Turkey Meatballs in Cranberry BBQ Sauce

By Irvin Lin
The combination of turkey and cranberries are obvious to anyone that has sat down for a Thanksgiving meal. But the tart tangy cranberries also work well in a bright and colorful BBQ sauce base for turkey meatballs. This crowd-pleasing appetizer is an excellent addition to any holiday buffet or party. Feel free to use fresh or frozen cranberries for this recipe. And if you can find it, try to use ground turkey thigh meat as it is more tender and juicy.
  • Yield: 24 meatballs


  • balsamic vinegar
  • cayenne pepper
  • Chopped onion
  • chopped parsley leaves
  • Cinnamon
  • Cranberries
  • Cranberry BBQ Sauce
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Dry White Wine
  • Egg
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • garlic
  • ground turkey
  • juice from 1 orange
  • kosher salt
  • olive oil
  • panko bread crumbs
  • tomato paste
  • Turkey Meatballs
  • Water
  • zest from 1 orange


  1. Make the meatballs by placing the ground turkey, bread crumbs, cheese, onions, garlic, parsley, orange zest, tomato paste, salt and egg in a medium sized bowl. Gently mix with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pinch off a lump and form 24 1-inch balls with your hands.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet on medium heat and then place the meatballs in the skillet. Cook the meatballs until they are brown on all sides. They don’t need to be completely cooked on the inside. Cover the skillet and set aside.
  3. Place the cranberries in a blender or food processor and process until the berries are broken up into small bits. Scrape out cranberries into a 1 1/2 quart saucepan and add the brown sugar, tomato paste, white wine, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper (if using). Add 4 tablespoons of water to the pan and turn the heat to medium high. Cook stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Pour the cranberry BBQ sauce over the meatballs and stir to coat all the meatballs. Bring the sauce to a simmer, adding more water if it needs to be thinned down and then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, with no pink on the inside.