These are the most delicious baked chicken meatballs I’ve ever had! Packed with flavor, baked, and then brushed with a lemony garlic herb butter for even more flavor, they’re lighter-tasting than many meatball recipes. Enjoy them with your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles, or all on their own! You won’t regret making a double batch and freezing half for a future meal.
While I’ve become an expert at blocking out the temptation that comes along with the constant presence of sweet baked goods in my kitchen (hazard of the job!), a new temptation has been calling my name from the refrigerator, in the form of these savory baked chicken meatballs.
Lunch, dinner—I’ve been all about this chicken meatball recipe. I’ve been making some variation of them for years, but this recipe you see below is my favorite, and my family (kids included!) enjoy them too. Pair with spiralized zucchini noodles tossed in a zingy lemon-herb butter, and you have a super springy, fresh-tasting main dish that’s a far cry from the heavier meals we typically crave in the winter months.
Why This Will Be Your New Favorite Chicken Meatball Recipe
- No cooking apart from 20 minutes in the oven—just mix, shape, and bake.
- Lemony, garlicky, herby butter “sauce” is a fresh, flavorful finishing touch.
- Delicious on their own, or smothered in a marinara or pesto sauce.
- You can swap ground turkey for the chicken, if preferred.
- Make them gluten free by using GF bread crumbs.
- You can also shape them as patties, and grill them to make chicken burgers.
Best Ingredients to Use & Why
- Ground Chicken: Or use ground turkey, if you can’t find ground chicken.
- Egg: 1 egg works to bind the ingredients together.
- Olive Oil: For flavor and moisture.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Just a small amount provides big flavor, just as it does in crab cakes, black bean burgers, and beer cheese dip. Versatile!
- Breadcrumbs: Another binding agent. You can use panko, regular, whole wheat, Italian seasoned, or even gluten free.
- Grated Parmesan Cheese: More delicious flavor! Feel free to omit.
- Garlic: Mince 4–5 cloves; you’ll use some in the meatballs and some in the garlicky herb butter sauce.
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, onion powder, dried oregano, and fresh parsley flavor these chicken meatballs from the inside out.
And, optional… a red pepper flake garnish for some kick!
How to Make Baked Chicken Meatballs
The first step is to simply mix all the ingredients together. Yep, all together all at once, in 1 bowl! You can use a big spoon or rubber spatula for this.
Scoop a portion of the mixture (about 2 Tablespoons’ worth, or 30–35g) and roll/shape into a ball with your hands. This part can get a little messy, so have some paper towels nearby to wipe your hands as needed. Or do what I do and have someone spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray before you begin!
Do I Need to Pre-Cook These Chicken Meatballs?
No. Unlike with many homemade meatball recipes, like these crockpot turkey meatballs, there’s no searing/stovetop step in this baked chicken meatball recipe. You can place the shaped meatballs right on a lined baking sheet and they’ll be ready to eat in less than half an hour.
Fresh Lemon Garlic Herb Butter Sauce
While they bake, make the simple sauce on the stove. This “sauce” gives these flavorful chicken meatballs even more moisture and flavor—I don’t recommend skipping it! It’s not so much a sauce as it is simply melted butter flavored with fresh lemon, garlic, and herbs.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice, then add the minced garlic and cook briefly, until nice and fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped herbs.
Brush or spoon it on the warm meatballs when they’re done baking, and spoon any extra over the pasta or zucchini noodles you’re serving the meatballs with. The texture is light enough that it can be layered with another, thicker sauce, like marinara or homemade pesto, but that’s totally up to you!
My favorite way to enjoy them is with some zucchini noodles (aka “zoodles” or “courgetti”)—which I also love in this bruschetta chicken recipe—tossed in the herb butter sauce. See recipe Notes for how to cook zucchini noodles.
The meatballs could be over-baked, but it’s also likely that they were packed too tightly when shaping. Meatballs can taste rubbery and tough if they’re formed too tight. Roll the mixture gently, just until it comes together to form a ball.
The meatballs only take about 20 minutes in the oven. Bake them just until an instant-read thermometer reads the internal temperature as 165°F (74°C).
What to Serve With Chicken Meatballs
- Your favorite variety of pasta; or zucchini noodles (pictured) or spaghetti squash
- Your favorite pasta sauce, like marinara or homemade basil pesto
- On their own, on a platter with toothpicks, as a party appetizer
- Alongside zucchini casserole or baked sweet potato fries
- In a hoagie roll, as a meatball sandwich
- Alongside olive bread, or these homemade breadsticks or garlic knots
- Or try shaping the mixture into patties and making chicken burgers with it. Top with fresh mozzarella, a slice of tomato, and a swipe of pesto on a bun for a caprese-style chicken burger!
How to Freeze Chicken Meatballs
I have these instructions below, but can briefly explain here as well. You have 2 choices here: (1) you can bake and then freeze them or (2) freeze them raw. To freeze after baking, let the meatballs cool completely, then place in a freezer-friendly container and freeze up to 2 months. To freeze before baking, form meatballs, then space apart on a lined plate or baking tray and freeze for 1–2 hours or until they’ve “set” and will no longer stick together. Then you can place them in a freezer-friendly container and freeze up to 2 months.
Reheat: Heat oven to 400°F (204°C). Bake frozen fully cooked meatballs for 15–18 minutes. Bake frozen raw meatballs for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
Packed with flavor, baked, and then brushed with a lemony garlic herb butter for even more flavor, these chicken meatballs are lighter-tasting than many meatball recipes. No need to pre-cook, and you can easily freeze them before or after baking. Enjoy them with your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles, or all on their own!
Lemon Garlic Herb Butter Sauce
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- With a large spoon or spatula, mix together all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
- Scoop a portion of the mixture, about 2 Tablespoons (30–35g) in size, roll into a ball with your hands, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture. You should have around 35 meatballs.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Insert an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness; the meatballs are fully cooked when an instant-read thermometer reads the internal temperature as 165°F (74°C).
- Make the sauce: Place the butter and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the butter is fully melted. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant (about 1 minute—don’t let the garlic brown). Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh herbs. Brush or spoon the buttery sauce onto the meatballs when they come out of the oven. You will have some extra for serving. If desired, sprinkle meatballs with crushed red pepper flakes.
- Serve warm meatballs with remaining herb butter sauce, over your choice of pasta or zucchini noodles.
- Store leftovers covered tightly in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make Ahead Instructions: To make ahead, you can complete steps 2 & 3, then cover the unbaked chicken meatballs tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 day before baking.
- Freezing & Reheating Instructions: You have 2 choices here: (1) you can bake the meatballs and then freeze them or (2) freeze the meatballs raw. To freeze after baking, let the meatballs cool completely, then place in a freezer-friendly container and freeze up to 2 months. To freeze before baking, form meatballs, then space apart on a lined plate or baking tray and freeze for 1–2 hours or until they’ve “set” and will no longer stick together. Place in a freezer-friendly container and freeze up to 2 months. To reheat either, preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Bake frozen fully cooked meatballs for 15–18 minutes. Bake frozen raw meatballs for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Instant-Read Thermometer | Basting Brush | Spiralizer (to make zucchini noodles)
- Ground Turkey or Beef: You can substitute ground turkey or beef for the chicken.
- Breadcrumbs: You can use panko, regular, whole wheat, Italian seasoned, or gluten free.
- Parmesan Cheese: Feel free to skip the cheese (it does give a lot of flavor, though!), or replace with another shredded or crumbled cheese of your choice. Give the shredded or crumbled cheese a quick chop before using.
- Herbs: You can replace any of the fresh herbs with dried, if desired. General rule of thumb is to cut the amount in half; so 1 teaspoon of fresh oregano = 1/2 teaspoon dried.
- Zucchini Noodles: If you’d like to make the zucchini noodles as pictured, here is how I cook them: Add a splash of olive oil to a skillet, followed by the zucchini noodles. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully drain off most of the liquid, if any has accumulated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with the meatballs and a little of the sauce.
- Serving Size: 5 meatballs with sauce
- Calories: 333
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 584.9 mg
- Fat: 16.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.8 g
- Fiber: 0.8 g
- Protein: 34 g
- Cholesterol: 142.7 mg
Keywords: baked meatballs