Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil

Ground turkey meatballs made with herbs and sour cream, tossed with fresh tomatoes and basil.

Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil
Elise Bauer

We used to have a cat named Jack. Jack was a sly, slow-moving, long-haired Persian that would rarely come when called, but if you put out a small bowl of vanilla ice cream, out of nowhere he would magically appear.

This is sort of how my dad is with meatballs.

All I have to do is say, "Dad, I'm making meatballs," and he's half-way out the door on the way over. He loves these turkey meatballs.

It's hard to go wrong with meatballs. You just need to make sure you don't over-mix them, and you brown them slowly enough, and in enough fat, so that flavor develops and the meatballs cook through.

Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil
Elise Bauer

That said, meatballs made with ground turkey can tend to be on the dry side.

To counter that for our turkey meatballs we add some sour cream to the mix, in addition to breadcrumbs. It works!

We also use ground turkey thigh meat, which we are able to get at our local butcher. If you can get ground thighs, I recommend it. Not only will they be more moist because thigh meat is fattier than breast meat, but also more flavorful.

Recipe and photos updated, first published 2011

Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings



  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (thigh meat if available)

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1/3 cup flour, for dredging


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 jalapeno chile, seeded, minced

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken stock

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped (can substitute a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes)

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced


  1. Make the turkey meatball mix:

    In a large bowl, place the turkey, breadcrumbs, sour cream, egg, minced basil, salt, minced rosemary, oregano, thyme, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes. Gently mix together using your (clean) hands.

  2. Form the meatballs and dredge them in flour:

    Place flour in a shallow bowl or plate. Use the palms of your hands to form 1 1/2 to 2-inch wide meatballs.

    Elise Bauer

    Roll the meatballs in the dredging flour and set them on a plate or tray. You should have about 18 to 22 meatballs.

  3. Brown the turkey meatballs in olive oil:

    Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large, shallow sauté pan. Gently place the meatballs in the pan. You may need to work in batches as to not crowd the pan.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Once the meatballs are sizzling, reduce the heat to medium low and gently cook them on at least 3 sides, so that they get browned pretty much all over, and cooked through.

    Use a fork to nudge the meatballs in the pan. Cooking the meatballs should take about 10 minutes per batch. A gentle heat will ensure that the browned meatballs get cooked through.

    Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs from the pan to bowl, set aside.

  4. Make the sauce base:

    Add the jalapeño and garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine or chicken stock. Increase the heat to high and boil down the liquid to the point where a wooden spoon leaves a trail through the pan as you scrape it along the bottom of the pan.

    Elise Bauer
  5. Return meatballs to pan, add tomatoes:

    Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and coat all over with the pan sauce.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    Add the fresh tomatoes and toss to coat. Cook for four minutes or until the tomatoes just begin to break down. Do not overcook the tomatoes.

    Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fresh basil.

  6. Serve with freshly grated cheese:

    Serve with fresh mozzarella, parmesan or pecorino cheese. Serve alone or with pasta, rice, or in a sandwich roll.


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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
514 Calories
33g Fat
32g Carbs
22g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 514
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 9g 47%
Cholesterol 107mg 36%
Sodium 810mg 35%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 22g
Vitamin C 21mg 107%
Calcium 239mg 18%
Iron 4mg 21%
Potassium 572mg 12%
*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.