When dreaming up these Indian style meatballs, I took inspiration from my chicken tikka masala. I wanted to mimic the flavors of the more involved tikka masala and tweak the recipe for a weeknight friendly dinner. First I made a tomato based sauce flavored with onions, garlic, ginger and spices. I swapped out the heavy cream and added coconut milk, for a healthier twist. While the sauce simmered to perfection, I made the turkey meatballs.
To avoid bland meatballs I seasoned the meat with the same spices I used for the sauce. I liquified half an onion in a food processor before adding it to the meat. The onion added tremendous flavor and kept the meat nice and moist. To further prevent dry meatballs, I added eggs and panko breadcrumbs to the mix. A quick turn under the broiler added some color to the meatballs before they finished cooking in the curry.
The aroma of the curry wafted through the house and the first bite proved recipe success! I recommend serving the meatballs and curry with a side of roasted cauliflower or spooned on top of basmati [brown] rice. If you’re short on time or don’t feel like making the curry, you can bake the meatballs in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until fully cooked (about 15-20 minutes). Serve the naked meatballs as is, over salad, or with a store-bought curry of your choice.
Try this recipe the next time you want to spice up your turkey meatball repertoire! I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I do.
Kosher salt (if you’re using table salt, use less salt than the recipe requires)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1, 28-ounce can plum tomatoes (such as San Marzano)
½ of a 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (I use the Trader Joe’s brand because it’s particularly creamy)
1 Tablespoon honey
Coconut oil spray or other cooking spray
2 pounds ground turkey, 93% lean (anything more lean will be too dry)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (if you’re using table salt, reduce this amount by half)
Make the sauce:
In a small mixing bowl combine the garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cayenne pepper. Set aside for now, you’ll use half of this in the sauce and half in the meatballs.
Chop the onion in half. Reserve half of the onion for the meatballs.
Chop the other half of the onion into large chunks and place in a food processor. Add the ginger and garlic to the food processor and pulse until the aromatics are roughly chopped, about 20 pulses.
Note: you’ll smooth out the sauce later with an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, keep pulsing the food processor until the aromatics are finely chopped. Don’t want to use a food processor? Mince the aromatics by hand using a knife.
Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a shallow dutch oven or heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat until the oil ripples, 3 minutes.
Add the minced onion mixture to the pan along with ½ teaspoon salt.
Cook and stir over medium heat until the onions have softened and are starting to brown, 8-10 minutes. Keep a large cup of water near you to deglaze the pan if the bottom gets too brown at any point.
Add half of the spice mixture and all of the chili pepper flakes to the onions. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste has turned dark reddish brown, 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with water whenever necessary.
Add the canned tomatoes and their juices to the pan along with the coconut milk, 1 teaspoon salt, and honey.
Before the sauce gets too hot, use an immersion blender to blend the tomatoes and onion chunks.
Note: You can also forgo this step and keep a more chunky sauce, just be sure to break the tomatoes down using a wooden spoon.
Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes while you prepare the meatballs.
Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally with a wooden spoon, scraping up any bits that may get stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Make the meatballs:
Move an oven rack to the top third of the oven.
Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray, set aside.
Chop the remaining half of the onion into large chunks and place half in a food processor. Pulse the onion until it’s fully grated and nearly liquified.
Pour the grated onion and it’s liquid into a large mixing bowl.
Add the remaining half of the spice mixture, the ground turkey, eggs, cilantro, panko breadcrumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt to the large mixing bowl.
Use your hand to fully combine the meatball mixture.
Note: I use food safe gloves to make this part less messy.
Use a #24 ice cream scooper to portion out 3-Tablespoon sized meatballs.
Place the meatballs side by side on the prepared baking sheet and spray the tops of the meatballs with cooking spray.
Cook under the broiler just until the tops of the meatballs are golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Electric broilers will take longer to brown the meat than gas flame broilers so check the meat after 3 minutes.
Remove the browned meatballs from the oven.
Add the turkey meatballs to the sauce. Let the sauce and meat simmer together until the meatballs are fully cooked, about 20 minutes.
Taste the sauce and adjust the salt or add a bit of honey if the sauce is too acidic.
Serve with rice or roasted vegetables.
If you don’t feel like making the curry sauce you can bake the meatballs completely in the oven using this change: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the meatballs until fully cooked, 15-20 minutes.
Then just serve the naked meatballs on top of salad, on their own, or with your favorite store-bought jar of curry (Trader Joe’s makes a killer curry simmer sauce).