Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatballs
Words that encapsulate the warm, fuzzy feelings that surround the height of fall and transition into the holidays: footie pajamas; hearth; hot chocolate; mittens; Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatballs.
If Thanksgiving were a meatball, it would be an Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatball. Sweet, juicy, and tangy, these turkey meatballs take the ingredients and flavors I most associate with family holiday gatherings and pack them into a single, melt-in-your-mouth bite.
The crowd at Wine & Dine Wisconsin for whom I cooked them live agreed!
Aside from the fact that cranberry sauce should be handled with caution when wearing a white chef’s coat, I could not have selected a more perfect recipe to make for a crowd, whether that crowd happens to be sitting a few feet away watching you cook live as they were for me, or is a hungry crew that’s gathered in your home for a holiday party or game watch. The ingredients in these cranberry turkey meatballs are few but the flavors are profound, and, as I promised my skeptical on lookers, they are some of the juiciest meatballs you will ever taste.
My secret to turkey meatball moisture supremacy? Shredded apples. Blended with the ground turkey meatball base, the apples lend their juiciness to the meat, which makes the meatballs super tender, and their light sweetness is a lovely addition too. Chopped fresh 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.
To dress the meatballs, I stirred together an easy cranberry sauce that’s a perfect tart counterpoint to the sweet apple. While the sauce tastes 100% scratch made, I have a secret shortcut: canned whole cranberry sauce. Stirred together with fresh orange zest and juice, unsweetened apple sauce, and a touch of maple syrup, the canned cranberries are transformed into a boss turkey meatball sauce that tastes like it took hours, instead of mere minutes.
After demoing the recipe for my Wine & Dine audience, I waited anxiously while the cranberry turkey meatball samples were passed to attendees. While I’d been cooking the meatballs on stage, a group of talented culinary students from the Milwaukee Area Technical College had been ferociously prepping them behind the scenes to pass to the hungry crowd. I held my breath during the first bites, then couldn’t help but grin myself as the smiles and thumbs-up spread through the crowd. Turkey meatball victory!
I owe this special opportunity to cook at Wine & Dine to my wonderful local partner, Pick ‘N Save. I’m proud to work as a brand ambassador for the grocery store where I shop daily and of the fact that Pick ‘N Save supports the Milwaukee community. The company was a key event sponsor of Wine & Dine, and it also sponsors a culinary student to attend MATC. So cool! I made the meatballs using Pick ‘N Save Roundy’s store-brand products, which I’ve found to be just as good as their name-brand counterparts, at a fraction of the price.
That’s me, sporting my sweet Pick ‘N Save chef coat. I even managed to keep it clean while stuffing cranberry turkey meatballs into my face immediately after the crowd cleared. Can you blame me? Just look at these juicy babies!
Whether you serve them as a holiday appetizer, game-day bite, or main course with a side of couscous or rice, these Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatballs are sweet and sassy satisfaction guaranteed.
A few meatball tips: 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. 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.
Make this recipe in a 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.
Apple Cranberry Turkey Meatballs
Super moist cranberry turkey meatballs with apples and sage. With holiday flavors, this recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday party!
Yield: 24-28 meatballs
Total Time: 30 minutes
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 finely chopped Simply Roundy’s 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 Simply Roundy’s Pure Maple Syrup
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
- 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.
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