Chances are you’ve had pork, beef, and even turkey meatballs, but what about chicken? Ground chicken provides a light, tender base for meatballs that readily takes on flavors. For this recipe, the meatballs are flavored simply with garlic, parsley, and Parmesan, then baked until juicy and lightly browned.
Chicken meatballs are delicious served with spaghetti tossed in marinara or pesto sauce. Dunk them in barbecue sauce for a tasty appetizer or drop them into an Italian wedding soup. Go for full-on comfort with red sauce and melted mozzarella cheese stuffed in a crusty roll. They’re so versatile, quick and easy to make, and great for meal planning.
The Best Ground Chicken for Meatballs
For the juiciest meatballs, avoid ground chicken that is too lean since it tends to dry out more quickly. Shy away from ground chicken breast. Aim for a mix of white and dark meat that is 5% or higher in fat.
Some grocery stores may only stock ground chicken that is 96% lean or more—that’s okay. Keep an eye on the meatballs as they bake so that they don’t overcook and dry out. Alternatively, you can use a fattier ground turkey instead.
No Oven? Pan Fry Instead
I bake these meatballs so that it frees me up to make other dishes as they cook in the oven. Plus, you only need a little oil to bake them—I just use cooking spray on the baking sheet and a little spritz on top of the meatballs. When baked, the meatballs don’t get golden brown on top, but they’re still delicious.
Don’t have an oven or want a nice brown crust on your meatballs? Pan-fry them on the stovetop:
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the meatballs in a single layer. You may need to cook them in batches if they don’t fit without overlapping.
- Use tongs to rotate them as they brown on the bottom until golden brown all around and cooked through.
Tips for the Best Chicken Meatballs
While chicken meatballs are easy to make, there are a few tricks for making sure they turn out just right:
- Don’t overwork the mixture. Use your hands to combine the meatball mixture, making sure everything is evenly distributed. Take care not to aggressively mix or mash the mixture. This will help keep the meatballs from becoming tough.
- Gently form the meatballs. Roll the meatballs between the palm of your hands, but do not compact them into tight little balls. Instead, gently and lightly coax them until they hold together so that they stay fluffy when cooked.
- Make extra! This recipe is easy to double for a crowd or for meal prep. There are so many ways to serve these meatballs, so it won’t feel like you’re having the same meal twice.
So Many Variations to Try
Use this recipe as a roadmap to get you to a whole new flavor profile! Add the new ingredients into the meatball mixture and proceed with the recipe.
- Ginger scallion: Omit the Parmesan and parsley. Add 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
- Lemon herb: Reduce the parsley to 2 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, 2 tablespoons minced chives, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano.
- Spiced curry: Omit the Parmesan, parsley, and milk. Add 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, and 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro.
Or amp up the meatballs with extra cheesiness, greens, or spice:
- More cheese: Cut a ball of mozzarella into 1/3-inch cubes. Build the meatball around the piece of mozzarella, encasing it in the center. You’ll end up with a few more meatballs since you are displacing some of the meat mixture with cheese. When baked, the gooey cheese will ooze out.
- Spinach: Add frozen spinach for a splash of color and some nutrition. Thaw 8 ounces of frozen chopped spinach and squeeze it dry. Add it to the meatball mixture and omit the milk.
- More spice: Add up to 2 teaspoons of Calabrian chili paste or double the crushed red pepper flakes.
How to Plan Ahead
The uncooked meatball mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to 12 hours. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. You could also roll the meatballs and store them uncooked in an airtight container or directly on the baking sheet if it fits in your fridge.
How to Freeze Meatballs
Chicken meatballs freeze well. Form the meatballs and place them on a lined baking sheet or a smaller tray that will fit in your freezer. Freeze them for about 2 hours. Once frozen hard, transfer them into a zip top freezer bag, push out the air, and tightly seal it. The meatballs will keep in the freezer for 2 months.
Thaw the frozen meatballs in the fridge overnight before reheating or add the frozen meatballs directly into the hot broth or sauce on the stove top until warmed through, if that’s how you’re serving it in. Make sure the broth or sauce is hot but not boiling since the transition from frozen to high heat may leave the meatballs hot on the outside and still frozen on the inside.
Ideas for Serving Chicken Meatballs
These meatballs are simple and delightful on their own. They’re even better with a delicious sauce. The meatballs can be added directly to a pot of simmering sauce to fully coat them. If you have extra meatballs, you can drop them into soup or a nice broth, too!
Try pairing chicken meatballs with any of these tasty sauces or swap out the meatballs in the recipe:
Baked Chicken Meatballs
Nonstick cooking spray or 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound ground chicken (preferably with 5% or more fat)
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 tablespoons milk (any kind)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it lightly with cooking spray or lightly brush with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Make the chicken mixture:
In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, milk, parsley, garlic, egg, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, if using. Use clean hands to gently mix until combined. Stop as soon as the ingredients are evenly distributed and be careful not to over-mix since this will make the meatballs tough.
Shape the meatballs:
Use your fingers to pinch off enough mixture to make a 1-inch meatball. Use the palm of your hands to gently roll it into a ball, being careful to compress the mixture as little as possible. This will help keep the meatballs light.
Place the meatball on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining mixture. Space the meatballs evenly on the baking sheet so that they don’t touch. You should have about 24 meatballs.
Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray or brush them lightly with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil.
Bake the meatballs:
Bake the meatballs until they are cooked through and browned on the bottom, 10 to 14 minutes. Cut through one to test. It should no longer be pink inside. You can also insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of a meatball. It should register at least 165°F.
Be careful not to overcook so the meatballs do not dry out. The tops of the meatballs do not brown very much in the oven.
Enjoy the meatballs as is, pair them with your favorite sauce, add them to a soup, or use them to fill a sandwich.
Leftover meatballs will keep for 4 days in the fridge. Reheat them in the microwave, in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or in a skillet over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often. Or simply add them to a pot of hot broth or sauce until warmed through.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||24%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||28%|
|Total Carbohydrate 12g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||21%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|