Buffalo Turkey Meatballs on virginiawillis.com

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs

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Buffalo Turkey Meatballs on virginiawillis.com

Buffalo Meatballs are a glorious marriage of two of America’s favorite football foods — meatballs and wings. What’s not to love? Finger food, bite-size nibbles, and casual entertaining go hand in sticky hand.  Are these Baked Turkey Buffalo Meatballs the same as butter-soaked, hot sauce-drenched, deep-fried Buffalo Chicken Wings? Well, no. No, they are not. Let’s not kid ourselves. Are they good? Yes! I guarantee this recipe mashup-makeover for Baked Turkey Buffalo Meatballs will “scratch that itch.” Read on for more about “delayed gratification” and making it work for you.

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs on virginiawillis.com

Recipe Makeover for Meatballs

Whenever I have a hankering for something super-indulgent like a double cheeseburger, wings, or nachos I will first try to delay that urge with a recipe makeover. I’ll go for a turkey burger, air-fried chicken tenders, and baked tortilla chip nachos.

Often, that switch will “scratch the itch” and abate my craving. If I can’t trick my mind, then eventually I go ahead and satisfy my urge with the real deal. This is why I call it “delayed gratification.” However, the good news is that often, my plan works and I’m satisfied with the healthier version.

My eating habits revolve around the fact that food has to taste good. Who wants sad food? Nobody. Healthy food, healthier food, or even healthyish food does NOT have to taste sad or boring.

The same mind game bait-and-switch philosophy is what inspired these Buffalo Turkey Meatballs. They’re so good, you won’t miss those fatty wings! The recipe can be easily doubled and, unlike wings, they can be easily made ahead and reheated.

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs on virginiawillis.com

Ingredient Swaps  

Meatballs are always a popular appetizer. Who doesn’t love something you can’t stab with a toothpick?

In these Buffalo Turkey Meatballs, I sub the super grain quinoa in place of breadcrumbs. Quinoa is a complete protein containing all eight essential amino acids. It’s light and fluffy in texture but has that whole-grain power to help fill you up. I’m not against bread or gluten-free; subbing out quinoa makes the meatballs more nutritionally dense and better for you.

The other big swap is ditching the blue cheese dipping sauce. Simply sprinkle the blue cheese crumbles on top.  You’ll get the flavor with a lot less fat and calories. And, it looks great on the plate. (If you love the buffalo-blue cheese combo, check out my recipe makeover for Buffalo Chicken Dip. Lawd.)

Check out my video on how to make Buffalo Turkey Meatballs — and what this awesome recipe has to do with #LoveYourself

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Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis

PS Need a dessert recipe for the weekend? It’s better-for-you baking! Check out my Lower Fat Carrot Cake in AARP.

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs

Buffalo Turkey Meatballs

This entire recipe comes in at about 15 WW points for 32 meatballs if you use ground turkey breasts -- so only about 4 points per serving!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, comfort food
Keyword: buffalo chicken, healthy appetizer, healthy recipes, meatball, superbowl food, turkey
Servings: 32 meatballs


  • For the Buffalo Hot Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • For the Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons reserved Buffalo Hot Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Baby carrots and celery sticks for serving
  • Blue cheese crumbles for serving


  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a cooking rack. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine the hot pepper sauce, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Reserve 2 teaspoons of sauce. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine the ground turkey, quinoa, onion, reserved hot sauce, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper. (To taste and adjust for seasoning, simply cook a teaspoon or so of the mixture in the microwave.)
  • To form the meatballs, using a 1/2-ounce ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measure, scoop out the meat mixture and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the meat mixture is used up.
  • Transfer to the oven and cook until firm and the temperature reads 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. (These can be made ahead up to this point and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
  • Using a spatula, transfer the meatballs a large bowl. Drizzle with enough Buffalo Hot Sauce to coat. Stir to combine. Serve immediately with toothpicks or skewers, baby carrots, celery, blue cheese crumbles, and remaining hot sauce on the side.

Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or book signing, let me know! Send an email to jona@virginiawillis.com and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

Note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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