These ground turkey meatballs are super juicy and make the absolute perfect appetizer for your Thanksgiving dinner. The cranberry sauce is tangy, sweet, and compliments these meatballs to perfection! Heck, even throw these meatballs on the dinner table and serve them as a side dish!
First of all, these cranberry meatballs are insanely juicy and delicious! The meatballs alone are satisfying enough, but when mixed with the cranberry sauce they are out of this world! Let me just tell you, these meatballs were so tasty they did not need a sauce. This is also a super kid-friendly meal to make and we had fun eating them too 🙂
If you're looking for another holiday appetizer, try my Italian Chicken Meatballs!
Ingredients for this healthy appetizer
Here is a list of all your ingredients you'll need for this appetizer, plus some details below!
For the meatballs:
- garlic clove - minced, this is one of my staples that I usually cut corners with and always have in my fridge at home. Spice World Minced Garlic!
- panko breadcrumbs - adding breadcrumbs to your meat actually locks in moisture and keeps them from drying out.
- grated parmesan cheese - adds some extra flavor to your meatballs giving them an added rich, nutty, fruity, and bold taste.
- chopped fresh parsley, optional for garnish, I think adding the parsley on top at the end gives your meatballs a more inviting look and adds a layer to the finished product!
For the homemade cranberry sauce:
- whole berry cranberry sauce - I like using the whole berry sauce because it makes the dish look more appetizing when you can see the whole cranberries mixed throughout the sauce.
- pure maple syrup - adding maple syrup to your sauce helps to sweeten it up just the right amount because cranberry can have a bitter taste to it.
- zest from 1 orange - the zest captures the oils in the skin delivering a more intense flavor.
Directions for this dish
Step 1 - Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit and spray a baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Step 2 - In a large mixing bowl add ground turkey, egg, panko bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, onion powder, oregano, sage ground black pepper, and salt. Mix to combine.
Step 3 - Form meatballs by scooping out about 1 tablespoon of turkey mix and rolling the mix in your hands to form a ball. Once formed, place on prepared baking pan and bake for 30 min.
Step 4 - Meanwhile, for the sauce, in a saucepan big enough to add all the meatballs, mix in the cranberry sauce, pure maple syrup, applesauce, orange juice, and orange zest. Mix well and heat through on medium-low heat. Heat until a sauce is formed.
Looking for a few ingredient swaps? Here are some suggestions for you to try or if you happen to not have all the ingredients at home.
Ground Turkey - you most certainly don't have to use ground turkey to make these meatballs. I just happen to only cook with ground turkey when it comes to my meatballs, but feel free to use beef or ground chicken in place of turkey.
Panko Breadcrumbs - in place of panko you can also use your standard breadcrumbs or you can even make your own with slices of bread thrown into a blender.
Whole Cranberry Sauce - I like the taste and look of the whole cranberries for the sauce, but you can also use jellied cranberry sauce, as well.
Pure Maple Syrup - feel free to use honey as a substitute for the maple syrup.
Why everyone will LOVE this appetizer
Whether you're serving this healthy appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas it will be certain everyone will be raving about it. If you're like my family and always make too much food, then you need to add this to your list of go-tos for your next holiday.
The kids will eat them too! All of my children devoured these meatballs in milliseconds. The best part is, they are HEALTHY and made with all wholesome ingredients! They are also SO EASY to make. My 2-year old helped me make them from start to finish! If she can do it, so can you!
How can the kids help
I've said it before and I'll say it again, cooking with your children is such a great way to bond with them and make it a teaching moment. All of my children love to cook with me and I'm hoping that stays with them for life 🙂 Here are some ways to include them in this dish.
- Have your child help measure out all the ingredients when adding them to the mixing bowl. They learn measurements and different types of foods they normally wouldn't be exposed to.
- Teach your kids how to form meatballs using clean hands and rolling the meat in between both of your hands until a ball forms.
- For the older kids, guide your child to teach them how to use a can opener!
Tips and FAQ's
If you are a calorie counter, ground turkey is best! The calories are less in ground turkey. Every 3 ounces of turkey you may get around 110 to 140 calories and in that same amount of beef you would get about 280 calories. Each type of meat holds about 22 to 27 grams of protein. When it comes to saturated fat, they are close, as well! Ground turkey has about 3 grams and ground beef has 5.
Store your cranberry meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Or freeze them for up to 3 months.
Don't overmix your meat. Mix it just enough so the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout. Try spraying the tops of them before popping them in the oven. This also helps to crisp the outsides.
Other holiday appetizers to try
If you give this appetizer a try don't forget to rate the recipe below! Always love hearing what you all think. You can also Stay in touch with me through social media on @Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Don't forget to tag me when you try one of my healthy recipes!
Juicy Cranberry Turkey Meatballs
- baking pan
- large mixing bowl
- sauce pan
- FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 egg whisked
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp dried rubbed sage
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- cooking spray
- chopped fresh parsley optional for garnish
- FOR THE SAUCE:
- 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- ½ cup no sugar added applesauce
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice juice squeezed out from half and orange
- zest from 1 small orange
- For the meatballs:Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl add ground turkey, egg, panko breadcrumbs, garlic, parmesan cheese, onion powder, oregano, sage, ground black pepper, and salt. Mix well to combine.
- Form balls with hands and place each meatball on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
- For the sauce:Meanwhile, in a saucepan large enough to fit the meatballs, add the cranberry sauce, pure maple syrup, applesauce, orange juice, and zest. Cook over medium-low heat. Stir to combine and cook until everything is blended together.
- Once the meatballs are done cooking, add them to the sauce and stir to completely coat the meatballs. Serve immediately or transfer to a crockpot and serve as an appetizer.
- Sprinkle fresh parsley on top before serving as a garnish! The parsley makes your dish look very pretty and appetizing 🙂