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Caramelized Onion Turkey Meatballs

Caramelized Onion Turkey Meatballs

Recipe by thesal28_wpCourse: MainDifficulty: Medium


Total time





I developed this meatball recipe to solve two problems I encountered with other meatball recipes: 1) I was so tired of having to cook off a tiny piece of my meatball mixture every time I made meatballs to taste it for seasoning; 2) I’m very picky about the texture of the onions in my meatballs. I believe that onions should be cooked down before being added to the meat, otherwise they stay a bit hard which ruins the mouthfeel of the meatballs. But this is a bit time consuming.

I solved the first problem by standardizing the seasoning, as I’ve learned throughout my years that 1 tsp of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt is the ideal amount for 1 lb. of any meat. This Caramelized Onion Turkey Meatball recipe contains the perfect amount of salt for my tastebuds, but it is based on my using Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If you are looking to elevate your cooking I highly suggest buying it. Chefs use it because it has half the salinity of regular iodized salt, which means it is harder to oversalt food with it. Also, it has an ideal texture for sprinkling. If you are using a different type of salt in your meatballs, you will want to cook off a small piece of your meatball mixture before shaping the mixture into balls. I say just save yourself the time and buy the Diamond Crystal.

I solved the second problem by using caramelized onions, which I make in large batches and then freeze, to be used in future recipes. I usually caramelize 3 lbs. of onions at a time, so I can have them on hand for other recipes, like my Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Ziti or French Onion Soup and if you wish to do the same, follow the guidelines here. The recipe for this dish, uses 2/3 cup of caramelized onions, so the instructions provided within are tailored to that amount.

If you follow me on social media, you are well aware that one of my biggest pet peeves is when I read a food creator’s recipe that says, “cook onions until caramelized, about 20 minutes.” It actually infuriates me. First, because it’s near impossible to caramelize onions in twenty minutes without burning the sugars and drying out the onions completely. Second, because there is a little bit of technique involved in the onion caramelizing process. 

Sugar doesn’t caramelize in the presence of moisture, so it is important to draw out much of the moisture from the onions so that the sugars in the onion can caramelize. However, if you do this too quickly, at too high a temperature, the sugars will burn and the onion skins will turn papery. To prevent this, we begin cooking the onions over high heat, for the first five minutes, to draw out and evaporate the water contain within the onions, then drop the temperature down low, so the sugars can slowly caramelize. Also, when caramelizing onions, I prefer to use Vidalia onions, which have a high sugar content. But, you could use brown or white onions as well, or even shallots or leeks. 

One last and very important word about this recipe. I keep it ethnicity neutral so that I can make a large batch of meatballs, then use them in various preparations. Sometimes I toss them with Korean BBQ sauce and eat them with Kimchi other times I toss them in Piccata Sauce. If you want to make Spaghetti and Meatballs with these Caramelized Onion and Turkey Meatballs, feel free to add some dried herbs into your meat mixture. And if you are looking for a classic Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe, I got one for ya right here.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. Vidalia onions (about 3 medium onions), diced

  • 2 lbs ground turkey (NOT breast, dark meat ensures more flavor)

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt* (please read text above if you are using a different brand/type salt)

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

  • grapeseed oil


  • Add 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil to a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onions and sprinkle 1/2 tsp Kosher salt evenly over them. For the next 5 minutes, stir the onions frequently, encouraging them to release their moisture. Reduce the heat to medium and set a timer for 45 minutes. Stir the onions every 5 minutes for the next 30 minutes, keeping them in one cohesive mass. When there is 15 minutes left on the timer, push the onions to one side of the pan, as they will have lost a significant amount of volume and need to remain in a cohesive mass. If possible, adjust the pan so that only the portion with the onions is making direct contact with the heat. Keep stirring the onions every 5 minutes. Once 45 minutes are up, the onions will be sweet, jammy in texture, and caramel colored. If you prefer your onions to have a deeper color and more intense flavor, cook for another 15 minutes.
  • Allow the onions to cool to room temperature, then add to a large bowl. Add ground turkey, 2 tsp Kosher salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and panko bread crumbs to bowl. Stir until just combined, as overmixing will make meatballs tough.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Roll meat into balls (I use a 1/4 measuring cup for 2 oz. meatballs) and set on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Coat the bottom of a 12 inch non-stick pan with grapeseed oil and place over medium-high heat. After a minute or so, place one meatball into the pan to gauge the oil’s temperature. The oil is sufficiently hot when it sizzles around the meatball. Using tongs, gently add meatballs one by one to the pan, giving each meatball a light jostle so that it doesn’t stick to the pan upon contact. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook them in batches if necessary. Once the pan is full of meatballs, swirl the pan gently so that the meatballs continue to stay unstuck from the bottom of the surface. Flip and swirl meatballs in the pan as necessary to brown them as evenly as possible. Once meatballs are browned, transfer them back to the sheet pan (first remove the parchment paper that the raw meatballs sat on) and place the sheet pan in the oven and cook until their internal temperature reaches 165° (F) on a meat thermometer or instant read thermometer such as this one.


  • I am an independent blogger and product reviews I share are based on my own opinions.  Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and when used to make a purchase I may earn a commission. I link to these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases.

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