These turkey meatballs? They’re the real deal, friends! Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and super flavorful thanks to dairy-free pesto and “parmesan”! Plus, they’re simple to make (just 9 ingredients) and freezer-friendly. OH yes, winners all around!
They’re perfect for meal prep and suitable for our friends who are sensitive to dairy, gluten, or eggs. Put ‘em in soup, put ‘em on pasta, or eat ‘em on their own! Let us show you how it’s done!
How to Make Turkey Meatballs
These Italian-inspired pesto meatballs begin with sautéing onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cooking these ingredients instead of adding them in raw removes the “bite” of onion and garlic, reduces the water content (yes to meatballs that hold together!), and evenly distributes the spiciness.
We combine the sautéed veggies with ground turkey, basil pesto, breadcrumbs (we used gluten-free panko), DIY dairy-free “parmesan,” and salt. That’s right — so much flavor!
The breadcrumbs and “parmesan” also dry out the meatballs just slightly so they hold together but are still juicy on the inside.
After rolling into balls, we cook the meatballs in a skillet so they get brown and crispy on the outside. We also tried cooking them in the oven, but the stovetop method is much tastier!
We hope you LOVE these turkey meatballs! They’re:
Crispy on the outside
Tender on the inside
& SO delicious!
They’re also versatile and pair well with everything from soups to pasta, salads, and beyond! Try them with our Creamy Tuscan White Bean & Kale Soup (1 Pot!), Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Basil Pesto, Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella, or Easy 1-Pot Marinara Sauce plus your favorite pasta.
More Recipes For Pesto Lovers
- Pea Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Arugula
- Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Garlic Pesto
- Pesto Avocado Toast with Fresh Tomatoes
- Avocado Pesto Pasta Salad
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
Pesto “Parmesan” Turkey Meatballs (Dairy & Egg-Free!)
- 2 Tbsp olive or avocado oil (DIVIDED)
- 3/4 cup very finely diced white or yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup dairy-free basil pesto (homemade or store-bought — see notes for brand recommendations)
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (gluten-free as needed // we like Ian’s)
- 1/4 cup dairy-free "parmesan" cheese (we recommend homemade)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 pound ground turkey (or ground chicken)
- Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant — about 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Wipe out the skillet and set aside for later.
- Add the pesto, panko breadcrumbs, dairy-free parmesan cheese, and salt to the bowl, and stir to combine. Add the turkey (or chicken) and use your hands to gently combine everything into an even mixture, being careful not to overwork the meat, which can cause it to become tough.
- Shape the mixture into 18 (~1 ½-inch) meatballs (adjust accordingly if altering the default number of servings) and place on a large plate.
- Optional (to help the meatballs have a more round shape): cover and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) oil in the skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the meatballs, working in batches if necessary, and cook, turning frequently, until firm, browned, and crisp on all sides, and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (74 C) — about 10-12 minutes. Reduce the heat as necessary to prevent burning.
- These meatballs are delicious served with pasta and marinara, or served with other Italian-inspired dishes like our Creamy Tuscan Kale White Bean Soup, Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Basil Pesto, or Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetable Panzanella.
- Leftover cooked and cooled meatballs can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or the freezer for 1 month. Reheat in a 375 degree F (190 C) oven for 10 minutes or until warmed throughout.
- If you want to freeze before cooking, shape them into patties (which cook more evenly from frozen than meatballs), then cook directly from frozen in a lightly oiled skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F (74 C) — about 5-6 minutes per side.
*Adapted from The Spruce Eats.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with olive oil, Le Grand Garden Pesto, Ian’s panko breadcrumbs, homemade dairy-free parmesan cheese, and without optional ingredients.
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