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Simple Chicken Meatballs In Sauce (30 minutes)

This simple chicken meatballs recipe has a lot to brag about. Tender, juicy meatballs. Healthy veggies. A delicious light savory sauce. In 30 minutes.

It’s kind of a cross between a chicken stew (now a meatball stew) and a chicken pot pie without the crust. Definitely on the comfort food scale.

meatball stew in skillet with spinach added

No need to fuss about the longish ingredient list. Most of the ingredients are fridge and pantry staples. To shortcut the meal prep, you can buy frozen meatballs.

And, as always, there are lots of variations and substitutions you can use to suit your preferences and what you have on hand.

My biggest tip is to double the chicken meatball recipe and freeze half to use in one of our other yummy meatball recipes listed below. I mean who doesn’t like a good meatball 🙂 ?

What to serve with chicken meatballs in sauce

This meatballs, vegetables and potatoes in a herb savory sauce can easily stand on its own as a meal-in-a-bowl. Keep it simple and serve it with some crusty bread or cheddar biscuits to mop up the sauce.

Or leave out the potatoes and serve the meatball stew over mashed potatoes, rice (or cauliflower rice for a lighter side), Israeli couscous or egg noodles.

If you want to stretch the meatball stew a bit further, pair it with a side salad such as our citrus salad or tomato and onion salad.

Tailor To Your Taste

Substitutions

  • Vegetables: Other vegetables like butternut squash, green beans, snap peas or frozen peas can be added or substituted. And feel free to use kale instead of spinach.
  • Seasoning:
    • Try poultry seasoning instead of the thyme and rosemary.
    • Use fresh herbs instead of dried. 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh.
    • Add red pepper flakes if you like heat or a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit of zip.
  • Chicken stock or broth: I use Campbells full strength chicken broth (undiluted) so I can deepen the flavor with less water than called for. Here’s an article by Epicurious on a taste test for the best chicken broth to buy.

Variations

  • Vegetarian version – Use vegetarian meatballs or a plant based meat like Impossible Burger for the meatballs. Replace the chicken broth with vegetarian broth.
  • Passover version – Substitute the bread or bread crumbs with matzo meal. And thicken the sauce with potato starch instead of flour.
  • Meatball pot pie – Add a puff pastry sheet on top of the saucy meatballs and vegetables.
  • Beef or pork version: Use your favorite beef or pork meatballs. With beef meatballs, consider using beef broth instead of chicken broth.

How to make meatball stew

spinach, carrots, pepper, broth, flour, potatoes, celery
Veggies and broth for sauce: red bell pepper, onion, carrots, potatoes, garlic, broth, spinach, flour, celery.
veggies sauteed in skillet
Sauté chopped veggies in a skillet for a few minutes.
vegetables and broth simmering in covered skillet
Add flour and cook a few minutes. Then add broth and seasonings and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender.
uncooked meatballs on parchment lined sheet pan
While veggies and sauce are cooking, prepare meat mixture in a large mixing bowl. Form into meatballs and lay on a pan lined with parchment paper.
baked meatballs on sheet pan
Bake at 425F/218C for 12-15 minutes.
meatball stew in skillet with spinach added
Add baked meatballs to veggies and sauce. Add spinach and let it wilt. Adjust seasonings to your taste.
bowl of chicken meatballs in sauce with veggies
Serve in bowls with crusty bread or biscuits.
meatballs and veggies in sauce in skillet p

Secrets to delicious, juicy chicken meatballs

We’re aiming for great texture – light, juicy and tender – and full of flavor.

  1. Don’t use extra lean ground chicken. Try to ground chicken that contains 10-15% fat for more flavor and moistness. I use dark meat ground chicken if I can find it – the best! (I’m a broken record on that).
  2. Mix the ground chicken with a panade which is a mixture of bread or bread crumbs and milk (or other liquid). This creates soft, tender meatballs.
  3. Don’t skip the finely chopped fresh parsley. It adds wonderful brightness to the flavorful meatballs. If you love cilantro, you can use that instead.
  4. Very important – don’t over mix the meatball ingredients and don’t pack the meatballs too tightly. Use wet hands to form the meatballs. Use a light touch.

Shortcuts

  • Meatballs: Use your favorite frozen meatballs or homemade meatballs if you have some in the freezer. Just cook them before adding them to the vegetables and sauce.
  • Vegetables:
    • Instead of dicing all the vegetables, pulse them in two batches in a food processor to chop into small pieces.
    • Try frozen vegetables and cut the cooking time way down.
    • Use just 1-2 vegetables and spinach.

Make Ahead

  • You can cook these meatballs a day or two ahead, then finish the stew on another night.
  • Or, make the entire recipe a day or two before and reheat it on the stove or in the microwave.

Other meatball dinner ideas

All of these are meatball recipes without eggs.

meatball stew in skillet with spinach added
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4.82 from 11 votes

Simple Chicken Meatballs With Sauce (30 minutes)

This easy chicken meatballs recipe has a lot to brag about. Tender, juicy meatballs. Healthy veggies. A delicious light savory sauce. And only 30 minutes.
Prep Time12 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, peeled, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, washed, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced (or 1 small onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced (no need to peel) (Yukon gold, yellow, red)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons half and half cream (optional) (to add later)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (add last)

Seasonings for Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 clove fresh garlic minced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Chicken Meatballs (about 20 2-inch/5 cm) Note 1

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground chicken (white or dark) I use dark meat if possible (juicier)
  • 2 slices bread, torn into tiny pieces (or about 1/3 cup regular bread crumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoon milk (broth or water can be substituted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated onion (or 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)

Instructions

  • HEAT OVEN to 425F/218C if making the chicken meatballs in this recipe. Otherwise use any cooked meatballs. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with oil
  • COOK VEGETABLES AND SAUCE: Heat oil in skillet or large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add diced vegetables and saute for 4 minutes. Add flour and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium heat and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Stir in broth and all seasonings for sauce. Bring to boil then cover and lower heat to medium low. Simmer vegetables for 10-12 minutes or until tender and easily pierced with a knife. Broth will be thickened.
  • MAKE CHICKEN MEATBALLS: While vegetables are simmering, make meatballs. In a large bowl, add bread and milk. Let soak for a minute until liquid is absorbed. Add grated onion, ketchup, garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix together. Add ground meat and lightly mix all ingredients together. I use one hand like an open claw to mix. Don't over mix or meatballs will be dense. Meatball mixture will be very moist. Wet your hands (do this periodically) and form into meatballs about 2 inches/5 cm in size. (I don't worry about them being perfectly round). Place on pan in a single layer and bake for 13-15 minutes or until cooked through.
  • FINISH: Add spinach to vegetables and sauce and stir until wilted – about 30 seconds. For a creamy sauce, add a splash of cream (optional). Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more broth if too thick. Stir in meatballs and cook for a 2-3 minutes to heat through. Ladle into bowls or plates and serve with crusty bread or warm biscuits.

Notes

  1. Meatball shortcut: Use frozen meatballs heated according to package directions. Or meatballs previously made and thawed. Bake as per recipe. 
  2. Substitutions
    • Vegetables: Other vegetables like butternut squash, green beans, snap peas, frozen peas can be added or substituted. And feel free to use kale or other greens instead of spinach.
    • Seasoning:
      • Try poultry seasoning instead of the thyme and rosemary.
      • Use fresh herbs instead of dried. 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh.
      • Add red pepper flakes if you like heat or a squeeze of lemon juice for a bit of zip.
    • Chicken stock or broth: I use Campbells full strength broth (undiluted) so I can deepen the flavor with less water than called for. Here’s an article by Epicurious on the best chicken broth to buy.
  3. Variations
    • Vegetarian version – Use vegetarian meatballs or a plant based meat like Impossible Burger. And replace the chicken broth with vegetarian broth.
    • Passover version – Replace the bread or bread crumbs with matzo meal. And thicken the sauce with potato starch instead of flour.
    • Meatball pot pie – Place the meatball stew mixture in a casserole dish ovenproof skillet, add a puff pastry sheet on top and bake in a 400F/204C for 25 minutes. (You can under cook the meatballs in the oven for this option).
    • Beef or pork version: Use your favorite beef or pork meatballs. With beef meatballs, consider using beef broth instead of chicken broth.
  4. Shortcuts
    • Meatballs: Use your favorite frozen meatballs or homemade meatballs if you have some in the freezer. Just cook them before adding them to the vegetables and sauce.
    • Vegetables:
      • Instead of dicing all the vegetables, pulse them in two batches in a food processor to chop into small pieces.
      • Try frozen vegetables and cut the cooking time way down.
      • Use just 1-2 vegetables and spinach.
  5. Make Ahead: You can make the meatballs a day or two ahead (including cooking them), then finish the stew on another night. Or, make the entire recipe a day or two before, store in an airtight container or freezer bag in the fridge and reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. You may need to thin out the sauce a bit with some extra broth or water. 
 
Nutrition value estimates do not include adding optional cream at the end. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Simple Chicken Meatballs With Sauce (30 minutes)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 433 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 162mg54%
Sodium 904mg39%
Potassium 1678mg48%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 37g74%
Vitamin A 8796IU176%
Vitamin C 66mg80%
Calcium 102mg10%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This recipe has been updated from the original one posted March 2018.

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