« Other People's Pantries #95 | Main | Spike seasoning (Recipe: Spiked Cornish game hens) »

Greek yogurt (Recipe: turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs)

If you're not planning to roast "the big bird" for Thanksgiving, you'll love this week's recipes. Welcome to Not Quite Turkey Week, Day One.

Turkey cranberry meatballs

Americans learned to love yogurt in the 1970s, when a major yogurt company ran a series of television ads featuring 100-year-olds from the Republic of Georgia, and claimed that yogurt contributed to long life.

I've never really liked yogurt, but oh-boy do I love cooking with Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt (yiaourti) has been around for thousands of years; yogurt itself might be as old as 10,000 years, which is much older than the oldest Greeks. It didn't get popular outside Greece until the first wave of Greek emigration to Western Europe and the US after World War I.

To make Greek yogurt, milk is heated and then cooled a bit, and active cultures are added. The mixture ferments, and then, while it's still warm, it's strained to remove the whey. With the whey removed, what remains is a higher concentration of protein, fewer carbs, and less lactose.

The resulting yogurt is thicker and more acidic than traditional yogurt, more like what we call "yogurt cheese", so in cooking it adds richness without extra moisture. Also, it doesn't separate, and the creaminess provides great "mouth feel."

Greek yogurt

It's easy to make your own Greek yogurt, but over the past year or so it's become easy to find in almost every supermarket, even the one in my small town, which stocks both Fage and Oikos. Use it as a low-fat (or zero-fat) substitute for sour cream, whipping cream, butter or creme fraiche in many recipes.

Turkey cranberry meatballs

Turkey, cranberry and basil meatballs

When Janice and Liz, the Meal Makeover Moms, came for lunch last week, we served these meatballs over a green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. A bit sweet from the cranberries, and absolutely delicious! Serves 4-6.


1/4 cup dried cranberries
1-1/4 lb ground turkey (93% fat free)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place cranberries in a one-cup glass measuring cup, and fill with water to the 1-cup mark. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, yogurt, breadcrumbs, basil, egg, salt and pepper. Drain the cranberries, and add them to the turkey. With your hands, mix just until the ingredients are combined; do not overmix.

Using an ice cream scoop (the kind with a release, called a "disher"), form the meatballs and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat (silicone mat) or parchment paper. You should get 17-18 large meatballs.

Bake for 18 minutes. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold. A salad of greens dressed with balsamic vinegar makes a perfect base for the meatballs.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Greektown turkey meatballs
Curried turkey meatballs
Turkey meatballs with pasta
Turkey-escarole soup
Turkey meatloaf with fig gravy

Want more meatball recipes? Get Meatballs, my e-book packed with amazing, crowd-pleasing, family-friendly low-fat turkey meatball recipes with bold around-the-world flavors, plus full-color photos and a few fun videos. With the FREE Kindle Reading App, great meatballs will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Oh boy, do these meatballs ever sound great! What a perfect alternative to turkey, and I love your idea for "not quite turkey week!"

These sound so wonderful. Light and bursting with flavor. yum!

I love turkey meatballs Lydia.Here in Canada Thanksgiving was in October, so, these turkey recipes are perfect to celebrate along with my American friends until we have our turkey at Christmas.

Turkey meatballs sound really different to me! Looks delicious!

Oh, Lydia, this one is a winner! I can just taste them! Definitely to be made soon. thanks.

I love Greek yoghurt. I normally use fage brand but I should try the stonyfield ones too. The meatballs look amazing!

I love Greek yogurt. Especially when I was in Greece and had it for breakfast with local honey.

But these meatballs are absolutely going to be on my plate when I get back from my sister's. Oh, yummm!

Kalyn, I've never been a turkey lover, so Thanksgiving for us has always been a compromise. We've either made turkey and another main dish, or eliminated the bird altogether and gone a different route (lasagne, tapas, etc.). Meatballs are a great way to have just a taste of turkey.

Alta, the dried cranberries really add sweet-tart flavor.

Bellini Valli, these would be great on the Canadian Thanksgiving table, too. We celebrate both in our Canadian-American household.

Renata, this is a great way to get some turkey on the table without roasting a bird. And it's always fun for kids to have meatballs.

Candy, let's make these together. I know you will love them.

Veron, Fage was the first brand of Greek yogurt to arrive in my local supermarket, but now there are several to choose from, even out here in the boonies.

Toni, I'm still pretty new to Greek yogurt, and while I'm not much of a yogurt eater, I'm really coming to appreciate it for cooking.

Greek yogurt has become one of my favorite substitutions. When the recipe calls for sour cream, I usually add Greek yogurt instead and can't tell the different. I also love to eat it for dessert, drizzled with honey.

These look amazing. Putting in my "to-try" file. Thank you for posting this recipe!

Lydia, it was such fun cooking and eating with you last week! These meatballs were amazing. I would have never thought to serve them over a salad but boy was it good! I bought myself the ice cream/cookie scoop we used to scoop the meatballs the night I got home from your house. Liz and I made the meatballs on Friday. They were yummy, but there must be something about the RI air and eating in your home, because the ones we made at your house were even better! Thanks again for a lovely time.

You are the person who opened my eyes to Greek yogurt in the first place - thanks! I like the Fage brand best - but that is just my preference.I like to use the low-fat in my mashed potatoes with lots of parsley, chives and S&P. it gives the potatoes a fresh "sour cream and onion" flavor. Thin with milk only as needed.If my husband is in the kitchen I have to put a pat or two of butter in to satisfy him.

I just made the meatballs. They look amazing, and I'm sure they'll taste fabulous. But the cooking time isn't working for me. I kept them in an extra seven minutes because they were looking underdone, but I just broke one open and they still don't feel fully cooked :-(
(I just tried a bite. Underdone, so I'm popping them back in. But yes, tastes good!)

NS, I'm so surprised. I've made hundreds of these meatballs. The only thing I can suggest is to check the calibration of your oven. I hope you liked the flavor in the end.

I made these with Oikos raspberry, pomegranate yogurt, they are amazing. I also used some Knorr Lipton savory herb and garlic for extra flavor. Highly recommend this recipe, thanks for sharing.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.