Can you air fry turkey meatballs? Yes! This air fryer turkey meatball recipe is going to be your new favorite weeknight dinner idea. It’s low carb, keto, low calorie, gluten free, packed with veggies and protein, and absolutely delicious! You’ll look like a rockstar whipping up from scratch meatballs and tomato sauce on the fly, but it’s so easy. And if you don’t have an air fryer, you’ll learn to make these ground turkey meatballs on the stovetop too!
When creating a recipe, sometimes you have a flop or two before you find the magic. That was definitely the story with these air fried turkey meatballs.
My intention was to create a healthy meatball with zoodles meal by cooking meatballs and sauce together in the air fryer. It just didn’t work. (Note: “zoodles” is another name for spiralized zucchini or zucchini “noodles.”)
The air fryer evaporated most of the moisture in the sauce before the meatballs fully cooked. Additionally, the meatballs needed to be in the air fryer a LONG time. They were taking longer than they’d take in a regular oven or on the stovetop. Fail!
For version 2 of making turkey meatballs in the air fryer, I tried air frying meatballs without tomato sauce. They were fully cooked in only 12 minutes!
So, the moral of the story is to make your air fryer ground turkey meatballs by themselves. Heat the sauce on the stovetop, and some veggie spirals too.
It will be a couple of extra pans to clean, but you’ll have a full meal that’s ready fast.
And if you don’t want to make this into an Italian-inspired meal, you have options! Serve the turkey meatballs with BBQ sauce, or tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip with cucumbers). Make this recipe your own!
📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of this air fryer turkey meatballs recipe has 479 calories, 23.7 grams net carbs, and 53.6 grams protein. This nutrition information includes the sauce and zoodles. It’s a lot of food!
What are the benefits of turkey meatballs? Turkey is leaner than certain cuts of beef and pork, and lower in saturated fat. If you avoid beef or pork due to religious or cultural reasons, turkey can be a terrific alternative.
Here are a few more reasons to love this air fryer recipe:
- No breadcrumbs: Unlike a lot of turkey meatball recipes, these are meatballs with no grains. As a result, they’re keto, low carb, and gluten free. (You can make them Whole30 and Paleo by swapping out the Parmesan cheese with more almond flour.)
- Weight watchers: This air fryer meatball recipe is WW friendly and low calorie. You're getting whole foods here, and nothing has been deep fried.
- Meal prep: These air fryer meatballs freeze well, so why not make some as part of your meal prep? They’re so versatile they can work as a snack, appetizer, or main dish!
- Fast: Raw turkey meatballs air fry to a safe temperature in a mere 12 minutes. They’re completely cooked in about the time it takes to preheat the oven!
- Lean protein: Turkey meatballs are packed with lean, high-quality protein. They’re also rich in an assortment of essential vitamins and minerals that will help you stay healthy.
- Easy clean up: Air fryer baskets and trays tend to be easier to clean than pots and pans. It’s a big advantage of air fryer cooking, IMVHO.
- Tasty: It’s nice that this delicious bowl of comfort food is also good for you! That’s my favorite kind of meal!
Here’s what you need to make low carb turkey meatballs in an air fryer:
- Lean ground turkey (99% fat free turkey mince)
- Almond flour
- Large egg
- Finely chopped fresh parsley
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Grated Parmesan
- Cooking oil spray
Lean turkey is a great way to save calories but it doesn’t brown well in the air fryer. The almond flour solves the dryness issue. It adds healthy fat and helps keep the turkey moist and juicy while keeping the meatballs low in oil.
Here’s what you’ll need to make a quick homemade tomato sauce for turkey meatballs:
- Olive oil
- Chopped onion
- Finely chopped garlic cloves
- Strained tomatoes
- Finely chopped fresh basil
- Crushed red pepper
- Sea salt
We’ll be serving the meatballs over a bed of spiralized zucchini and garnishing the dish with a sprinkle of Parm. If you are in a time crunch, use a jar of sauce and buy zucchini that has already been spiralized. That way, you’ll need to do little else to make this meal other than cook the turkey meatballs.
I actually did buy fresh zucchini that had already been spiralized to make this recipe. It was a huge time-saver. (Trader Joe’s and most major grocery stores carry this in the produce section.)
To make air fryer turkey meatballs, you’ll need a meat thermometer and (wait for it) an air fryer. The sauce is made in a cast-iron skillet and I use a separate wok for the zucchini noodles.
I use a 10-Quart Kalorik Air Fryer Oven, but I only needed one air fryer tray to cook the meatballs. If you have an air fryer basket, you may be able to get them all to fit without cooking multiple batches. (That said, you want the air to freely circulate in the air fryer, so don’t crowd them!)
Your Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Pampered Chef Air Fryer, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Philips, Power Air Fryer, etc. can make turkey meatballs. Always keep a close eye on the food the first time you try a new recipe. You may need to slightly adjust air frying times if you use a different air fryer than I do.
To save yourself some clean-up, you could get microwave-in-bag frozen zoodles instead of fresh. If you can’t find precut zucchini noodles, you’ll need to make your own. The spiralizer I use can be purchased on Amazon.
🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Turkey Meatballs
Let's talk about how to air fry turkey meatballs! In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the turkey, almond flour, egg, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and grated Parmesan. Use clean hands and prepare to get messy!
Form the mixture into 16 meatballs. Try to make the turkey meatballs uniform in size so they’ll be done air frying at the same time. They were around 2 tablespoons each.
Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200C) for 5 minutes. Carefully remove a hot air fryer tray and spray it with cooking spray.
Place the turkey meatballs in a non-touching single layer on the tray. Spray the turkey meatballs with cooking spray. Put the tray back in the air fryer oven, in the top rack position.
️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
What temp to air fry turkey meatballs? Air fry turkey meatballs in a preheated air fryer for a total of 12 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200C). Flip the meatballs after 7 minutes (no need to spray them with more cooking oil spray).
After air frying, check the turkey meatballs with a meat thermometer to ensure they are fully cooked. The safe minimum internal temp for poultry is 165F (74C).
While the meatballs cook, soften the onions in olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop. It will take 5-8 minutes in a cast-iron skillet. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, and salt.
Let the sauce come to a simmer and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer while the meatballs finish cooking. You can keep the sauce on the heat for up to 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
The goal with zucchini noodles is to heat them gently. If you cook them thoroughly, they will get mushy.
Heat raw zucchini noodles in an oil-misted wok over medium heat for 2-4 minutes. I cooked them in two batches. They will not look done, but they will soften more once you top them with tomato sauce.
To serve, divide the zoodles between three plates. Top with the air fried turkey meatballs (yup, someone gets an extra!) and the tomato sauce. A sprinkle of Parm (and maybe some finely chopped fresh parsley) finishes the dish. Enjoy!
🔥 Stovetop Directions
You can make turkey meatballs on the stovetop as well! After mixing and shaping your meatballs, mist a cast-iron skillet with cooking oil spray. Brown the meatballs for 8-10 minutes in the skillet over medium heat, turning them so that they brown on all sides.
Remove the meatballs from the skillet and set them aside. Add the olive oil and chopped onions to the skillet and soften for 5-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, and salt.
Add the meatballs to the sauce in a single layer. Cover the skillet and cook over med-low heat until the meatballs are cooked through. This can take up to 30 minutes.
Check your meatballs for doneness with a meat thermometer. Remember, the safe minimum internal temperature for turkey is 165F (74C).
Heat the zucchini noodles and serve as described in the previous section. YUM!
How long do turkey meatballs last? Leftover turkey meatballs will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. I like to keep the turkey meatballs and sauce in separate containers until serving time. (Obviously, this is not possible if you made the entire recipe on the stovetop.)
Turkey meatballs and sauce also freeze well. Freeze the meatballs and sauce in separate containers, and pick up some packs of frozen spiralized zucchini. This is a great way to have a healthy heat-and-eat meal on hand when there’s no time to cook!
🥗 Side Dishes
What goes with turkey meatballs made in the air fryer? This recipe adds spaghetti sauce and zoodles to make a complete meal.
You could also make turkey meatball subs by serving them in hoagie rolls with the tomato sauce. Regular pasta can (of course) be used in place of the zoodles.
Here are some other sides that go with turkey meatballs:
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Cauliflower rice or brown rice
- Air Fryer Squash
- Broccoli, spinach (Have you checked out the Air Fryer Frozen Vegetables recipe?)
- Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash
- Garden salads
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). You're getting a huge, filling meal for under 500 calories with these air fried turkey meatballs and sauce. Zoodles are a simple way to get a veggie-filled meal and make good use of summer squash. Whether your goal is weight loss or you are just looking to eat more veggies, this is the recipe for you.
If you dislike zucchini, some other options for spiralized veggies are butternut squash, beets, sweet potatoes, or carrots. Check both the fresh and freezer section of your grocery store to see the spiralized veggie options that are available. You could also use shirataki noodles, or one of the legume pastas (like Banza).
If you have higher energy needs, you can use a higher fat ground turkey or beef to make the meatballs. Consider making the recipe with whole grain noodles instead of zucchini noodles if you need more calories. Another option is to add a side of my Air Fryer Garlic Bread.
Yet another option is to experiment with this recipe and make air fryer mozzarella-stuffed turkey meatballs. Just make sure to seal the ground turkey well around the cheese, or you’ll create a mess in the air fryer!
How long do I cook frozen meatballs in the air fryer, such as Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs? Check out my post on Frozen Meatballs in Air Fryer for directions on air frying frozen meatballs. I recommend coating the turkey meatballs in a couple of tablespoons of oil before air frying to help keep them moist.
To make this recipe for turkey meatballs in the Instant Pot, brown the meatballs for 8-10 minutes using the “saute” function. Then set the meatballs aside, saute the chopped onion, and add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Add the meatballs to the sauce and slow cook on high until the meatballs are cooked through.
If you have problems with your turkey meatballs falling apart, add more binders. These are things like flours (including almond flour), breadcrumbs and panko, oatmeal, cracker crumbs, eggs, chia gel, and flax gel.
Egg is used for binding (not leavening) in this turkey meatball air fryer recipe. A flax gel egg replacer should work just fine here if you need your air fryer turkey meatballs egg-free.
If we’re talking taste, many prefer fried meatballs, but that’s really subjective. In terms of health, baked meatballs win over deep frying. You can skip all the extra fat and calories from added oils when you bake meatballs.
The best way to make sure your turkey meatballs are fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Turkey meatballs should reach a minimum safe internal temperature of 165F (74C).
👩🏻🍳 More Air Fryer Turkey Recipes
Want more ideas for ways to cook turkey in the air fryer? Don’t miss these air fryer recipes:
You might also enjoy this Ground Turkey Jerky Recipe that is baked in the oven.
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Turkey Meatballs
For the turkey meatballs:
For the tomato sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 24-26 ounces strained tomatoes (680-737 grams)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- sea salt (to taste)
Other ingredients needed:
- 2 lbs spiralized zucchini (907 grams)
- garnish (optional; grated or shaved Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley)
- Cooking oil spray of choice
To air fry turkey meatballs:
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the following ingredients together with clean hands: turkey, almond flour, egg, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, and grated Parmesan.
- Form the turkey mixture into 16 uniform meatballs. They will be about 2 tablespoons each.
- Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for 5 minutes. Carefully remove a hot air fryer tray and spray it with cooking spray.
- Place the turkey meatballs in a non-touching single layer on the tray. Spray the turkey meatballs with cooking spray. Put the tray back in the air fryer oven, in the top rack position.
- Air fry for 12 minutes at 400°F (200°C), flipping after 7 minutes.
- After air frying, check the turkey meatballs with a meat thermometer to ensure they are fully cooked. The safe minimum internal temp for poultry is 165°F (74°C).
To make the tomato sauce:
- While the meatballs air fry, soften the onions in olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop. It will take 5-8 minutes in a cast-iron skillet. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper, and salt.
- Let the sauce come to a simmer and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer while the meatballs finish air frying. You can keep the sauce on the heat for up to 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
- Warm the spiralized zucchini in an oil-misted wok over medium heat, approximately 2-4 minutes. Turn the zucchini often as it warms with tongs for even heating. You may have to heat the zucchini in two batches. Don't overcook!
- To serve, divide the zoodles between three plates. Top with the air fried turkey meatballs (yup, someone gets an extra!) and the tomato sauce. A sprinkle of Parm (and maybe some finely chopped fresh parsley) finishes the dish. Enjoy!
To Make Stovetop Turkey MeatballsAfter mixing and shaping the meatballs, brown them for 8-10 minutes in an oil-misted skillet, turning them so that they brown on all sides. Remove meatballs from skillet and set them aside so that you can prepare the sauce. Soften the onion in olive oil in the skillet, as directed above. Stir in the rest of the sauce ingredients. Add the meatballs to the sauce in a single layer. Let the sauce come to a simmer and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and let the sauce simmer while the meatballs finish cooking. You can keep the sauce on the heat for up to 30 minutes. Check the meatballs with a meat thermometer to make sure they reached a minimum safe internal temp of 165°F (74°C). Prepare the zoodles and serve the meal as directed above. Nutrition information is for one serving and includes the sauce and zoodles.
This recipe has been updated from 2019 to include new photos, a recipe video, and more nutrition information. Enjoy!