Chicken and Apple Meatballs

Chicken and Apple Meatballs

This recipe for chicken and apple meatballs brings together two of my favorite dinner ideas – 1) meatballs and 2) fruit for dinner.

Why meatballs? Aside from a little chopping, meatballs are extremely easy to make, come together in about 30 minutes, and have infinite variety beyond spaghetti and meatballs.

Fruit for dinner? Absolutely. Just like my lamb meatballs with raisins and pine nuts or pork tenderloin with bourbon apples. There are some classic meat-fruit pairings, like pork chops and applesauce (cue Peter Brady) or turkey and cranberries. What better than to bring in a bit of natural sweetness.

Sometimes ground chicken and turkey can be bland, and so I contemplated adding Parmesan to these meatballs to add more flavor. Ultimately I opted for a lower fat content, but, with the apple, toasted pecans, and sage, they weren’t lacking at all.

Tips and tricks for making any meatballs

  • The easy-to-remember starting ratio for meatballs and meatloaves is one pound of ground meat: one egg: one half cup of breadcrumbs or equivalent.
  • You should finely chop any add-ins, or your meatballs may have a hard time staying together.
  • If I’m using onion or some other crunchy vegetable (e.g. fennel, celery), I will often saute it beforehand, but that just adds time and another pan to clean. If a recipe calls for onions, I’ll often substitute green onions, which don’t have to be pre-cooked.
  • The mixture should be combined gently with your hands (no need to knead!) and rolled to form balls. I use a medium-sized (#40) cookie scoop to get meatballs of generally the same size for cooking consistency.
the chicken and apple meatball mixture in a glass bowl

FAQs about chicken and apple meatballs

How should I serve with these chicken and apple meatballs?

We often eat meatballs over beans or chickpeas, lightly fried with a bit of garlic and salt. But you could also have them over rice, polenta, farro, etc. If you do a sauce or gravy, just make sure it’s light, to match these meatballs.

Will this recipe work with other ground meats?

Yes, this would easy translate to turkey and apple meatballs or pork and apple meatballs. But I probably wouldn’t use this recipe with ground beef or lamb.

Can I substitute another nut for the pecans?

Of course. I’ve been thinking about these meatballs with hazelnuts or almonds or even macadamia nuts.

Can I make this gluten-free?

Yes, there are a lot of things to use that could substitute for the panko. We have used Ian’s Gluten Free Original Panko and can’t tell the difference.

Can I fry these chicken apple meatballs?

Yes. There’s no reason you can’t fry them. Except for my spaghetti meatballs, which I braise, I bake meatballs because it uses less oil and takes up less of my attention. If you do fry them, definitely make a pan sauce to go on top.

Can I freeze these meatballs?

Meatballs freeze and reheat perfectly for future meals. Let them cool, blot off any oil with paper towels, and store in a freezer bag (after squeezing out all of the air) for 3-6 months. You can use frozen meatballs any way you would use freshly made ones, and they go great as an addition to soups.

Which apple should I use in this chicken meatballs recipe?

I used a HunnyZ apple because it remains firm when cooked and has a strong apple flavor. You could use a tart apple (e.g. Granny Smith, Pink Lady) or any sweet apple, as long as it stays crisp when cooked. I wasn’t looking for applesauce in my meatballs.

Why are you writing so many apple recipes?

Disclosure: I was recently given two boxes of HunnyZ apples by the folks at Gee Whiz. About a month ago, I wrote a post about late season apples and discovered how much I loved this new apple, which is a cross between a Honeycrisp and Crimson Crisp apple.

What wine should I drink with these chicken and apple meatballs?

I would pick a crisp white wine, like a Pinot Grigio or a dry Riesling.

unbaked chicken and apple meatballs in a roasting pan

Chicken and apple meatballs

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup panko or other dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium to large apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Use the teaspoon of vegetable oil to grease a baking pan or dish.
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients (i.e. everything except for the vegetable oil) into a large bowl and mix together using your hands.
    1 pound ground chicken, 1 egg, 1/2 cup panko or other dried breadcrumbs, 1 medium to large apple, peeled and finely chopped, 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Use a cookie scoop or use your hands to scoop golf ball-sized (2 generous tablespoons) amount of mixture. Roll the mixture gently in your hands to form a ball and place them in the dish, leaving space around each one. You will have about 20 meatballs.
  • Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature is 165°F. About 10 minutes into baking, shake the meatballs around and use a spatula to loosen any that might be sticking to the pan. Serve warm.


Variations: use another nut in place of the pecans.

What’s next?

If you make these chicken and apple meatballs, please comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Check out other apple recipes from the archives.

Or other meatballs:
Lamb meatballs with raisins and pinenuts
Lamb meatballs with sesame seeds, cumin, and coriander
Shrimp and pork meatballs

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baked chicken and apple meatballs in a bowl

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