Italian Chicken Meatballs

The BEST Italian chicken meatballs! Juicy inside and crispy outside, serve them with spaghetti and tomato sauce, panini, salads, and more!

Loaded with flavor, these Italian chicken meatballs are healthy comfort food at its best!

These are my go-to meatballs, not only they are weeknight-friendly – you can have them on the table in about 30 minutes.

The recipe is inspired by my mum’s delicious meatballs, and a few tricks my dear friend and U.S. Master Chef winner Luca Manfe’ taught me a few years ago when he gave me his mum’s precious meatball recipe.

This unique version of Italian polpette features a few of my favorite flavors such as lemon zest and garlic, which you can totally omit if you prefer a more delicate flavor.

They are made just like the regular meatballs but use lean ground chicken instead of beef.

spaghetti and chicken meatballs in tomato sauce.

They’re pretty versatile too, you can serve them with pasta, or with potatoes and a salad, and use leftovers to fill up panini and sandwiches the next day.

Did I mention they freeze beautifully too? This recipe is a winner for sure!

If you’re looking for easy dinner ideas, I promise these are going to be a hit, both kids and grown-ups will love them!

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ITALIAN CHICKEN MEATBALLS INGREDIENTS

For these Italian-style chicken meatballs, you’ll need the most simple ingredients, in typical Italian fashion.

Here’s what you’ll need:

chicken meatballs ingredients.
  • Ground chicken: Lean chicken mince is the base for the meatballs. Substitute with turkey mince or lean beef mince if you want.
  • Bread: a thick slice of ciabatta bread, sourdough bread, or even brioche bread, will make your meatballs soft and juicy.
  • Milk: You’ll need a little milk to soak the bread in, just like the Italian way. You can use dairy-free milk if needed.
  • Parmesan: Parmigiano adds so much flavour, and makes meatballs soft and scrumptious.
  • Parsley and thyme: it’s not Italian meatballs without fresh parsley! Thyme adds an extra aromatic note, but you can skip it if needed.
  • Garlic: This is optional and I don’t add it for the kids, but a little finely chopped garlic works wonderfully here.
  • Lemon: While this is an optional addition, lemon zest adds a citrusy note and makes the meatballs even tastier.
  • Egg: It works as a binding agent, but you can substitute it with a small mashed potato if needed.

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN MEATBALLS

These easy Italian chicken meatballs are such a breeze to make! From start to finish it will take just about 30 minutes. Here’s the step-by-step recipe:

Scroll until the end of the post for the full printable recipe

collage of four images showcasing the four steps of the recipe.

STEP 1 – Prepare the ingredients.

Soak the bread in milk, then drain and squeeze out the excess milk with your hands, and place it in a large bowl. Add in the remaining ingredients.

STEP 2 – Mix the ingredients.

Mix all the ingredients gently but thoroughly, until well combined.

STEP 3 – Form the meatballs.

Lightly oil your hands, and form 1-inch (2½-cm) meatballs (about 1 full tablespoon each). Place the meatballs on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.

STEP 4 – Cook the meatballs.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fold in the meatballs and cook them for about 3-4 minutes on each side.

Remove from the pan and serve them straight away, or mix them with classic Italian tomato sauce and serve them with pasta.

chicken meatballs in tomato sauce.

STORAGE TIPS

  • STORE: Refrigerate leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • REHEAT: Reheat leftover meatballs in the oven at 170C/350F for 5-10 minutes, or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  • FREEZE COOKED MEATBALLS: Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • FREEZE UNCOOKED MEATBALLS: Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.

HOW TO COOK FROZEN MEATBALLS

Place the frozen meatballs in a single layer over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Spray or brush them with extra-virgin olive oil.

Bake in a preheated oven to 180C/360F for 25-30 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking time.

BAKED CHICKEN MEATBALLS

For a lighter alternative, instead of pan-frying them, you can bake the chicken meatballs in the oven.

Place the prepared meatballs in a single layer over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Spray or brush them with extra-virgin olive oil.

Bake in a preheated oven to 180C/360F for 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking time.

AIR FRYER MEATBALLS

Good news! You can make air fryer meatballs in just about 10 minutes.

Preheat the air fryer to 200 C /400 F. Place the meatballs on a single layer in the air fryer, and bake them for 8-9 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking time.

italian chicken meatballs.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHICKEN MEATBALLS

  • Pasta: My favorite way to serve meatballs. Make spaghetti and meatballs by tossing them in tomato sauce and mixing them with al dente pasta.

RECIPE FAQs

Do you need eggs in meatballs?

If you don’t want to add eggs to your meatball mixture, try a small boiled and mashed potato. Mashed potatoes are the perfect substitute for eggs in meatballs.

Why are my chicken meatballs tough?

Overmixing and pressing the meatball mixture too hard into a ball shape are the main causes of tough meatballs. Oil your hands so that the mixture won’t stick to them and gently form the meatballs, without pressing too much.

chicken meatballs in tomato sauce.

DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE?

Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook!

Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!

📖 RECIPE

italian chicken meatballs.

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The BEST Italian chicken meatballs! Juicy inside and crispy outside, serve them with spaghetti and tomato sauce, panini, salads, and more!

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time10 mins

Total Time20 mins

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Italian

Serving: 4

Calories: 378kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices of ciabatta bread, crust cut off
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 10 oz ground chicken
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Cut the bread into small cubes, and place them into a bowl with the milk. Allow the bread to sit for a few minutes, then drain it and squeeze out the excess milk with your hands, and place it in a large bowl.

  • Add in the egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, thyme and ground chicken, and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Mix to combine all the ingredients.

  • Lightly oil your hands, take off a small piece of the mixture and gently roll it between your hands to form 1-inch (2½-cm) meatballs (about 1 full tablespoon each).

  • Arrange the meatballs on a baking tray covered with parchment paper.

  • Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Fold in the meatballs and leave them undisturbed until they are brown on one side. Shake the pan to loosen the meatballs, then turn each one with tongs to cook on the other side for 4-5 minutes.

  • Remove the meatballs from the pan, and arrange them on a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the oil in excess. Transfer the meatballs to a large serving plate and serve, or mix them with tomato sauce and serve with pasta.

Notes

Ingredients substitution:

  • breadcrumbs: substitute with gluten-free breadcrumbs for gluten-free chicken meatballs.
  • milk: substitute with dairy-free milk for dairy-free chicken meatballs.

Storage tips:

  • Store: Refrigerate leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

  • Reheat: Reheat leftover meatballs in the oven at 170C/350F for 5-10 minutes, or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

  • Freeze uncookedPlace the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

  • Freeze cooked: Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe container or ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.


 

Nutrition

Calories: 378kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 107mg | Sodium: 308mg | Potassium: 499mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 237IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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