I love meatballs. They are the best kind of burger if you ask me. Pssst, ask me! 🙋🏻♀️ While I haven’t met a meatball I didn’t want to try, this recipe is the one I make the most. My version here started with Greek salad-inspired ingredients, but the options are abundant. What you won’t want to do is skip the dill yogurt sauce that has taken its rightful place as this meatball’s sidekick. The meatballs and this sauce together make lettuce wraps or rice bowls one of my most requested meals at work and home. Keep reading for all my updated tips and tricks, and slide this gluten-free meatball recipe to the top of your whats-for-dinner list. You’ll be so glad you did!
Cooking felt sad and impossible when I first began understanding my gluten allergy, especially since my favorite foods will always be pizza or meatballs of any kind. 🥰 Who’s with me? I knew I had to keep trying meatball recipes and find a way to make one that wasn’t dense, dry, or falling apart.
Good news, some experiments turn out like this …
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While this recipe was a success, all kitchen attempts can be helpful, even the ones that fail.
How to make meatballs that are juicy and don’t fall apart:
Gluten-free or not, you will need these four components to make the best meatball recipe.
- Binders – something to hold the meatball together besides meat, or you will have a dense and hard-packed mini brick of protein.
- Moisture – often a panade, a paste of bread and milk made to give moisture to the meatball and help bind it together, as said above. (I found a great substitution!👇)
- Seasoning – from salt and pepper to herbs and sauces like Worcestershire. Meat needs flavor, period. And often, a little salt and pepper is just the ticket.
- Fat is first for flavor but also assists with moisture and binding. Adding oil is especially important if using leaner meat or grass-fed beef cuts.
If you’ve ever made meatballs, meatloaf, or hamburgers without the right amount of fat, egg, moisture, or quality meat, you know that meat can be dense or fall apart into small clumps. Altogether, I wanted a light meatball with enough moisture and fat to bind it together. While the traditional binders are usually bread, I wanted to have a crumb-free meatball if possible.
Keep reading to see what I discovered. 🙌
What ingredients make this the best gluten-free meatball recipe?
- Ground pork and turkey! Comparatively, ground turkey white meat is lean and can sometimes be bland and dry on its own. I like to add ground pork for a little more fat and flavor.
- Olive oil and an egg! Both help with binding, texture, and flavor.
- A grated cucumber that’s been peeled and seeded! It’s my secret ingredient for moisture within the meatballs and no added textures or tastes once baked.
These meatballs can be the star of a dinner bowl, an appetizer on a toothpick, lunch held in a sturdy lettuce cup, or a hand-held snack on your way out the door. They’re classy or casual. And while they are delicious on their own, we can’t seem to serve them without this dill yogurt sauce.
While my original sauce was simple and tart with yogurt, lemon juice, zest, and mint or dill, I’ve updated it with just a few more ingredients, and it’s become a favorite for here, there, and also on top of this burger.
What do we serve with these gluten-free meatballs?
- Chop-chop salad with any version of these ingredients: romaine or kale or red cabbage, kalamata olives, feta, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, fennel, green or red onions, and/or garbanzo beans. NOTE: When I serve chop-chop salad and this gluten-free meatball recipe together or in the same week, we naturally use some of the same ingredients, and nothing goes to waste!
- Lettuce wraps garnished with scallions, olives, red peppers, yogurt sauce, dill, or mint.
- Our favorite oven-baked white rice + a mini chop-chop side salad or garnish.
- Any of these sauces for the table: dill yogurt sauce below, hummus, vinaigrette, or all three!
Needless to say, we’ve been eating these gluten-free meatballs around here for years.
Let’s make them!
Gluten-free meatball recipe: Greek meatballs with lemon yogurt sauce
- 1 lb ground turkey or chicken, dark or light meat
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded cucumber (peeled and seeded first)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, green and white parts
- 1/4 cup crumbled or finely chopped feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dry
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, more for brushing pan
- 1/4 teaspoon salt – optional for the lightest sprinkling on tops of meatballs before broiling
- Lettuce wraps like romaine leaves
- Additional chopped red peppers, cucumbers, green onions, feta, kalamata olives, and herbs like mint or dill.
Dill Yogurt Sauce
- Dump all ingredients in a small bowl and stir together. Refrigerate or set aside until ready to eat.
- Preheat oven to broil and lightly brush a broiling pan or cookie sheet with some avocado oil or oil that can withstand high heat.
- In a large bowl, combine both types of meat using two forks. Mix by pulling the meat apart with forks just until combined. Don't over-mix.
- Add the remaining meatball ingredients and gently mix with forks. Evenly distribute ingredients.
- Using a small scoop or heaping tablespoon, scoop together meatballs about the size of a golf ball. Set on the prepared pan. You should have 16-20 meatballs depending on the size you want them.
- Brush the tops of each meatball lightly with avocado oil and a very slight sprinkle of salt. (I use one pinch of salt over the whole pan of raw meatballs, barely any!)
- Broil on a rack about 6 inches from the top of your oven for 4-6 minutes. Remove from oven, turn each meatball, brush with avocado oil (optional, and broil for 5 minutes longer until browned and cooked through. To check the internal temperature of a meatball, use 160-165° as your guide. If you are using olive oil and don't want to broil your meatballs, you can bake them at 375°- 400° for 15-20 minutes.
- Serve meatballs with lettuce wraps and dill yogurt dressing. Top with olives, red peppers, cucumbers, onions, and herbs.
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Gluten-Free Meatball Recipe FAQ
Yes, you can! I’ve tried ground chicken or beef to replace the ground turkey portion and both work. You can also use all of one kind of meat, like all ground turkey and no pork. If you do, I like to find ground turkey dark meat for at least half instead of all white so it’s less dry, or add another teaspoon of olive oil to the mixture for moisture.
If I have avocado oil on hand, I broil these meatballs as noted in this recipe. Avocado oil can withstand high temperatures, up to 475°-500°, so it’s safer for broiling. When oils are heated past their smoking point, they release harmful byproducts and ruin the flavor of your food.
You can bake these meatballs and broil them. See the recipe for details. I never pan-fried this meatball, but you could. Pan-frying meatballs require more oil and could fall apart when flipped. None of these things will affect the taste, so try it.
For sure! Skip the feta cheese, and these meatballs will be dairy-free. I make these meatballs both ways.
You can try other vegetables for the 1/4 cup of red pepper and the 1/4 cup of scallions. I’ve tried chopped raw or sauteed fennel, chopped or sauteed shallots, and shredded zucchini instead of either vegetable here. While you can skip the cucumber, you’ll have a more dense meatball.
I like to eat these meatballs within three days of baking or freeze them.
Yes! We make ahead, freeze, and thaw in the refrigerator before reheating. I like to reheat thawed and room-temperature meatballs covered in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes.
This sauce is best eaten within a couple of hours but can be eaten for up to a day or two. I like it fresh, and if making ahead, I prefer to prep some parts and stir them together before we eat. For example, I might leave out garlic, shallots, and herbs until an hour before serving!
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Last Updated on July 7, 2023 by Heather Bursch