This recipe for Baked Chicken and Apple Meatballs brings together two favorite dinner ideas: meatballs and fruit for dinner. Meatballs are great for weeknights, because, aside from a little chopping, they are simple to make and come together in about 30 minutes.
Once you learn there’s a pretty standard meatball formula, you’ll realize they have infinite variety beyond spaghetti. So turn on your oven, and let’s start making these chicken apple meatballs!
Sometimes ground chicken and turkey can be bland, and so one test version of these apple chicken meatballs had cheese to add more flavor. Ultimately I kept cheese out of the recipe, but, with the apple, toasted pecans, and sage, these meatballs still have bold flavors.
Chicken is a great addition to many diets because it’s a lean protein. So explore other great chicken recipes like these pan-roasted chicken breasts, Moroccan chicken with dates, or Parmesan chicken muffins.
Fruit for dinner
There are some classic meat and fruit pairings, like pork chops and applesauce (cue Peter Brady) or turkey and cranberries like in this turkey meatloaf. I’ve explored these pairings in lamb meatballs with raisins and a pork tenderloin with bourbon apples. Can you think of a better way to bring in a bit of natural sweetness?
You can use either finely chopped or grated apple in these apple and chicken meatballs. Chopped apple will give you discrete apple chunks. Grated apple will melt into the mixture and make the meatballs taste sweet.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Substitutions and variations
- Ground turkey or ground pork would work in this apple meatball recipe.
- Use hazelnuts, almonds, or even macadamia nuts in place of pecans.
- Sub gluten-free panko.
Making homemade meatballs
- The easy-to-remember starting ratio for meatballs and meatloaf 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 you’re using onion or some other crunchy vegetable like fennel or celery, it will need to be cooked before you add it to the meatball mixture. But that just adds time and another pan to clean. If a recipe calls for onions, try substituting green onions or garlic.
- The mixture should be combined gently with your hands and rolled into balls. A medium-sized (#40) cookie scoop will give you meatballs of about the same size.
Recipe tips and tricks
Step 1: Make the meatballs. To form the meatballs, combine the pound of ground chicken, the apple, and all of the other ingredients into a large bowl. Mix with your hands to avoid over-working the meat mixture.
Step 2: Use a cookie scoop or use your hands to scoop golf ball-sized chicken meatballs (about 2 generous tablespoons). Roll the mixture gently in your hands to form a ball and place them in an oiled pan or rimmed baking sheet, leaving space around each one. You can also line the pan with parchment paper for easier clean-up.
Step 3: Bake the apple chicken meatballs 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.
What to serve with baked chicken and apple meatballs
- Serve these baked chicken apple meatballs over beans or chickpeas, lightly fried with a bit of garlic and salt. Or you could also have them over rice, polenta, farro, or another grain.
- If you want a sauce or gravy, just make sure it’s light, to match these meatballs.
- Serve with sauteed mushrooms or an unsweetened applesauce.
- For wines, pick a crisp white wine, like a Pinot Grigio or a dry Riesling.
- If you have leftovers, turn your chicken apple meatballs into a meatball wrap! Combine chopped meatballs with some wild rice and chopped fennel, and you’ve got tomorrow’s lunch.
Yes. There’s no reason you can’t fry them. Except for my spaghetti and meatballs and BBQ 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.
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 to 6 months. You can use frozen meatballs any way you would use freshly made ones, and they go great as an addition to soups.
If you are using apple chunks, use any apple that remains firm when cooked and has a strong apple flavor. You could use a tart apple like a Granny Smith or Pink Lady or any sweet apple, as long as it stays crisp when cooked.
Disclosure: I was given two boxes of HunnyZ apples by the folks at Gee Whiz after I discovered how much I loved this new apple, which is a cross between a Honeycrisp and Crimson Crisp apple.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Chicken and Apple Meatballs
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil optional
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 egg
- ½ cup panko or other dried breadcrumbs
- 1 medium to large apple peeled and finely chopped or grated
- ¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Use the vegetable oil to grease a baking pan or dish, or line the pan with parchment paper.1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Add all of the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix together using your hands.1 pound ground chicken, 1 egg, ½ cup panko or other dried breadcrumbs, 1 medium to large apple, ¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ 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.
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