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

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


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


  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.