These Slow Cooker Easy Italian Meatballs taste just like Grandma’s recipe – except they happen to be healthier and much easier to make! We made a few ingredient swaps to keep things light: fewer than 300 calories per serving. You can enjoy them simply as meatballs in marinara sauce for a low-calorie lunch or snack, or you can serve them over spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, or even cauliflower rice to create a filling meal that’s still low-carb.
The best thing about this recipe is how easy it is to make. We broil the meatballs to give them a lightly browned, caramelized characteristic. Then, they go into the slow cooker with the chicken broth and sugar-free marinara. You can use store-bought sauce to save time, or you can make our freezer-friendly homemade pasta sauce to really amp up the flavors of this dish. No matter which you choose, the slow cooker perfectly simmers the sauce, infusing it with the richness of the meatball. You’ll be left with delicious sauce and the juiciest, most tender meatballs imaginable. All without having to stand over the stovetop all day long!
Healthy Ingredient Swaps
Traditionally, meatballs are made with beef, pork, and sometimes veal. Some people say that combination of meats is necessary to create a deeply flavorful, rich meatball. But, we don’t love how those meats are also loaded with unhealthy saturated fats. So, we swapped in ground turkey (or, ground chicken) instead. Guess what? You can’t even tell the difference! By the time that you add the onion, garlic, and seasonings, you have created so much flavor that you really don’t miss the fat-filled meat at all!
Next up, we swapped out the traditional whole egg for egg whites. The whites are a low-calorie, fat-free food. They contain all the protein but none of the fat or cholesterol! You’ll still benefit from the binding ability of the egg to hold the other ingredients together, but you’ll save about 100 calories by skipping the yolks.
And there you have it! A delicious and healthy recipe, thanks to a few smart ingredient swaps. It’s that easy to whip up a batch of tasty meatballs that won’t weigh you down. This is a great recipe to make for a crowd, but it’s also a fantastic meal prep option. It makes about 12 meatballs, so you could use them as a protein-packed snack throughout the week or you can add them to your lunches and dinners.
Yield: 4 servings | Serving Size: about 3 meatballs | Calories: 284 | Total Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Carbohydrates: 11 g | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 4 g | Protein: 31 g | Cholesterol: 89 mg | Sodium: 448 mg | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 3
- 1 pound ground turkey or chicken
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs, lightly pulsed in a food processor
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 (24 ounce) jar no-sugar added marinara
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup shredded fat-free parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to high broil and spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
- Combine all ingredients, except marinara, chicken broth, and parmesan in a large bowl and mix well. Form into 1 inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Broil for about 5 minutes until lightly browned (meatballs will not be fully cooked).
- Place the browned meatball the slow cooker and add the marinara and broth. Cook on low for 4 hours. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.