January 18, 2020

Pesto Turkey Meatballs (Whole30, Paleo, Gluten Free)

Delicious and easy pesto baked turkey meatballs full of flavor and the perfect addition to your next pasta night! These meatballs are made from ground turkey, spices, and a fresh basil spinach pesto that you will want to put on absolutely everything. The result is tender meatballs that pair perfectly with your favorite pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles. This recipe is Whole30 compliant, Paleo-friendly, and gluten free. 

Pesto Turkey Meatballs in a white baking dish

Easy Turkey Meatballs with Dairy Free Basil Spinach Pesto

Who doesn’t love a really good flavorful meatball? I do not know of a single person!

Ok, ok, so there is probably someone out there who may not really love meatballs, but I can almost guarantee you they probably haven’t had these delicious pesto turkey meatballs. 

These are my new favorite (and hopefully your new favorite) Italian meatballs. I love a good ground beef meatball just as much as the next girl, but sometimes you just want to switch things up a bit. 

This recipe uses dark ground turkey instead of beef and a homemade dairy-free (super flavorful!) basil spinach pesto to make a tender and delicious meatball that I know you will love. These meatballs are the ultimate comfort food and are just the thing to serve over your favorite gluten-free pasta, spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles. 

This yummy recipe is also Whole30 compliant, Paleo-friendly, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to make these meatballs!

Basil Spinach Pesto Ingredients

spinach, basil, pine nuts, red pepper flakes, salt and garlic in a food processor

While traditional basil pesto uses fresh basil and parmesan cheese, this recipe uses a dairy-free version that is just as delicious. This pesto leaves out the parmesan cheese and also includes fresh baby spinach. 

The addition of fresh spinach adds in extra veggies and it is a great way to use up any spinach that is starting to go bad in your fridge. Fresh basil has such a strong flavor that it completely covers up any taste of spinach so no one will know that you snuck in an extra veggie.

To make this dairy-free basil spinach pesto, here’s what you need:

  • Fresh basil 

  • Baby spinach

  • Garlic (fresh whole garlic cloves are the best for this recipe)

  • Red pepper flakes (you could leave these out if you prefer)

  • Pine nut (you can toast these for extra flavor!)

  • Olive oil

  • Lemon juice

  • Salt

How to Make Basil Pesto from Scratch

basil pesto in food processor bowl
If you have never made pesto sauce from scratch don’t be intimidated because it really couldn’t be easier!
Once you have all of your ingredients, making the pesto is as simple as adding them to a food processor and pulsing until everything is well combined. The texture of the pesto shouldn’t be silky smooth but there shouldn’t be huge chunks of nuts or garlic either. 

Pesto Meatball Ingredients

Now that you’ve made the pesto sauce, it’s time to focus on the meatballs! These ground turkey meatballs are full of flavor and a great alternative to traditional beef meatballs if you are looking to switch things up a bit!
ground turkey, pesto almond flour, egg, and spices in white mixing bowl

Here is what you need to make the pesto turkey meatballs:

  • Ground turkey (I prefer to use ground dark meat)

  • Eggs

  • Almond flour (this is a gluten-free substitute for traditional flour that helps to bind the meatballs)

  • Pesto

  • Red pepper flakes (optional, but they really do add some great flavor)

  • Italian seasoning blend 

How to Make Turkey Meatballs

Step 1: Add the ground turkey, whisked eggs, almond flour, pesto, and seasonings to a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix everything until well combined.

Step 2: Next, use a cookie dough scoop and your hands to roll the ground turkey mixture into meatballs. I like to use a tablespoon size cookie dough scoop to do this. I do two tablespoons per meatball and then use wet hands to roll the meat into balls. 

The texture of ground turkey is much stickier than what you may be used to when working with ground beef. To make the meatballs easier to roll, wet your hands with cold water before rolling. This will help the ground turkey to not stick to your hands. 

raw pesto turkey meatballs on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper

Step 3: Once you have made your meatballs, it’s time to sear them in a hot skillet before finishing off in the oven. You could just put the meatballs straight into the oven to bake, but I find that searing them off first really helps to create much more flavor, and that is what we want when we’re cooking. 

There is no need to cook the meatballs all the way through at this step. You just want to cook for a few minutes until golden brown on each side and then transfer them to your baking dish to finish cooking through. 

Step 4: Once all of your meatballs have been browned, it’s time to cover them in your favorite jarred tomato sauce and bake. After 25-30 minutes in a hot oven, the sauce should be bubbly and the meatballs will be cooked through. 

cooked meatballs in a white baking dish

How to Serve the Meatballs

These meatballs really are hearty and work great as a stand alone dish. You can easily pair them with a big salad or roasted veggies for a well rounded meal. 

Of course, you can also go the more traditional route and serve these meatballs over your favorite pasta (this is my go-to gluten free pasta), spaghetti squash, or zoodles. There is plenty of delicious tomato sauce to serve over your noodles and be sure to add an extra spoonful of leftover basil pesto to your plate as well for even more flavor!

Pesto Turkey Meatballs in white baking dish

More Delicious Meatball Recipes to Love

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Pesto Turkey Meatballs (Whole30, Paleo, Gluten Free)

  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free
/
Scale:
  • Author: Ashlea Carver
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Basil Spinach Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil, packed

  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach, packed

  • ⅔ cup pine nuts

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 1 ½ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • ¼ tsp black pepper

Meatballs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Make the pesto by adding all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulsing until well combined. Set aside.

  3. Add all of the meatball ingredients, except the sauce, in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix until everything is well combined. Use a cookie dough scoop and wet hands to roll the meat mixture into golf ball sized meatballs, roughly 2 tbsp of meat per ball.

  4. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the meatballs in avocado or coconut oil for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and then transfer them to a baking dish. Pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs ensuring they are well covered.

  5. Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the sauce begins to bubble and the meatballs are fully cooked. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Keywords: pesto turkey meatballs, pesto, turkey meatballs

 

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    6 comments
  1. I loved how easy to pull together this meatball recipe is, and adding the pesto in to the meatballs really elevates the flavor. I will definitely be making this again!

  2. I’ve been looking for a good GF meatball recipe and this is it! I made this recipe tonight and it was fantastic. I subbed marinara for the pesto in the meatballs because I didn’t have any pesto on hand. I also let the meatballs simmer in the sauce on the stove rather than placing them in the oven, solely because it’s 95 degrees out where I live and didn’t want to heat up the house. Thank you for this delicious recipe! I will absolutely be making again 😊

  3. Made these last night and excited to eat them again tonight for dinner! Delicious pesto flavor, super moist and yummy.

  4. I made this for dinner tonight and loved it! I love meatballs but have never tried pesto meatballs, and these were so yummy. I only had a pound of turkey, so I halved the recipe which was no problem. I find meatballs are pretty forgiving, especially baking them in the oven with the marinara (I used a jar of spicy arrabiata). Searing them on the skillet was a nice touch, too. My husband also loved these, so I will definitely be making them again!

  5. These remind me of cannelloni filling. Delicious! So happy to find a food blogger who clearly tests her recipes and has a discerning pallet. Keep em coming!

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