Buffalo Turkey Meatballs - Real Food Whole Life

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs

October 28, 2021

white plate with buffalo turkey meatballs and fresh herbs on top

Tender, juicy, and super delicious, buffalo turkey meatballs are a healthy appetizer or main dish, made with no breadcrumbs, and easy to prepare in the crockpot or in the oven. 

white plate with buffalo turkey meatballs and fresh herbs on top

about this buffalo turkey meatballs recipe

We absolutely love meatballs around here, whether it’s for a hearty Sunday night dinner, a celebratory game day, or just a busy weeknight.

One of the tricks to keeping these meatballs juicy (not to mention nutritious) is the addition of the grated onion.

To keep prep to a minimum, I also wanted to skip the browning step. 

While browning can add a bit more flavor, to me it’s just not worth the time and dirty dishes.

This method skips the browning process, and lets you add the meatballs directly to the crockpot for a super easy dinner!

black crockpot with meatballs and buffalo sauce on top

process & tips

The short ingredient list keeps this recipe super simple & straightforward, and it’s hard to go wrong with a crockpot recipe. 

All you have to do is make your meat mixture, roll your meatballs, add them to the pot and let the slow cooker do the work for you.

A few more tips that’ll set you up for delicious, buffalo turkey meatballs:

  • Try not to over-mix the meat mixture, or you’ll end up with tough meatballs (and no one wants that)
  • Don’t skip grating the onion! Grating it (just as you would cheese) allows the onion to release much-needed moisture and allows it to dissolve into the meat as it cooks.
  • Rolling your meatballs into the same size helps them cook evenly. Keep in mind that turkey can be sticky and will not roll the way ground beef does. Use a cookie scoop if the mixture is too sticky.
  • Just be sure to follow the instructions for best results, and don’t stir the meatballs once they are in the slow cooker!
top down view of black slow cooker with meatballs

why make turkey meatballs in the slow cooker

Since the slow cooker allows you to make a big batch all at one time, these make the perfect party food. 

You can serve them as a snackable appetizer on gameday, or as a main dish for your next get-together.

Any leftovers will keep well, so these are great to make ahead of time.

Cooking these meatballs in the crockpot keeps the turkey, which has a tendency to dry out, very tender and juicy.

how to make buffalo chicken meatballs instead

Use ground chicken in place of ground turkey in this recipe to make buffalo chicken meatballs.

You can use lean ground chicken, but it won’t be as flavorful or juicy – especially if you bake them instead of going the slow cooker route.

close up of plated meatballs with celery and carrots sticks

ingredients & substitutions

  • Cayenne Pepper Sauce: Frank’s Red Hot Sauce has an authentic Buffalo sauce flavor, and so is recommended for this recipe. You can also look for other brands of cayenne sauce. Do not use Frank’s Buffalo sauce, as it has additional ingredients you’ll want to avoid for this recipe. Tabasco is also not a good substitute, as it’s hotter and spicier.
  • Nutritional yeast: This adds a cheesy flavor without containing any dairy. Find it on the bulk aisle of your natural foods store, or in the baking section. It adds an essential “cheesy” flavor to the recipe without added dairy. You can substitute ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese in its place
  • Grated onion: In these buffalo turkey meatballs, the grated onion is the secret to keeping them moist & juicy. Without it, they may be dry.
  • Kosher salt: look for kosher salt with the regular iodized salt at the grocery store. It has a subtler flavor. Use less iodized salt if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Almond flour: These meatballs are naturally paleo, whole30 and low carb if made with almond flour. For a nut-free option, you can use oat flour in place of almond flour.
  • Ground turkey: I used 93% lean ground turkey, you can use an even leaner ground turkey if you like but it will be drier, less tender and less flavorful. Ground chicken also works great in this recipe.
  • Melted butter: You can use traditional or dairy-free butter, both work well in this recipe.

what to serve with buffalo turkey meatballs

Blue cheese dressing or dairy-free ranch dressing for dipping

Fresh celery and carrot sticks on the side

As a main dish, these meatballs are fantastic served over a baked sweet potato, regular potato, crispy chopped romaine lettuce, or rice with extra sauce drizzled on top.

white plate with buffalo turkey meatballs and fresh herbs on top

how to store or freeze leftovers

This recipe can be made ahead. Perfect for meal prep on busy weeks (or anytime you need to feed a crowd quickly & easily)

Buffalo turkey meatballs will keep well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, in a sealed container

This recipe also freezes well, store in a sealed freezer friendly container or zip-top bag for up to 2-3 months

I’m often asked if you can make my slow cooker recipes using frozen meat, for food safety reasons it’s best to thaw your frozen meat fully before adding to your crockpot.

more paleo & gluten-free meatball recipes

Easy Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

5-Ingredient Free Meatballs (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

5-Ingredient Potsticker Turkey Meatballs

Easy Southwest Zoodle Bowls with Turkey Meatballs

Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatball Vegetable Soup

this recipe is…

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I hope you’ll make this healthy Buffalo Turkey Meatballs recipe soon.

If you do, be sure to share it on Instagram and tag me at @realfoodwholelife so I can see!

white plate with buffalo turkey meatballs and fresh herbs on top
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Buffalo Turkey Meatballs

Yield 22 meatballs
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs 10 mins

Tender, juicy, and super delicious, buffalo turkey meatballs are a healthy appetizer or main dish, made with no breadcrumbs, and easy to prepare in the crockpot or in the oven.

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 1/4 cup grated onion (from about ½ medium yellow onion)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp almond flour (or oat flour for nut-free)
  • 1 lb ground turkey

For the Buffalo Sauce

  • 1/3 cup cayenne pepper sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot original)
  • 1 tbsp melted butter (dairy-free or traditional)

Optional serving suggestions

  • blue cheese dressing, dairy-free ranch dressing, carrot sticks, celery sticks

Instructions

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • To make the meatballs, mix together the grated onion, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, and almond flour (or oat flour) in a large bowl until well combined. Add the meat, stirring until all the ingredients are well incorporated, clean hands work best, being careful not to overmix.
  • Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, or use a 2-inch cookie scoop. Keep in mind that turkey can be sticky and will not roll the way ground beef does. Use a cookie scoop if the mixture is too sticky. Set aside.
  • Make the Buffalo sauce by mixing together the cayenne pepper sauce with the melted butter, stirring until well incorporated. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the Buffalo sauce.
  • Place the meatballs on the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour over the remaining sauce. Carefully turn each meatball in the sauce until each is coated.
  • Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours.
  • Uncover and remove the meatballs to a serving platter. Strain the remaining sauce. Serve the meatballs with the remaining sauce and the remaining 2 tablespoons of fresh sauce on the side for dipping. Alternatively, leave the meatballs in the slow cooker on “warm” setting and serve directly with sauce on the side.

Baking Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 350F.
  • Make the Buffalo sauce by mixing together the cayenne pepper sauce with the melted butter, stirring until well incorporated.
  • Make the meatballs by mixing together the grated onion, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, almond flour (or oat flour) and 2 tablespoons Buffalo sauce in a large bowl. Add the meat, stirring until all the ingredients are well incorporated, clean hands work best, being careful not to overmix.
  • Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, or use a 2-inch cookie scoop. Keep in mind that turkey can be sticky and will not roll the way ground beef does. Use a cookie scoop if the mixture is too sticky. Place the meatballs on a greased, rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and cooked through, being careful not to overbake or the meatballs will be dry.
  • Toss the meatballs in the remaining sauce and serve, or serve with the sauce on the side.

Notes

This recipe makes about 22, 2-inch meatballs. Which serves from 5-6 if you use a serving size of 4 meatballs. 
Nutrition information is for 1 meatball, using almond flour and traditional butter.
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce has an authentic Buffalo sauce flavor, and so is recommended for this recipe. You can also look for other brands of cayenne sauce. Do not use Frank’s Buffalo sauce, as it has additional ingredients you’ll want to avoid for this recipe. Tabasco is also not a good substitute, as it’s hotter and spicier.
Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy flavor without containing any dairy. Find it on the bulk aisle of your natural foods store, or in the baking section. It adds an essential “cheesy” flavor to the recipe without added dairy. You can substitute ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese in its place.
For more recipe notes & ingredient modifications, see the blog post above.

Nutrition

Calories: 33kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 180mg | Potassium: 71mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 21IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition disclaimer
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