Easy Crockpot Turkey Meatballs - Real Food Whole Life

Easy Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

September 20, 2021

white bowl of crockpot turkey meatballs on blue background with striped napkin

Crockpot Turkey Meatballs combine ground turkey with fresh spinach, basil and marinara for an easy-prep gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo and whole30 friendly recipe.

white bowl of crockpot turkey meatballs on blue background with striped napkin

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 our favorite, back-pocket meatball recipes is Egg-Free, Bread-Crumb Free Meatballs, which I created after many requests for a meatball that was free of all major allergens, including wheat, gluten, eggs, and dairy.

Taking so many traditional ingredients out of a meatballs recipe is tricky, but our Free Meatball recipe is now a Real Food Whole Life community favorite.

how to make meatballs in the slow cooker

For this slow cooker rendition, I wanted to keep the meatballs egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and breadcrumb free, and also wanted to keep the recipe as simple as possible.

One of the tricks to keeping these meatballs juicy (not to mention nutritious) is the addition of the fresh spinach and basil, as well as the grated onion.

To keep prep to a minimum, I also wanted to skip the browning or baking step for the meatballs. 

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 and baking process, and instead adds the meatballs directly to the crockpot. 

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 shot of crockpot turkey meatballs with herbs on top
tomato sauce and meatballs in black slow cooker pot

ways to serve these healthy crockpot turkey meatballs

  • Serve them on top of cooked pasta, spaghetti squash or zoodles tossed with marinara, dairy-free pesto or any other sauce you like
  • Create a hearty dinner bowl with roasted veggies & a grain base like rice, quinoa or creamy polenta
  • Get creative with your toppings to make it your own! Some of my favorites are red pepper flakes, more fresh basil, and Parmesan (traditional or dairy-free)

how to store or freeze leftover crockpot turkey meatballs

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

spooning out meatballs and tomato sauce from black crockpot

recipe notes, modifications & adaptations

  • 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.
  • If dairy is part of your diet, you can substitute ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese place of nutritional yeast.
  • I was able to fit 26 crockpot turkey meatballs into one layer using the 1.6 cookie scoop, plus 4 extra, which I layered on top. Your yield will depend on the size you make the 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.

If you’re looking for more healthy meatball recipes, you can cook your way through this collection of my favorite paleo meatball recipes too. A great list to save for busy weeks!

turkey meatballs in tomato sauce in white bowl with striped blue napkin

this recipe is…

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

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

white bowl of crockpot turkey meatballs on blue background with striped napkin
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Easy Crockpot Turkey Meatballs

Yield 24 small meatballs
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 15 mins

These Crockpot Turkey Meatballs combine ground turkey with fresh spinach, basil and marinara for an easy-prep gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo and whole30 friendly recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 cups baby spinach loosely packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 lb dark meat ground turkey 93% lean
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 15-oz jar marinara sauce

Serving Suggestions

  • red pepper flakes, fresh basil, parmesan, cooked pasta, cooked spaghetti squash or zoodles, crusty bread

Instructions

  • Grate the onion using the large holes of a box grater over a large bowl. You should end up with about ¼ cup.
  • Chop the spinach and basil into very small pieces. Alternatively you can add the onion, basil, and spinach to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped but not pureed.
  • To the same bowl, add the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt, stirring to combine. Add the turkey and stir again, until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Add the olive oil to the base of a 6-quart slow cooker, spreading it around until the bottom is well coated.
  • Using a small, 1.6-inch cookie scoop, scoop the turkey mixture into a single layer into the base of the slow cooker. Gentle scoop any remaining mixture on top, creating a second layer. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use a large soup spoon instead. Ground turkey is very sticky, so trying to roll them into balls by hand will likely result in a mess, so use the scoop or spoon method for best results.
  • Pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs. Do not stir.
  • Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8. Uncover and gently stir to separate the meatballs.
  • Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, or with crusty bread, topped with fresh basil, parmesan (traditional or dairy-free), and red pepper flakes if desired.

Notes

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.
Makes approximately 24-28 small meatballs. I was able to fit 26 meatballs into one layer using the 1.6 cookie scoop, plus 4 extra, which I layered on top. Your yield will depend on the size you make the meatballs. Nutrition information is for 1 meatball.
For more recipe notes & ingredient modifications, see the blog post above

Nutrition

Calories: 42kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 261mg | Potassium: 165mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 424IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
Nutrition disclaimer
did you make this recipe?Mention @realfoodwholelife or tag #realfoodwholelife!

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