Moist, tasty enough to enjoy all on their own (or with your favorite tomato sauce), and stuffed with a sneaky serving of spinach, these healthy Baked Chicken Meatballs are basic, done better.
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Before you brush these off as the same ol’ same ol’ baked chicken meatball recipe you’ve tried before, I implore you to reconsider.
These easy and healthy chicken meatballs with spinach offer old-school Italian flavor, done new-school fast:
- They require less than 15 minutes to prep.
- They are made entirely in the oven.
- Will please grownups and kids alike (including your pickiest toddlers).
- And are LOADED with good-for-you, great-tasting ingredients.
This is one chicken meatball recipe that’s worth a second look.
5 Star Review
“These are AMAZING! Super easy to make and I had all of the ingredients in the house already! This one deserves more than 5 stars!”— Christine —
How to Make Baked Chicken Meatballs
Made with lean ground chicken, whole wheat breadcrumbs, and fresh green spinach, this baked chicken meatball recipe is simply the BEST!
Make a batch for a perfect, crowd-pleasing appetizer (perhaps alongside some Mozzarella Sticks) or a double batch to freeze for a lightning-fast dinner any night of the week.
For an all-in-one meatball dish, check out this Meatball Casserole.
- Ground Chicken. I like 93% lean here. It has just enough fat content to keep these healthy chicken meatballs moist and juicy.
- Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs. To bind the baked chicken meatballs together. I like whole wheat over white breadcrumbs here because whole wheat = extra fiber without any extra effort.
For gluten free chicken meatballs, try swapping the whole wheat breadcrumbs for coarsely ground gluten free rolled oats.
For chicken meatballs without breadcrumbs, swap chicken for turkey in these Whole30 Meatballs (this same recipe also qualifies as Paleo Chicken meatballs).
- Parmesan. Richness. Saltiness. Italian flair. A small handful goes a long way. PLEASE buy it freshly ground or grind it yourself. The green can will not do this simple chicken meatball recipe justice (or this Pesto Pasta).
- Egg. No tough or dry chicken meatballs here! Egg not only binds the meatballs together but also adds moisture and fat to soften and tenderize them.
I have not experimented with making chicken meatballs without egg or with egg whites only. If you want to play around with the recipe, you could try swapping for a flax egg or opt for two egg whites instead of one whole egg. If you try it, I’d love to hear about your results.
- Spices. To keep these Italian chicken meatballs quick and easy, instead of mincing garlic and sautéing onions, I used onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning right from my spice cupboard.
- Tomato Paste. Provides super-concentrated flavor for these Italian baked chicken meatballs (and this equally healthy Turkey Bolognese).
- Fresh Spinach. Chopped fresh spinach gives the chicken meatballs flecks of color, sneaks in a little extra nutrition, and helps keep them moist.
If you do not have fresh spinach, sautéed kale would also work nicely in these healthy chicken meatballs. Some readers have also made this chicken meatball recipe with frozen spinach by thawing and draining it thoroughly before adding it to the recipe.
- Beat the egg in a large bowl, then add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon of olive oil and tomato paste.
- Gently mix everything until combined. Don’t overwork the meat!
- Shape into meatballs and arrange in the baking dish.
- Whisk together the remaining oil and paste. Brush over the top of the chicken meatballs.
- Bake chicken meatballs at 400 degrees F for 18 to 22 minutes, until cooked through, and serve as desired. ENJOY!
- To Store. Store cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Warm leftover refrigerated meatballs in a 350-degree F oven until heated through and steaming. If reheating frozen meatballs, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (if the meatballs are fully cooked) or 400 degrees (if they are not fully cooked). Arrange the meatballs in a baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Then, bake directly from frozen until hot, 20 to 30 minutes for cooked meatballs or 25 to 30 minutes for uncooked meatballs (uncooked meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F).
- To Freeze. After the meatballs have fully baked, let them cool completely. Then arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until the meatballs are firm; about 1 to 2 hours. Transfer the frozen chicken meatballs to a ziptop bag. Squish out as much air as possible and seal. You can also freeze the meatballs uncooked, following the same steps above. Frozen cooked or uncooked meatballs may be stored for up to 3 months.
If baking meatballs directly from frozen, make sure they are in a baking dish that can be put in the oven with frozen food inside. Some baking dishes, particularly glass, will break if placed in a hot oven with cold food inside.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Mixing Bowls. I use this nested set of glass mixing bowls almost daily in my kitchen.
- Baking Dish. This one is safe for the oven, microwave, AND freezer!
- Sheet Pan. An alternative to using a baking dish to prepare these healthy chicken meatballs in the oven.
The Best Sheet Pans
I’ve been using these for years! Their heat conductivity is still like brand new, and their shape hasn’t warped.
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Get back to the basics with this simple Italian chicken meatballs recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cheese is important for this recipe because it flavors the chicken meatballs and helps them hold their shape. Therefore I’m not sure I would omit the cheese or substitute it. If you’re looking for meatballs without cheese, try these Cranberry Turkey Meatballs, Whole30 Meatballs, or experiment with using nutritional yeast.
Chicken meatballs are fully cooked when evenly brown, firm to the touch, and register an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
Check out my Air Fryer Meatballs recipe as a good starting point.
Baked Chicken Meatballs
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound ground chicken (I like 93% lean)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese finely grated
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste divided
- 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
- 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach lightly packed
- Tomato sauce
- Cooked whole wheat pasta, zucchini, or other vegetable noodles
- Buns for sandwiches
- Toothpicks to serve as an appetizer
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Beat the egg in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the chicken, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, red pepper flakes, parsley, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Finely chop the spinach so that it is in small bits, then add it to the bowl.
With a fork or your hands, mix until well combined, being careful not to compact the meat.
Shape the mixture into 12 meatballs and arrange them in the prepared baking dish, 1-inch apart, so they do not touch.
Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste in a small bowl. It won’t be perfectly smooth but will bake up just fine. Brush over the top of the meatballs.
Bake the meatballs in the upper third of the oven for 18 to 22 minutes until cooked through. Serve hot with pasta, zucchini noodles, inside a hoagie bun, or any way you choose!
- TO STORE: Store cooked and cooled leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm leftover refrigerated meatballs in a 350-degree F oven until heated through and steaming. IF reheating frozen meatballs, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (if the meatballs are fully cooked) or 400 degrees (if they are not fully cooked). Arrange the meatballs in a baking dish coated with nonstick spray. Then, bake directly from frozen until hot, 20 to 30 minutes for cooked meatballs or 25 to 30 minutes for uncooked meatballs (uncooked meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F).
- TO FREEZE: After the meatballs have fully baked, let them cool completely. Then arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until the meatballs are firm; about 1 to 2 hours. Transfer the frozen chicken meatballs to a ziptop bag. Squish out as much air as possible and seal. You can also freeze the meatballs uncooked, following the same steps above. Frozen cooked or uncooked meatballs may be stored for up to 3 months.
READ: Baked Chicken Meatballs