Cranberry Glazed Meatballs

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

These cranberry-glazed meatballs 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.

I’m using naturally lean and mild ground turkey which 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 Meatballs Recipe

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

Ingredients

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

Meatballs

  • 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

Method

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.

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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.

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2 Prepare the meatballs: 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.

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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 Brown the meatballs: 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.

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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.

5 Add glaze and simmer: 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.

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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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Links:

Cranberry-Glazed Pork Meatballs from David Lebovitz

Turkey Cranberry Meatballs from Shutterbean

Drunken Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs from View from Great Island

Turkey cocktail meatballs with orange cranberry glaze video from Chef John of Food Wishes

Cranberry Glazed Meatballs

Showing 4 of 24 Comments

  • Fruttipebbles

    Could this be adapted to the crockpot?

  • Rose R.

    Delicious! I was actually hesitant to prepare this for dinner because my son is a picky eater although he loves turkey, I don’t know if he’ll love a cranberry-glazed turkey. But I’m glad I took the risk. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  • christy

    These were awesome! Even my dad (who is not big on new/different things) kept coming back. Followed the directions exactly except for adding some pepper as seasoning to the sauce. Loved it!

  • Shirley

    I made these yesterday for our New Years Eve party…I was so excited about the recipe because I love cranberries. I was not fond of the flavor of the meatball or the sauce. I thought the spice overpowered the taste I was hoping for which was the cranberries. They were indeed very moist and smelled peppery (which I loved) even though there was no pepper in it. But not sure which of the spices I would reduce if I made them next time. I used fresh grated ginger, fresh grated orange peel, and organic apple cider vinegar along with a little of the cayenne in the sauce. May use less of the fennel seed. Not sure. My husband liked them but I was not as impressed. I love using spices and herbs but this combo for me was a little off. Sorry.

  • Rob

    Besides the beautiful color of the dish, it was an excellent combination, particularly the hint of fennel in the meatballs with the cranberries. I added a handful of chopped cilantro to the meatball mixture, and baked them in mini-muffin pans.

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