Turkey (Pumpkin) Meatballs

pumpkin meatballs

Last week I posted a tutorial on upcycling Halloween pumpkins into pureed pumpkin for everything from soup to dessert.  I froze mine in 1/2 cup batches for scrumptious future uses.  I have one friend that I have trained like Pavlov’s dog – every time we get together, she looks to see that I have brought her pumpkin brownies (that’s a tutorial for another day), so I have some stored away for her.  In the meantime though, I had to use it to feed my picky eater some veggies without her knowing.  I think it’s important to teach children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables everyday, both by modeling the behavior for them and by serving it to them consistently so a new (read: scary/gross/funny-looking) food becomes familiar and hopefully enjoyable.  But sometimes, drastic times call for drastic measures, so it was time to break out my secret weapon:  Pumpkin puree.  It’s jam-packed with vitamins and fiber, but most importantly, its flavor is mild and can be hidden in soups, sauces, and on this day, meatballs.  If you didn’t make your own from your Halloween pumpkins (I bought sugar pumpkins this year so I could use them in recipes after the holiday), you can buy canned pumpkin.  Make sure it’s pureed pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling; we are not making candied meatballs here.  The recipe I used was adapted from Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook, Deceptively Delicious – she is the Queen of hidden vegetables.  I made a few changes, but the premise is the same; make a meatball with vegetable goodness mixed right inside!

Turkey (Pumpkin) Meatballs

Makes 2 dozen


1 lb ground turkey (preferably organic and hormone- and antibiotic-free)

1 cup breadcrumbs (you can use gluten-free breadcrumbs)

1 cup pureed pumpkin

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp olive oil


1 can (26oz) crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup pureed pumpkin

1/2 cup water

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

click here to print the recipe

In a large bowl, mix all of the meatball ingredients together with the exception of the olive oil.  I tend to blend with my hands, but use a spoon if that grosses you out.  Roll the mixture into slightly-smaller-than golf balls and place on a plate.


Meatball secret ingredient: Now you see it…


…now you don’t!

Heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and swirl to coat.  When the oil heats up, add the meatballs and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes each.


Meatballs browning on both sides.

Once they are browned, add all of the sauce ingredients on top of the meatballs.


Sauce ingredients added to the meatballs.

Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pan, and let cook for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatballs are 165F degrees.  While the meatballs and sauce are simmering, decide what you will serve them over.  I made pasta for my kids and quinoa for me (not a fan of the gluten-free pasta).  You could also serve it over cauliflower couscous or spaghetti squash.  If you are living gluten free, there are gluten-free breadcrumbs on the market that you can use and not miss out on this delicious recipe.  The breadcrumbs not only act as a binding agent for the meat, but it works side-by-side with the pumpkin to keep the meatballs moist.  Before serving, remove the bay leaf from the sauce.  Leftovers can be frozen.  I store mine in 5 or 6-ball packages so I can defrost for one or two servings at a time.


Yum! Turkey (Pumpkin) Meatballs!

I would love to hear what happened when you served Turkey (Pumpkin) Meatballs to your kids or the picky vegetable eater in your life.  I opted to keep the secret ingredient a secret.  Will you spill the beans pumpkin?








8 thoughts on “Turkey (Pumpkin) Meatballs

    • What did he think made it green? Kids are so funny! I remember liking fish sticks until I found out there was fish inside – I thought they were something called, “fishdiks,” like schnitzel :-)

So What Did You Think?