lemon Turkey Meatballs?
- Ground turkey. If you want this to be a diet meal, make sure to get extra lean.
- Yellow onion.
- Minced garlic.
- Lemons – you need the juice and the zest of one lemon.
- Rosemary, sage, and thyme – these are best use in this recipe if they are fresh, but if you only have dried that will be okay too.
- Bread crumbs. I prefer Italian seasoned, but your preference is fine too. To make this diet, use whole wheat.
- Grated parmesan cheese.
- 1 egg.
- At least one teaspoon salt and black pepper for seasoning, but I always recommend using more.
- Olive oil for the pan.
- Chicken broth.
- Butter. This is needed to thicken the sauce, but it is only a small amount.
How do I make Lemon Turkey Meatballs?
The first thing I like to do is deal with the onion. I like to pulse my onion, garlic, lemon zest, and herbs in a blender of food processor – just so it’s all nicely chopped, but not so much that it’s mushy. This is just my preference. If you are confident in your ability to cut into small even chunks, then you can just use a knife for this step.
I then take my onion mixture and mix it up with the turkey, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and egg. You can use a spoon for this or your hands. Then you can roll up your meat balls. To make sure all turkey lemon meatballs are evenly sized, this is best done by measuring them with a kitchen scale, or using a tablespoon measurer. I roll mine into about 2tbsp ball size. Then you want to roll each ball into your flour, just to coat. Preserve the extra flour, you will use it later.
Heat your olive oil on a skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is heated, add your meatballs and cook them on the skillet for about 5 minutes, and turn them at least once. You are not trying to cook them all the way through, you’re just getting a nice brown on them.
Remove the meatballs and place on a plate. Then take 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and pour into the pan, scraping up the brown bits. The brown bits on the bottom of the pan are full of flavor, and you want that incorporated into the sauce. Cook until the brown bits are dissolved, then add the remaining chicken broth.
Bring the broth to a boil, then add the meatballs back into the pan, along with more rosemary, sage, and thyme. Cook them for 10 more minutes, with a cover on the pan.
Making a Roux
While the meatballs are cooking, make a quick roux on the stove. A roux is equal parts flour and fat cooked together on the stove, usually used to thicken sauces. What is the purpose of a roux? You do not want to add the flour directly to the sauce. Flour added on it’s own will only clump up and make for a sauce that both doesn’t look desirable and isn’t thick.
Once the meatballs are cooked through, remove them to a serving plate, then add your roux to the sauce, along with the lemon juice and whisk it all together, seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Then pour the sauce over your meatballs and enjoy.
These will go well with pretty much anything. Rice is one of my favorite sides, because it soaks up the sauce for even more lemon flavor. Any veggies are delicious (green beans are my preference), and any pasta would be a great pairing.
How do you make turkey meatballs that don’t fall apart?
Ground turkey is such a tender meat that it falls apart very easily. Make sure to be exact with your measurements. Eggs and breadcrumbs will work together to bind your meatballs.
These are still great the next day – just make sure they’re covered and refrigerated. I have never tried freezing them, but I will always recommend to make them fresh.
- 1lb ground turkey
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (divided)
- 1 tsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp salt (more if desired)
- 1 tsp pepper (more if desired)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 tbsp butter
- Place your prepared onions, garlic, lemon zest, and thyme, sage, and 1 tsp rosemary in a bowl. You can either chop these yourself or pulse in a blender until they are evenly chopped (not mushy.)
- Add in your turkey, breacrumbs, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Mix together with a spoon, spatula, or your hands until the mixture has all formed one ball.
- Roll into balls, measuring with either a kitchen scale or tablespoon measurers. I roll into 2 tbsp sized balls.
- Roll each meatball into flour until it is lightly coated. Preserve the leftover flour - it will be used later.
- Heat olive oil on a pan. Once oil is heated through, add your meatballs and cook for at least 5 minutes, or until brown, Turn your meatballs at least once so all sides are the same color.
- Remove the meatballs from the pan and place on a plate. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Once brown bits are dissolved, add in remaining chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Once the sauce in boiling, return your meatballs to the pan, and add remaining 1 tsp rosemary. Cover your pan and cook for 10 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.
- While meatballs are cooking, take your butter and melt in a saucepan, then add flour. Whisk all the time until it is a very light brown in color. Take it off the heat.
- Once the meatballs are cooked through, remove them to the serving dish. To your sauce, add in the roux and lemon juice, and whisk until it is thickened. Pour over the meatballs.
Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 905Total Fat 72gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 50gCholesterol 194mgSodium 1406mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 2gSugar 3gProtein 38g
Try my Honey Thyme Grilled Peaches for a quick and tasty dessert!