Cranberry Glazed Meatballs

AppetizerHolidayCranberryMeatballs

Cranberry glazed meatballs with lean ground turkey, thyme, fennel seeds, ricotta, glazed with a spicy-sweet ruby red cranberry sauce.

Photography Credit: 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.

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

  • 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

34 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. KATHLEEN

    Hi, can I make this ahead of time?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Diane

    I can’t get fresh cranberries, but I have a can of sauce. Could I just cook it down with the orange zest, vinegar, etc? I think the can has only cranberries and sugar. Or, I can get dried or juice. The recipe looks wonderful!

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Chef Austin Savage

    Elise, What about making a puree out of the glaze to use 100% of it? Would it be too thick or should I just stick with the strained version? Also, is baking the meat balls a viable option as well?

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Mae ... OTP in the ATL

    Elise or Emma, approximately how much glaze results from this recipe before it’s added to the meatballs? I would like to use the glaze atop other meats or even vegetables, but to do so, I must first know its yield.
    ~Mae

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Kamal

    We don’t get fresh cranberries here. Do u think I can sub dried cranberries and if so then what should the quantity be?

    Show Replies (1)
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