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Air Fryer Pesto Turkey Meatballs

Turkey meatballs, flavoured with pesto and parmesan cheese, are ready in only 8 minutes using the air fryer. These savoury meatballs work well as an appetizer or part of the main meal. Serve them with dip, on a salad, or with your favourite pasta. Full of flavour and made with simple ingredients, they are quick and easy.

Turkey meatballs on a plate garnished with shredded parmesan cheese.
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We love meatballs, and these pesto turkey meatballs may just be one of my favourites.

They are full of flavour from the garlicky, basil pesto and parmesan cheese, but they have far less fat than the usual beef meatball.

This recipe is super quick to make. The prep time is less than 20 minutes and, using the air fryer, they cook in less than 10 minutes. There is no mess to clean up from the spattering that can occur when you cook meatballs on the stove, and they are far quicker than baking them in the oven.

The air fryer gives the exterior of the meatball and nice browned finish, just like the frying pan, and the inside stays nice and moist.

We often keep things simple and have these with a salad, but they are delicious on top of pasta or as an appetizer with your favourite dip.

Ingredients

The ingredients you will need to make these pesto turkey meatballs are:

  • Lean ground turkey – I prefer to use lean ground turkey from the thigh as it has more flavour and results in meatballs that have more moisture, but you can use turkey breast if you prefer. You can also use lean ground chicken if you can’t find, or don’t like turkey.
  • Prepared pesto – I keep things simple and use a store-bought pesto, but you can make your own if you like. If you are allergic to nuts, then you can make your own nut-free pesto.
  • Breadcrumbs – These act as a binder to help hold the meatballs together. I use fine breadcrumbs, but you can use Panko breadcrumbs. If you are gluten-free, choose your favourite gluten-free breadcrumbs.
  • Egg – Acts as a binder and helps add moisture.
  • Shredded parmesan cheese – You want to use shredded parmesan, not the drier grated parmesan cheese. It will add flavour and moisture.
  • Italian seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper

For a complete list of ingredients, see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Ingredients for turkey pesto meatballs.

Instructions

There are very few steps in making these turkey meatballs and the best part is that it can be done in just one bowl, making for easy clean-up.

Simply mix the ingredients in a medium-size bowl until they are well combined.

Next, form the meatballs. You want meatballs that are about 1.5 inches in diameter. I use my medium size cookie scoop, which is 1.5 tablespoons to scoop the meat as it helps ensure uniform meatballs which will ensure they cook evenly.

Process steps mixing meatball ingredients in a glass bowl and scooping with a cookie scoop.

Place the meatballs in a single layer in the air fryer basket making sure to leave a bit of space between them for airflow.

Raw turkey meatballs in a single layer in an air fryer basket.

Place the basket in the air fryer, set it to 400°F and cook the meatballs for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Using a meat thermometer, you will know the meatballs are cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Cooked turkey meatballs in an air fryer basket.

I don’t find a need to turn my meatballs as my air fryer circulates the air fairly evenly, but if you find your air fryer does not circulate the air evenly then you will want to turn the meatballs halfway through the cook time.

Substitutions & Variations

These meatballs are easy to customize depending on ingredients you have on hand, allergies or preferences.

  • If you can’t find or don’t like ground turkey, you can use lean ground chicken instead without any issue.
  • If you don’t have parmesan cheese on hand, you can use Romano cheese or Asiago. They are also great with crumbled feta in place of the parmesan.
  • Instead of traditional basil pesto, you could use red pesto. If you are allergic to pine nuts, which is an ingredient in traditional basil pesto, make your own nut-free pesto instead. It is quick and easy.
  • If you don’t have Italian seasoning at home, you can replace it with dried basil or oregano.
  • Fine breadcrumbs can be replaced with Panko breadcrumbs, gluten-free breadcrumbs, or crushed crackers.

How to Serve Air Fryer Turkey Meatballs

We love the versatility of these turkey meatballs. The pesto flavour isn’t overpowering but adds enough flavour that these meatballs can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.

Often we enjoy them on top of a caesar salad for a super quick dinner.

But they work well on top of pasta too. We like to serve them on top of instant pot tomato feta pasta, the flavour of the basil meatballs along with the tomato and feta is a great combination. But you could serve them with spaghetti and a jar of your favourite spaghetti sauce if you prefer.

These meatballs also make a great appetizer. Serve with your favourite dip, we love them with tzatziki dip and a side of toothpicks. They make a great addition to an appetizer platter on game-day or anytime you want a slightly healthier option to serve your guests.

Turkey meatballs stacked on a plate sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

FAQS

How do you reheat turkey meatballs?

You can reheat these meatballs in the microwave, oven or air fryer. To reheat them in the oven set the oven to 350°F, place the meatballs in an oven-safe dish and cover with tin foil, heat for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

To reheat these meatballs in the air fryer simply place them in the air fryer basket, set the air fryer to 350°F and heat for 4-6 minutes until heated through.

How should I store leftover turkey meatballs?

Leftover meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also store them in an airtight container in the freezer for several months.

More Air Fryer Recipes

Printable Recipe

Turkey meatballs on a plate garnished with shredded parmesan cheese.

Air Fryer Pesto Turkey Meatballs

Turkey meatballs, flavored with pesto and parmesan cheese, are ready in only 8 minutes using the air fryer. These savoury meatballs work well as an appetizer or part of the main meal.
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Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
Servings: 18 Meatballs
Calories: 57kcal
Author: Deanna

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 Large egg
  • ¼ Cup fine breadcrumbs
  • ¼ Cup basil pesto store-bought or homemade
  • ¼ Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Instructions

  • Mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined.
  • Form into meatballs about 1.5 inches in diameter. (About 1.5 tablespoons per meatball. A medium-size cookie scoop works well.)
  • Place the meatballs in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Work in batches if necessary to not crowd the basket.
  • Place the basket in the air fryer, set it to 400°F and cook the meatballs for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Using a meat thermometer the internal temperature of the meatballs should read 165°F. (If you find your air fryer doesn't cook evenly, turn the meatballs halfway through.)
  • Remove the meatballs from the air fryer and serve.

Notes

I have a hard time finding ground turkey in packages that are exactly 1 pound. This recipe will work fine up to about 1.5 pounds of turkey.
As ground turkey can vary a bit in moisture content, depending on how lean it is, if you find the mixture too wet to form into meatballs you can add a tablespoon or two of extra breadcrumbs.
I don’t preheat the air fryer for this recipe as I like to form the meatballs and put them directly in the basket to save on dishes.
If you are working in batches, you will want to check the second batch a minute or two earlier than the first.  Due to the air fryer being hot, they will cook slightly faster. 

Nutrition

Calories: 57kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 115mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 103IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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