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These super easy and moist turkey meatballs with rice are the perfect iron-rich finger food for babies, children of all ages, and adults!

Baked turkey meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
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Turkey Meatballs for Babies and Toddlers

Meatballs are so easy to whip up, budget-friendly, and you really can pack in a lot of nutrition into them.  And because I make them all the time, they sure are a freezer staple around here.

I can always count on them to come to the rescue on days when I’m running on fumes.

What makes turkey meatballs special? The rice! In Asian countries, rice porridge is extremely popular as a first food. In fact, it was what my family members insisted was the only food acceptable for my back then baby.

They genuinely thought that I had lost my mind when I told them that I was going to do baby led weaning and offer their precious grandson soft finger foods. Oh those were the days…

And to make clear, if you’ve decided to take the traditional approach of spoon-feeding purees, that’s perfectly fine! You do You!

What’s super important to know is that if you started out with purees, be sure to move forward with texture by 9 months. I can’t emphasize this enough. This will lead to fewer feeding problems down the line and greater food acceptance.

tired mom with baby food

Is your baby 6 months old and up?

Learn all the secrets to starting solids safely while optimizing nutrition!

Ingredients

All the ingredients laid out on a white background.

I am highlighting just the ones that need further explanation. The complete list is in the recipe card below.

  • Ground turkey – I recommend not going any leaner than 93% lean turkey for the best flavor and texture. Feel free to swap with ground chicken, pork, or beef, if you wish.
  • Vegetables – you can use whatever you have on hand. Be sure to chop finely. I love using my mini food chopper for small tasks like this. Go ahead and make extra to enjoy throughout the week in oatmeal, French toast, omelette, etc.
  • Rice – short or medium grain will work best.

Step-by-Step Directions

A four image collage of how to make turkey meatballs.
  1. Heat sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook vegetables until softened.
  2. Add the rice, remaining sesame oil, garlic powder.
  3. Add turkey and combine, taking care not to overwork the meat.
  4. Shape into balls and place on lined baking sheet.
meatballs on a baking tray with a bowl of water in the middle.

5. This is a trick I learned during our trip to Korea! In a small oven-safe dish(es), add some water and place in the pan alongside the meatballs. This helps create steam and helps to achieve tender meatballs.

Tips for Success

  • Combine all the ingredients before adding the ground turkey. This will allow you to gently mix in the meat.
  • Don’t overwork the meat. Your hands are seriously the best tools for mixing meatballs. You just want to mix until everything is combined. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out tough.
  • I recommend using a small ice cream scooper to make them the same size.
  • When shaping the balls, work with slightly wet hands to prevent them from sticking to your hands. Otherwise, you may accidentally overwork them. 
  • Flip halfway through to prevent the bottoms from browning.

Serving Suggestions

For 6-9 month old baby

meatball, broccoli floret, and beet hummus preloaded onto a spoon.

Meatballs were one of the first foods I served to both of my kids. Don’t be surprised if not much makes it into your baby’s belly at first. They will most likely just suck on the meatballs, which is great!

It allows for:

  • Exposure to a variety of different flavors and texture
  • Iron and zinc consumption – yes! they are found in the juices
  • Engagement of all senses as they explore food through sight, touch, smell, and taste
  • Development of fine-motor and oral-motor skills (like chewing). 

Having said all this, if you’re feeling terrified about offering meatballs to your baby, then don’t! Your baby will sense your energy, and it won’t be good for anyone involved.

There are other ways to serve meat (like chicken and beef) and rice, the two main ingredients in these meatballs. So don’t feel pressured. Ever. These meatballs will be here for you when you’re ready. I promise ;).

Here’s how to build a well-balanced plate for babies

For 9+ month old baby

You can start cutting the meatballs into bite-sized pieces once your baby develops their pincer grasp.

For toddlers

Meatballs served in a toddler plate with grapes, broccoli, and rice.

You can cut the meatballs into small pieces to make them easier to eat. But do continue offering a whole meatball so they can learn to take bites.

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months in freezer safe container or bag. I recommend using the flash freeze method to prevent them from sticking together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is turkey safe for babies?

Turkey is an excellent source of protein and essential nutrients that babies need to grow and thrive, including iron, zinc, choline, and B12.

However, it can be a choking hazard if it’s not cooked properly and not served in an age-appropriate way. Check out my chicken for babies post for specific details. Meatballs are a great way to introduce turkey to your baby.

What is a good substitute for rice in these meatballs?

I personally love the addition of rice in these meatballs but you can swap with other grains, like quinoa, barley, and couscous.

Other Meatballs for Babies

Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!

5 from 110 votes

Turkey Meatballs with rice

These oven baked kid-friendly turkey and rice meatballs are the perfect iron-rich finger food for your baby, children of all ages, and adults!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 22 meatballs
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey , (can use beef, chicken, or pork)
  • 3/4 cup cooked rice (150g)
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped vegetables of choice (100g), (I used broccoli, carrots, spinach)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions 

  • Heat oven to 350F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  • Add the veggies to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. You can also do this by hand.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook vegetables until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. 
  • Add the rice, remaining sesame oil, garlic powder. Combine until well-incorporated. If the rice is too hard then microwave briefly to soften.
  • Add the turkey and mix gently using hands (don’t overwork the meat!) . Working with wet hands, shape into small-sized balls. I highly recommend using an ice cream scooper.
  • Place on baking sheet. In a small oven-safe dish(es), add some water and place in the pan alongside the meatballs.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Notes

  • Combine all the ingredients before adding the ground turkey. This will allow you to gently mix in the meat.
  • Don’t overwork the meat. Your hands are seriously the best tools for mixing meatballs. You just want to mix until everything is combined. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out really tough.
  • I recommend using a small ice cream scooper to make them the same size.
  • When shaping the balls, work with slightly wet hands to prevent them from sticking to your hands. Otherwise, you may accidentally overwork them. 
  • Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. I personally flash freeze all my baked goods.

Nutrition

Calories: 35kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 12mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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73 Comments

  1. Hi!

    This looks great, would you be able to use leftover already cooked veggies for this? Thinking of using up leftover frozen veggies.

    Thanks!