Turkey meatballs transform Thanksgiving with a toothpick

Graphic: Libby McGuire, Photo: Allison Robicelli

Welcome to Snacksgiving, where we bring you classic Thanksgiving dishes in the form of poppable, dippable, shareable bites.


The best place at a party is in the kitchen, and the best place in the kitchen is next to the pot of cocktail meatballs. Everything tastes better when it’s on a toothpick. Plus, cocktail meatballs serve an important conversational function. If the flow of talk comes to an awkward juncture—as often happens when you’re surrounded by people with whom you have very little in common besides DNA and embarrassing childhood memories—it’s easy for you to casually reach over and stuff a meatball into your mouth and use the chewing time to think of an appropriate reply. If you need to emphasize a particular point in the middle of an argument, you can gesture dramatically with your toothpick. Can regular turkey do that?

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Classic 1970s-style “party meatballs” require dropping your meatballs into a warm bath of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce, because the ’70s were a hell of a time to be alive. For Snacksgiving, it seemed rather obvious to swap out the grape jelly for cranberry sauce; the “whole berry” cranberry sauce is preferable, as it has a bit more tartness than its can-shaped jelly compatriot, and the classic party meatball is already almost too sugary. The sweet chili sauce gets replaced with actual chili sauce—we used Sambal Oelek, but feel free to use Sriracha or a similarly thick pepper sauce. (Chef’s note: If you really want to bring the pain, try Baron.)



Photo: Allison Robicelli

Thanksgiving Turkey Party Meatballs

Makes 24 meatballs

Meatballs

  • One 20-ounce package ground turkey
  • 2 cups small hard pretzels
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. Sambal chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

Garnish

  • 1 small chili pepper, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a food processor or a rolling pin to roughly crush the pretzels into pebble-sized pieces. Add to a bowl with the ground turkey, egg, mustard, onion, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and use your hands to mix well. Divide into 24 golf-ball-sized meatballs and place either on a baking sheet or in mini-muffin baking tins and bake for 20 minutes until cooked through.

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Blend together the Sambal, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar, and cranberry sauce, then pour it into a skillet and cook over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add the meatballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are richly glazed. Serve on tiny toothpicks, garnished with minced chili pepper.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.