Friday, October 10, 2014

Low-Carb Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs (Phase One, Gluten-Free)

These low-carb and gluten-free turkey meatballs are flavorful and have added nutrition from hemp hearts.

Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on

(For Phase One Fridays I feature Phase One Recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites. Phase One Recipes are also Low-Carb and Gluten-Free.  This recipe was updated October 2012, with better photos, better instructions, and the addition of Hemp Hearts for added nutrition, and now I wouldn't mind updating the photos again so I think meatballs are on the menu this weekend!)

When I first tried these Low-Carb Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs back in 2009, ground turkey was something I'd been working hard to gain an appreciation for, since it's low in saturated fat (therefore South Beach Diet friendly.)  Now I've been using ground turkey in meatballs and meatloaf for quite a few years, and these meatballs with lots of ground herbs and Romano cheese are still one of my favorites.

In this updated version I added a small amount of hemp hearts to the recipe to bump up the nutrition, but that's completely optional.  The meatballs are a little soft to work with, and you do have to watch them so the cheese doesn't burn when you're frying them, but if you want a flavorful meatball that's Phase One, low-carb, and gluten-free, I think this recipe is a keeper!

grinding herbs for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Start by mixing together granulated garlic, rubbed sage, dried rosemary, and dried thyme in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grinding until it's in fairly small pieces. 

mixing Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Then add that to the ground turkey, along with 1/2 cup finely grated Romano (or Parmesan-Romano) cheese, hemp hearts (if using), Worcestershire sauce, and an egg.

meat mixture for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Mix all the ingredients together with clean hands.

rolled meatballs for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Then use your hands to  roll the mixture into meatballs.  You can make about 30 small meatballs or 18-20 larger ones, but I went for the slightly larger ones so I didn't have so many to keep turned in the frying pan.

cooking meatballs for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook the meatballs until they are well-browned and done clear through, about 15 minutes.
meatballs cooked for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
It's important to keep turning them often so the cheese doesn't burn, so I started with about 2/3 of the meatballs and added more as they started to get done.  (I used an instant read meat thermometer to make sure they were done, but you can also cut one in half.)

Original photo for Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
And just for laughs, here's the original photo of the turkey meatballs from back in 2009, which looked a little too brown, although they definitely didn't taste burned!

Low-Carb and Gluten-Free Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs
(Phase One, Low-Carb, Gluten-Free)
(Makes about 30 medium-sized meatballs or 18 larger ones, about 6 servings. Recipe adapted from Healthy and Tasty Turkey Meatballs at Cucina Bella.)

1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1/2 cup Romano (or Parmesan-Romano) cheese (You don't need freshly grated cheese for this recipe.)
1/4 cup raw hemp seed (optional, this makes the meatballs more nutritious.  I used Hemp Hearts.)
1 tsp. granulated garlic (I would not substitute garlic powder)
1 tsp. teaspoon rubbed sage (or less)
1 tsp. dried rosemary (or less)
1 tsp. dried thyme (or less)
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3-4 tsp. olive oil, for frying the meatballs

Take ground turkey out of the refrigerator, put into medium sized plastic bowl, and let come to room temperature. While turkey is coming to room temperature, put granulated garlic, dried sage, dried rosemary, and dried thyme in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind until it's fairly fine. (If you're making these meatballs for kids I might use a smaller amount of herbs, especially the sage and rosemary, since those are fairly strong flavors.)

When meat is room temperature, sprinkle ground herbs, Romano or Parmesan-Romano cheese, and hemp hearts over the meat; then add the egg and Worcestershire sauce. Wash hands, then use your hands to mix the herbs, cheese, and egg into the ground turkey. (Try not to overmix, just squeeze together until it's combined.)

Use a spoon to scoop out same-size pieces of meat and form into individual meatballs by rolling them between your hands. (The mixture will be soft, but it will firm when the turkey is cooked.) When all meatballs are rolled, heat 1 T (3 tsp.) olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. (Add the additional tsp. of olive oil as they cook if needed.)

Fry meatballs over medium heat, turning every few minutes to a new side, until all meatballs are well browned and done through, about 15 minutes. Cut one in half to be sure the inside is done, or test with a meat thermometer to be sure the temperature is at least 165F for ground turkey.

Serve hot. I love to eat these with Tzatziki Sauce or Market Street Grill Creamy Cucumber Sauce.

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South Beach Diet / Low-Carb Diet Suggestions:
Adding Romano or Parmesan-Romano cheese to the meatballs does add some fat, but I still think this is an acceptable choice for any phase of the South Beach Diet, and it's great for other low-carb eating plans. Romano cheese is lower in fat than Parmesan, but if you can't find it, Parmesan-Romano is a good substitute.  (I have not found any definitive information about Hemp Hearts for the South Beach diet, but they have hardly any carbs, so I am assuming they would be an approved ingredients.)

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you. (Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

More Healthy Ideas with Ground Turkey:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Healthy and Tasty Turkey Meatballs from Cucina Bella

Grilled Sriracha-Sesame Turkey Meatballs from Kalyn's Kitchen

Baked Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs from Cookin' Canuck

Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen

Turkey Meatballs with Tomatoes and Basil from Simply Recipes

Thai-Inspired Turkey Mini-Meatball Lettuce Wraps from Kalyn's Kitchen

Thai Red Curry Turkey Meatballs from The Perfect Pantry

Grilled Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Yogurt Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen

Crock Pot Italian Turkey Meatballs from Skinnytaste

Ground Turkey and Quinoa Patties with Mint, Cumin, and Yogurt-Tahini Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen  

(I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Low-Carb Turkey Meatballs with Romano Cheese and Herbs found on
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  1. These look absolutely tasty. And I like that they use turkey instead of the usual beef or pork.

  2. My mother-in-law introduced me to tasty turkey meatballs that are baked in an inch or so of water. They come out nice and fluffy.

    I also really like the cilantro turkey burgers over on Cara's Cravings blog--whether you make them big or small.

    I'm glad you are getting into ground turkey; we only eat ground turkey and chicken in my house! It's great for tacos, too. We use a low sodium taco seasoning to make turkey taco meat for salads and wraps.

  3. Is Parmesan-Romano a blend you can buy in the supermarket? I love turkey meatballs; I often used dried falafel mix instead of bread crumbs when I make mine -- would that be allowed on South Beach? The mix is ground chickpeas with herbs.

  4. Yummieeeee...Since I'm on the South Beach diet, I can eat these sometimes this week. I love your blog and all the receipes you are posting. Thank you! :)

  5. carole with an "e" in NYCJanuary 6, 2009 at 6:22 AM

    I haven't even had my breakfast yet but I'm craving these meatballs. They go on the menu this week for sure. Thanks.

  6. I'm glad people like the idea of using turkey in meatballs. Cilantro turkey burgers sound great to me. Lydia, Parmesan-Romano is a supermarket blend, lower in fat than Parmesan. Love the idea of falafel mix as a binder in meatballs too.

  7. I thaw a frozen box of chopped spinach, wring it out well and add it to turkey meatballs. It is healthy, good and pretty too. Freeze them on a cookie sheet, bag and take a few out for a quick meal or sandwhich. I try to use good ground turkey from my butcher not the pre-packaged variety which can include ground up skin.

  8. Janet, love the idea of adding spinach!

  9. Ground turkey is growing on me too. The taste is good and my only reservation is it can be dry. No probs, add some moisture back in with some olive oil and even tomato tomato puree.

  10. Starting SBD phase I next week and this will be one of the first things I cook...sounds yummy. I like to use a stand mixer with the dough hook to mix meatballs or meatloaf, then a small ice cream scoop to "dip" them out. Thanks for your blog. It's the BEST resource, from recipes to food products (love Penzey's spices) to equipment. Can't imagine SBD without it. Carol

  11. I think a great and easy way to cook meatballs is to put them on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet (with rims) and then add some broth. Cook on 425 for 20 minutes or so. This way I don't have to stand over stove.

  12. Thanks for all the good ideas everyone. I've never tried cooking meatballs on a pan with liquid in the bottom, but it sounds interesting.

  13. I've definitely never tried turkey meatballs, but want to give them a whirl -- these look delicious! I've totally been experiencing a meatball craving lately, and I think these would hit the spot.

  14. I'd like to try this one... we're eating a bit South Beach friendly these days. Taking the weight off, you know?

  15. Genie, they were tasty!

    Recipe Girl, oh yes, I do know about taking the weight off in January!

  16. Aren't meatballs with romano cheese great! I think adding a little parm or pecorino romano to the meat mixture adds so much flavor. thanks for the recipe!

  17. These look good! I also make a turkey florentine meatball from Rachel Ray that uses frozen spinach, milk and an egg to keep them moist. When my neighbors smell them cooking they are at my back door waiting for them to come out of the oven!

  18. I just found your blog and I'm so excited! I was starting to get bored with the food I was making for the SB diet. Your recipes look delicious! Thank you!

  19. Aww Kalyn, thanks for the mention. Your meatballs look and sound delish! I love parmesan in them.

    I've also been experimenting with adding a small portion of ground sausage to the mix -- great flavor! I have to get a good photo though so I can blog about them.

  20. Those turkey meatballs sounds great - they are lighter than veal or beef, right? They look delicious!

  21. Sounds like the perfect addition to the crockpot minestrone I'm making today. I'm not quite to South Beach but working hard to eliminate a lot of sugars, carbs and unhealthy fats as well as up the veg, the raw fruit, and the lean meats.

    I had a hankering for a pot of good veg soup with meatballs in it today and started a yummy minestrone in the crockpot about 3 hours ago. While my kids are out at their dance/swimming lessons, I intended to cook up some meatballs and shell pasta (for the kids) to add to the soup at dinnertime.

    This recipe sounds sensational and the added flavor and texture of parmesan in the meatballs should compliment the soup well. Thanks for sharing it! Now I don't have to go scouring cookbooks for ideas.

  22. These sound wonderful, Kalyn! I really need to try some new recipes with ground turkey, I'd like to learn to enjoy it more! :-)

  23. These have just solved my "what to have for dinner" debate! They look so delicious - I'm thinking serving them up with some roasted vegetables and homemade tomato sauce....

  24. Kalyn, those meatballs look soooo good! :)

  25. I make turkey meatballs sort of similar (but with olive oil spray on the pan) but then add onions, squash, spinach (really whatever vegetables) and then a can of Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup (once they are browned). It sort of feels like sweedish meatballs. The other day I made them and dumped them on a ton of spaghetti squash and it felt like I was eating sweedish meatballs on noodles. So filling.

  26. I wish I could find ground turkey meat here in Japan... These look super yummy. Do you think I could use another meat with this recipe?

  27. Kirsty Girl, ground chicken would work if you can get that. I think lean ground beef would also be good. I wouldn't use pork though, too much fat with the cheese.

  28. Hi Kayln! I just wanted to thank you so much for these wonderful happy I stumpled upon your blog!! I have insulin resistance and eating the same ole' thing can get terribly boring, thanks again for all you do! (:

  29. These look delicious and not burnt, just crispy. I love crispiness, it's full of flavor. Thank you!


  30. I love how they look- and know they taste just as good. Maybe meatballs tonight?

  31. I just made these. They were great, although next time I will use a little salt and pepper and perhaps more herbs. I ate them with homemade sugarfree baked beans and mustard on the side. Thanks Kalyn!

  32. Jen, glad you liked them. I don't have salt (or pepper) in the listed ingredients, did you add it? The cheese is fairly salty so I didn't use any salt when I made them.

  33. I didn't add salt and pepper into the mix, but sprinkled it on top after I made it. Next time I will season the mince before making the meatballs, I think. Maybe it's because I used parmesan instead of romano cheese, or maybe I just like my food salty! It worked really well with the English mustard.

  34. Jen, not sure if parmesan is saltier than Romano cheese, but I think it might be. Have to admit, I do love my salt too, but I'm trying to cut down because lots of times I cook for my dad and stepmom who should avoid salt!

    English mustard sounds interesting, never tried it but I love mustard!

  35. I am English so it's pretty easy to come by! ;) It's very strong, you don't need much.

  36. Hi Kalyn!

    I linked to you recently on my blog I've lost 18 lbs on South Beach so far, and I'm continuing to work towards my goal of a healthier lifestyle. I've gained more than 40 lbs since the death of my first daughter, and I've been on more diets than I can count. Since food is my drug to make the pain go away, I haven't found anything that works for me. Until now! I even made it through one of my toughest times of the year (her birthday) without falling off the wagon.

    I'm NOT a cook. I don't like cooking. I'm intimidated in the kitchen and scared to tried things. Tonight, I'm trying the turkey meatballs for my husband's birthday tomorrow. We're having his parents over and it's a bit stressful. I'm making it with whole wheat penne pasta since I'm in Phase II.

    Wish me luck. Tomorrow night...something for salmon. I'll be searching your site!


  37. Charity Mom, keep it up and it will work, I can promise you that. And I do wish you luck!

  38. Thanks again for the recipes, Kalyn! I made these a couple of weeks ago now, and they were very delicious. Mine were a little dry, so I'd like to find a way to maybe make them a little more moist. They were great with broccoli and mashed cauliflower. This hardly ever feels like a "diet", does it?! :)

  39. Nicole, I agree that it doesn't have to feel like a "diet"! Glad you agree. Sometimes the ground turkey can be a bit dry if there isn't much fat in it; I would try adding about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture when you mix it.

  40. I am trying these tonight. But with a few additions. I am making 1 1/2 times the recipe and adding: onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, frozen spinach and chopped crimini (baby bella) mushrooms. Also, about 3 TBS almond flour. Have not cooked them yet but they are all mixed up and I think they are going to rock!!

  41. Ohhhhhh my god the flavor here is OUTstanding!!! But I did something wrong, can't figure it out so I'll have to make them again...they smooshed all apart in my I tried my brand new super non-stick pan and they still fell,I ended up putting them on a baking sheet and baked at 350 for about 20 minutes and then browned them in a pan. Still wonderful and delicious...but they were more like meatspaceships instead of meatballs! And I didn't have cucumber so I made the tziki without it-sorta :) Greek yogurt, dried dill, and garlic was out of this world, still :) so there's my 2 cents.I'll try some different things next time.maybe I'll actually end up with meatballs instead of meatspaceships :D

  42. Sarah, the ground turkey is definitely softer than beef to try to make into meatballs. Glad to hear they were tasty.

  43. I've been on a turkey meatball bender for the past couple of years, and the Thai red curry meatballs are one of my favorites (thanks so much for the link!). I like to bake my meatballs, though they never get as nicely browned as yours.

  44. OHHHHH OK, I'm sold. Yup. Sold. These look awesome. Pinning away

  45. Lydia, you are definitely the queen of turkey meatballs; and they all sound good!

    Thanks Cariann, glad you like it!

  46. We actually eat meatballs quite often, and these sound delicious!!

  47. I just bought some lamb to make lamb meatballs!! Your turkey meatballs look amazing. I like how crisp they look too.

  48. Hi there, congratulations for your site. You always have delicious recipes. I use ground chicken breast for these meat balls they come out great. I'll sure try with ground turkey next time.

  49. I used equal amounts of ground turkey and ground pork, dried oregano and a small amount of crushed red chili pepper inplace of the other herbs. Served them with spicy pasta sauce. My teenage kids loved them. I like that the recipe included hemp. I look forward to more of your recipes having hemp and flax in them.

  50. Thanks Deb and Becky!

    Mamacita, glad you enjoyed them.

    JJ, your version sounds great. I will definitely be experimenting more with flax and hemp!

  51. I went back to the original recipe and bravely tried it using just turkey and all the other ingredients as is...I say bravely because I am not a big fan of turkey. Once again I got the thumbs up from the kids. They are so easy to make and it pleases me that I know exactly what goes into them and that they taste delicious too. Now, if there was just a way to sneak more veggies in there to get them by my son.....
    Thanks Kalyn!

  52. I'm planning on making these this week, but when I went grocery shopping tonight I could only find straight parmesan and a parmesan/romano/asiago blend. Do you think the blend would work ok?

  53. Made these tonight and they were good! (Like all your recipes). Toned down the spices for the sake of the kids, like you recommended. Mild flavor, but very nice. Made a batch of your tzatziki to go along with them, and some roasted broccoli. Day 13 of phase 1 and eating great thanks to you! Nine pounds lost in week one...wondering how it's possible to lose weight while enjoying my food so much!

  54. I'm not familiar with "granulated garlic". Never seen such a thing in the grocery store. Do you make it yourself? Or can I just use minced garlic?
    Pam Kitchen

  55. Granulated garlic is a dried garlic product that has a little more texture and better flavor than garlic powder. I used it so as to not add more liquid to this, but I think finely minced garlic would be fine.


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