If you love Thanksgiving and all of the great flavors of it, then you will LOVE these Thanksgiving Gobbler Turkey Meatballs! Ground turkey blended with stuffing seasonings, milk bread, sauteed onions, and celery plus cranberry relish! It’s like turkey and stuffing as a meatball!
I. Love. Thanksgiving.
I love the bajillion hours of prepping, cleaning, cooking and even doing the dishes. Thanksgiving always held a very near and dear place in my heart. It’s one of the very few times that we got together as an entire family, catching up and eating Mom and Dad’s amazing foods. Being the youngest of 6 by such a significant age gap (17 year years between myself and the oldest) I didn’t spend a lot of time with them. They were either off with their friends, at college or simply off living their own lives.
But Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving was where we all came together at the 3-leaf extended table, tons of food and just reconnecting. I miss those days but fortunately Mr. Fantabulous and I have been able to create our traditions and still give us that same family time.
Let’s talk Thanksgiving turkey meatballs
So every year I make at least 1-2 post-Thanksgiving recipes on what to do with the leftovers. From the Gobbler Rolls to the Gobbler pizza, I have you covered. Just wait until you see what I have in store THIS year! But then I realized something. I became one of those people that only made Thanksgiving dinners around the holidays. FYI… I stopped being that person.
Then, because my brain works a million miles a minute, I started to think about how to recreate those same Thanksgiving flavors but in different applications. Thus… the Gobbler meatball.
I knew that I started with ground turkey and all the same seasonings I would put in my stuffing and hey, you can’t have Thanksgiving without my famous Cranberry Relish, that I could make a killer Thanksgiving Meatball. Now, if your Thanksgiving is like mine, you also have candied yams, Brussels Sprouts, and green bean casserole. I did opt to leave those out of the meatball. I figured those can still be served on the side.
How to make Thanksgiving Gobbler Turkey Meatballs
These are almost identical to most other meatball methods however there are a few steps you need to do before you add the stuff to a bowl and mix.
- Chop up celery, onions, and garlic
- Saute in butter and olive oil until soft and then cool to room temp
- Create a Panade – a panada is where you put bread in a bowl and add milk to the bowl. The bread soaks up the milk after about 5-10 minutes and creates a panade. You may have heard it called “milk bread”
- In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients, gently mix to combine and form like any meatball.
- Bake until the thermometer reads 165F and enjoy them!
Freezing the meatballs
These freeze beautifully both raw and cooked. I, personally, tend to freeze my meatballs raw then cook them as I need them.
If you want to freeze them raw, once the meatballs are shaped, place the baking pan in the freezer for at least an hour. You’re “flash freezing” the meatballs. Once the meatballs are hard to the touch and have little to no give when you pick them up, simply place in a freezer-safe bag, mark the outside of the bag with what they are and the cooking time. *Note I tend to add 5-10 minutes of additional baking time as you are starting from a frozen state. Frozen they will last about 3 months raw.
If you want to freeze them after they are baked, allow them to cool completely. Place in a freezer-safe container, mark the outside what they are. To reheat either microwave, thaw in the fridge and then reheat in the oven at 350F until warmed through. Cooked then frozen, they will last about a month in the freezer.
Because I know you guys love to take a recipe and put your spins on them let me give some tips on substitutions.
- Egg – See THIS POST about what to use in place of an egg binder. I would probably go with Aquafaba or the Flax Seed substitution
- Turkey – um… you do know this is for Thanksgiving Turkey meatballs, right? Seriously, you can use ground chicken instead
- Cranberry Relish – No, it CANNOT be cranberry jelly. It has to be of a relish texture. You could try omitting it but being completely honest here, I have not tried it. The relish adds such a great backend sweet note that helps round out the recipe.
- Oysters/Pecans/Other “Stuffing” usuals – I’ve not done this as I wanted the Turkey and “Thanksgiving” flavors to shine here. However, I know many of you love oysters or pecans in your stuffing so that is part of your Thanksgiving profile. You could add some to the mix but watch the nuts with the moistness level. The nuts may dry out the meatball so you may need to add a bit more egg or panade.
- Dried Cranberries – If you do not have cranberry relish (and you don’t feel like making my world-famous recipe) then my advice would be to soak them in warm stock for about 15-25 minutes or until they soften and plump up. You may want to add a few Tbl of the liquid to the meatball mixture as well.
Ways to serve these Thanksgiving Gobbler Turkey Meatballs
Honestly, the sky is the limit here. Truly go with your imagination. Here are a few ways I’ve served them:
- Make a Thanksgiving bowl – add mashed potatoes to a bowl, swirl on some turkey gravy, add a few meatballs and a drizzle of more gravy. If you’re an adventurous eater add some corn too! Heck, throw on a spoon of green bean casserole if you’re a rebel! FYI. I’m a rebel!
- Serve them as sliders – Make the meatballs smaller to fit those Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls. To the bottom of the rolls add some brie cheese, meatball, and top with cranberry relish. Add the top of the buns and heat at 350 just until warm and the cheese is slightly melted.
- Serve as Thanksgiving Shooters – To the bottom of a small plastic dessert cup, spoon or pipe in some mashed potatoes, add a little bit of gravy, a small meatball, a few pieces of corn and a little drizzle of gravy. Serve with mini plastic spoons. My guests went NUTS over these!
- Serve on a Charcuterie board – Make smaller meatballs and serve on a charcuterie board with a side of cranberry relish, dijon mustard, soft cheeses, figs, dried apricots, and mini toasts
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped small
- 2 stalks celery, plus leaves, chopped small
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbl butter, unsalted
- 1 Tbl olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meatballs
- 4 slices of bread
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 tsp thyme, dried
- 1/2 tsp rosemary, dried
- 1/2 tsp ground sage, dried
- 1 tsp parsley, dried
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup prepared cranberry relish
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, spray with non-stick spray and set aside. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. When the butter starts to foam, add in the onion and celery. Sauté, stirring often, until the onions and celery start to soften. ~10 minutes. When they are softened, add in the garlic, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, put in a small bowl or plate and allow to cool to room temp. ~15-30 minutes.
- In a bowl, tear up 3 slices of bread and add in the milk. Smush the bread down into the milk. You’re making “milk bread”. The bread will soak up all/most of the milk. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl add in the turkey, cooled onions/celery/garlic mixture, the milk bread mixture, seasonings, egg, and cranberry relish. Take the remaining dry piece of bread and tear up into small pieces and put that into the bowl as well.
- Without overworking the mixture, gently mix just to combine. The mixture should be wet but hold a shape when you form it into a ball. If it doesn’t you can add a little bit of regular bread crumbs (1-2 Tbl) but the mixture will be soft but should hold a shape. Scoop enough meat mixture to form a 2” round ball (I use a large cookie scoop to measure out my meatballs). Wet your hands and shape. Damp hands are a trick to keeping the mixture from sticking to your hands! See notes for smaller meatballs. Place the meatballs on the pan and repeat until all of the meatballs are formed.
- Either spray the meatballs with olive oil with a mister OR using a pastry brush, brush each one with olive oil. This helps with coloring and browning.
- Bake for 20-23 minutes or when the internal temp of the meatball reads 165F. See notes for smaller meatball baking times. If you want a darker char, pop the meatballs under the broiler for a minute.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
For smaller meatballs (medium cookie scoop), cook 14-17 minutes.
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