Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs

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You're been patiently waiting - prepare yourselves for the Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs of your dreams (and don't forget the Mascarpone mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce as well!

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs from (@whatsgabycookin)

Quick backstory before we get into 101 of Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs!! Every year we host Friendsgiving a few weeks before the actual holiday. It started with 12 people around my dinner table and coffee table in our apartment and has since grown into 55+ people in our backyard. It's become quite the production and it's honestly my favorite part of the year!!

This year was the first year I decided NOT to make whole roasted birds. I just didn't have the oven room so while talking to one of my dear friends Beth of Whoa Nelly (best catering company of all times) we decided to do meatballs! We used the Joshua McFadden (king of Portland who I've been obsessed with for years) recipe from a few years ago as a starting point and then gave it a spin for our needs. The result is actual perfection and a little reminiscent of Swedish Meatballs with a Thanksgiving spin!

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs from (@whatsgabycookin)

Let's get into the Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs:

The base of the recipe is a mixture of ground turkey (you must use dark meat), some ground pork to give it some fat and extra flavor (yes you COULD omit if you wanted to or don't eat pork but it really adds some oomph) and tons of aromatics. Its the same flavorings you would use for a roasted turkey! You'll need a mirepoix of shallots, carrots and celery and tons of fresh herbs. You'll be adding some heavy cream, panko bread crumbs and lemon to the meat mixture to give it some crunch and moisture. Then the mixture gets scooped into balls and chilled for a few minutes to keep them in their perfect ball shape.

Next comes the frying. The recipe below if basically a quick deep fry that is then followed by a braise. If you want to skip the fry, you're welcome to do this more of a pan fry in just a small amount of oil. If that's your move, you'll just want to sear the meatballs on each side until golden brown. If you're opting for the true fry method, it'll speed up the braising time as it will cook through more than a pan fry.

All that's left is to cover the meatballs in stock, braise for 30 minutes until the meatballs are full cooked and then make a quick gravy. The result is true perfection.

If you're trying to prep these Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs ahead of time - you could make the turkey mixture and scoop it into balls 2 days before serving. Just make sure to cover with plastic wrap to keep all the moisture. Then you'll fry day of to keep them fresh and get that golden crust.

Ok friends - go forth and make these Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs!! Send me all the photos on instagram - you'll be HOOKED! And here's the rest of my Thanksgiving menu if you need any extra inspiration!

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs from (@whatsgabycookin)

Did you love these Turkey meatballs? If so check these other amazing recipes out:

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs from (@whatsgabycookin)
Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs from (@whatsgabycookin)

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs

Author: Gaby Dalkin
5 from 8 votes
For when you just don't have it in you to make the entire bird for Thanksgiving - these meatballs are IT!!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 whole carrots, finely diced
  • ½ cup finely diced shallots (roughly 3-4 shallots)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 ½ pounds ground dark meat turkey
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 lemons, zested and 1 tablespoon of juice reserved for the gravy
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 1-2 quarts turkey or chicken stock

For the Gravy

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper


For the meatballs

  • Heat the butter over medium heat in a medium sized skillet. Add the celery, carrot and shallot and saute for 6-8 minutes until softened. Add the freshly chopped sage, thyme and oregano and stir to combine. Cook for another 1 minute and then remove from heat and transfer to the fridge to cool.
  • In a large prep bowl combine the ground turkey, ground pork, panko bread crumbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper, heavy cream and eggs. Add the veggies and herbs once cooled. Carefully combine the mixture until evenly mixed.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Scoop out ⅓ cup sized scoops and roll into a ball. Transfer the balls to the lined baking sheet, the mixture should make about 20 large balls. Transfer the baking sheet into the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat an oven to 300°F.
  • Pour 2 inches of oil in a large heavy bottom dutch oven. 6-7 at a time, fry the meatballs just until browned and they hold their shape, about 3 minutes per batch over medium high heat. No need to flip as the oil should cover the meatballs. Transfer the meatballs to a clean braiser or baking dish as you remove them from the oil. They should be a little golden brown. Repeat until all meatballs have been fried.
 Add enough stock to just barely cover the meatballs and place secure the top on the braiser. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until cooked through.
  • Once the meatballs are done, use a slotted spoon and transfer the meatballs to a clean serving dish and set them aside. 

Leaving braising liquid in the braiser for the time being.

For the Gravy

  • In a medium sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring frequently for about 3-4 minutes. Slowly stream in 3-4 cups of braising liquid and whisk, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, freshly cracked pepper and 1 tablespoon of reserved lemon juice to taste.

 Drizzle the gravy on top of the meatballs and serve.


This recipe is basically a quick deep fry that is then followed by a braise. If you want to skip the fry, you’re welcome to do this more of a pan fry in just a small amount of oil. If that’s your move, you’ll just want to sear the meatballs on each side until golden brown. If you’re opting for the true fry method, it’ll speed up the braising time as it will cook through more than a pan fry.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 943kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 68g | Fat: 61g | Saturated Fat: 32g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 323mg | Sodium: 2818mg | Potassium: 1262mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1725IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 162mg | Iron: 6mg
Tried this Recipe? Tag me Today!Mention @WhatsGabyCookin or tag #whatsgabycooking!


  1. I want to make these soon but am hoping to free up oven space, would cooking them in the slow cooker after browning work instead of an oven braise?

  2. Going out on a limb and serving these instead of the bird at Christmas. To make the day ahead would you go as far as the fry and then just braise day of or will the crispness get soggy overnight? I'm really struggling to find dark meat as even the local butchers are bringing in ground poultry pre-packaged. Is the dark meat a deal breaker? I can't replace the bird with anything less than deliciousness. Can't wait to try these. Thanks Gaby! ❤️

    1. I read somewhere (Instagram?) that the regular ground turkey is what you want, not the lean/leanest ground breast. That's what I'm planning on using.

  3. Hi Gaby! Made these last night with an orange cranberry sauce and it was so delish. I have quite a bit of the meat mixture leftover (uncooked) and wondering if I could freeze that to use closer to Christmas and form them into meatballs after they thaw?

  4. 5 stars
    Literally thanksgiving in a meatball. These juicy meatballs and gravy are better than dry bland thanksgiving turkey. Such a fun twist.

  5. 5 stars
    SHUTTTTT UPPPPPP!! Incredibly tasty. Soft and light. And there's gravy!!!!!! The lemon and the pork both bring a lot to the party. I just finished my first serving and am already excited for leftovers. Thanks, Gabby, for busting your butt to get this recipe out before Thanksgiving!! I am in love.

  6. 5 stars
    THE BEST EVER!!!! Some genius combination of Turkey and stuffing, so flavorful and delicious that I I flatted some of the meatballs out to be breakfast sausage patties for another day. Will keep these on heavy rotation!

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