Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs Recipe – Cheesy and Spicy

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This one is a knock out if I do say so myself. This slow cooker turkey meatballs recipe is not only spicy but also has a savory cheesy flavor that will surely have you wishing you made more.

I vaguely remember making homemade meatballs at home with my mother growing up. They would have most likely been made with ground beef. And they would have absolutely not been spicy (for several reasons: a) my mother does not, nor has she ever liked spicy food, b) I was a suuuper picky eater growing up and spicy did not fall within my palatable flavor range at the time, and c) my brother was possibly even pickier than I was.)

I digress. What I remember most about the meatballs we made growing up was how much I loved them. Nowadays, I don't find myself eating a lot of ground beef though. So for this recipe, we are going to use ground turkey. I tend to use 93% lean over any other variety. Also for this recipe, we are going to turn up the heat a little bit with some ground cayenne pepper. My palette's boundaries have significantly broadened since my childhood. I like things to get a little hot sometimes. My food, I mean. I like my food to get a little spicy sometimes*.


This recipe is very bold with flavor. I used jars of pasta sauce instead of making my own. The pasta sauce that I chose to use already had a lot of garlic in it. Had it not, I would have used 2 cloves of minced garlic in the sauce to make sure the garlic was prevalent. I also added fresh diced onion to the sauce. Go bold or go home! These added, fresh flavors do wonders to the overall flavor and aroma of your dish. My house smelled more and more decadent the longer these bad boys percolated.

Thaw the meat.

This may seem like a very obvious step. However, I don't like to assume that any of you would assume that you would have to thaw the meat in order to make the meat into meatballs later. Instead, I am just going to explain that later on we are going to be mushing and mashing the meat in a mixing bowl and doing this is going to be impossible if the meat is frozen solid.


If you don't stock breadcrumbs at your house.

Don't panic. I don't either. Mostly because I make some gluten free choices. I do not have Celiacs. I just have some odd dietary habits 😉

I do always have some sort of plain Chex cereal (I don't like the sugary stuff) stocked at my house though. At the time of this recipe, I had Corn Chex in my cupboard. To turn it into "breadcrumbs", simply take a palm full of Chex, put them in a sandwich bag and seal it, then crush the cereal. Ta-da! You just made breadcrumbs. Making breadcrumbs is more fun than using plain old store bought ones anyway.

Raw ground turkey is gross.

Speaking as a somewhat recently ex-pescatarian, raw ground turkey is so very, very gross. I earned the right to saw this as I mushed it around in a mixing bowl with my bare hands. I used to have latex gloves in my kitchen. They belonged to my roommate at the time, but occasionally I would use them. I never realized how much I missed having gloves in my kitchen until I was wrist deep in ground turkey.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Get it? Turkey is protein. Protein makes you strong 😉

(insert noodle here) and meatballs.

The saying goes "spaghetti and meatballs". But here at, we don't always adhere to tradition. Pick whatever noodle suits your fancy and serve your meatballs with them!

I chose penne for my dinner. More specifically, I used a gluten free penne noodle. Rotini noodles have been my usual go-to recently. I like how they do not get mushy too easily. In fact, the noodle usually tastes a little hard in the very center. Anyway, choose whichever noodle feels right to you. Don't choose spaghetti just because you feel like the meatballs mandate it. Cooking is supposed to be fun, remember?! And cavatappi is pretty fun if you ask me!

The recipe.

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Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 1/2 hours
Makes: about 15 meatballs
With pasta: makes about 5 servings

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey, 93% lean
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 crushed Corn Chex, you may use breadcrumbs if you'd like, substitute a 1:1 ratio
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2 jars Prego Roasted Garlic Parmesan
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp oregano

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1) Spray the pot.

2) In a separate mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for your meatballs.

Add grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs.

Add egg and minced garlic.

Add seasonings.

3) Mush and mix it all together. No need to do this harshly, just gently make sure the ingredients blend together thoroughly.

4) Form meatballs gently in the palm of your hand. Gently is key here. If you make the meatballs too dense, they may not be as juicy later on!

5) Place the meatballs along the bottom of the pot. (Make a nice even layer. You may stack the meatballs if you have to. You do not want to over crowd the pot.)

6) Pour both jars of sauce over the meatballs.

7) Add the onion and garlic you diced and minced for the sauce.

8) Add oregano.

9) Cook on high for 2 and a half hours.

10) Stir gently to combine ingredients.

11) Instructions for pasta will vary depending on what noodles you use. Read the instructions that come with your noodles and plan the cook time accordingly. For mine, I started boiling my water for my noodles about half an hour before my meatballs were set to be done.

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Penne, rotini, spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, macaroni, shells, tortellini? Tell us what your favorite noodle is below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.

8 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs Recipe – Cheesy and Spicy

  1. This. Is. Awesome. Especially this time of year when the weather is cooler land grilling isn’t always an option, I crave food from slow cookers. This turkey meatball recipe is something I would make because I crave it in the winter time, especially with the pasta as well. I can be a carboholic during this time of year, so the pasta is a definite and this might be something I’ll make this weekend or in a couple weeks on Super Bowl Sunday. Excellent article.

    1. Thank you Todd! This is an awesome idea for Superbowl Sunday. Maybe I will be making it again soon! I was looking for a reason to make them again anyway since they were so delicious 🙂

  2. I love slow cooker recipes and am always on the lookout for them. So glad I found this site.

    As for pasta, I like variety, but if I had to choose one, angel hair all the way. Plus, it takes like five minutes to make!

  3. Wow this looks so yummy and amazing. am going to try this tomorrow. I love they way you have explained every bit of it’s cooking rather than just sharing the recipe as other people do, I wil be looking forward for more amazing recipes from you.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. Feel free to stop back here and let us know how trying this recipe out went for you!
      I want everyone to feel comfortable following my recipes. Step by step instructions are going to help me accomplish that 🙂

  4. The pix of the Turkey meatballs are so inviting, my family will surely give it a try soon. The recipes are well laid out and I think this will be easy to follow. Thanks for an additional meal on the family table.

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