One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen is a good appetizer. A solid recipe for some pre-mealtime grub is the best trick for any party host to keep up her sleeve. Appetizers are so versatile that being able to make a few good ones can position you for success in almost any circumstance. They serve you well for every possible get-together event and they can double as side dishes to round out a plate. Some can even be entrees themselves without too much dressing up. These turkey cranberry meatballs make a delicious appetizer recipe the whole family can enjoy.
I love appetizers and this is one of my favorite party foods. It’s especially ideal for holiday gatherings, but you can enjoy it for a small taste of the holiday season year-round. These savory meatballs have all the flavor and comfort food goodness you could ask for in one little bite. But let’s face it. It’s never one little bite. Make extra, because these fly off the platter fast.
Turkey Meatballs Are the Best
Before we get into what makes these turkey cranberry meatballs so sensational, let’s start by addressing the protein. Thanksgiving dinner is the inspiration for this remarkable bite-size snack, but there are so many options now for what kind of protein you can make a meatball out of. Many meatballs these days aren’t even made with real meat thanks to the rise in vegetable-based proteins. Soy, peas, mushrooms, etc either replace or imitate the flavor or consistency of real animal protein. I don’t know what’s going on with beef these days, but it seems to me that if it isn’t Wagyu most people won’t even pay attention anymore. Instead, pork is dominating the market.
Allow me to reintroduce you to another alternative. Before meatless meat became trendy, turkey was the best tasting healthier alternative protein for foods like burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. Call me old-fashioned, but I still think turkey is the way to go, especially during the holiday season. Turkey meatballs may not contain pork and veal (which is good or bad depending on your outlook). But it does deliver a textural win and a much leaner bite of meat that almost any party guest can get behind.
The Ultimate Bite of Thanksgiving
More than great tasting, these meatballs are also fun. They make a festive and cheerful plate that can bring you back to the comfort of that familial Thanksgiving feast. I truly enjoy sandwiches made with elements of a traditional turkey dinner and I think a lot of that carries over into this recipe because it has the cranberry as well as the turkey with nods to traditional turkey stuffing as well.
The thing I really love about this appetizer recipe is the incredible sauce I make for them. The cranberry BBQ sauce is in addition to the cranberry that’s already in the meatball. Without the sauce, you have a holiday dish that you can even serve in gravy. However, the inclusion of the cranberry barbecue elevates the whole recipe to another plain. Making the sauce is very simple and you can customize it as little or as much as you want. However, even if all you do is mix your cranberry sauce with premade BBQ sauce, there are some things you should know:
The Best BBQ Sauce for Cranberry
Berry’s in BBQ sauce is a combination that isn’t exactly as well known as peanut butter and jelly, but it’s gained a lot of traction in recent years. The first berry BBQ sauce I ever heard of was blackberry. However, blueberries are extremely popular now among BBQ enthusiasts. It makes perfect sense even if it may sound strange at first. Berries and BBQ sauce tend to have similar flavor profiles so they can fold into each other, bounce off of each other and highlight the desirable characteristics that each ingredient has to offer.
Cranberry sauce is sweet and tart, so it would naturally blend with a sweeter BBQ sauce that offers some smoke, or maybe a tangier sauce that could invite some sweetness from the cranberry sauce for a fuller flavor profile. You can play around and experiment with your favorite BBQ recipes, but Tennessee or South Carolina-style (with mustard) sauces are a good place to start.
How to Make Cranberry Sauce from Scratch
To save you some time, this recipe calls for canned cranberry sauce. However, you can also make your own if you prefer. The best form is jellied cranberry sauce for this because otherwise, the BBQ sauce will turn out pulpy. All you need to do is boil a cup of water with a cup of sugar. Then add a bag of frozen cranberries and let it boil at reduced heat for 10 minutes. When it’s sauce, pour it through a strainer into a mixing bowl and use the back of a spoon to push it along.
How to Make BBQ Sauce from Scratch
Making great BBQ sauce takes years of practice. If you live in an area with great local BBQ you may just want to leave it to the experts. But you can make easy BBQ sauce right at home and it may even be pretty good! BBQ sauce recipes include a lot of ingredients that you don’t have to stick with to the letter.
Start with ketchup. Add some kind of vinegar like apple cider or red wine. Include brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup. Add Worcestershire or soy sauce and a bunch of seasonings to get the flavoring just right. pick the balance of ingredients that will go best with the cranberry sauce since it will all come together. To make the BBQ sauce, simply combine the ingredients in a pot and bring them to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about half an hour. That’s it. Your very own BBQ sauce recipe is made! Remember me when you become famous.
What to Serve with Turkey Cranberry Meatballs
These meatballs can be served on their own with those little toothpicks. You can also serve them over a plate of homemade mashed potatoes to make it more like a meal. Put them on a hoagie roll for a different kind of meatball sub, or serve over french fries with gravy. Let me know how you serve yours once you make them. If you start now, you could make these turkey cranberry meatballs quite a bit before the new year.
Ingredients For Turkey Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce
- Ground turkey
- Large egg
- Orange zest
- Garlic salt
- Black pepper
- Cranberry Sauce
- BBQ sauce
(Actual measurements are listed in the recipe card below).
How to Make Turkey Cranberry Meatballs
Step 1 – Prep
Preheat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on top of baking sheet.
Step 2 – Making the Meatballs
Whisk together 1 cup of cranberry sauce and BBQ sauce in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and microwave for another minute. Remove, stir, and set aside. In a separate large bowl, mix together buttermilk and bread crumbs. Add half cup of cranberry sauce, pound ground turkey, oregano, basil, egg, orange zest, garlic salt, and pepper. Mix and set aside.
Step 3 – Baking the Meatballs
Roll into 1 inch meatballs and place on the wire rack. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and add meatballs to the cranberry BBQ sauce mixture, then serve.
Try These Delicious Meatball Recipe Today
Here are a few more delicious appetizer recipes that can you can find on the blog.
You can try these Buffalo Chicken Sliders from Deliciously Seasoned.
Turkey Cranberry Meatballs
- 1½ pounds ground turkey
- 1 egg
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon basil
- 14 ounce can cranberry sauce
- ½ cup BBQ sauce
- Preheat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place a wire rack on top of baking sheet.
- Whisk together 1 cup of cranberry sauce and BBQ sauce in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute. Stir and microwave for another minute. Remove, stir, and set aside.
- In a large bowl mix buttermilk and bread crumbs together.
- Add ½ cup cranberry sauce, turkey, oregano, basil, egg, orange zest, garlic salt, and pepper. Mix and set aside.
- Form into 1 inch meatballs and place on the wire rack.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until browned.
- Remove from oven and add meatballs to the cranberry BBQ sauce mixture, then serve.
Here are a few pics that are the perfect size for pinning to Pinterest.
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