Can we talk about a huge issue I had last night?

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

There was… SO… much good TV to be watched. Yes, TV. As in television. Like so much good TV on that I hated myself and wished I was laying in bed reading because my brain felt like it was going to explode from each show I was waiting for, which made me feel like I was outrageously lazy and boring and excited and such a millennial stereotype all at the same time. It was so much fun.

It also could have been arguably worse. It could have been reality TV.

It was not. I am proud.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

I’ve made it no secret that Sundays really aren’t my cup of tea. I mean, I love them… but I hate them… and they’re okay. But I gotta say, my blues get totally beaten with not only good food, but good TV shows. I’ve always been a slave to HBO programming and yes, I totally want to live inside Boardwalk Empire and I’m pretty convinced it is real life and is happening somewhere in the world (sort of like how every time I’m in Jersey I expect to see Tony Soprano walking the streets or something and when I hear about diseases I wonder why they can’t be cured with an injection of V) and you just can’t compete with Homeland and things on a screen that consist of people actually acting. Like acting for real.

I mean, Homeland?

Are.You.Serious. ????

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

So because of all this nonsense, Sundays usually involved some sort of fun food.

Some sort of comfort food.

Some sort of food that warms you to the soul and that fills you up in the way that only Sunday night can.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

Enter: meatballs.

Instead of packing these meatballs with panko (my high-maintenance bread crumb of choice), I used some leftover quinoa stuck in the fridge. Oh my fridge. Ugh. Such a disaster. A mess. Cluttered with so much food. Seriously – do NOT let me buy one more autumn-flavored fruit butter or one more block of cheese or one more tub of hummus or one more slab of bacon. I need to eat all the foods.

But so, I’m sort of in love with this idea now… the whole quinoa in meatballs thing. I know. I’ve been trendily punching you in the face each week with quinoa but I’ve done it. I’ve drank the koolaid. I’m a fan. Even more so now after how delicious these were. It’s like a whole new quinoa possibility world opened for me. How annoying.

Extra health in my meatballs? Winning.

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I


Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

Yield: makes 40-50 mini meatballs

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 6.5 hours


1 pound 99% lean ground turkey breast
1 pound 94% lean ground turkey
2/3 cup cooked quinoa (preferably cooked in flavored stock)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated romano cheese
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin rounds
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes


In a large bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, garlic, beaten egg, olive oil, cheese, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly but quickly, just so the ingredients are combined - do not overmix! Roll into mini balls - slightly smaller than a golfball, and place on a baking sheet.

Layer sliced onion on the bottom of the crockpot and add 1 can of crushed tomatoes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (mine was actually almost high) and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add meatballs, searing on the top and bottom until golden, about 1 minute per side. To flip meatballs, gently toss with a spoon. I also shook the pan a few times to roll the meatballs around - if you pan is hot enough this works! Add meatballs one at a time to the crockpot. Repeat with remaining meatballs - it is okay to stack them once they are all finished.

Once all the meatballs are in the crockpot, add the other can of crushed tomatoes, completely submerging the meatballs. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve!

{don't skip the browning step! it helps seal the juices in so the meatballs are tender and also keeps them from becoming one giant mess of meat in the crockpot.}
{if desired, you can brown the meatballs one day (such as the day before) and then refrigerate until ready to use. you can also freeze the same way!}

[meatballs adapted from my bite sized baked meatballs]

Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs I

You don’t even want to know how many times I burnt my mouth on these.

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149 Responses to “Healthy Crockpot Mini Turkey Meatballs.”

  1. #
    Naomi(onefitfoodie) — October 2, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    how is it that I would follow your recipe to a “T” and still never have it look as good as yours?!?! hahaha omg looks AMAZING JESS!!


  2. #
    Nicole, RD — October 2, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

    Yum! These look great! Do you think they could last 8-9 hours in the crock pot???


    • Jessica — October 3rd, 2012 @ 11:22 am

      Yep I definitely think so, as long as they are submerged in sauce!


      • Brad — November 20th, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

        Yep, prepared the meatballs last night and let them crock for 9 hours, they turned out great.

  3. #
    tracy {pale yellow} — October 3, 2012 @ 4:38 am

    Quinoa in meatballs – love it! Another great use for one of my favorite grains!


  4. #
    Nikki Dinki Cooking — October 7, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

    I make a ton of turkey and chicken meatballs!! Will have to add these to the mix!


  5. #
    Mary Grover — November 5, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

    Made these this week and they are WONDERFUL!! Especially when they sit a day or two.


  6. #
    Alicia — January 7, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

    Delicious…makes a ton of meatballs! 2lbs is easily 2 weeks worth of dinners for me and my fiancee.


  7. #
    making/money/online/profits for all — January 11, 2013 @ 8:58 am

    Great beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a weblog website? The account aided me a applicable deal. I had been a little bit familiar of this your broadcast offered vivid clear idea


  8. #
    Ivana — January 21, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

    Is it okay to make the crockpot on high for half the time, if you are short pn time?


  9. #
    Carol — February 1, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    Hi! I might have missed this, but when do you use the garlic?


  10. #
    Erin — February 10, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    Sooo when do you add the 3 cloves of garlic? Am I missing something?


  11. #
    Elise — March 14, 2013 @ 9:46 am

    Hi, do you cook 2/3 cup of quinoa or do you need 2/3 cup of quinoa after it’s cooked? Thanks!


  12. #
    qlaxvxa — March 16, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

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  13. #
    Monet Diamante — March 31, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

    These look amazing and I can’t wait to make them – tomorrow!!! Just out of curiousity, why do you use 1 lb 99% lean and 1 lb 94%?


  14. #
    Elyse — April 5, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    I made these for a potluck-type dinner and they were such a hit! They were all gone within a few minutes. And I was even asked for the recipe! I’m gluten-free so I’m always looking for good, easy recipes. Thanks so much for sharing!


  15. #
    Sasha — April 15, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

    Just to double check- do you pre-cook the quinoa before adding? and is it 2/3 of dry quinoa or 2/3 cup of cooked quinoa? Thanks! Can’t wait to try these out :)


  16. #
    Lindsey — May 2, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    I was wondering if you knew the calories per serving and what the serving size would be.? Thank you. These look so delicious!


  17. #
    Will K — July 5, 2013 @ 12:14 am

    These are outstanding, far better than what is available in local restaurants. Next time, I will use an organic tomato basil sauce instead of the crushed tomatoes, however.


  18. #
    Cooky — September 22, 2013 @ 11:02 am

    Can you please repair the instructions to include the garlic you have in the ingredients? If you’re going to do this you should do it well.


    • Jan romel — October 18th, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

      Ummm It’s in the first sentence of the directions. The garlic goes in the meatballs.


  19. #
    stephanie — October 6, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    what do think about adding 1/3 cup of butter to mimic Marcella Hazen’s tomato sauce recipe? not needed?


    • stephanie — October 6th, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

      Hazan, I mean!


  20. #
    Jan romel — October 18, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    Ummm it’s in the very first sentence of the directions. The garlic goes into the meatball mixture. If you’re going to criticize, then you should do it well.


  21. #
    Rachel — October 29, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

    These were the best meatballs I’ve ever made or had- thank you! This recipe is amazing. Mine were too wet to form into balls- probably because I had to use 85% lean ground turkey since that’s all they had at the store, but I added some flour to help them bind together into balls and they’re life changing-ly delicious! I liked your comment about modeling for the Limited Too when you were 12 on one of the other recipes this linked to. I remember thinking I was the coolest kid at the mall when I got to do that!


  22. #
    Carol Fran — November 2, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

    I just browned the turkey balls and am ready to assemble the dish in my Crock-Pot. I notice that one of the cans of crushed tomatoes says ” in THICK PURÉE”. Do you think the recipe will come out okay? Any suggestions for compensating for the purée?


  23. #
    Nora — November 25, 2013 @ 12:35 am

    I made these tonight and I loved them!! I didn’t want to wait for the crockpot, so I arranged them according to the recipe but in a baking dish and baked @ 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. I still thought they turned out really well!! Next time I’ll definitely try the crock.


  24. #
    Suna Style — January 2, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

    Loved them and so did my family!!! Thank you :)


  25. #
    Megan — January 7, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

    Do you know how many meat balls are a serving?


  26. #
    Kerry — January 7, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    If I don’t have time to cook these in the crockpot, can I cook the meatballs a few minutes longer in the frying pan and then cook them in a pot on low for 30 minutes or so? Will they still taste good?


    • Jessica — January 7th, 2014 @ 5:07 pm



  27. #
    Katie — January 8, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    Hi Jen! These look awesome- they’re in the crock pot now and the house smells delicious!! So psyched for dinner :) Thanks a bunch!


  28. #
    Dani — January 22, 2014 @ 11:05 pm

    OMG so amazing!!! I had these slow cooking for 8-9 hours while I was at work and then served over a bed of soft roasted vegetables. Added extra passata to completely submerge the meatballs and it was deliciously super saucy. I don’t know how a sauce that is just onion and tomatoes can be so delicious! Thanks for the recipe!


  29. #
    Suzanne — January 25, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    These look awesome!


  30. #
    Chris — April 19, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

    How can you make this a print friendly


  31. #
    Chris — April 19, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

    How can you make this Print Friendly


  32. #
    Jordan @ Smile Sandwich — August 19, 2014 @ 8:04 am

    Haha totally laughed at your part about using the items in your fridge – I’m not the only one who gets excited to re-stock before I’ve used the miscellaneous items I already have? These look amazing – love the idea of adding quinoa!


  33. #
    naomi — November 23, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

    the recipe calls for 2/3 cup cooked quinoa – first time using quinoa. does that 2/3 cup measurement mean cook 2/3 cup dry quinoa and use the results of that for the recipe? or do I cook the quinoa and then use 2/3 cup of the cooked resulted quinoa?


  34. #
    Stephanie — January 13, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

    So glad I found this recipe. I’m making them tonight.


  35. #
    Elizabeth — November 19, 2015 @ 12:43 am

    Do these freeze/rewarm well? I am cooking for one, and I don’t like to eat the same thing for more than a day or two.



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