If Thanksgiving were a meatball, it would be a Cranberry Turkey Meatball. Sweet, juicy, and tangy, these turkey meatballs take the ingredients and flavors I love most about family holiday gatherings and pack them into a single, melt-in-your-mouth bite.

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs with apples, sage, and maple syrup in a serving bowl

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Words that encapsulate the warm, fuzzy feelings that surround the height of fall and transition into the holidays: footie pajamas; hearth; hot chocolate; mittens; cranberry turkey meatballs.

Turkey meatballs often get a bad rap for being dry and flavorless. One of my goals in life has been to prove that’s simply not true.

My Moroccan Turkey Meatballs and Crock Pot Turkey Meatballs are evidence of this and today, these cranberry turkey meatballs only further cement their place is moist, juicy meatball land (a place I would love to visit BTW).

They’re a perfect Thanksgiving appetizer, divine Christmas lunch idea (served with Crockpot Wild Rice Stuffing), and totally worthy of your New Year’s Eve party snack spread (ideally beside these Maple Bourbon Bars).

A white serving bowl full of cranberry turkey meatballs topped with cranberry-orange sauce and parsley.

5 Star Review

“These are AMAZING! I just made them and paired them with stuffing. Oh my. I am in heaven.”

— Stacy —

How to Make Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

The ingredients in these cranberry turkey meatballs are few but the flavors are profound and they are some of the juiciest turkey meatballs you will ever taste.


The Ingredients

  • Ground Turkey. A lean, protein-packed alternative to beef and pork.
  • Apples. My secret to turkey meatball moisture supremacy is shredded apples. The apples lend their juiciness to the meat, which makes the meatballs super tender, and their light sweetness is a lovely addition too.
  • Sage. A classic ingredient in both stuffing and roast turkey gives the turkey meatballs a warm, savory flavor that I immediately associate with holiday meals and satisfied appetites.
  • Breadcrumbs. Absorb the juices from the turkey and apples as the meatballs cook, trapping them within the meatball to keep them moist and delicious.
  • Egg. Adds additional moisture and helps bind the meatballs together.
  • Cranberry Sauce. The PERFECT tart counterpoint to the sweet apples and savory sage. I use a secret shortcut of canned whole cranberry sauce to save time and effort.
  • Applesauce. Balances the tartness of the cranberries and brings the apple flavor of the meatballs into the sauce.
  • Maple Syrup. Naturally sweetens the cranberry sauce and adds subtle maple flavor.
  • Orange Juice + Zest. For a little brightness that pairs perfectly with the cranberries.
Baked healthy Cranberry Turkey Meatballs on a baking sheet topped with a wire rack beside oranges, apples, sage leaves, and cranberry sauce.

The Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Lightly combine the meatball ingredients using two forks or your hands.

TIP!

For moist and tender meatballs, don’t overwork the mixture while mixing or shaping. Compacting and handling the meat too much can cause meatballs to become tough.

  1. Roll into 1 1/2 to 2-inch meatballs.
  2. Arrange on a baking sheet topped with a wire baking rack.
  3. Bake until just cooked through.
  4. Prepare the sauce by combining the ingredients together in a saucepan, warming until heated through.
  5. Toss the cooked meatballs in the sauce to coat and then serve. ENJOY!

TIP!

Follow these tried-and-true tips for perfect turkey meatballs every time.

  • Don’t skip the baking rack! Baking these meatballs on a baking rack set on top of a baking sheet elevates them slightly to ensure even cooking on all sides.
  • Use a Cookie Scoop. I also like using a small cookie scoop to shape the meatballs so that they are all uniform in size and bake at the same rate.
  • Keep the Meatballs Warm in the Slow Cooker. Once the meatballs are made, you can transfer them to a slow cooker to keep warm. This is a great option for parties and to free up stove space. I’ve owned this 6-quart programmable slow cooker for years and absolutely love it.
Slow Cooker Cranberry Turkey Meatballs in a serving bowl garnished with parsley.

Whether you serve them as a holiday appetizer, game-day bite, or main course with a side of Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole or Crockpot Green Bean Casserole, these apple cranberry turkey meatballs are sweet and sassy satisfaction guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Cranberry Turkey Meatballs be Made Ahead?

Yes! You may either mix and form the meatballs ahead and refrigerate them in a covered container up to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook them. You may also bake the meatballs as directed and then freeze them for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then warm in a crockpot on LOW with the sauce until heated through.

Can I use Gluten Free Bread Crumbs in Meatballs?

I have not tried making these turkey meatballs with gluten free breadcrumbs. However, I imagine it can be done. If you choose to experiment, let me know how it goes.

Can I Use Ground Chicken Instead of Ground Turkey?

Yes! Check to make sure the ground chicken is somewhere in the neighborhood of 93% lean like the turkey. If so, you should be able to swap without any further modifications to the recipe.

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs with Apple and Sage

Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

5 from 12 votes
Healthy cranberry turkey meatballs with apples, sage, and a homemade cranberry-orange sauce. A perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas appetizer!

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins

Servings: 24 -28 meatballs

Ingredients
  

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded tart apple such as Granny Smith, washed with peel on
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley optional for garnish

For the Cranberry Sauce:

  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place an ovenproof baking rack on top of a large, rimmed baking sheet, then lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, olive oil, egg, apple, sage, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. With your hands or two forks, lightly mix to combine, being careful not to compact the meat.
  • Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls, using a small scoop to help portion as desired.
  • Arrange the meatballs on top of the prepared baking rack. Bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes, just until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan large enough to hold the meatballs, combine the cranberries, applesauce, maple syrup, orange zest, and orange juice. Heat over medium to warm through.
  • Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, then spoon the sauce over gently to coat. Transfer to a serving platter to enjoy immediately or place in a slow cooker set to the lowest heat to keep warm. Garnish with fresh parsley as desired and serve.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 24) meatballsCalories: 73kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 4gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 21mgPotassium: 67mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 34IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 15mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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49 Comments

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  1. We have made these numerous times and LOVE them! Sometimes I make the cranberry dressing, sometimes I use bbq sauce, and sometimes I just eat them plain. I have also cooked them ahead of time and then put the frozen ones in the crockpot the day I needed them. Highly recommend this recipe! Also, used red delicious apples last time and they were still awesome. 5 stars

  2. Easy and delicious! I brought these to a picnic so to make a easier to serve, instead of baking with the cranberry sauce, I put it in a separate container to use as a dipping sauce, and stuck toothpicks in the meatballs. Everyone loved them!5 stars

  3. Made this recipe and am happy to say it was a crowd pleaser.
    I did not place on baking rack, I placed directly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. They cooked perfectly. I added parsley to the recipe and also as a garnish. Thank you for sharing!5 stars

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