Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Cranberry-glazed turkey meatballs. Holiday party anyone? I don’t know about you, but I love party appetizer meatballs.

These are particularly fun, in that they are sweet, sour, spicy, and savory, all at once. Cheerful little flavor balls in a festive, candy red cranberry glaze. Yum! I can say that because I made 6 batches working toward this final recipe, and I think I personally ate most of them.

Naturally lean and mild, ground turkey needs all the help it can get. So with these meatballs, I’ve herbed them up a bit with thyme and fennel seeds, and folded in some ricotta cheese and milk-soaked torn bread to help make them tender and soft (but still sturdy enough to pick up with a toothpick).

The sauce is a cranberry glaze made with fresh or frozen cranberries, and spiced with orange zest, fresh ginger, and a little cayenne. Enjoy!

Cranberry Glazed Turkey Meatballs Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 30 meatballs.


Cranberry Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 12-ounce bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen (no need to defrost)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, to taste


  • 2 large slices white bread, crusts removed, bread torn into small pieces (approximately one cup, packed, or 2 ounces of bread, can sub 1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs)
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • A generous 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 scant teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Flour for dusting (optional)
  • Vegetable oil


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1 Make the cranberry glaze by mixing all the glaze ingredients except the cayenne in a small pot. Mix well and simmer until most of the berries have burst, about 15 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing the cranberry mush against the strainer with the side of a rubber spatula. (Be sure to scrape the outside of the sieve with the spatula.) Add cayenne to taste.

2 While the cranberries are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a small bowl, put the torn bread and sprinkle it with the milk. Use a fork to pulverize the bread a bit. In a large bowl, use the same fork to whisk together the ricotta and the egg until smooth. Add the ground turkey, salt, thyme, fennel seeds and milk-sprinkled bread. Gently mix with your (clean) hands until the ingredients are all incorporated. Don't overwork the meatball mixture or the meatballs will become too dense.

3 Gently roll out small meatballs about an 1 inch wide with the palms of your hands and set them on a baking sheet or large plate.

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4 Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a wide sauté pan on medium heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs, taking care not to crowd the pan, and brown all over. Use a fork to gentle nudge the meatballs, turning them. Note that the meatballs will probably be a bit on the wet side, which may cause some splattering as you cook them in the oil. To reduce that, you may want to sprinkle some flour on the meatballs, or roll them in flour, before they go in the pan. Add more oil to the pan as needed.

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5 Once the meatballs are browned and the glaze has been strained, add the glaze to the pan with the meatballs. Let simmer, uncovered, until the glaze reduces a bit and the meatballs cook through, about 5 minutes. Remove the meatballs to a serving dish. Pour over remaining cranberry glaze. If the glaze during this process is too thick, add a little water. If too thin, let simmer a little longer.

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Sriracha-Sesame Turkey Meatballs - from Kalyn's Kitchen
North African Turkey Meatballs - from The Perfect Pantry
Turkey Meatballs with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts - from Orangette
Turkey cocktail meatballs with orange cranberry glaze video from Chef John of Food Wishes


Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • Garrett

    These. Were. Awesome. Excellent and festive recipe.

  • Doreen

    These look great, just one question…i see that you’ve added ricotta to this recipe. I recently made the meatballs in tomato sauce which had ricotta in it too. I found that the sauce became very watery. I’m thinking its from the water in the ricotta. Should it be strained before you add it?

    If the sauce is watery, it just needs to be boiled down more. Every version I made of these meatballs I didn’t drain/strain the ricotta. Perhaps if you are working with a watery ricotta, then yes, you should strain it of excess water. ~Elise

  • Paula

    Love the Turkey MeatBalls Elise! I make this recipe every year for Christmas Day noshing but with beef instead of turkey. I tried the turkey meat balls yesterday as a “pre-test” and my husband and kids loved them. My cranberry glaze is very close to the same but I add a can of well-drained and rinced Frank’s sauerkraut. Since I had the big frying pan out already (and leftover mashed potatoes) I made potato pancakes and a salad and called it dinner. Rave Reviews from two 8 year olds, 7 year old and 5 year old not to mention hubby! Thanks again for inspiration that didn’t cause too much persperation!

  • Paula

    Oops, I almost forgot I did not add the vinegar to the glaze because I did add the sauerkraut and I didn’t want it to be too tangy, but I did follow the meatball recipe to a “t”.

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