These Turkey Cranberry Meatballs pack all of your favorite holiday flavors into one tasty bite! Think Thanksgiving turkey with cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, and sage stuffing. Before making this recipe, I raised an eyebrow at putting fruit in a meatball. But now I’m adding extra cranberries to garnish the smooth buttery gravy!
Better yet, these soon-to-be-famous turkey meatballs are gluten and dairy-free!
While I suspect I'll be making these turkey sage meatballs year-round, they're most fitting for the winter holidays! They're something of a cross between a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner and classic Swedish Meatballs with lingonberry jam.
We made them first at a campsite for a camping Thanksgiving dinner, so this recipe includes both pan-fried and baking instructions for the meatballs. I have to say that I have a slight preference for the fried meatballs because of the extra butter flavor!
This turkey meatballs recipe is inspired by my super popular Dairy-Free Swedish Meatballs recipe and uses the same vegan gravy. They are also gluten-free and use Instant Mashed Potatoes for an easy-to-find and affordable gluten-free panko replacement.
Why you'll love this recipe:
- super flavorful meatballs
- the perfect sweet and savory combination
- festivity in a bite
- buttery dairy-free gravy
- a fun and exciting way to celebrate the holidays!
Let's dive in!
You need only 11 ingredients to make this recipe. Some of them are reused in different categories in the recipe card, so don't be fooled if the list looks longer than it really is!
- lean ground turkey
- instant mashed potato flakes
- unsweetened cashew milk
- dried cranberries
- butter (I used dairy-free)
- tapioca starch
- vegetable broth
- garlic powder
- rubbed sage
- Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves to garnish
See the recipe card for quantities.
Preheat the oven (if baking): If baking the meatballs, Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (215 degrees C).
Make the meatball mixture: Mix all meatball ingredients and meatball spices together in a medium mixing bowl with your hands, until well-mixed.
Roll into balls: Roll the meatball mixture into 1-inch balls (or 1 ½ inch balls if baking -- about the size of a ping-pong ball) and place on a baking sheet.
If Baking: Bake for 15-20 minutes or until firm when pressed.
If Pan-Frying: Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter and push it around with a spatula to evenly coat the pan. Start by searing the meatballs on the outsides as evenly as possible by browning a new side every 2-3 minutes. I do this in two batches so there is room to roll the meatballs around. Once seared, drop the heat to medium and continue to roll them around every 2-3 minutes to cook through. Cook until the meatballs are firm when pressed and a meat thermometer shows a temperature of 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) in the center of a meatball. When finished cooking, place the meatballs on a clean plate or baking sheet and set aside.
Note: If you have a hard time reaching this temperature, add a cover and drop the heat to medium-low to allow them to cook through without burning on the outsides.
Make the gravy: Melt coconut butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add spices and tapioca starch, mixing until smooth (without clumps) with a whisk or spatula. Add broth in ~¼ cup increments and stir briskly or whisk well with each addition to make smooth. Add cashew milk in the same fashion. Bring to a low boil for 3-5 minutes to thicken. Add extra broth as needed to get your desired gravy consistency.
Putting it together: Place the cooked meatballs in gravy. Push them around gently to get them nice and saucy! For a little extra flavor, simmer together for 5 minutes before removing from heat. Garnish with optional parsley and extra dried cranberries, serve and enjoy!
- Panko (or gluten-free panko) - instead of instant mashed potato flakes, you can use regular or gluten-free panko in equal amount.
- Vegetarian - the lean ground turkey can be replaced with a plant-based ground meat substitute to make this recipe vegetarian.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free!
- medium mixing bowl
- large baking sheet
- large skillet
- silicone coated whisk
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Tips before you start
If pan-frying, use a meat thermometer.
Not only does cooking the meatballs through to 165 degrees F (75 C) make the meat safe to eat, it also helps to prevent overcooking so the meatballs stay nice and juicy on the inside!
Mind the meatball size.
If pan-frying, make 1-inch meatballs. If baking, you can make larger meatballs -- about 1 ½ inches or the size of a ping pong ball.
Other savory holiday gluten-free recipes you'll love:
- Dairy Free Swedish Meatballs
- Super Crispy Roasted Brussel Sprouts
- Unbelievably Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes
- Simple Healthy Gluten and Dairy Free Charcuterie Board
- Crispy Parsley Roasted Potatoes
Since we're using raw meat and some of you may be cooking meatballs in a frying pan or on a camp stove, here are some important food safety reminders:
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C) -- I recommend using a meat thermometer to check the inside of the meatballs if cooking on the stove.
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods of time
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
It's four holiday favorites in one tasty bite -- if you haven't already added this Turkey Cranberry Meatballs recipe to your meal plan, what are you waiting for?! 😉