These baked turkey meatballs with creamy lemon rice make a perfect under-30-minute weeknight dinner. The lemony risotto-like rice is irresistibly delicious, offering a healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free, and protein-rich meal that everyone will love!
Baked turkey meatballs with lemon rice
If you’re tired of plain ground turkey and rice dishes, you absolutely must try this recipe. Words almost cannot describe how delicious this recipe is. I would go as far as to say it is in the top five on my blog, right next to these stuffed chicken parmesan burgers. The juicy baked meatballs are bursting with lemon garlic flavor, but the star of the show is the creamy lemon rice, reminiscent of risotto without the hassle.
What’s even better is that this recipe contains no dairy, butter, or heavy cream; instead, the rice gets its creamy texture from light coconut milk, with no noticeable coconut flavor.
This meal comes together in under 30 minutes, making it the perfect weeknight meal. My boyfriend and I always double the batch for meal prep; it keeps well in the fridge and tastes just as good reheated.
I love that this meal is both secretly healthy and incredibly flavorful, boasting over 42 grams of protein per serving. It leaves me feeling full and satisfied every time I enjoy it. I can’t wait to hear what you think of these turkey meatballs with lemony rice!
Why you’ll love this easy recipe:
- Quick and Easy: Home cooks can whip this delicious meal up in 25 minutes.
- High-Protein: Each serving has 42 grams of protein!
- So Flavorful: Bursting with flavor from savory herbs and zesty lemon.
- Risotto Rice: The lemony rice is so creamy that it looks and tastes like risotto.
- Juiciest Meatballs: Best of all, the turkey meatballs are made without eggs and breadcrumbs.
- Weeknight Meal: Perfect for busy weeknights, meal prepping, or serving guests.
- Healthy: This recipe is healthy and made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
- Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free: Don’t worry, everyone can enjoy it!
- Try these Greek chicken meatballs next!
You only need a few healthy and wholesome ingredients to make these rich, creamy, high-protein turkey meatballs and lemony rice. It’s made dairy-free with coconut milk, and there are over 42 grams of protein per serving, thanks to the bone broth and ground turkey. Here is a list of everything you need so you are prepared:
- Ground Turkey: A great source of lean protein for meatballs. I recommend using 94% lean rather than 99% lean since there are NO eggs or breadcrumbs in the meatball recipe.
- Yellow Onion: Provides savory flavor to both meatballs and rice.
- Garlic: Honestly, garlic makes everything better.
- Seasonings: You’ll need some onion powder, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper for this recipe.
- Lemons: You need lemon zest and juice to add a bright, citrusy flavor to meatballs and rice.
- Olive Oil: To saute the onions and garlic in rice.
- Rice: I recommend jasmine or long-grain rice for the creamy, lemony risotto rice.
- Chicken Bone Broth: I highly recommend bone broth for an additional 8 grams of protein per serving! It tastes the same as chicken broth.
- Light Coconut Milk: Adds creamy texture and subtle sweetness to rice. The perfect dairy-free substitute for milk or heavy cream!
- Baby Spinach: The best way to sneak some veggies and nutrients into the finished dish. You cannot taste the spinach!
Kitchen tools needed
Here is a quick list of kitchen utensils you’ll need to make these baked turkey meatballs and creamy, lemony rice:
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Parchment paper
- Scooper (optional)
How to make turkey meatballs and lemony rice
This delicious, healthy turkey meatballs and lemony rice come together in under 25 minutes. It’s an easy weeknight dinner and meal prep recipe everyone will love! Here are detailed step-by-step instructions with pictures for visual reference so any level cook can make them; scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe and ingredient measurements.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine ground turkey, shredded onion, minced garlic, onion powder, oregano, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
Then, gently mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form 18-22 meatballs using a scooper or hands (about two tablespoons of mixture per meatball). Place meatballs evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13-16 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
While the meatballs cook, heat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Then, add the chopped onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Then, add in the garlic and sauté for an additional 1 minute.
Next, rinse rice under cold water for 1 minute and pat dry. Then, add rinsed rice, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and paprika. Toast the rice for 3-5 minutes.
Next, pour chicken bone broth, coconut milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. The rice should be covered with liquid; if not, add up to another ½ cup more broth. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and let the rice cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
In the last minute or two of cooking, add the spinach to the rice, cover the lid, and let it wilt. There’s no need to mix! Once the rice is cooked, the spinach should be wilted from the stem; then, gently mix.
It should have the same consistency as a risotto. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. I like to add another squeeze of lemon on top.
Now, let’s assemble for serving! I like to add the meatballs to the rice and mix everything. Or you can serve the meatballs on top of the creamy lemon rice. Garnish with some fresh parsley, and enjoy!
Expert recipe tips:
- Rinse the Rice: Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch, which can cause the rice to become sticky. It’s normal for the water to run white at first. The rice is ready to do once the water is clear again.
- Cooking the Rice: If the rice appears dry during cooking, add additional broth or water, a little at a time, to ensure it cooks evenly and reaches the desired consistency. DO NOT BOIL THE RICE! It should be at a low simmer.
- How to Handle the Meatballs: Handle the ground turkey mixture gently when forming them for tender meatballs. Overmixing can result in dense meatballs.
- Freezing Tips: If you want to freeze this meal for later, cool the meatballs and rice separately and then freeze them in labeled, airtight containers or bags. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating as needed for up to 2-3 months.
- Vegetable Additions: Feel free to add other vegetables to the rice while sauteeing the onions, such as diced bell peppers or carrots, to enhance the nutritional value and add color to the dish.
Easy ingredient substitutions:
Our family makes this recipe at least once a week, and these are the best tried and tested ingredient substitutions we found work:
- Ground Meat: You can substitute ground turkey with ground chicken or lean beef.
- Onion: If you don’t have yellow onion, you can use white onion or shallots.
- Garlic: Fresh minced garlic can be substituted with garlic powder; adjust the quantity to taste.
- Spices: If you’re missing some spices, you can use Italian seasoning as a replacement for oregano and onion powder.
- Rice: Instead of Jasmine or long-grain rice, you can use basmati rice or any other type of white rice. Keep in mind that cooking times may vary slightly, so check the package.
- Chicken Broth: If you don’t have chicken broth, you can use vegetable broth or water with a bouillon cube for flavor.
- Light Coconut Milk: Substitute light coconut milk with regular coconut milk or almond milk for a different flavor profile.
- Spinach: If you’re not a fan of spinach, you can substitute it with kale or omit it altogether. You can also substitute it with 1 cup of frozen peas.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use ground chicken or beef instead of ground turkey for the meatballs?
You can substitute ground chicken or beef for the turkey in this recipe. Just be aware that the flavor and texture may vary slightly.
Can I cook the meatballs in a skillet?
Yes, you can cook the meatballs in a skillet. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add some oil, then cook the meatballs on each side for 5-7 minutes until they’re browned and cooked through. Ensure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Can I use brown rice instead of Jasmine or long-grain rice?
No, brown rice is not recommended as a substitute for Jasmine or long-grain rice in this recipe. Brown rice has a different texture and cooking time than Jasmine or long-grain rice, which could affect the overall consistency and flavor of the dish.
Is this recipe dairy-free?
Yes! This recipe is dairy-free since we use coconut milk, not heavy cream or milk.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, this recipe is naturally gluten-free.
Can I omit the spinach from the lemony rice?
Yes! You can omit the spinach, use frozen spinach, or substitute with chopped kale or frozen peas. If you choose to use kale, ensure the kale is wilted before serving.
Can you freeze turkey meatballs?
You can freeze the meatballs for up to 2-3 months. Place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
How to store and reheat turkey meatballs and rice:
Storing: Store leftover meatballs and rice separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
Reheating: To reheat, microwave them on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
If you loved this recipe, try these ground turkey recipes next!
- Greek Feta Turkey Burgers
- Zucchini Turkey Meatballs
- Healthy Turkey Chili Recipe
- Turkey Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Air Fryer Turkey Burgers
- Turkey Lentil Soup
- Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs
- Turkey Kale Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Did you make this recipe?
If you make this recipe, be sure to comment and rate it down below. Also, don’t forget to tag me @healthfulblondie on Instagram and use the hashtag #healthfulblondie so I can see your delicious creation and share it with my followers!
Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice
- 1 lb ground turkey, 94% lean is best
- ½ cup shredded yellow onion
- 1 tbsp lemon zest, from about 1 large lemon
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion, use the other half of the onion
- 4 large garlic cloves
- ¾ tsp paprika
- 1 cup dry white Jasmine rice or long-grain rice, or Banza rice if desired
- 1 ½ cups chicken bone broth or low-sodium chicken broth, (bone broth for extra protein!)
- ⅔ cup light coconut milk, (about half of a 13.6-ounce can)
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- Juice from 1 large lemon
- 2 cups (handfulls) baby spinach
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- OPTIONAL: 1 cup frozen peas (for extra veggies)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, shredded onion, minced garlic, onion powder, oregano, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
- Gently mix with hands until fully combined. Form 18-22 meatballs using a scooper or hands (about 2 tablespoons of mixture per meatball).
- Place meatballs evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13-16 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- While the meatballs are cooking: heat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Then, add in the chopped onions and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add in garlic and sauté for an additional 1 minute.
- Meanwhile, rinse rice under cold water for 1 minute and pat dry.
- Add rinsed rice, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and paprika. Toast the rice for 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in chicken broth, coconut milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. The rice should be covered with liquid, if not, add up to another ½ cup more broth. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and let the rice cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- In the last minute or two of cooking, add the spinach on top of the rice, cover the lid, and let it wilt. There’s no need to mix! Once the rice is cooked, the spinach should be wilted from the stem; then, gently mix.
- It should have the same consistency as a risotto. Taste and adjust salt and seasonings. I like to add another squeeze of lemon on top.
- I like to add the meatballs to the rice and mix everything together. Or you can serve the meatballs on top of the creamy lemon rice. Garnish
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