Turkey Meatballs with Indian Spices


These meatballs get their inspiration from the chicken meatballs in Masala & Meatballs by Asha Shivakumar. I adapted her recipe to make it work with what I had in the house on a day I could not face the grocery store. Using ground turkey made my mixture quite soft so I chose to bake them as opposed to pan-frying.

Meatballs often call for white bread with the crusts removed, and most of the time I understand the reason why. Adding texture and volume with little change to the flavor profile. In the case of these meatballs I wanted to follow suit and kept the bread addition in the supporting roll. Lucky for me I had some brioche in my freezer. But, for other meatballs, depending on the vegetables and choice of spice, I will use the end of a loaf I have on hand. I like rye bread with ground pork, and whole wheat with ground beef. Also depending on the application, the idea of removing all crusts, unless I want a snack, seems wrong. I generally will remove some, but not all.



Makes sixteen 1 ½- to 2-inch meatballs

1 pound ground turkey thigh meat
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon with a Microplane grater)
Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 mild green chile (I used an Anaheim), seeds removed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste, preferably homemade
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup ½-inch bread cubes, from about 2 slices
3 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Small cilantro leaves or coarsely chopped cilantro, optional


Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Combine the turkey, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. Let sit while prepping the other ingredients.

Heat a film of oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and chile and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, lowering the heat to medium, if needed. Add the ginger garlic paste, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and coriander, and cook, stirring continuously until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, stir in ½ teaspoon of salt, and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, put the bread cubes in a medium bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of the cream until all of the cubes are moistened. Depending on the freshness of the bread, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream, and let sit until fairly soft. Break up with a fork and stir in the egg.

Add the bread-egg mixture and the cooled spiced onions and peppers to the bowl with the turkey.

Divide equally into 16 meatballs and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Combine the soy sauce and lemon juice in a large bowl.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and put in the soy mixture, carefully turn to coat the meatballs. Sprinkle with the cilantro, if using, and serve immediately.