Enticing Thanksgiving Turkey Meatballs

When your Thanksgiving crowd is a cozy group of two to four people instead of a house full of guests, roasting an entire bird might not seem as enticing an endeavor. After all, there is only so much leftover turkey a household of one or two can consume after the festivities are over. If you can’t bear to completely remove turkey from the menu, roasting just the breast or even a whole chicken can be a good compromise. But, if you’re open to trying something more unconventional that still pairs well with the classic side dishes, look no further than the following recipe for Thanksgiving turkey meatballs.

Turkey meatballs with cranberry glaze

In addition to being made with easy-to-find ground turkey (no advance preordering needed), these meatballs are braised in a simple three-ingredient sweet and sour cranberry glaze. This two-in-one deal means you don’t have to set out an additional bowl of cranberry sauce, unless, of course, you want to.

These meatballs are prepared in a manner similar to making meatloaf—the ground turkey is bound with a mixture of bread crumbs (in this case, panko), egg and milk—to ensure a plush and tender texture. Dried thyme, fennel powder, dried onion and garlic powder infuses the meat with a savory flavor base that enhances each bite. Unlike with whole roast turkey, here, there’s no risk of bland or dried-out turkey meat.

Making the cranberry glaze is almost as easy as opening a can of cranberry sauce: blend together orange marmalade, cranberries and chicken broth until smooth. Once the meatballs have been formed, simply brown them and braise directly in the cranberry glaze. This two-step process takes about 15 minutes, opening up more time for the preparation of other dishes or simply enjoying time with your guests.

Should you have any leftovers, the meatballs can be eaten again the next day either with pasta, inside a hoagie roll, or with any remaining side dishes from the day before. For a different spin that can be enjoyed any time of the year, try cooking the meatballs in tomato sauce, brown gravy, mustard-cream sauce, or added to a vegetable-pasta soup. Or, make them exactly as directed whenever you crave a taste of Thanksgiving, even when the holiday is long over!

Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Glaze

Scooping raw meatball

The turkey mixture will be somewhat loose and sticky, so do not attempt to form it into meatballs using your bare hands. Be sure to handle the meatballs gently when transferring them from the plate to the pan, and again when turning them. Putting up with these minor inconveniences will yield meatballs that are tender and juicy.



1/4 cup orange marmalade

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup panko

1/4 cup milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. ground fennel

1 1/2 tsp. dried minced onion

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. ground turkey

2 Tbs. olive oil

Cooking Instructions


1. Place the marmalade, cranberries and chicken broth in a blender and blend on medium-high until smooth. Set aside. 

2. In a bowl, stir together the panko, milk, egg, thyme, fennel, onion powder, salt, garlic powder and pepper until combined. Let sit 2 to 3 minutes. Add the turkey and mix until well incorporated. Using a cookie scoop or 2 spoons, form the mixture into meatballs about 2 inches in diameter (scant 3 Tbs. each). Place on a large plate.

3. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the meatballs and sear until browned, about 5 minutes, turning the meatballs over halfway through cooking.

4. Pour the cranberry mixture into the skillet and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the glaze has reduced, about 10 minutes, turning the meatballs occasionally. 

Serves 4 (Makes 12 meatballs).