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.
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 a bit of a meatball fanatic and I’m not sad about it. I love them so. My current obsession is with these crockpot turkey meatballs. They’re truly a great option for busy weeknights. I guarantee your whole family will rejoice when you serve these up.
If you believe that meatballs require breadcrumbs and parmesan I’m going to prove you wrong. This slow cooker turkey meatball recipe is dairy free and gluten free. 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.
These juicy meatballs are packed with fresh herbs, plenty of seasoning, garlic, onion, and ground turkey. They are so flavorful! We’re simmering them in a simple homemade marinara sauce that will have you skipping the jarred options in the future. When you take the lid off the crockpot you’ll have tender meatballs with the very best flavor.
I love to spoon this entree over a plate of spaghetti noodles beside a simple salad and crusty bread. If you’d like to keep this low carb I recommend serving with zoodles or spaghetti squash. To make this meal wow, top with fresh herbs or parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes can add some heat if that’s your thing. The great thing about meatballs is how versatile they are!
Slow Cooker Turkey Meatball Ingredients
- Olive oil: We’re sautéing onion and garlic in a little oil to bring out their flavor.
- Onion: Both white or yellow onion work well here.
- Minced garlic: You can mince your own garlic or use a jarred variety.
- Lean ground turkey: Turkey is naturally very lean and you can pick the option you personally enjoy best. I personally use 80-85% or 93% lean ground turkey for juicier results.
- Fresh herbs: I love plenty of fresh parsley and fresh basil in these meatballs. It helps bind everything and is a great balance for the natural softness of the ground turkey.
- Egg: The egg helps bind our meat mixture and will give us a lighter result.
- Canned crushed tomatoes: Canned crushed tomatoes quickly help us achieve the texture and flavor we want for the perfect marinara sauce. I recommend fire-roasted if it’s available in your grocery store.
- Canned diced tomatoes: Diced tomatoes add more texture to our sauce so it’s not soupy.
- Seasonings: We’re using plenty of dried spices and herbs to beautifully flavor the marinara sauce. These should all be pantry staples you already have on hand.
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 large bowl. Use your hands or a cookie scoop to form the meatball mixture 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!
If you’d rather make delicious meatballs on the stovetop try my Meatballs in Marinara. It’s one of my favorite ways to make meatballs and is the method I recommend if you’d like to do a double batch. Just make sure you have a large skillet!
Do 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 Store Leftover Meatballs
This entree is great for meal prep! Leftover cooked meatballs and sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or add to a skillet on the stovetop and simmer on medium-low to medium heat until meatballs are warmed through.
How to Serve Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs
I most often serve these over noodles, spaghetti squash, and zucchini noodles. Add my Garlic Green Beans to your plate or a simple side salad with Easy Homemade Italian Dressing and you have a hearty meal.
If you’re not in the mood for noodles (of any kind) make meatball subs by spooning some meatballs and sauce in between two slices of your favorite sub bread.
To keep this low carb, try serving over roasted veggies or wilted fresh spinach.
Of course these are always yummy as an appetizer. Add a toothpick to these meatballs and they’re party ready!
Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs in Marinara
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, extra virgin
- ½ white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound lean ground turkey, can substitute lean ground beef if preferred
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 28 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 14½ ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon 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!