These lightened-up mini turkey meatballs with a zesty curried cranberry dipping sauce are a perfect make-ahead appetizer for the holidays. But if you have a package of cranberries in your freezer or a can of sauce stashed in your pantry, you can make them any time of year!
When fresh cranberries are in season, I ALWAYS stock up. They'll last for several weeks in your refrigerator, but they'll last for a solid year in your freezer.
And quite honestly, I've found cranberries in my freezer that are even older, and they taste, and work just fine for making fresh chopped cranberry-orange relish, homemade cranberry vinaigrette, or any cranberry flavored baked goods,
The only negative about frozen cranberries is that once they thaw, they're no longer firm. But if you're cooking or baking with them, or pureeing them, who cares!
Those frozen cranberries really come in handy for this mini turkey meatball appetizer dish.
I published this post several years ago, but I recently updated it to include homemade lower sugar cranberry sauce instead of canned sauce.
This mini turkey meatball appetizer is kind of a variation of those mini meatballs made with grape jelly sauce (I know I'm dating myself with that one, but wasn't that appetizer so good?!).
But this version is much healthier. Still sweet but much lower in sugar (if you make your own low-sugar cranberry sauce). And can we talk about those savory, Indian-inspired flavors?
I'm totally in love with this appetizer recipe, especially because you can make it ahead of time and just reheat it in a casserole dish or crockpot before your guests arrive.
The cranberry dipping sauce is pretty darn delicious if I do say so myself. The turmeric is quite at home with some curry powder and just a hint of ginger.
Make this mini turkey meatball appetizer for your next holiday party, girls' night, a healthier Super Bowl snack, or ANYTIME!
Some tips for making this recipe
- If you don't have cranberries in your freezer, you can substitute canned whole berry cranberry sauce. It's available year-'round. The sauce recipe makes about the same amount as what's in a can.
- When making homemade cranberry sauce, you can use all sugar, a mix of sugar and Swerve (or another non-caloric sweetener) or all non-calorie sweetener. Real sugar helps the sauce to thicken a bit, but you don't need it super thick for this recipe. I've also cut the water back when making the sauce to compensate for less sugar.
- Don't overwork the meatballs because they'll get tough when they bake.
- If you prefer beef or chicken instead of turkey meatballs, feel free to substitute!
Mini Turkey Meatballs with Curried Cranberry Sauce
- ¼ cup chopped salted pistachios use the ones that are shelled
- ¾ cup old fashioned oats
- ½ medium onion quartered
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 pound ground turkey breast
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
Cranberry Dipping Sauce
- 1 14 ounce package whole cranberries fresh or frozen
- ¼ cup Swerve sweetener
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion minced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon fresh minced ginger use the minced garlic in the jar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Before you start this recipe, make the cranberry sauce. You can do this a day or two in advance if you like.In a large saucepan, combine the whole cranberries with ½ cup water, sugar, and Swerve sweetener. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat and let the cranberries simmer for 15 minutes or until they all pop and the sauce begins to thicken. Remove the sauce from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature. If you're making the sauce well in advance, refrigerate it until you're ready to use it.
For the meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easier cleanup.
- Place the pistachios and oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 8 times until the oats and nuts are ground.
- Add the onion and pulse about 10 more times until the onion is minced and well-combined with the oats and nuts.
- Pour the oat mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, turkey, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine but don't overwork the meat.
- Form the mixture into 1-inch round meatballs, and place on a prepared baking sheet
- Bake the meatballs for 12 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remover the cooked meatballs from the oven and set them aside.
For the sauce:
- Heat the oil in a saute pan on medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until lightly golden. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the cranberry sauce, vinegar, maple syrup and dijon mustard, and stir to combine.
- Add the curry powder, turmeric, ginger and salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, and puree the sauce with an immersion blender or in a regular blender, until smooth.
- Reserve about half the sauce for dipping, and place the cooked meatballs in the other half of the sauce. Stir the meatballs so they are well coated with the sauce.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate the meatballs and separate dipping sauce for up to 2 days, and reheat before serving.
Do you always have a few bags of cranberries in your freezer? Don't forget to stock up when you see them!