Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

Cranberry-glazed meatballs are made with lean ground turkey, thyme, fennel seeds, and ricotta and glazed with a spicy-sweet ruby red cranberry sauce. Serve them as a fun appetizer.

Cranberry Glazed Meatballs in a bowl garnished with parsley

Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

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

These cranberry 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.

Cranberry Glazed Meatballs in a bowl garnished with parsley

Simply Recipes / Elise Bauer

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

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings
Yield 30 meatballs


For the cranberry glaze

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to defrost)

  • 1 pinch salt

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger

  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white vinegar

  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, to taste

For the meatballs

  • 2 large slices white bread, crusts removed, bread torn into small pieces (approximately 1 cup, packed or 2 ounces of bread, can sub 1/2 cup of plain breadcrumbs)

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • Generous 1/4 cup ricotta cheese

  • 1 large 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

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed


  1. Make the cranberry glaze:

    Mix all of the glaze ingredients except the cayenne in a small pot. Mix well and simmer until most of the berries have burst, about 15 minutes.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Strain the 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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  2. Prepare the meatballs:

    While the cranberries are cooking, prepare the meatballs. In a small bowl, add 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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  3. Gently roll out small meatballs:

    Roll the meatballs mixtures in balls about 1 inch wide with the palms of your hands and set them on a baking sheet or large plate.

    Elise Bauer
  4. Brown the meatballs:

    Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan on medium heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs, taking care not to crowd the pan, and brown them all over. Use a fork to gently 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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  5. Add the 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.

    If the glaze during this process is too thick, add a little water. If too thin, let simmer a little longer. Remove the meatballs to a serving dish. Pour over the remaining cranberry glaze.

    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
365 Calories
17g Fat
33g Carbs
20g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 365
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 278mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 7mg 33%
Calcium 83mg 6%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 269mg 6%
*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.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.