Cranberry Glazed Meatballs

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

  • 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


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.


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.


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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  • 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?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Kamal! Emma here, managing editor for Simply Recipes. Unfortunately, I think you really need fresh (or frozen) cranberries for this recipe, and dried cranberries won’t make a good substitute. Sorry!

  • Fruttipebbles

    Could this be adapted to the crockpot?

    • Elise

      I don’t think so. These meatballs are browned on the stovetop and then just simmered a few minutes in the glaze. You couldn’t get the browning if you used a slow cooker and the meatballs might just fall apart if you did.

  • 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.

  • Michele

    I made this tonight but substituted 2% small curd cottage cheese (Breakstone brand) for the ricotta cheese since I have more use for it in my kitchen, and it was delicious. Such an interesting blend of flavors and moist. Definitely a keeper!

  • Michele

    Elise, what do you think about substituting cottage cheese for the ricotta?

    Perhaps a fine curd cottage cheese? Interesting idea, I think it’s worth a shot. ~Elise

  • Claire

    Hi Elise,
    I would like to try these meetballs, they look yummy. What can I use to substitute the milk? My son is allergic to milk. He is doing well with cheese, but milk is still a problem. Thanks a lot.

    Use water or stock. ~Elise

  • Kristina

    This looks great! Do you think it’s important to pan-fry the meatballs? When I make Swedish meatballs I usually use my small Pampered Chef scooper to form them and put them under the broiler. My Grandmother would cringe, but it does make the job a lot quicker!
    I’m going to serve these on Christmas Eve!

    You can put them under the broiler. You’re just trying to brown them. ~Elise

  • Jessica

    Im thinking of skipping the meatballs and using this glaze on a nice ham. Seems like a nice change from the cherry and pineapple that is traditional.

  • KariVery

    I made these for a party this last Saturday and they were a HUGE hit! So moist and delicious. The only thing was, I did not get that pretty cranberry red color when I followed the above method exactly – I made them again last night, and instead of adding the glaze to the pan with the cooked meatballs, I poured it over the meatballs just before serving and this time, it turned out looking like your picture. Also, I baked them in the oven instead of frying so I did not roll the raw meatballs in flour as before. I wonder if the browned flour in the pan had something to do with the odd color? Anyway, thanks again for a wonderful recipe!!

  • Nicki Green

    I made these yesterday for a Bengals Football get-together. My husband said quote, “Best “expletive” meatballs in the entire world.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. They were a treat for everyone. Thanks again for yet another amazing recipe!

  • Jennifer Bailey

    I tried these meatballs and they were not real good. They had little flavour except the overpowering cranberry sauce.
    Try adding some garlic and rosemary to the meatballs and they may stand out on their own.

    With the salt, dried thyme, and fennel seeds, the meatballs should be quite flavorful. If yours aren’t, I would suggest checking your spices. Spices can go “dead” after a year, which is why it is recommended that you either throw out old spices. If you use old spices, expect to use much more than a recipe calls for. ~Elise

  • Andrea

    These look awesome but I’m not sure about the ricotta; I usually don’t care for it (so I’m the weird person who doesn’t like stuffed pasta shells). Can someone who’s tried these comment on the prevalence of the flavor? Also, if anyone has an idea for a good substitute cheese, it would be much appreciated. Ricotta comes up often in this sort of recipe and it would be nice form me to have a go-to replacement.

  • Elle B

    Made these tonight for a holiday potluck tomorrow at work- DELICIOUS!!

    What an awesome dish, I know it will be a hit :)

    Thanks Elise!

  • Yoko

    just made this tonight w hot italian meatballs. love the cranberry glaze! I was in a hurry so puréed the cranberries instead of straining. made the glaze nice and thick :) gotta try it with turkey meatballs next time. thanks for another great idea!

  • Granny Smith

    I’ve got lots of non-dairy eating folks – is there anything neutral I could substitute for the ricotta? The milk isn’t a problem – there are lots of milk substitutes out there.
    If I just skip the cheese will the meatballs be too dry? How about just adding a little olive oil or something?

    If you have to skip the cheese, I would recommend adding another slice of bread and a little more milk (substitute) to the mix. ~Elise

  • Sade

    Hi! These look like they’d be great for the holiday party I’m throwing in a couple of days. Would it be ok to make the glaze a day ahead and then reheat before adding to the meatballs the day of?

    Maybe. I haven’t had the best luck with making the whole recipe ahead of time. If I were trying to save time, I would make the meatballs ahead of time and then make the glaze right before serving with the meatballs. ~Elise

  • Jessi @ Quirky Cookery

    I really like turkey meatballs but they can often turn out dry since the meat isn’t as fatty as beef or pork. I think the yummy cranberry glaze would completely eliminate any chance of a dry meatball. Mmm.

    The glaze doesn’t prevent the dryness, but the ricotta, egg, milk, and bread in the meatballs does. ~Elise

  • 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”.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • Garrett

    These. Were. Awesome. Excellent and festive recipe.