Baked Chicken Meatballs
If a year ago you’d told me I’d choose a recipe as seemingly basic as Baked Chicken Meatballs to close out the year, I would have wondered what else you questioned about my creativity, flair for the dramatic, and all-around ability to do something that hasn’t been done 55 million times before. WELL. That was before I tasted said chicken meatballs. The flavor, texture, and good-for-you factor that’s rolled into each one of these juicy bites is anything but elemental.
Moist, tasty enough to enjoy all on their own (yes, tomato sauce is great, but you’ll love them even without), and packing a sneaky serving of spinach, these healthy baked chicken meatballs are basic, done better.
They offer the old-school Italian flavor you’re after, done new-school fast. These chicken meatballs require less than 15 minutes to prep, and they are good for you too. If you’re looking for a back-pocket meatball recipe, this is the one.
And even if you aren’t looking for a back-pocket meatball recipe, hold on to this one anyway.
Baked chicken meatballs are the kind of thing you’re going to crave all of January. The weather is cold, and we need the food equivalent of a woolly sweater.
Hold on to this recipe after January too. They’re quick and easy, healthy, and beloved by grownups and kids alike. This is the kind of recipe we need more of all month, every month.
Just don’t hold on to the meatballs literally in your back pocket. That would be an unnecessary loss of baked Italian chicken meatballs, clean pants, and laundry detergent.
About This Baked Chicken Meatball Recipe
Here’s how we roll, healthy Italian chicken meatball style!
- Ground Chicken. I like 93% lean here. You can also swap ground turkey if you prefer.
- Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs. To bind the meatballs. I like whole wheat over white breadcrumbs here because whole wheat = extra fiber without any extra effort.
If you’re looking for a recipe for chicken meatballs without breadcrumbs, swap chicken for turkey in my Whole30 meatballs (this recipe qualifies as Paleo chicken meatballs too).
- Parmesan. Richness. Saltiness. Italian flair. A small handful goes a long way. PLEASE buy it freshly ground or grind it yourself. The green can does not cut it in this simple meatball recipe.
- Spices. To keep the meatballs quick and easy, in lieu of mincing garlic and sautéing onions, I used onion and garlic powder, along with Italian seasoning. Dynamite and done!
- Tomato Paste. Another win for super concentrated flavor, measured quickly by the spoonful.
In addition to putting the tomato paste in the meatballs, I also mixed it with olive oil and spread it over the meatballs, a tip I picked up from a baked chicken meatball recipe Smitten Kitchen shared a few years ago. It’s a game changer!
- Fresh Spinach. Finely chopped fresh spinach gives the meatballs flecks of color, sneaks in a few extra veggies, and even helps make them moist.
Serving Baked Chicken Meatballs
- We most often have our baked chicken meatballs in tomato sauce, which is Ben’s favorite. I like them with a mix of whole wheat spaghetti noodles and spiralized vegetable noodles.
- For a low-carb option, serve them stuffed inside fluffed spaghetti squash with additional tomato sauce. This Crockpot Spaghetti Squash is especially convenient.
- Stick a toothpick in the center of each baked chicken meatball, place them on a plate, and serve as an appetizer.
- Pile them high on a hoagie bun with extra tomato sauce to create an Italian meatball sub.
- Roll them smaller to make baked chicken meatballs for baby.
- You can also put those baby-size meatballs on a pizza! If you do, I highly recommend this weeknight homemade whole wheat pizza crust.
- Freeze them for later and enjoy meatballs on-demand.
Freezing Chicken Meatballs (Baked or Unbaked)
For the most convenience, I recommend freezing the meatballs after they are fully baked.
- Let the baked meatballs cool, then arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Put the baking sheet in your freezer (if it looks like mine, you’ll need to clear some space first).
- Let freeze until the meatballs harden, 1 to 2 hours.
- Transfer the frozen meatballs to a ziptop bag. Squish out as much air as possible and seal.
- Freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months.
You can also freeze the meatballs uncooked, following the same steps above.
To reheat frozen meatballs:
- Ensure that you are using metal dish or a baking dish that is able to be put in the oven with frozen food inside. (Some baking dishes will break if placed in a hot oven with cold food inside.)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (if the meatballs are fully cooked) OR 400 degrees (if they are not fully cooked).
- Arrange the meatballs in a baking dish coated with nonstick spray.
- Bake directly from frozen until hot, 20 to 30 minutes for cooked meatballs or 25 to 30 minutes for uncooked meatballs (uncooked meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F).
Baked Chicken Meatballs: basic never tasted so brilliant!
Baked Chicken Meatballs
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound ground chicken — I like 93% lean
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil — divided
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste — divided
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh spinach
- Tomato sauce
- Cooked whole wheat pasta, zucchini, or other vegetable noodles
- Buns for sandwiches — for sandwiches
- Toothpicks — to serve as an appetizer
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9x13-inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Beat the egg in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the chicken, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, red pepper flakes, parsley, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste.
Finely chop the spinach so that it is in small bits, then add it to the bowl. With a fork or your hands (I’m all about the hands here), mix until well combined, being careful not to compact the meat. Shape the mixture into 12 meatballs and arrange in the prepared baking dish so that they do not touch.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. It won’t be perfectly smooth but will bake up just fine. Brush over the top of the meatballs.
Bake the meatballs in the upper third of the oven for 18 to 22 minutes, until cooked through. Serve hot with pasta, zucchini noodles, inside a hoagie bun, or any way you choose!
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 meatball) — Calories: 100, Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 46mg, Carbohydrates: 4g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 10g
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