Turkey Pesto Meatballs

This easy recipe for Turkey Pesto Meatballs uses ground turkey, pesto and parmesan that are perfectly baked into delicious meatballs. These meatballs are great for spaghetti and other pasta dishes, meatball subs, pizza toppings and so much more.

bowl of turkey pesto meatballs with spaghetti

Update May 2021 // Almost 10 years later and I still make these all the time. They are a staple in the Hester House. I haven’t changed the recipe at all, just updated some of the photos and made a video. I hope that these are added to the rotation at your house too.

Last night a miracle occurred at our house. Every single person in my house ate the same exact thing for dinner. No one complained. No one whined. No dishes were strewn by an unruly toddler. It was the best night EVER!

These turkey pesto meatballs are a staple meal in our house. William requests these turkey meatballs every few days, so we eat them a lot. They are really easy to make, relatively healthy and they make a ton, so you get two dinners for the price of one!

I sometimes make my own sauce (which I have included the recipe for), but I have also used a jar of sauce in a pinch. We usually eat one batch over spaghetti and use the other half for meatballs sandwiches. I use turkey breast but have also used ground chicken, and they are delicious as well.

ingredients for turkey pesto meatballs

Ingredients //

For the meatballs:

  • Ground Turkey Breast – is pretty bland on it’s own but made into meatballs? Game changer. I buy my ground turkey from ButcherBox. (affiliate link)
  • Bread Crumbs – can be purchased from the store or quickly made by grinding down stale, dry bread.
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper – enhances the flavor of the meatballs.
  • Pesto Sauce – Store-bought or homemade works great.
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese – adds moisture to the ground turkey breast and dry bread crumbs.
  • Egg Whites – in meatballs help bind everything together into bite size balls

For the sauce (if using):

  • Onions & Carrots – add rich, complex flavor to sauces. They also add a better texture.
  • Tomato Paste – enhances the tomato flavor and adds depth to the sauce.
  • Garlic – adds distinctive homemade Italian-inspired flavor.
  • Can of Crushed Tomatoes – I use San Marzano tomatoes. I love the texture crushed tomatoes gives to a simple red sauce.
  • Bay Leaves – are a great way to add a lot of flavor to quick-cooking sauces.
  • Salt & Pepper – balances the sweetness and acidity.
Turkey Pesto Meatballs
making tomato sauce
ingredients for turkey pesto meatballs in a bowl

How to Make // The Steps

  1. Mix all meatball ingredients in a bowl and combine well. Roll mixture into balls. I use an ice cream scoop to make them all the same size.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. I prefer baking these on a greased cooling rack placed on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. While the meatballs are baking, I like to start on the sauce (if using). Saute the onions and carrots until tender, about 10 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and let simmer over low heat for about an hour. The sauce should thicken a bit.
  6. Add the meatballs back in to heat through and serve over your favorite pasta. Enjoy!
Bowl of spaghetti and pesto meatballs

Tips & Tricks

  • I never make a single batch. I always double the recipe and freeze half for another meal. I promise it will help you on a busy night! 
  • Take a shortcut. I don’t always make my own sauce. If I’m being completely honest, I’m a jarred-sauce-kind-of-girl these days.
  • To make the turkey pesto meatball mixture easier to roll into balls, chill it in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
  • Do your best to get each meatball the same size, so they cook evenly. You can use a small ice cream scoop or a food scale.
two bowls of turkey meatballs

Why are Turkey Pesto Meatballs So Good?

  • My entire family loves these meatballs. The pesto adds so much flavor while still keeping them really light.
  • They go on everything! Pasta, sub rolls, pizza, or just straight from the fork!

Variations //

  • I use ground turkey breast, but you can use dark meat turkey or even ground chicken.
  • Pesto can be made with more than just basil. You can make homemade pesto with peppery greens like arugula and spinach, as well as herbs like parsley, sage and tarragon.
  • Make mozzarella stuffed pesto turkey meatballs! Poke a hold in each meatball, fill the whole with a ball of mozzarella and then bake.
Turkey pesto meatball recipe

Serving Suggestions //

These are really delicious with red sauce and pasta (obviously), but there’s no need to just use red sauce. A creamy pesto sauce or an alfredo are also amazing with these meatballs. You could also use them in a meatball sub, as a pizza topping (I cut them in half) or straight up on a plate with a side of roasted vegetables. These are so good. Make these and share them with your family. Hopefully, they will become a staple in your house too.

How to Store //

Store homemade meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days

Make-Ahead and Freezer Options

Let cooked meatballs cool to room temperature. Flash freeze meatballs by placing them on a baking sheet until frozen solid. Then, store frozen meatballs in a freezer-safe bag for 3- 4 months.

Turkey Pesto Meatball Recipe

FAQ’s for Making Turkey Pesto Meatballs //

How do I keep turkey meatballs from falling apart?

The correct ratio of ground turkey to bread crumbs/egg is a good start. Lucky for you, this tried and true recipe calls for the perfect amounts of each.

Can I use beef instead of turkey to make meatballs?

You sure can. Just be sure to select lean ground beef, or if using a fattier ground beef, you may need to use more breadcrumbs to compensate for the extra moisture.

Why are turkey meatballs healthier than beef meatballs?

Ground turkey is lower in saturated fat than ground beef making it a more heart-healthy option.

How can you tell when turkey meatballs are done baking?

When cut in half, meat should be no longer pink and completely cooked through. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees.

More Turkey Recipes

Super Clean Turkey Meatballs

Turkey and Hot Pepper Jelly Sandwiches

Herb Roasted Turkey

Slow Cooker Turkey Dip Sandwiches

bowl of turkey pesto meatballs with spaghetti

Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Yield: 40 meatballs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

This easy recipe for Turkey Pesto Meatballs uses ground turkey, pesto and parmesan that are perfectly baked into delicious meatballs. These meatballs are great for spaghetti and other pasta dishes, meatball subs, pizza toppings and so much more.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs whites

Sauce:

  • 2 onions diced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 garlic gloves minced
  • 2 – 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes (I use San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and combine well. Roll into balls. I use an ice cream scoop to make them all the same size.
  2. Place on a cooling rack on top of a foil-lined cookie sheet sprayed with a little cooking spray.
  3. Bake the meatballs at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.
  4. To make the sauce, saute the onions and carrots until tender, about 10 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes and let simmer over low heat for about an hour. The sauce should thicken a bit.
  7. Add the meatballs back in to heat through and serve.

Notes

These freeze well. I make a double batch and freeze them in sauce, flat in a Ziploc bag.

Use for pasta, sandwiches, pizza, or an appetizer.

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As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 450Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 134mgSodium: 1164mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 6gSugar: 12gProtein: 47g

All information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Oh hey there!

Well, hello there! I’m Bree Hester, the Boston-based blogger and food photographer here at Baked Bree. Here you can get lots of weeknight meal inspiration, eat more plant-based meals, and still indulge in a decadent sweet treat. Baked Bree is a place where you will find great recipes and inspiration for your next family adventure.

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This Post Has 50 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    Yummy Bree, these were great, my whole family loved them too.

  2. Erin Ledford

    I hope to make these on Sunday…yummy! Hope you received my email about a recipe desire to spruce up my sandwich…forgot to mention I thought avocado may be good on it?!

  3. Lauren

    Great idea to toss in some pesto with the meatballs! I will have to try this recipe.

  4. daniel@thefoodaddicts

    I love turkey meatballs I like how you incorporated pesto as the main flavoring. Great job!

  5. Corey

    I made these the other night and they were fantastic! I even threw two in the cuisinart for Baby Matthew to enjoy. Delish!

  6. A Little Yumminess

    Love the photos and the way you lay put ingredients…will try this one…..I just made Asian flavored meatballs….

    1. bakedbree

      thank you! this is a regular at our house. my oldest son requests these all the time.

  7. Kristie Johnson

    These look good! Have you tried the Panko bread crumbs before? Progresso makes some. They are really light and airy and are supposed to be good for you. I made homemade chicken nuggets with them recently. I also saw on Dr. Oz the other day to add cooked quinoa to meatballs to pump up the protein factor.

  8. diana

    These are amazing! The kids, Jude, and I all loved them. I will definitely make them again. Thanks so much! Diana

    1. bakedbree

      I am so glad that you liked them.

  9. Pam

    Thanks for this. I make the same recipe, but never thought of baking the meatballs — I usually cook them right in the sauce. Love the idea of baking them. They also freeze beautifully — just leave them raw on the rack in the freezer til they’re solid, then transfer them to a zip-top bag. I also like the idea of adding quinoa to the recipe. Will try it in place of some of the breadcrumbs. I’ve been making lots of quinoa salads lately.

    1. bakedbree

      I always have a batch of these in the freezer. My kids love them. I just bought my first bag of quinoa, I have never used it before.

    2. Maddy

      You can also bake the meatballs before freezing them. It seals in the flavors and you can just toss them into your sauce or whatever you decide to serve them with.

      1. Maddy

        Try serving them in chicken soup with tortellini.

      2. bakedbree

        they are baked before you freeze them.

  10. diana

    Just made another batch of these and served it with a creamy Parmesan sauce. It was so yummy!

    1. bakedbree

      that sounds good!

  11. Marilyn

    I love pesto, and I love the idea of baking the meatballs. I plan to make these very soon. I’m not an experienced cook and would like to know if you used plain Progresso bread crumbs (recipe just lists bread crumbs) or the herb and garlic pictured with the other ingredients. Thanks for this wonderful recipe Bree.

    1. bakedbree

      I use whatever I have in my cabinet. Either one would work.

    2. Maddy

      You can add garlic powder, salt and pepper and parsley to the plain bread crumbs. It would come out just like the garlic herb flavored breadcrumbs.

  12. Trisha

    I made these tonight and they were amazing!! I used my homemade walnut pesto and made a fresh tomato sauce- then put it on Italian bread from Whole Foods, covered it in mozzarella and broiled it for a few minutes! That was one awesome meatball sandwich. Thanks for the great recipe, it’s the first one I’ve tried of yours and am excited to make more! 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      that does sound like one amazing meatball sandwich! I am glad that you liked it. It is a regular here at our house.

  13. Shannon

    My family loved these meatballs, and the sauce was fabulous (and fabulously easy). Meatball subs- yum!

    1. bakedbree

      I am so glad that hear that. We love these meatballs.

  14. amanda

    bree, im making these meat balls as i write this! they are in the oven and smell so so good. thanks for the recipe i have never (for whatever reason) thought of putting pesto in the mix but yeah, smells sooooo good. and what a healthful recipe, no egg yolk and turkey make it really well balanced! thanks! amanda

    1. bakedbree

      Turkey Meatballs are something that we eat almost once a week. I am glad that you made them.

  15. Deanna

    I made these meatballs for dinner for a tough crowd: my mom and dad. My dad raved about them- he didn’t even realize they were turkey! My mom loved them, and she’s generally pretty slim with the compliments about my cooking.
    Thanks so much for helping me bring my family together for a meal.

    1. bakedbree

      I am so glad! Comments like these make writing this blog worth every second that it takes to put it together.

  16. Cristina

    This has become a staple in my home!

    1. bakedbree

      me too. I make three batches at a time and keep them in the freezer.

  17. Jennifer

    I just wanted to stop by and say. I CAN’T BELIVE I JUST NOW FOUND YOUR BLOG!
    How have I not known about you?!?!? I made your pesto turkey meatballs for my husband and he was INSANELY happy with them. I always thought I made “great” meatballs, but I will NEVER go back to my old recipe.

    Thanks for writing this blog (and your personal blog), I’ve spent half my weekend just drooling over your recipes and photography.

    1. bakedbree

      Welcome! These meatballs are a favorite at our house and I always have some in my freezer. Thanks for checking me out!

  18. Hannah

    I found your recipe on foodgawker and made these this afternoon to freeze before I went back to school. I had one ‘extra’ meatball to taste, and my dad and I both thought it was delicious. They’re so easy to make too! I used plain oats instead of bread crumbs, so next time I think I’ll add some garlic and herbs to add a bit more punch, but they’re great just plain too.

    Thanks for the great recipe! This will definitely be staple in the future. Too easy not to be!

    1. bakedbree

      Thanks Hannah!

  19. Ari

    HI,
    i was just wondering your thoughts about adding a little ground veal to the mix to give it a bit more fat flavor, i know we are trying to be healthy but i am just wondering your thoughts on this?

    1. Ari

      also to add that i keep kosher so i am taking out the cheese so i was wondering what else i can add to replace the cheese,
      all thoughts are welcome

      1. bakedbree

        More breadcrumbs.

    2. bakedbree

      The whole point is to take the fat out, and make a healthy meatball. Of course you can add whatever you like, but it sort of defeats the purpose.

  20. Fer

    Can i make these with ground chicken?

    1. bakedbree

      of course!

  21. yvette alvarez

    I am so sorry if I missed it somewhere but when I printed out the recipe I looked & looked & cant find the amount of PESTO to put in the meatball recipe… is it just me? I apologies if it is. Lol
    thanks.

    1. bakedbree

      1/2 cup

  22. Ricky

    Made these last weekend, they were a hit!! The pesto really added to the taste and we were able to freeze the left over meatballs. Will definitely make again! Thanks!

    1. bakedbree

      These are always on heavy rotation at my house. My kids love them and I always make at least a double batch.

  23. Christina

    we love this recipe. I will make it from here on until forever. MWAH!

    1. bakedbree

      I’m so glad, I love this recipe too.

  24. Pam

    I loved your recent post about your 25 most popular recipes. Had to try these meatballs and they did not disappoint! I love cooking with ground turkey anyway and love a new way to use it. The pesto and parmesan added the perfect spice to these (also added some garlic powder for flavor). Thanks for a great recipe, Bree!

    1. bakedbree

      I’m so glad, I make these ALL THE TIME.

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