Saucy Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs

Slow Cooker Meatballs

My aunt Nina makes a killer meatball…so good, it could make you cry. Having married into a big Italian family, it was practically a moral imperative for her to make a proper pasta sauce.

My aunt AJ does an excellent meatball all her own, generous in size, and usually in batches big enough to feed the crowds that inevitably gather at her house.

Some day, perhaps, I’ll get a recipe out of one of them, Maybe it will happen when I have more time on my hands, the kind of time required to make meatballs the old-fashioned way.

For now, I’ve got a super simple weekday alternative, these Saucy Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs.

They’re not likely to bring you to tears, but will make your kids smile, and you too, since they’re so easy.

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs

Quick to Assemble

Once you’ve gathered the ingredients, you can bang out these slow cooker meatballs in the time it might take your kids to get through breakfast. That’s when I make this, in the morning before school. The recipe is adapted from Skinny Taste, a blog written by Gina Homolka, who does a clever job of making healthy food look and taste gorgeous.

Truth? My slow cooker turkey meatballs aren’t quite as skinny as Gina’s; I snuck a sausage link in there for a little added flavor. And I’ve skipped the step of sautéing an onion since I promised never to give you a crock pot recipe that requires extra cooking. If you have time to spare, go ahead and saute a medium chopped onion in olive oil until tender and mix it in with the rest of the sauce ingredients before adding the meatballs.

These turkey meatballs are made in the slow cooker and are perfect over pasta or just straight up with sauce and crusty bread. Click To Tweet

Read the Label

Be thoughtful about the seasoned breadcrumbs you buy. Read the label, looking for whole grain options and avoiding ones with junkie ingredients. You can turn up the nourishment by adding a few cups of vegetables to the pot when the meatballs are nearly done and let them cook just long enough to go tender.

Serve ‘Em Straight Up

In our house, we usually serve meatballs in shallow bowls, with crusty bread for mopping up sauce, and a chunk of good Parmesan to grate at the table. Of course, it’s terrific over pasta, rice, or polenta as well.

No, these are not the aunties’ meatballs, but they’re meatballs for goodness sake. Yum! And, it’ll only take you, what, 15 minutes to make? If you want more delicious slow cooker recipes, head here!

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs
5 from 1 vote
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Saucy Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs

To make this truly a one-dish-meal, you can add two to three cups of roughly chopped raw vegetables to the pot when the meatballs are nearly done and cook until tender. Broccoli or any dark leafy greens work well. Any leftover meatballs can be sliced into coins and piled onto a baguette with cheese, greens, and a spoonful of sauce.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 322 kcal
Author katiemorford

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 link uncooked spicy Italian turkey sausage , about 1/4 to 1/3 pound
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce

  • One 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • One 14.5-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves , smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Big pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 rounded teaspoon sugar

Instructions

  1. For the meatballs, start by splitting the sausage casing down the center using a sharp knife. Turn the sausage meat out of the casing and into a medium bowl. Add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until evenly combined, being sure the sausage meat is distributed throughout.
  2. Scoop up about 1 1/2 tablespoons of meat and roll it between your hands to form little globes that are the size of a small golf ball. Continue until you've rolled all the meat into balls. You should have approximately 20 meatballs. Set aside while you make the sauce.
  3. For the sauce, pour the 2 cans of tomatoes into your slow cooker. Add the smashed garlic, parsley, basil, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, and sugar. Stir well.
  4. Add the meatballs to the sauce, one-by-one, gently nestling them into the tomatoes so they are almost entirely covered with sauce.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 4 hours.
  6. Serve in shallow bowls with crusty bread for dipping.

Adapted from a recipe by Skinny Taste.

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Comments

09.17.2012 at 8:36 AM #

Cynthia

Can’t wait to try this Katie! Your other slow cooker recipe (the chicken w/chard) is the best slow cooker dish I have come across. So many slow cooker dishes end up tasting the same but this one, like your other, promises to be a cut above. Big thanks from a more-than-full-time working mom,
Cynthia

09.17.2012 at 8:36 AM #

katiemorford

Thanks Cynthia…and I agree…a lot of slow cooker recipes are sort of “one note” in terms of flavor. Let me know how you like this one!

09.17.2012 at 6:09 PM #

Kim

Is it okay to cook for much longer? Unfortunately on some weekdays I’m away from the house for 9-10 hours before rushing home to get a yummy and healthy dinner on the table for the fam! I would love to prep this in the morning before heading to work.

09.17.2012 at 6:09 PM #

katiemorford

My guess is that they’d be ok….but without trying it, I can’t be sure. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!

09.17.2012 at 6:09 PM #

Kim @ She Wines Sometimes

I realize this question was asked a long time ago, but I thought I’d chime in and let you know that I left these meatballs on low for a little more than 10 hours, and they turned out perfectly. I was worried they would fall apart, so I added some extra breadcrumbs, and they were awesome and held up really well!

09.18.2012 at 11:05 PM #

kim connector

I love the idea of adding the sausage for a little added UMPH and I was looking for a slow cooker recipe for the week- Thanks! I like to make rosemary and ground lamb meatballs- how does that stack up to turkey and ground chuck/sirloin nutritionally?

09.18.2012 at 11:05 PM #

katiemorford

Hi Kim, I too love ground lamb. Nutritionally, it is likely to be fattier than turkey and beef, particularly since you often have a choice as to how much fat you want in turkey or beef whereas with lamb, it’s usually just one option. From an environmental standpoint, it’s my understand that lamb is a little easier on the planet than cattle. All that being said, delicious lamb meatballs in the context of a healthy diet … absolutely.

09.27.2012 at 11:19 PM #

Laura

Hi Katie: We tried these and they were great. We added zuchinni and summer squash as our vegetables. Thanks!

09.27.2012 at 11:19 PM #

katiemorford

Your welcome…thanks so much for letting me know. I love that!

10.11.2012 at 8:39 AM #

Sara Marshall

I made this and it was AWESOME! love them

10.11.2012 at 8:39 AM #

katiemorford

Hi Sara,

Great. Glad to hear it and thanks for sharing!

10.11.2012 at 10:49 AM #

Trina Robertson

Katie, made this into sub sandwiches and they were a hit. I added frozen spinach and next time I’ll shred carrots and zucchini into the sauce too.

10.11.2012 at 10:49 AM #

katiemorford

Great ideas, Trina!

02.01.2013 at 7:47 PM #

Steve

Absolutely delicious – made exactly as is.

A new go to recipe!!

02.01.2013 at 7:47 PM #

katiemorford

Awesome. Glad you liked it.

02.19.2013 at 6:08 PM #

Kristina

Fabulous! So easy to throw together and so so good!! This is coming from a terrible cook : ) thanks for such a great recipe!

02.19.2013 at 6:08 PM #

katiemorford

Hi Kristina…So glad you liked it. Crazy easy. I bet you are a better cook than you give yourself credit for 🙂

02.26.2013 at 5:16 PM #

Kim @ She Wines Sometimes

These turkey meatballs were fantastic! My red meat loving fiancé loved them and couldn’t believe they were made with turkey. They are definitely our new favorite crock pot recipe, and he’s requested that I make them in bulk to freeze and eat regularly! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

02.26.2013 at 5:16 PM #

katiemorford

Thanks for telling me, Kim. Great idea to make extra and pop them in the freezer…I’m stealing that one for sure.

12.30.2013 at 2:11 PM #

Shannon

I am catering to someone who is has a gluten intolerance. Any suggestions instead of the breadcrumbs?

12.30.2013 at 2:11 PM #

katiemorford

You can find gluten-free breadcrumbs in many markets. There are even gluten-free Italian breadcrumbs. If you can find neither, you can make your own using gluten-free bread. You may want to boost the ground garlic and add some Italian seasoning such as dried basil and oregano to your meat if you aren’ using Italian breadcrumbs.

04.09.2014 at 7:19 AM #

Cassandra

Hi Katie!

I tried this recipe last night and I’m so happy that I did. The meatballs came out perfectly and it was very easy to put together. I had it for dinner last night and I already can’t wait to dig into the leftovers I brought for lunch today. Thanks for sharing this recipe 🙂

P.S I’m already getting other people to give this recipe a try

04.09.2014 at 7:19 AM #

katiemorford

Yay!!! Love that…and very much appreciate you passing it on.

10.18.2014 at 6:09 AM #

Kelly

My husband is a beef eater, I am a turkey eater. So I combined the two, otherwise following your recipe. This was a huge hit with our family! Toddler approved too. They also freeze really well. Thank you! Headed to the store to make another batch :).

10.18.2014 at 6:09 AM #

katiemorford

Oh great, Kelly. What a perfect solution for you two. I think mixing meats in meatballs makes them particularly delicious.

10.19.2014 at 9:20 PM #

Renu

Hi Katie,

My son is allergic to eggs, can I use anything or leave out the egg?

10.19.2014 at 9:20 PM #

katiemorford

Hi there,

That’s tricky. The egg works as a binder for the meatballs…but I have a feeling that if you handle them gently, they will stay together. I’ve also heard of people using ground flax meal mixed with water for a binder (1 to 3 ratio), but I’ve never tried it. Worse case if you simply leave the egg out is that you have spaghetti with meat sauce instead of spaghetti with meatballs. Let me know how it goes if you do make it.

10.30.2014 at 8:54 PM #

Shveta Berry

Just stumbled across your blog and love it! This was the first recipe I chose to try and it was a success. So easy and delicious. I’m putting it into the slow cooker rotation. Thanks for posting it!

10.30.2014 at 8:54 PM #

katiemorford

So glad you found me. I love hearing recipe feedback, so thanks for the comment.

11.02.2014 at 8:02 PM #

Ankita

Hi Katie,
Could this be made with ground chicken? If yes, what should I use for the link sausage?
Thanks
Ankita

11.02.2014 at 8:02 PM #

katiemorford

Sure, you can absolutely use ground chicken. The sausage adds nice flavor and a little spicy kick to the meatballs. If you want to stick with chicken, I’d look for a spicy chicken sausage, one that is uncooked. Alternatively, you could just use an extra 1/3 pound of ground chicken and maybe up the spices and add a pinch of crushed red pepper.

12.02.2014 at 12:47 AM #

Gilly

Hi! These look great and I’m loving all the positive reviews. I would like to make these in bulk and put them in the freezer. Would you suggest baking them first before placing in the freezer and then cooking for a shorter amount of time in the sauce? Any suggestions would be great! Thank you!

12.02.2014 at 12:47 AM #

katiemorford

So, you want to make a larger batch of just the meatballs to freeze? And then, as needed make smaller batches of the meatballs in sauce in the crock pot? If that’s what you are asking, I’m always a little hesitant to make suggestions when I haven’t tried something myself, BUT, here’s what I’d probably do…I’d make the meatballs, put them in the freezer uncooked in one layer on a baking sheet just until frozen. Once frozen, you can then store them in a container or freezer bag without them clumping together. Then, when you want to make a pot of the meatballs in sauce, pull out the meatballs you need and follow the recipe for cooking them in the sauce. Whether or not you’d need to defrost the meatballs first, I’m not certain. You could also make and bake the meatballs and then freeze them. Let me know if you try it. I’d love to hear your results.

01.11.2015 at 3:57 PM #

Crystal

I made this today, and omg! This is my new favorite recipe! Amazing!! So glad I doubled it 🙂

01.11.2015 at 3:57 PM #

katiemorford

So glad you like it, especially since you doubled it. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

01.21.2015 at 12:49 PM #

Miranda

This looks so delicious! Any ideas what the nutrition counts are for the recipe?

01.20.2016 at 11:52 AM #

Julie Radtke

I’ve made this 4-5 times now and just wanted to say THANK YOU for sharing this recipe! It’s become part of our regular rotation. I use dried parsley and basil for convenience and ease. I often use bottled spaghetti sauce like Rao’s. It always turns out great. Thanks again!

01.20.2016 at 11:52 AM #

katiemorford

Yay! love those kind of comments. Thank you for taking the time.

02.08.2016 at 5:12 PM #

Aline Pilani

Hello Katie. i really like your recipes… I will always check out your updates!!

Thank you budy!

01.04.2017 at 7:02 PM #

Ann Guanciale

Hi Katie,
Saw your post today and had to make these! What a great after the holidays, easy recipe. I had leftover Italian bread from New years day brunch and cooked some fresh green beans, it was a hit!
Thank you!

01.04.2017 at 7:02 PM #

katiemorford

Yay! My favorite kind of comment. Thanks for taking the time to tell me. Happy New Year.

02.22.2018 at 2:12 PM #

Marilyn Wright Yon, MS, RD, LD

I am going to try these in next week’s menu. My 4 year old requested spaghetti and meatballs this week (surprising since she usually shuns meatballs) so I remembered seeing your slow cooker turkey meatballs. I have enjoyed many of your recipes in recent weeks.

02.22.2018 at 2:12 PM #

katiemorford

I hope you like them. They are popular in my house!

07.15.2019 at 2:09 AM #

Eve Hunt

I made this on the stove top with slightly less sugar and I was amazed at how delicious this recipe was. Will definitely be making again and again. Thank you!

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