These turkey meatballs simmer in an easy marinara sauce in the slow cooker! Each meatball is flavorful and packed with fresh herbs. In fact these beauties are gluten free and dairy free but they’ll make any meatball lover a fan at first bite.

Update: This recipe was originally published in 2018 and has been republished with all new photos.

I think I’m spending my life in pursuit of the perfect meatball. I’m not sad about it. I love them so. My current obsession is with these Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs in Marinara. Oh heck yes.

I asked y’all in Instagram Stories last week what kind of recipe you’re most looking forward to and the answer was overwhelmingly to GIVE YOU ALL THE SLOW COOKER DINNERS.

So here they come, friends.

If you believe that meatballs require breadcrumbs and parmesan I’m going to prove you wrong. These Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs in Marinara are dairy free, gluten free, and Whole30 compliant. You won’t notice it. In fact you can feed these to a whole herd of bread loving, dairy devouring, healthy food hating eaters and none of them will notice either. They’ll just eat them and ask for more. Trust me. I’ve tested that.

Each meatball is packed with fresh herbs, plenty of seasoning, garlic, onion, and ground turkey. They are so flavorful!

For this recipe you’ll need (full list of ingredients and instructions are in the recipe card below):

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Minced garlic
  • Lean ground turkey
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh basil
  • Egg
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Seasonings

First we give the onion and garlic a little time in a skillet. This softens the onion and really brings out that garlic flavor.

Next combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to form them into balls. Mine are around 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This gives me 18 to 20 meatballs.

Ground turkey is much more mushy than ground beef so don’t feel the need to pack them tight. They’re not going to get firm until they’re cooked and that’s fine.

Place the meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the sauce ingredients. Cover. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. You’re done!

Can you use ground beef?

Yes, so long as it’s very lean. Since we’re cooking these meatballs in the slow cooker with the marinara sauce it’s important to stick to lean ground meat. This way your marinara sauce won’t be greasy.

Should you brown the meatballs before adding to the slow cooker?

While I love getting a pretty browning on the outside it’s just an unnecessary step when you’re cooking them (a) in sauce and (b) in the slow cooker. Let’s keep it simple! Let that slow cooker do all the work for you!

Don’t you need breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Absolutely not! Breadcrumbs are typically used as a binder in meatballs but we’re using herbs instead. These fresh herbs add a bright fresh flavor that I think sets these meatballs apart!

How to serve this

I most often serve these over noodles, spaghetti squash, and zoodles.

If you’re not in the mood for noodles (of any kind) try this recipe over roasted veggies or wilted garlic spinach. Trust me, the meatballs and the sauce are good enough to stand alone.

Of course these are always yummy as an appetizer. Add a toothpick to these meatballs and they’re party ready!

5 from 37 votes

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs in Marinara

These turkey meatballs simmer in an easy marinara sauce in the slow cooker! Each meatball is flavorful and packed with fresh herbs. In fact these beauties are gluten free and dairy free but they'll make any meatball lover a fan at first bite.



  • 1 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey, can substitute lean ground beef if preferred
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Marinara Sauce

  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • In a large skillet saute your diced onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. When onion is almost done (close to translucent) add in the garlic. Give it a quick stir and remove from heat. (Garlic can get some browning but you don’t want to burn it.)
  • In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients including the sauteed onion and garlic. Use your hands to gently roll into meatballs approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. This produces 18 – 20 meatballs. (Ground turkey is mushy so don’t expect it to behave like ground beef. Your meatballs won’t be very firm until they’ve been cooked and that’s okay.)
  • Place meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  • Add all marinara ingredients to the slow cooker. Cover. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Garnish with additional fresh chopped parsley or basil if you like. For an entree, serve over noodles, spaghetti squash, zoodles, or veggies. Of course these meatballs also make a delicious appetizer!


Serving: 3meatballs with sauce, Calories: 185kcal, Carbohydrates: 16g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 68mg, Sodium: 908mg, Potassium: 817mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 910IU, Vitamin C: 27.2mg, Calcium: 112mg, Iron: 4.1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @thewholecook and hashtag it #thewholecook on Instagram.

Share the Love: