Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs

Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs - a more flavorful and fun turkey meatball recipe!

Until last Friday, I had all but banished ground turkey from my life. Somewhere in the last two months, I realized it just wasn’t cutting the mustard- flavor-wise, texture-wise, you name it, turkey lacked it. So I did what any self-respecting eater would do: Wrote it a Dear John, sent it packing, and tried desperately to erase it from my memory and grocery list. And I’d just about come to grips with it, really.

But then it went on sale.

For close to one dollar a pound.

Something you should know about me is that when and if something is marked down so low that it’s at the same cost level as chewing gum, I will buy it. No matter what it is, I will without question be emptying the contents of my wallet on the conveyer belt of the check out line. Just ask Target.

You can imagine the kinds of company I keep in my cupboard.

So this week, with a year supply of ground turkey in my refrigerator, I mustered all the energy I have in me to finesse such a lean, somewhat bland meat into meals that make me go ‘mmm…’

The key, I find, is blending it with just shy of twenty seven million ingredients. Some for flavor, some for texture, most for moisture.

It helps to not try and recreate the exact dishes you’d make with ground beef. That way, you don’t feel like your substituting something less flavorful, something a little too healthy for its own good. Because no matter how lovely Italian-style turkey meatballs can be when dolled up just so, they’re never quite as charming as those made traditionally with beef (so long as you’re a meat eater), right? The same goes for burgers and meatloaf, though I do bet there are turkey variations that can be quite delicious in their own right.

The fun is to create something new with the white meat. To use it in a recipe, and even better in a cuisine, that boasts lots of unique and bold flavor. Asian comes to mind immediately. Lots of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, spicy chiles, and scallions.

These are Thai basil meatballs and they taste fantastic. I was inspired by a recipe I spotted in the most recent issue of Cooking Light. Though that one called for ground chicken, turkey is a natural swap.

Despite the leanness of the meat, these cook up tender and moist. The flavor is booming, too. A zestiness from garlic and ginger, a kick from Sriracha, and a fresh hit of minced basil. The sauce is light enough to not intimidate the flavor of the meatballs, but bright and sweet enough to lend balance.

I’d recommend them as either an appetizer, served with toothpicks and the sauce on the side for dipping, or as a main dish alongside fluffy, steamed rice.

In a large bowl, I combined ground turkey, minced fresh basil, minced scallions, garlic, ginger, panko bread crumbs, Sriracha, and lightly beaten egg whites.

Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs - a more flavorful and fun turkey meatball recipe!

I used my hands to blend all of the ingredients well, and then formed the mixture into balls roughly 1” in diameter.

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After placing them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, I brushed them olive oil and baked them for 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs - a more flavorful and fun turkey meatball recipe!

Next, I made a simple sauce by whisking soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, scallions, and cornstarch in a small saucepan and then bringing that mixture to a boil.

Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs - a more flavorful and fun turkey meatball recipe!

I let that bubble for about 3 minutes, until it was thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.


When I was ready to serve the meatballs, I laid them on a bed of lettuce and drizzled the sauce over them.

Ready, set, eat.

Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs

Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 214kcal


For the spicy garlic sauce:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili sauce Sambal Oelek
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • ½ cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons hot chili sauce I like Sambal Oelek
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 large egg whites


  • Make the sauce: Whisk all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2-3 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside.
  • Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and use your hands to form even balls roughly 1-inch in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet and bake them for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Serve the meatballs with sauce, either for dipping as an appetizer, or on top, as an entree.


Nutrition Information for Meatballs WITH Sauce: Calories 214, Fat 3g, Carb 17g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 4g, Protein 30g
Nutrition Information for Meatballs Plain: Calories 196, Fat 3g, Carb 12g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 2g, Protein 29g


Calories: 214kcal | Fat: 3g




54 thoughts on “Thai Basil Turkey Meatballs

  1. Ali

    Oh, glory!!!! Will be trying this weekend! Very nice! Your blog is new to me and I’m beginning to look forward to them! Phew! Sigh…

  2. Apicius' Apprentice

    I’m actually a fan of ground turkey, so this is a welcome recipe to try out! It sounds like you were able to find a flavor combination with enough “umph” to convince a skeptic! Looking forward to trying it out :)

  3. Jenn

    I’ve never really been a fan of ground turkey, but those look sooo good! I think I’m going to have to give them a try. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kaori

    Hi Andrea,
    I’ve been checking your site from time to time since you were featured on WordPress, I think. (These days I have a hard time remembering how I found who. :) ) You have a wonderful blog and great recipes! I tried this yesterday and it came out fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. johnny

    I started reading your blog after seeing your article in a magazine while waiting in the docs office.(he was about to tell me I had to loose 90lbs!) All the blogs (and articles) seem to be for women, but I couldn’t stop reading yours. I have laughed so loud, your humor and advice is the best and has motivated me to start loosing.You’re making loosing weight fun! Your recipes are great and I can’t wait to try this one.Looking forward daily to your blog!

  6. Linda

    Just got finished making this recipie. It’s wonderful! A little heat a little sweet and just right! It was a little labor intense, but like you said…if I made this ahead over the weekend it would be a snap. I’m serving it with some leftover Chinese rice, left over green beans and a salad. Can’t wait till dinner!!

  7. Lilli

    Poor disparaged turkey ;) I cook with it frequently; but always in a dish with tons herbs, spices, sauce of some sort etc. because you’re absolutely right….dulls-ville otherwise. These look absolutely delicious! The sauce alone has me drooling just a little and wondering if I should change tomorrow’s chicken lettuce wraps to thai basil meatballs. Yum!

  8. Judy H

    They look YUMMY! My hubby loves Thai flavors, so I’m sure he’d love these. One quick question – I noticed that in the top portion with the step-by-step picture instructions, you say to bring the sauce to a boil and reduce it unitl it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but then in the written section you say to just mix the ingredients and set it aside. I’m guessing it can be served either way? Or maybe you just forgot to tell us to reduce the sauce in the written section? Thank you for the recipe! I’m sure I’ll be making it soon! :)

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  10. Cindy


    I doubled the batch and after nibbling on a few of these heavenly bites, we decided to freeze them for a dinner soon to be announced!

    LOVE the flavors. The ginger, the onion (I used Leek) and hot chili sauce!

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  12. Laura V

    I made these, rolled them up and put them on a cookie sheet and froze them – then just dumped them in a freezer bag. Now They’re ready to go -just cook and serve with your sauce recipe and some rice.
    I cooked a teaspoon of the meatball mixture to check the flavor -they’re perfect!!

  13. Jeannette

    I’m not sure what I got wrong on the sauce, but even before reducing it was already plenty thick enough. I ended up adding some chicken stock and more soy sauce to thin it a bit.

    BUT HOLY CRAP YUM! And I HATE ground turkey. But these meatballs rocked my socks. I also used a little less Sriracha (I’m a rooster n00b, also missing a galbladder) and it was still plenty punchy for my palette. My mom recommendation is to cut the Sriracha in half for kids’ consumption.

    Nutrition info (according to, FWIW) is: (for 1/4) 292 calories, 13 g fat, 38 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 30 g protein.

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  17. spotted gum

    I’m extremely inspired along with your writing abilities and also with the structure in your weblog. Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it yourself? Either way stay up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great weblog like this one today..

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  19. Veronica

    These are awesome! My family loved them. I will be making them again as an appetizer for a party I am hosting this holiday season.

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  22. Shan

    I found this recipe on pinterest and would like to try it. One question…I have all the ingredients on hand except the fish sauce. Would they still come out good without it? Thanks.

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  25. Stacy

    Made these tonight with what I had in my kitchen (cilantro and red onion instead of green onion and basil). They were great! Thanks for another great recipe!

  26. Tammy

    What if you put these on skewers? That could be a fun twist. I even seen a recipe for Thai chicken on skewers and the ‘skewers” were lemongrass stocks. Just an idea. I have been making a lot of Thai food lately and the only thing in my freezer right now is ground turkey. I think I will give these a try. Thanks!

  27. Shira

    I’d love to make these this week, I bought the ground turkey and everything (because it was on sale actually) but I don’t have breadcrumbs! I couldn’t find them… Could I leave them out?? Or just grind up a few piece of toast?

    1. Andie Mitchell Post author

      Hey Shira!

      Yes, you can just toss a slice or two of your favorite bread into the food processor and grind it into crumbs and use that. Just measure it out to get the same amount as called for in the recipe. I’m sure that since the fresh bread is softer than the dried store-bought breadcrumbs, the meatballs might be a little moister and less firm, but that might actually be a good thing :)


  28. Kristin

    I had my ground turkey all set to make stuffed peppers and forgot to buy the peppers! So I googled the ingredients I had and stumbled across your recipe. So glad I did they were FANTASTIC! I was blown away by how flavorful and moist list they were using the leanest of ground turkey. Thanks for the recipe I’ll be bookmarking your site :-)

    Kristin Todd

  29. Maria

    I made these last night after reading the great reviews – not sure what I did wrong (I followed the recipe exactly) but they were not good at all. The turkey still was flavorless – needs salt and there was way too much garlic in the sauce, the result being a spicy, overly garlic-tasting, meatball that drastically needed some plain salt and pepper.

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  33. Carol Hansen

    Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire is all I can say! Andie, these are so fabulous! Scallions, garlic and ginger were flying everywhere as I was chopping away and drinking San Pellegrino with a squeeze of lime…I really should have had opera on instead of HGTV! I will be serving these as an appetizer for my next soiree! (accent mark over the first e). Tonight will be Coconut Curry Chicken..can’t wait..I can hear the opera music already:) XOXOXO

  34. Kathy

    In the meatball section of the recipe, it says “2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh” (fresh what?) I want to try the recipe but don’t want to risk leaving out an important ingredient. Thanks.


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