If you love the flavors of buffalo chicken wings, then you’ll love these slow cooker buffalo turkey meatballs!!! They are quick and easy to make, full of flavor, and can be made dairy and gluten free, making them perfect for parties, game day or an easy, weeknight dinner.
This recipe was one of the first I shared on Off the Eaten Path.
In fact, it was the fourth one I published on Off the Eaten Path, way back in the winter of 2015.
Off the Eaten Path started as a Charlotte restaurant review blog. I’ve always loved writing and eating, so I decided I’d go out to eat at Charlotte restaurants and write about them.
I started getting questions about if I only ate out or if I also cooked at home (which I do) so I started to write about that too.
I originally made this buffalo turkey meatballs recipe for a football playoff game we were going to watch at a friend’s house, and then turned them into a blog post!
(Speaking of football food, I have a ton of really easy delicious appetizers like roasted jalapeno poppers, loaded grilled nachos, pepperoni bread, beer cheese fondue, jalapeno pimento cheese and that’s just the beginning of the football food favorites I’ve shared on the blog).
Seriously, we love football snacks in this house.
But since making slow cooker turkey meatballs for the first time, and a couple recipe tweaks and photo refreshes along the way, buffalo turkey meatballs have become a staple in our house whether it be for game day or quick, easy weeknight dinner.
So much so, crockpot turkey meatballs had to make an appearance in my cookbook, Stunning Spreads, because they are an Off the Eaten Path and easy entertaining staple.
(Of course, they make an appearance on the Elevate Your Tailgate Board in my cookbook too because did I mention we love football appetizers here?)
BUFFALO TURKEY MEATBALL INGREDIENTS
One of the reasons I love this recipe is because most of the ingredients are pantry or fridge staples, so I usually already have the ingredients at home saving me a grocery trip.
But sometimes I don’t have the ingredients at home and that’s ok because I spend like a whopping $7 at the grocery store picking up what I don’t have.
To make slow cooker buffalo turkey meatballs you’ll need:
- ground turkey (you can also use ground chicken…more on that below!)
- panko breacrumbs (but you can also make gluten free turkey meatballs in a crockpot using this recipe by eliminating the breadcrumbs or substituting a gluten free ingredient)
- white onion
- dried oregano
- dried basil
- olive oil
- buffalo wing sauce (I like to use Frank’s, but any wing sauce will do)
- blue cheese or ranch dressing (or both!) for serving
- green onions, for serving
You’ll also need a few kitchen tools and appliances for this recipe including:
- a slow cooker or crockpot
- a large mixing bowl
- a skillet (I like to use my cast iron pan but any frying pan will do)
- a wooden spoon for the meatball mixture
HOW DO YOU MAKE SLOW COOKER BUFFALO TURKEY MEATBALLS?
The most work you have to do when making crockpot turkey meatballs is making the actual meatballs.
You’ll combine the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
Using a wooden spoon or clean hands (I prefer to get in there and use my hands!) stir everything until well combined and then roll into about one to one and a half inch meatballs. (That’s about the size of a tablespoon.)
You should get about 20-24 meatballs.
Then, it’s time to brown the meatballs. While a lot of recipes call for simply baking the meatballs, I like to brown them in a skillet with olive oil in order to make sure they are brown on all sides and don’t fall apart!
Add olive oil to a skillet and heat it over medium high heat. Then in batches, add meatballs to the hot skillet and cook them about one to two minutes per side. It usually takes me about two to three batches to brown all of the meatballs because you don’t want to overcrowd the meatballs in the skillet.
As you finish browning the meatballs, transfer them to your slow cooker or crock pot. They will not be cooked all the way through after searing them and that’s ok. They will cook all the way through in the slow cooker.
Then you’ll add the buffalo sauce to the slow cooker and toss the meatballs with the sauce.
That’s it! The crock pot will do the rest of the work for you and the meatballs will be done in about two to three hours.
Don’t forget to serve with ranch or blue cheese for dipping!
CAN YOU MAKE CROCKPOT TURKEY MEATBALLS AHEAD OF TIME?
These crockpot turkey meatballs can be mixed and made one to two days ahead of time (do everything before you get to searing them) and then just stored in the fridge until you are ready to sear them and cook them in the slow cooker with the buffalo sauce.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TURKEY MEATBALLS FROM FALLING APART?
I used to always struggle when it came making meatballs…I’d form them and they’d look so good and then like clockwork would fall apart in the sauce.
I have found that these turkey meatballs don’t fall apart because it is just the right ratio between breadcrumbs and eggs: too many breadcrumbs or too few breadcrumbs and your meatballs will fall apart. Same thing happens with eggs: too many eggs make for soggy turkey meatballs.
Beyond the amount of breadcrumbs or eggs that are in a meatball recipe, a really great tip when it comes to making meatballs is to work fast and to not over mix your meatball mixture. You want your turkey mixture to be cold so it is easier to form the balls, and the less you handle your mixture, the colder it can stay.
I also like to pan fry my meatballs in a shallow pan (rather than baking them or using a deep pot) because it is easy to move them around and make sure that you get a solid, crusty sear on all sides.
I have found when baking meatballs, sometimes my oven is not hot enough and the meatballs don’t have that hard sear which makes them then fall apart once they are transferred to the slow cooker.
CAN YOU THIS MAKE THIS BUFFALO TURKEY MEATBALL RECIPE GLUTEN FREE?
Yes! You can totally make gluten free turkey meatballs in a crockpot using this recipe.
Substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs or another gluten-free binding agent (like Rice Chex or arrowroot flour) for the Panko breadcrumbs.
If you are using gluten-free breadcrumbs, substitute for the Panko in equal amounts.
You can also omit the breadcrumbs all together and add an additional egg as a binding agent.
WHAT CAN I SUBSTITUTE FOR GROUND TURKEY?
I usually make these with ground turkey because turkey is easier to find at my local grocery store.
But you can also use ground chicken in this recipe…and if using ground chicken, follow the recipe the same!
WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH THEM?
Of course, you first want to make sure you serve the meatballs with ranch or blue cheese or some other kind of dipping sauce (I promise the dipping makes them even more delicious!)
But beyond dipping, what should I eat with crockpot turkey meatballs?
You can serve buffalo turkey meatballs as an appetizer or snack during a party or game day celebration as part of a larger spread with a bunch of different appetizers. A good rule of thumb when it comes to serving appetizers and snacks to guests instead of a full meal:
- serve a variety of appetizers from different food categories (like healthy, starchy, protein packed and light snacks)
- the more guests you are planning to have, the more appetizer selections you should have
- if you aren’t going to be serving dinner, make sure you plan to serve between 8 and 10 pieces per person so your guests leave happy and full
If you’ll be making these buffalo turkey meatballs as a weeknight meal for your family, here are a few serving suggestions:
- put slow cooker turkey meatballs over rice or cauliflower rice
- serve with a healthy and bright side salad (I love this Apple Pecan Salad and this Whole 30 Bacon Apple Salad)
- serve with roasted sweet potatoes or other roasted veggies on the side