As busy parents, we all need quick, healthy dinners that our kids will actually eat! These Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs are one of my go-to weeknight meals, and I know your family will love them too. Not only are these meatballs packed with veggies, but they are also gluten-free and great for all ages. Since sometimes I don’t plan ahead, I also make the meatballs baked in the oven for an easy, quick meal. Serve with pasta or in a sub roll with melted mozzarella on top–my boys’ favorite!
Kids in the Kitchen
- Raw meat and kids? Kids, maybe 6/7 and up, are most likely mature enough to handle raw meat and help mix and roll these meatballs. I don’t recommend toddlers and younger children handle raw meat. They are too likely to touch their faces or other surfaces. However, there are many other parts of this recipe that are very kid friendly. See below. It’s also important to explain why we have to be careful around raw meat and how we always wash our hands after cooking with raw proteins.
- Prep the veggies: Grating veggies is a great way for kids to help and gain exposure to vegetables. Hold the carrot and the box grater together so that you can keep little fingers away from the grater “teeth.”
- Add: After prepping the veggies, kids can help add all the ingredients to the bowl with the ground turkey.
- Mix: Before adding the meat to the bowl, have your child stir the veggies, eggs, and other ingredients together.
- Help plate and serve: Having a family meal goes beyond making the food. Have your child choose the dinner plates, silverware, and whatever else you need at the dinner table. Then kids can help spoon the meatballs onto plates and garnish with cheese, as desired.
Subs and Tips for making Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs
- Ground meat: If you don’t want to use turkey, ground chicken or a lean ground beef will work well.
- Oats: I like to use gluten-free, quick-cooking rolled oats to add extra fiber to the meatballs (and you can’t taste them at all). However, you can use regular or gluten-free breadcrumbs of any kind instead of the oats, if you’d like.
- Egg-free: I have not tested the meatballs without eggs. However, I think it would work with a liquid egg replacer, such a Just Egg, or any liquid (6 tablespoons) mixed with the oats/breadcrumbs.
- Dairy-free: Omit the parmesan cheese from the meatball mixture and add in 1/4 tsp more salt to adjust the seasoning.
- Cookie scoop?: Not just for cookies! I love using my scoopers for making meatballs so much less messy. I don’t even roll them into perfect balls after scooping. Here is a set of scoopers that I use: HERE.
- Parchment sheets: I can’t live without there pre-cut, non-stick parchment sheets. HERE are the ones I use to make clean-up a breeze.
- Cooking for babies or baby-led weaning: reduce or leave out the salt and cheese in a portion of the meatball mixture as it will add too much sodium to the recipe.
Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs (with Veggies and Gluten free!)
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 2 packed cups baby spinach
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats or breadcrumbs
- 2 pounds ground turkey preferably dark meat
- 24-28 oz jar marinara or tomato-based pasta sauce
- cooked spaghetti, pasta, or sub rolls, for serving
- Use the smaller holes of the box grater to finely shred the carrots until you have a cup of grated carrot. (Alternatively, you can finely chop the carrots or pulse in the food processor until finely chopped.) Finely chop the spinach.
- Add the grated carrot, chopped spinach, eggs, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parmesan, and oats to a large bowl. Mix until all the ingredients are combined.
- Add the ground turkey to the bowl and mix with a rubber spatula or your hands until everything is just combined. If the meat mixture still seems too sticky to roll into balls, mix in an additional 1/4 cup of oats or breadcrumbs.
- Scoop or roll the turkey mixture into 2 tablespoon-sized balls. I like to use a small ice cream scoop to scoop the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You should get 45 to 50 meatballs.
- Add about a cup of the marinara sauce to the bottom of your crockpot/slow cooker insert. Add your meatballs on top of the sauce then pour the remaining sauce over the top. Do not stir!
- Place the lid on then set your crockpot/slow cooker to low for 4 to 6 hours (You can cook them for as little as 4 hours or as long as 6, depending on when you are eating dinner.)
- Once cooked, serve the meatballs over cooked spaghetti/pasta or on a sub roll with grated parmesan or shredded mozzarella on top.
Baked (sauce or sauce free)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- For meatballs baked in sauce, grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with oil. Place about a cup of the sauce in the bottom of the pan. Place the rolled meatballs on top of the sauce in layers with about 1/2 cup of sauce between the meatballs. Pour the remaining sauce over the top then cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake until meatballs are cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.
- For sauce-free meatballs, place meatballs on a parchment or greased foil lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden brown and cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. (You can warm sauce separately and toss the meatballs in after cooking or serve the sauce on the side.)
Save to Pinterest!
More Easy Dinners: