Turkey-Lentil Meatballs

From about 2005-2009 I was hippie-ish. No patchouli oil, but I did eat super healthy (we’re talking mad tofu), rode my bike everywhere, desperately wanted my hair in Locs, tattooed a peace sign on my foot and had a warm spot in my heart for tie-dye. I blame it on Brooklyn.

These meatballs sound hippie-ish, no?

Ground turkey, lentils and even…(gasp)…oats. I know you’re all wondering how these meat-a-balls can taste anywhere near as good as your grandma’s ground beef, pork & veal joints. Hell, you may have even just been turned off by the title of this post.

I appreciate you for hanging on.

The fact of the matter is that even though these meatballs are truly very healthy, they are also truly better than any meatball I’ve ever had. Maybe I’m partial, but I encourage you to see what they’re all about.


So what’s up with the oats, anyway?

On a cold New York winter night I was making meatballs and realized I didn’t have any breadcrumbs. Or bread. You can bet your bottom dollar I wasn’t heading out in the snow to pick some up, either.  Alas, oats. I improvised. It worked. A star was born.

Over the years ground turkey & ground chicken have gradually taken the place of pretty much everything I would normally make with ground beef. It’s healthier, moister and as I mentioned in my Mexican Chorizo Tacos post, not many people can tell the difference. Including my Uncle Al whom I hope never reads this.

The lentils add a peppery kick and also aid in stretching out the yield (this means you save money). Now go make it rain.


Turkey-Lentil Meatballs


  • 1lb ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not Instant)
  • 1 cup green lentils, dried
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp Adobo
  • 1 tsp salt, Kosher
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried onion
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp basil, dried (double if using fresh)


  1. In a pot, cover lentils with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Drain throughly and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. In a large bowl, add all of the ingredients except the ground meat. Mix until well incorporated. Add the ground meat to the mixture while gently stirring. It’s important to not over work the meat. I usually use a large roast fork but your hands are a great alternative, too.
  4. Heat a pan with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Make a small, half-dollar-size patty and cook over medium-high heat until cooked through. This is your “test” meatball. When making meatballs, meatloaf, burgers, etc I always test a small portion of the mixture first to see if it needs any adjustments to the seasoning. Take the time to do this. It will save you from potentially bland meatballs & embarrassment.
  5. Once your cool with the taste, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to just cover the surface of the pan. I like using a combination of extra-virgin olive oil & coconut oil. The EVOO gives the meatballs flavor & the coconut oil increases the oil’s smoke point, helping prevent burnage.
  6. Once the oil is hot, form your meatballs. Because of the added moisture from the turkey & lentils, the mixture may be a little more wet than you’re used to. It’s all good.
  7. Add your meatballs, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. We want them to brown–not steam! It usually takes me two batches. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown. NOW LEMME TELL YA SUMMIN: The biggest mistake people make when trying to get a nice deep crispy sear on protein is being impatient. We try to flip the meat too soon. Chill baby chill. If you try to flip the meatball & it’s sticking to the pan it’s not ready. Continue to let it cook. Once the proteins are ready to let go you will be able to turn over your meat very easily.
  8. Once the meatballs are seared, place them in an oven-safe dish & add 1/2 cup water or stock. Cover loosely with foil and place in the oven until cooked, about 30 minutes.

What I love about these meatballs is that they freeze very well. This recipe will yield about 8-10 meatballs, depending on the size. If you have leftovers, simply place in a freezer-safe ziplock bag in a single layer & lay flat in your freezer. They will keep up to 2 months. To reheat, cook at 350°F in an oven-safe dish with enough water to just cover the bottom. Cover loosely with foil and cook 20 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.

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