Sweet + Sour Turkey Meatballs

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DSC_5799(small)Have you ever come across a wild turkey?

When I lived in dorms as an undergrad in college, there was a short stretch of narrow road leading to my dormitory that was flanked by trees on both sides. There was a pack of wild turkeys living in there, and I kid you not, they were mean. And scary.

With no fear of human interaction, time after time they’d run right out as a pack chasing after cars or headfirst into a car so we’d have to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting them. We could have sworn we saw malice in their eyes, lol. Sometimes they’d follow a car to the parking lot, and then getting out of the car and making a mad dash for the dorm entrance was fun with them chasing, flailing their (huge!) wings, and gobbling behind us! Of course we didn’t even dare use that road unless we were in a car…a walk down that little stretch of road was like a death sentence.


For me, autumn’s arrival doesn’t just mean pumpkins and apples…it also means turkey! And every time I think of turkey, I remember being in college and being harassed by that wild pack of turkeys, lol. Ah, memories.

So about this meal. Because of personal preference, I eat vegetarian most nights…but I also really enjoy turkey, chicken, and seafood (and an occasional amazing steak or burger). I find that other than Thanksgiving and deli meat sandwiches, I frequently overlook turkey as a great source of protein. But I love it, and I’d like to try to use it more.

I used ground turkey in this dish to make the meatballs, and then I snuck in other nutritious ingredients like beans, onion, and carrot. I won’t say no one will know that these things are there, but hopefully no one will mind. This is a delicious and satisfying meal, especially coated in sweet and sour sauce, which also contains a fair amount of healthy goodies, like red bell pepper and pineapple.

What’s not to love about turkey season?


Sweet + Sour Turkey Meatballs
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 6 servings
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 1 (15.5 oz/439 g) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and well drained
  • 1 lb (450 g) ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed using a mortar and pestle or grated on a microplane
  • ½-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs (or a little more as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, de-seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed using a mortar and pestle or grated on a microplane
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) low-sodium soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (20 oz/570 g) can chunk pineapple in pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in ½ cup (120 ml) cold water to form a slurry
  • 3 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)
  1. For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat liner and drizzle on ½ tablespoon oil, spreading it around.
  2. Add the beans to a large bowl and mash them coarsely with a potato masher. Use your hands to mix in all remaining meatball ingredients (except the remaining ½ tablespoon canola oil), but do not over-mix.
  3. Use your hands to scoop out the meat mixture and roll it into meatballs (I make mine about 1½ tablespoons and I get about 25 meatballs). Line the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle on the remaining ½ tablespoon oil.
  4. Bake until fully cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the meatballs once.
  5. Start cooking the sauce when the meatballs have about 10 minutes left to cook. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat; add the bell pepper and onion, and cook until starting to soften and brown in places, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, black pepper, and pineapple (with juices), and bring up to a boil. Once boiling, add the cornstarch slurry; let it come back up to a boil, stirring constantly, and then turn off the heat (the sauce will be thickened).
  7. To serve, very gently toss the meatballs in the warm sauce (be careful so they don’t break up). Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle on the scallion, if using.
Cooking these Meatballs: Because of all the goodies (like beans and vegetables) added into these meatballs, they are a little more delicate than regular meatballs and I don’t recommend frying them, since they are likely to stick to the pan. They are absolutely perfect baked the way the recipe says though!

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  1. says

    It’s a-sweet-n-sour-meat-a-baaaall! Okay, enough of that. ;) In Sonora, there are wild turkeys that roam around the foothills all over the place – they’re super beautiful/weird/cool creatures!

    Yup, falls all about them apples, butternut squash and the turkey. Loving these meatballs hard, my dear!

  2. Eha says

    No, won’t pretend I have personal acquaintance with wild turkeys [but have had my eyes almost picked out by other nesting birds in the spring months!!], but I do have a fab reasonably organic ordinary turkey processing plant only a few kms away! Supplies the local s’markets too :) ! Lovely recipe [shall substitute oats for breadcrumbs ;) !] which will soon be tried!!!

  3. says

    Ahh memories, how special with the turkey chase, funny.
    I agree Autumn is just not for pumpkins, turkey and these meatballs look so simple and comforting.
    I haven’t come across a wild turkey but a crazy wild duck..

  4. says

    These look delicious. I am definitely going to try this! I agree, fall definitely means more than just pumpkin, although I have several good pumpkin recipes lined up as well! Hard to resist. :)

    Good to see you, Faith!


  5. says

    My husband has a befriended a wild turkey in our neighborhood but it doesn’t like me at all! He walks away as soon as he sees me coming!

    Love these meatballs. I use turkey for most of my ground meat dishes and yes, pile on the veggies!

    • says

      Samar, Before I left home last month I made a few extra recipes so I’d have a backlog and wouldn’t be so pressured to work constantly when I first got here…that way I could take my time and adjust to my surroundings and enjoy setting up my workspace here. This recipe was among those that I made. That being said, I haven’t seen ground turkey here in Kuwait, but I have definitely seen turkey (I can’t remember where I saw it though…maybe Lulu?), which can easily be ground at home using a food processor.

  6. says

    Thats an excellent idea :) I hope u are more settled now and u have adjusted to the country and the environment here. if u need any help, please let me know, I’ve lived here most of my life :)
    now on the turkey issue, yes u will most probably find turkey in Lulu hypermarket and in Sultan Center. Btw, Sultan Center is the place to go to for imported American foods and products, while Lulu carries more UK brands.

    • says

      Samar, You are so sweet, thank you so much for your kind offer. I might take you up on that…and maybe once I’m a bit more settled we can meet up for lunch or coffee! That’s a great tip about Lulu and Sultan, thank you! I have definitely noticed the selection of cheeses in Sultan is incredible – so far I have been able to find everything I was looking for! :)

  7. Julie says

    I don’t eat meat so not commenting on this. But, we had a turkey who carved out a place for herself in the woods just outside our front door to nest this spring. She sat on those eggs while bear and raccoons and porcupines went by. One morning we saw one little chick. By noon they’d all hatched and hit the road. Whenever we see families of turkey in the neighborhood (and there are dozens of families) we wonder if they’re “our” turkeys. We joke that we had an empty nest before we even had children. Anyway, turkey rule the roads around here.


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