Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice



In the past, I have not spoken highly of ground turkey (or any sort of turkey, really) on this blog. It’s still not my favorite, but I’m beginning to see the value. It will never replace beef for me and, in fact, many times it’s not even healthier than lean beef, so why bother (I know, red meat, blah blah blah)? That said, I’ve gotten way better at both using it and making it. The farmer we used to get our meat from had REALLY good prices on ground turkey, so I blame him largely for the increase in consumption. The rest I credit to a veeeery technical culinary term I like to call flavoring the hell out of it.

These meatballs are quite basic but still full of flavor from the lemon zest, green onions, and parsley (and the dried oregano, which I couldn’t keep from adding since it’s a  natural pairing with lemon, if you’re Greek at least). On top of that, this meal comes together pretty quickly. The recipe does call for refrigerating the meatballs for 15 minutes after forming them (which I definitely recommend, also, so they don’t fall apart), but of course you could just make the meatballs earlier in the day or the night before and refrigerate them until you need them, making the actual dinnertime prep a little shorter (and the meatballs sturdier and more flavorful).

I don’t know if I’m a salt fiend or what, but 1/2 tsp. of salt did not seem like nearly enough for 1.25 lbs. of turkey (I generally use about 1 tsp. to 1 lb. of meat) so I increased that and honestly felt like they could have used a touch more, but maybe I *am* a salt fiend, so I’ve left the proportion a little lower than my standard below. Also, a cup and a half of rice sounded like too much for four servings, so I brought it down to 1 cup, which worked out well, with a good proportion of protein to carbs. Speaking of the carbs, they were of course my favorite part of the meal. White rice is such a guilty pleasure of mine, and add some tart, bright lemon and it’s a real home run in my book.

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice

  • 30 minutes (15 inactive)
  • 30 minutes
  • 4 servings


  • 2 slices hearty sandwich bread, torn into big pieces
  • 1-1/4 lbs. ground turkey
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts separated, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, divided
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • lemon wedges for serving


  1. Pulse bread pieces in food processor until crumbs are formed; move to a large bowl. Add turkey, 2 tablespoons scallion greens, egg, 3 tablespoons parsley, oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1.5 teaspoons of the lemon zest. Mix gently and then form into meatballs, about 1 Tbsp. each in size (about 20 meatballs). Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12" nonstick skillet (that has a tight-fitting lid, which  you will use later) over medium high. Brown half the meatballs all over, about 5-6 minutes, and then place them on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the rest of the meatballs. Leave remaining fat in skillet.
  3. Add the rice to the skillet and stir until starting to turn opaque, about 1 minute. Stir in the garlic, scallion whites, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth, lemon juice, and remaining 1.5 teaspoons of the lemon zest and bring to a boil. Nestle the meatballs into the skillet, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 20 minutes until rice and meatballs are both cooked through. Remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan, remaining scallion greens, and remaining parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.
Adapted from Cook's Country via The Bitten Word
  • Nancy

    If I didn’t already defrost something else for tonight, I’d be making this. Sounds delicious. I might sub ground chicken for ground turkey, since I prefer it. But otherwise I’ll do it as written.

  • I am terrible at undersalting things.

  • I was never a fan of turkey even when i ate meat, but I do admit these meatballs look good! Love the bright lemony flavor profile.

  • I LOVE meatballs. It is weird we were just talking about meatballs at work. Of course I have developed a MAJOR craving for them. This is aligning perfectly with the cravings of my taste buds.

  • Christina

    I made this for dinner tonight using brown rice. I had to add more water at the end bc the rice was not done yet even though I tried to let it cook longer before adding the meatballs back in. Overall, it was good, easy, and healthy. Thanks for sharing.

    Are you still in the Chicagoland area? If so, which farm do you use to source your meats?

    • elly

      Christina – Wallace Farms. They are actually in IA, but deliver to Chicagoland (Chicago and Naperville).

  • Kelly

    Loved this! I used brown rice instead and added a bit more broth. It was really delicious!

    • elly

      Glad you liked it, Kelly. I plan on trying it with brown rice next time, maybe cooking it for a bit before re-adding the meatballs.

  • Caitlin

    Made this for dinner tonight, everyone loved it! 2yo couldn’t get enough of the rice. Looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow, thanks for sharing!

    • elly

      Awesome, glad to hear that, Caitlin!

  • I just saw this recipe in Cook’s Country this weekend! I think your changes improve it, but I’d really love it if you could figure out a dependable way to make it with brown rice.

    • elly

      I think I’m going to try it next time, either cooking the rice for a bit before adding the meatballs, or parboiling (maybe using half the time on our favorite Saveur method. :))

  • Hi Elly,
    This looks like a wonderful one-pot dish. I love anything one-pot-ish, meaning one pot to cook and one pot to wash. Yay!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

  • Jennifer

    I made this last night and it was DELICIOUS! I’m actually eating the leftovers for lunch now. Next time I make it, I’m going to add some peas or asparagus for some veggies. Great recipe and thanks for sharing!

    • elly

      Great idea to add the veg right into the skillet, Jennifer. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Terri

    FYI, your recipe never says to add the turkey to the bread piece mixture…

    • elly

      Oops! Thanks – fixing it now.

  • Rachel

    Have you tried it with brown rice? If so how long do you cook it for? Thanks 🙂