Gluten Free Meatballs

5 from 3 votes

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Easy, flavorful gluten free turkey meatballs made with ground flaxseed in place of breadcrumbs.

gluten free meatballs on a plate with basil leaves and a serving fork

PHEW! Now that that’s out of the way.

What’s “that,” you ask? Oh, that’s 2020.

Bye, Felicia.

Hasta la vista.

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New year, new recipes, new adventures. How about it?

So listen, this right here is a dessert heavy blog. You know this if you’re a regular.

gluten free meatballs in a slow cooker with a wooden spoon

But I do love scattering my content with savory dishes, and you all love them too– my make ahead breakfast casserole, crustless caprese quiche, and tortilla pizza are all quite popular.

And, to be honest, are all staples in our house.

That said, I do always like to start January off on a “healthier” note every year, not because diet culture is anything I encourage, but I do also know that life isn’t and can’t be all about cookies, though I sometimes wish it could be.

gluten free meatballs on a plate with basil leaves and a serving fork

I promise that next week, I’ll be sharing my first of the 2021 series (no bake desserts!).

But for now, let’s get down to meatball business. It’s a pretty tasty business, if I do say so myself, and I’m so happy to be bringing this new and improved recipe to you!

I have had these easy gluten free meatballs on my blog for 4 years. We’ve made them countless times, and because of that, I’ve been able to adapt them to several different situations and have updated the recipe with all of those details.

gluten free meatballs on a plate with basil leaves and a serving fork

Though they’ve always been gluten free, we recently took on a dietary adjustment in our house– Matt is trying out dairy free!

So, to that, I’ve most recently made these gluten free meatballs to be dairy free meatballs as well. There are notes about that in the recipe.

Still delicious, still perfect, still my go-to gluten free meatball recipe.

aerial photo of gluten free meatballs on a plate with basil leaves and a serving fork

Here’s the full disclosure: I adoreeeee spaghetti and meatballs (I mean, I am Italian, for goodness’ sake!). In fact, I craved pasta during my first pregnancy, which is where this easy gluten free meatball recipe originated.

I wanted to satisfy my pasta craving, but also wanted to insure I was still getting lots of protein. So I swapped traditional breadcrumbs with ground flaxseed, and the texture, flavor, and sturdiness was never compromised.

I also love using ground flaxseed as a binder in my quinoa patties. Perfection!

Have you used ground flaxseed before? It’s a wonderful ingredient. It’s slightly nutty, flaky like breadcrumbs, and it packs quite a nutritional punch: omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant qualities, fiber, and lots of protein.

I loveeee throwing it into smoothies, cereal, cookies, breads… You name it. Quite an impressive and versatile little ingredient!

gluten free meatball cut in half to see the inside

I like to use ground turkey for my meatballs because it’s pretty low in fat. But you’re welcome to use whatever kind of meat you’d like and whatever fat content. Ground beef, ground chicken… Your choice.

And no joke, these gluten free turkey meatballs are so simple. So simple, actually, that the hands-on time is virtually nothing when you compare it to all the work being done inside your slow cooker.

That’s my kinda recipe, yeah??

Aside from the meat and ground flaxseed, you’re going to need a bunch of spices (nothing too crazy), some Parm cheese (or– like I mentioned– see the recipe for dairy free options!), an onion, and two cans of crushed tomatoes.

To get started, mix all of your meat, flaxseed, cheese, spices, and one beaten egg and roll it all into balls. I like to use a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to get the perfect, uniform size.

After they’re all rolled, you’ll lightly brown the meatballs for a couple reasons.

meatballs browning in a skillet

First of all, you need them to stay together in the slow cooker, otherwise they will all just fall apart.

meatballs browning in a skillet

And second, you want to start the browning process and bring out all those lovely spices and flavors. Just about a minute or two on each side.

Once your meatballs are browned, transfer them to the slow cooker, which has been prepped with an onion and 1 can of crushed tomatoes.

slow cooker filled with sliced onions and a can of crushed tomatoes being poured on top

Continue browning the rest of your meatballs, cover all of the meatballs with more crushed tomatoes, and then set it and forget it!

aerial photo of browned gluten free meatballs in a slow cooker ready to cook

You’ll need about 6-7 hours on low, 4-5 on high. I test a few meatballs with a meat thermometer to make sure they are done. You’re looking for 165°F (74°C) for poultry.

When the meatballs are fully cooked, eat them straight up, throw them into a roll for a meatball sub, toss them on top of your plate of pasta, or eat them on a salad.

They are so versatile and so tasty, you’ll want to put them on everything just to have an excuse to eat them. And I can say with confidence, they’re totally toddler/kid-approved in our house!

Tender, flavorful meatballs, made totally gluten free with good-for-you ingredients. This is absolutely something January can get down with, amirite?! Try them out, I’m sure you’ll find they’re much easier than you think and waaaaaaay better than buying frozen.

Speaking of, see notes in the recipe for making ahead and freezing.

hand sticking a toothpick into a gluten free meatball

Homemade meatballs, for the win! Your Italian grandmother will be so proud.

gluten free meatballs on a plate with basil leaves and a serving fork
5 from 3 votes
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Gluten Free Meatballs

Easy, flavorful gluten free turkey meatballs made with ground flaxseed in place of breadcrumbs.
Prep Time45 minutes
Bake Time6 hours
Total Time6 hours 45 minutes
Recipe Author Lynn April
Servings: 36 medium size meatballs


  • 1 large egg
  • 2 pounds (907g) ground turkey1 any fat content
  • cup (63g) ground flaxseed2
  • cup (30g) grated Parmesan cheese3
  • 2 Tablespoons (30mL) olive oil plus more for the frying pan
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 2 28-ounce cans (1588g) crushed tomatoes


  • In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the ground turkey, flaxseed, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir with a large spatula until completely combined.
  • Roll meat mixture into balls and place on a large plate or platter until you are ready to cook them. I like to use a cookie scoop (for medium size meatballs) or ice cream scoop (for larger meatballs). My meatballs are usually around 1oz in weight/size. Set aside.
  • Place the chopped onion in the bottom of a slow cooker4, then top with one can of the crushed tomatoes.
  • Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Lightly brown the meatballs (about 8 at a time), about 1-2 minutes each side. Place each batch of browned meatballs into the slow cooker until all meatballs are browned. Cover meatballs with second can of crushed tomatoes.
  • Cover the meatballs and cook4 on low for 6-7 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Leftovers will stay fresh in the refrigerator, covered, up to 1 week.
  • Make ahead: prepare meatballs through the browning step, then cover and refrigerate up to 1 day or freeze up to 2 months. Add to slow cooker cold or frozen and cook as directed. Alternatively, fully prepare up to 1 day in advance, refrigerate, then reheat in the slow cooker on low for 1 hour. Cooked meatballs can be frozen in sauce up to 2 months. Defrost in refrigerator before reheating.


  1. Meat: use any ground meat here.
  2. Ground flaxseed: if you don’t need or want these to be gluten-free, replace with the same amount of breadcrumbs.
  3. Make them dairy-free: replace Parmesan cheese with ⅓ cup gluten free breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup vegan cheese, or ⅓ cup additional ground flaxseed. I like to change up the texture and use breadcrumbs. 
  4. No slow cooker? Use your stove top: follow the same preparation instructions, and simmer over medium-low heat until sauce thickens and meatballs are fully cooked, about 35 minutes.
  5. Test for doneness: I check a few meatballs with a meat thermometer to ensure food safety. You’re looking for 165°F (74°C) for poultry.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @freshaprilflours on Instagram or tag #freshaprilflours!

Nutrition Disclosure

All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.

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  1. Firstly, thank you lady for the shout out!
    Secondly, Chris is going to LOOOOOVE these! I can just imagine the grin on his face when he sees these coming out of the oven! And a homemade meatball sub is something that will definitely keep my man happy! Love that these are made with ground flaxseeds too – extra Omegas are always a good thing! Happy meat-balling!

    1. You’re welcome for the shoutout, my GF/vegetarian expert chef! I loveeee using flaxseed in place of breadcrumbs. It almost always turns out the same, and with so many added benefits!

  2. Don’t worry, I will totally read your blog whatever you post. I am expecting some different foods to start coming on here, because my aunt (who has six kids under 10) gets incredible cravings every time she’s pregnant. Of course, not that anybody minds, because most of the time, it’s sweet. Especially doughnuts.
    I am so much a carnivore AND a carbivore, so I love these meatballs. With pasta. You bet. Can’t wait to make them!

    1. Hahaha, thanks so much, Aria! I appreciate your sweet comment. Thanks for always reading! And I hope you make these meatballs– they are one for the books!

  3. Um, I am in love. (Insert googly eyes emoji here). Using flax in place of breadcrumbs? You are a GENIUS, my dear. While I have a hard time veering from Anthony’s Yaya’s meatball recipe, we are most certainly going to have to give these babies a shot. I can’t wait to try them!!!!

  4. Do you think these would still be flavorful without the cheese for those of us avoiding dairy? Flaxseed sounds like a great alternative. Thank you!

    1. I appreciate your reply, Lynn! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. And just for the record, I’m one of those looking for healthy gf recipes without any added sugars, so I’m on board! Thanks and have a good evening!

    2. Great! I have a lot of healthier recipes in my lineup so stay tuned for some of those! Thanks for stopping by, Linda!

  5. Hello 🙂
    I have a long work day… Do you think they would be ok in the slow cooker for 10h on low?
    Thanks! Can’t wait to try them 🙂

  6. Hi! I just came across this recipe and I’m going to try it soon. One question though, does the flaxseed change the consistency of the meatballs? Are they more gritty? Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Katy, the flaxseed doesn’t change the consistency of the meatballs, and if it does, the result is definitely not gritty. If you’re worried, though, you can always use breadcrumbs (1:1 sub) or GF bread crumbs if that’s what you’re interested in (also a 1:1 sub).

  7. 5 stars
    I never would’ve thought to add flaxseed to meatballs but any added nutrients is a plus  for me! I’ll be adding it to meatballs from now on! I cooked them in the crockpot for 7 hours and they’re melt-in-your-mouth soft & packed with flavor! *Chefs kiss*

  8. 5 stars
    Wow.. I was looking for a meatball recipe with flaxseed and this sure is a winner! They are so tasty and moist. I will be making definitely make them again.

  9. 5 stars
    These turned out phenomenal! I am on a weightloss journey and it’s all new to me, so this is my first time cooking with ground flaxseed. I will be honest, I was skeptical at first because I was sure the flavor or texture would be affected, however I was 100% wrong and these meatballs were soooo good. If you didn’t know it was made with ground flax seed, you would think it had breadcrumbs in it. This recipe is going in my favorites

  10. These look great and I’m looking forward to trying them. When I click the button to “print” the recipe, though, it bounces me back to the top of the recipe post page. Is there a link I could use to print this recipe? Thank you!

    1. Hey, Kim– I’m not sure what to tell you. It may be something with your browser, because it works just fine for me on my desktop and my phone. If you have a pop-up blocker, it’s possible that’s the issue.