by Olena

Thai Meatballs

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Olena Osipov

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This healthy Thai meatballs recipe is inspired by many of the best flavors Thai cuisine has to offer. In one little bite-sized meatball, you’ve got flavors from curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, basil, green onions, and coconut milk! Jam-packed with scrumptiousness, these sweet, savory, and spicy meatballs are made in one skillet in under 1 hour. Enjoy a bowl on their own or served over rice, noodles, or quinoa for a complete, delicious Thai-inspired, healthy dinner!

Skipping the take-out and making restaurant-quality dinners right at home is my favourite way to eat! Celebrating cultural influences and creating recipes out of them is part of what makes creating recipes so much fun. Chicken curry, Ukrainian borscht, and Italian pasta salad are just a few of my family’s favourites!

thai turkey meatballs with red curry sauce being poured on it

Healthy Thai Meatballs

Sometimes you’ll see meatballs smothered in tomato sauce, which is great for spaghetti and meatballs, but these are different! Much like my slow cooker porcupine meatballs, these can be eaten on their own with a toothpick for an appetizer, like our Mexican meatballs, or as a main dish with a side of rice or quinoa, just like our Turkey quinoa meatballs, both smothered in amazing sauces. They don’t require hours of simmering just cooked in a skillet in 30 minutes, and you can have a complete, healthy, protein and veggie-packed dinner that everyone will crave again and again!

Skip the take-out and make these at home. The flavours rival any Thai restaurant dish, but this version contains no eggs, bread, or breadcrumbs! Through making my zucchini turkey burger and healthy Turkey meatballs, I found that shredded zucchini makes any ground meat juicier so, these meatballs are as moist as they come. They bind together well and won’t fall apart on you either.

I usually use venison for this recipe, but I realize not everyone hunts, so there are definitely other options like turkey, beef, chicken, and buffalo that will work as well. Customize them how you like them, and watch how quickly these irresistible little meatballs disappear. Don’t forget to sop up all the sauce as well!

Why This Recipe for Thai Turkey Meatballs Work?

  • Signature Thai flavours that everyone loves can be tasted in these aromatic meatballs which makes them DELICIOUS!
  • An easy version made right in the skillet. Just combine, sear, and cook in the sauce until done.
  • Moist meatballs without eggs or breadcrumbs which means if you’re using certified gluten free fish sauce these meatballs are gluten free! Dairy free too because we’re using coconut milk.
  • Healthier than your typical meatball. Added zucchini for moisture which means every bite has some veggie in it.
  • A quick and easy dinner idea and leftovers can be enjoyed the next day.

Ingredients for Thai Curry Meatballs

  • Ground turkey – On its own ground turkey is quite dry but it works with this Thai curry meatballs recipe because of all of the moisture and flavors that hold their own. You can also use venison, beef, or chicken.
  • Zucchini – Grated and squeezed of excess moisture, this is a key player in keeping moisture locked in and adding tons of flavour.
  • Fish sauce – A lovely salty condiment that is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes. Will be used in the meatballs as well as the sauce.
  • Green onions – Finely chopped, green onions add the fresh vibrant onion flavouring without overpowering.
  • Fresh basil – Finely chopped basil adds a freshness like the green onions however without the pungence.
  • Fresh ginger – Grated. Also a staple ingredient in so many Asian inspired dishes. Add it to the complex flavour combination of these ingredients and they all work in harmony. It’s amazing!
  • Garlic cloves – Grated fresh garlic goes hand in hand with the ginger.
  • Red curry paste – A spicy, sour, and salty flavourful paste, used widely in Asian cooking. A delicious addition to both meatballs and the sauce.
  • Coconut milk – I like Thai Kitchen coconut milk because it doesn’t come with a bunch of unnecessary ingredients, but any will work. Will be used in the meatballs for moisture as well as the base for the sauce.
  • Red pepper flakes – To kick up the heat a notch. The amount can be adjusted to your preference in the meatballs and the sauce.
  • Cooking spray – I use Misto because it’s essentially olive oil which is a healthier option.
  • Tomato paste – Concentrated tomato purée adds colour as well as helps to thicken up the sauce and add tomato flavour to it as well.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – An optional ingredient that may take a little hunting for either online or in any Asian food market. They are sold dry and last forever, but they’re completely optional. Just a way to take it up a notch!
thai turkey meatballs recipe

How to Make Thai Turkey Meatballs

  1. Combine Thai meatball ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine meatball ingredients and mix with your hands thoroughly. Make 28 meatballs by scooping out 1 tbsp of mixture and rolling it between your hands into a ball. Lay on a cutting board or plate. Set aside.
  2. Whisk Thai sauce ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients ingredients for the sauce and set aside. Add as many hot pepper flakes as you like. Kaffir lime leaves are optional, but it give the sauce a nice sweet touch. You can find them dried, in any asian store or online (they last forever).
  3. Preheat a large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add Thai turkey meatballs and cook until brown or for 2-3 minutes, turning a few times. No need to cook the meatballs through as they will continue to cook in the sauce. 
  4. Add the sauce. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. 
  5. Serve warm. Brown rice or brown rice noodles are perfect to complete this Thai curry meatballs meal. Add garnish like fresh cilantro and green onions. We served these turkey zucchini meatballs with organic short grain brown rice. You can easily get away with whole wheat spaghetti or even quinoa

For more Thai menu inspiration, check out my simple, sweet and spicy, Google-winning Thai salmon.

Optional Add-In’s and Variations

  • Swap the turkey for ground chicken, ground beef, venison, or buffalo. You’ll find that ground chicken and ground turkey are probably the least moist and flavourful, but with the number of tasty ingredients in thisThai meatball recipe, there is no wrong choice.
  • Use full fat or milk or even coconut cream for a thicker, richer sauce. It will contain more calories, but so worth it!
  • If you like the heat but don’t have any red pepper flakes, you can use chili paste, sriracha sauce, or for a sweet and spicy combination, Thai sweet chili sauce.

Tips for Best Results

  • Make sure to squeeze all of the excess water out of the zucchini. While it does help with adding moisture, too much liquid can cause problems in keeping the meatball intact, since there are no breadcrumbs to absorb it.
  • To avoid the meatball mixture sticking to your hands, wet them (your hands, not the meat) a little before rolling into balls.
  • If you are using ground turkey, try and see if you can get dark meat. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t, but it will help to add extra moisture.
  • The colder your meat, the easier it is to maintain its meatball structure.

FAQs

How do you keep meatballs from falling apart?

These meatballs don’t use any binding agents like eggs or breadcrumbs so we need to use a little finesse. Use cold meat straight out of the fridge. The colder it is, the easier it will be to maintain its structure before cooking. Squeeze excess liquid out of the zucchini and don’t overpower the meatball ingredients with too many “bigger” ingredients. You want to leave the meat as the main portion of the meatball, so when it says “finely chop or grated” follow that direction!

Is it better to bake or fry meatballs?

That depends on what your goal is. Baked is deemed healthier because there’s no frying in any extra oil. There is also no grease splatter and easier clean-up. However, fried is the more traditional version and is typically a faster way to cook them. You also don’t need a ton of oil to fry them. So, in the end, it’s a matter of preference.

How long can raw Thai turkey meatballs stay in the fridge?

Roll them up and store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook them. It’ll make things go a lot faster later on!

Are Thai curry meatballs similar to Vietnamese meatballs?

Yes, they are. This Thai meatball recipe can be used with a variety of different meats while Vietnamese meatballs are typically made with beef or pork. Outside of that, there are, of course, slight variations but the overall essence of the sweet, spicy, sour flavour profile is quite similar.

Can I omit the fish sauce in this Thai meatball recipe?

Sure you can. It does add a delicious taste, but you can omit it or replace it with soy sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, or coconut aminos instead.

Serving Recommendations

Rice or grain bowl: Place in a bowl with cooked brown rice (or cilantro coconut brown rice) or cooked quinoa (Instant Pot or stovetop).

Low carb: For maximum Asian flavor make or Thai Cauliflower Rice or make plain cauliflower rice.

Vegetable sides: Steamed or roasted vegetables.

Salad: Asian slaw or a green leafy salad with Asian dressing.

Making Thai Meatball Recipe in Advance

Make Ahead: Combine meatball ingredients, shape into balls and then, also combine sauce ingredients, store covered separately in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. On the day you plan to cook them, proceed with recipe instructions.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.

More Thai Inspired Recipes to Try

Thai Meatballs

Thai Meatballs {30 Minutes}

This healthy Thai meatballs recipe is inspired by many of the best flavors Thai cuisine has to offer. In one little bite-sized meatball, you've got flavors from curry paste, fish sauce, ginger, basil, green onions, and coconut milk! Jam-packed with scrumptiousness, these sweet, savory, and spicy meatballs are made in one skillet in 30 minutes. Enjoy a bowl on their own or served over rice, noodles, or quinoa for a complete, delicious Thai-inspired, healthy dinner!
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Thai
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 28 meatballs
Calories: 51kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

For Thai Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 cup zucchini shredded & liquid squeezed out
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup green onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp basil finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ginger grated
  • 2 garlic cloves grated
  • 1 tsp red curry paste
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk light (canned)
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Cooking spray I use Misto

For Thai Meatballs Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk light (canned)
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes more to taste
  • 5-6 dried kaffir lime leaves optional**

Instructions

  • In a medium bowl, combine Thai Meatballs ingredients and mix with your hands thoroughly. Make 28 meatballs by spooning heaping 1 tbsp of mixture and rolling between your hands. Lay on a cutting board or plate. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together Thai Meatballs Sauce ingredients and set aside.
  • Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add meatballs and cook until brown or for 2-3 minutes, turning a few times. No need to cook the meatballs through.
    Thai Meatballs
  • Add the sauce, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Serve warm with brown rice or brown rice noodles. Add garnish like fresh cilantro and green onions.
    Thai Meatballs

Make Ahead: Make meatballs and sauce up to 24 hours in advance. Store covered separately in the fridge.

    Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

      Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.

        Notes

        • Meat variation: Use any meat you have on hand. We cook a lot of game meat, so I used venison for this recipe. You can also use turkey, beef, chicken or buffalo.
        • Kaffir lime leaves: You can buy kaffir lime leaves in any Asian store or online. They are sold dried and last forever in a sealed container. If you don’t have any, omit.
        • Coconut milk: Can be full fat or a coconut cream, just sauce will be more rich and higher in calories which is fine too.

        Nutrition

        Serving: 1meatball | Calories: 51kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 96mg | Potassium: 113mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 111IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg
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        olena osipov in the studio

        Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

        My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

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