Do you have any foods that make you swoon?  Maybe for you it’s chocolatey desserts or macaroni and cheese?  For me, it’s meatballs that have me in their spell.  Whether they’re stuffed or glazed, Swedish or Asian or on spaghetti with tomato sauce, they are utterly irresistible to me.  In fact, that’s why I don’t make them very often, because I end up eating waaaayyy too many! I’m constantly on the lookout for recipes that are both healthy and irresistibly delicious.  These turkey zucchini meatballs, from my new favorite cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi, are made mostly from vegetables and herbs.  I’ve cooked them at least a dozen times since I got Jerusalem, Ottolenghi’s newest cookbook.


If you have the cookbook, you’ll notice that Ottolenghi calls them burgers. I call them meatballs. They don’t look quite like either one.  They’re small – two or three bites apiece.  They’re served with a lemony yogurt dip and no bun.  I like rolling them in an oblong shape because it makes them more like finger food that you can hold and dip.  In fact I often serve them as appetizers – had them out for the Superbowl.  For weeknight dinners, I add a green salad and rice or quinoa.

Considering they’re made of turkey and vegetables and no bread crumbs, it’s surprising how well they hold together and how nicely they brown up.  However, rolling them does require a little technique.  The mixture is pretty wet so you’re in for some serious frustration if you try to “roll” them like you do with other meatballs.  You have to toss them from hand to hand, giving them little squeezes to shape them – three or four tosses and squeezes per meatball.  Then drop the formed meatballs onto a plate.  Once the oil is hot, tip the plate towards the pan and use a spatula or a knife to gently slide them in.  They brown quickly and are then finished in the oven.


The dip features sumac, a beautiful deep red spice with a lemony flavor that’s very popular in Middle Eastern cooking.


When you pass by the fridge looking for a quick tasty snack, these are hard to resist.  They even taste good cold.



Turkey Zucchini Meatballs with Lemony Yogurt Sauce
Recipe type: Appetizer or Main Course
Cuisine: Israeli
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Healthy, delicious turkey meatballs from chef Yotam Ottolenghi
  • Yogurt Sauce
  • ½ cup sour cream *
  • ⅔ cup lowfat plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground turkey (white or dark meat)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 6 scallions, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil for sautéing
  • * For a lower fat sauce you can swap out the sour cream for low fat yogurt. The taste is a bit more tart but still delicious.
  1. Make the Sauce Combine all ingredients. Set aside or refrigerate for up to 3 days, until needed.
  2. Meatballs Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine turkey, zucchini, scallions, egg, mint, cilantro, garlic and spices. Using your hands, shape the meatballs (about 2½ tablespoons per ball) by gently squeezing them and tossing them from hand to hand. Set formed meatballs on a large plate. (makes about 18)
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Slice half the meatballs into the pan and brown them on all sides, about 4 minutes. Carefully transfer them to the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs, adding extra oil to the pan, if needed. Slide the tray into the center of the oven and cook for 6-7 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with lemony yogurt sauce.

Relevant links:
Jerusalem: A Cookbook 

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  1. says

    Lisa, These sound amazing! Can’t wait to try them out. I’m a sucker for cilantro and cumin! I’ve never tried sumac though…any info or tips about getting/using it?

  2. donna says

    I made these tonight and I had to leave the kitchen so I would stop eating them! They were delicious! The cilantro and mint were great. I had a few adjustments but it turned out great. I used an egg white instead of a whole egg, and had no sumac, so I grated a little lemon zest into the sauce and I did not have sour cream so I used all greek yogurt. It was easy and delicious. My husband and daughter loved them too. Thanks for a great and easy recipe!

  3. David says

    Made these last night. They were awesome! Light, fluffy and utterly delicious.

    Funny thing, I had never used Sumac before, but just so happens I bought some in a health food store in Tel Aviv last week and was waiting for a recipe calling for it to come around.

  4. Mandy says

    I came across this recipe on ChowStalker and it is on my list to make this coming week! I’ve spent the last 30 min or more looking through so many more delicious recipes and pinning many to try. Thanks for sharing these recipes – the food and your photos are gorgeous and everything looks delicious!

    • Mandy says

      Following up from my last comment…I made these today and they were SOOO good! Perfect blend of spices and so flavorful, complimented by the tartness of the yogurt sauce. These are definitely going into the regular dinner rotation!

  5. says

    I have someone in my near family who can’t eat beef or pork. This meatball recipe
    is PERFECTO. I love the yogurt sauce you whipped up to go with it. Lots of interesting non Italian spices, which makes it more unique. Bottom line–I like it!

  6. Mary-Elise says

    Made these last night and they were yummy! Everybody loved them and perfect for a weeknight meal.

  7. tracie says

    These were absolutely DELICIOUS! I had never used sumac before…it was awesome to try something completely new. I’m always very skeptical of turkey meatballs, but they are so flavorful – I can’t stop eating them!

  8. Eric says

    Do you think it would be ok to make the meatballs in advance (either formed or unformed…?) and then refrigerate them for a couple hours before cooking them? Or should I cook them and reheat? Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Eric. I think it would be fine to make the meatball mixture in advance and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready for form them. It might even make them easier to form because the fridge will firm everything up. I definitely wouldn’t form them first because the mixture is kind of wet and they would lose their shape. You can also form them and brown them and keep them in the fridge, covered, until you’re ready to finish them in the oven. I think that would work really well! Once they’re browned you can set them up on the parchment-lined tray, cover with foil, store in the fridge, and all you have to do is pop the tray in the oven. You might need a few extra minutes of cooking time if you’re going right from the cold fridge to the oven. Enjoy!

  9. Emily says

    I just want to mention that while these meatballs were delicious and versatile (i used dill and parsley instead of cilantro and mint), the recipe says to use wax paper on the baking tray which is actually not supposed to be used in the oven. Luckily I noticed this quite quickly as the paper started to melt and smoke (http://www.marthastewart.com/269281/parchment-vs-wax-paper). Also, another suggestion would be to shred the zucchini and then put it in a strainer with a bit of salt so that it will drain some of the moisture from the zucchini, as I found that the meatballs let out a ton of liquid as they were cooking. These were quite yummy and well seasoned but I would use parchment paper instead of wax or even just grease the pan.


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