Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice

Just like not all of us are cut out to be Ina Garten’s in this world, not every meal served out of our kitchens is going to be five-star restaurant worthy. (Unless you are some serious kind of overachiever, that is, for which I’ll give you one million rock star points and proceed to bury my real-life, underachieving face in meatballs and rice.)

But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland, tasteless food for the rest of forever. This meal is a prime example. It’s simple. And it’s made start to finish in one skillet where all the goodness of the lemony rice and tender meatballs cooks together leaving you with maximum flavor and minimal cleanup.

I mean, there’s really not much else to say. This one-skillet wonder is quick. And easy. And terribly delicious. Plus, you get meatballs out of the deal. Which is basically a huge win for all of mankind.

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice

What To ServeRoasted or steamed broccoli
Creamy 5-cup Fruit Salad
Simple Drop Biscuits

One Year Ago: Brookies {Brownie + Chocolate Chip Cookies}
Two Years Ago: Chopped Taco Salad with Homemade Catalina Dressing
Three Years Ago: Fudgy Brownies {Think: Homemade Brownies Like The Boxed Mix!}

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice

Yield: Serves 6

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice

I used about 2 medium lemons for the recipe (zest the lemons before juicing them). Also, if you are curious about using brown rice, I haven't tried it in this recipe but you could try upping the liquid just a bit and adding additional cooking time based on the type of brown rice you are using.

I use ground turkey for this recipe but you could probably get away with using ground beef or ground chicken or a combination (maybe even a little sausage, too?). I've mentioned this before in other recipes but the ground turkey in the tubes (packaged kind of like Jimmy Dean sausage tubes) is terrible and awful in my experience and makes the meatballs mushy. I prefer the ground turkey in the trays (I usually buy the lean ground turkey at Costco but have also used the Jennie-O brand in the trays with good results, too).

If you want to pack a little more punch into the lemon flavor, consider serving lemon wedges alongside. Finally, depending on the salt content of your chicken broth, you may want to add additional salt to taste.


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (panko, regular storebought or homemade)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Rice:
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain or basmati white rice (see note above)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if needed
  • 3 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. For the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, milk, bread crumbs, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and parsley until well-combined. Roll into about 16 meatballs (about 1-2 inches in diameter).
  2. Heat the tablespoon olive oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and rippling. Add the meatballs in a single layer and brown on each side. No need to cook through here as they will finish cooking with the rice - just get them nice and golden.
  3. Carefully scoop the meatballs out of the skillet onto a paper towel-lined plate and return the skillet to medium heat (wiping out any excess grease - leaving just a tiny bit for the rice).
  4. Add the rice to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the edges of the rice start to turn translucent. Add the garlic and salt and cook for another minute. Stir in the broth, lemon juice, and lemon zest and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  5. Gently nestle the meatballs back into the rice mixture and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 18-20 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 or so minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan and additional fresh parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe Source: inspired by a recipe in Cook’s Country April 2015 (used my own meatball recipe and adapted the rice slightly)

57 Responses to Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice

  1. Sheila says:

    Still laughing after reading “unless you are some serious kind of overachiever, that is” which describes you perfectly, Mel. You have to have by now at least 1 billion rock star points. 🙂 Love one pot meals and this sounds perfect for a weeknight dinner. Thank you!

  2. LOVE one pot meals! This sounds like it has tons of great flavor too. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. Nancy says:

    def on my short list of new recipes to try!

  4. Patrick says:

    I’m going to do it with quinoa. I know it takes a little less time to cook than rice, but I still think it’s enough time to cook turkey meatballs.

  5. What a great dinner dish! I definitely want to try this for the family. 🙂

  6. Joy says:

    I can see adding frozen peas for the final 18 minutes. Sneak a veggie in the meal.

  7. Yum, I think YOU’RE the rock star here. One pot-meal AND I get meatballs out of the deal? Yup, you’re definitely the rock star. So excited to try this!

  8. I’m always on the lookout for easy, yummy, one-pot meals. This looks amazing! And anytime I hear “lemon rice,” my heart goes pitter-patter. LOVE IT! Pinning!

  9. Alice E says:

    I agree with you about the ground turkey in the little tubes. I think the texture is terrible! What we get here in is Honeysuckle White brand, I think, and it is very good. I stock up if it is on sale. Meatballs, in their many forms, are definitely a crowd pleaser and I always say the fewer pans to wash the better! Thanks.

  10. Liz says:

    Thank you Mel for the nice recipe. Have a good weekend!

  11. Oat&Sesame says:

    i believe simple foods can bring more satisfaction than fancy 5-star plates. I’ve often found that simple recipes yield the best results and flavors! Every now and then I get s craving for meatballs and I’m going to try this one next time! I think it would be great to mix in fresh chopped spinach with the lemon rice or perhaps add a drizzle of pesto over the meatballs! Yum!

  12. Jen says:

    Hi Mel! I have been following your recipes for a little while, and have made quite a few of them! I finally decided to post – I made this last night as I was looking for a new recipe and only needed to pick up a few ingredients for it. It was really, really good! Pretty easy to make, but it was a hit with me and my husband. Thanks!!

  13. I just made this with the last of the meatballs my mom packed in our freezer pre-baby. It’s DELCIOUS. I knew it would be–all of your recipes are killer! Love ya!!!

  14. Kim in MD says:

    I love one skillet meals! This looks delicious, Mel!

  15. liz says:

    i made this for dinner last night,it was quick to put together and very tasty!the rice in particular was delicious,i went back for seconds:)the seasonings were perfect,a harmonious amount of garlic,lemon,and parsley.another wonderful mel’s kitchen recipe into my regular rotation-thank you!

  16. Jeanne says:

    Made this for a late lunch today and it turned out perfect! Yum!

  17. Cheryl says:

    Hi, I am new to your blog/site. I found it while searching for pesto recipes. Trying your pesto chicken recipie tonight.

    I made the above recipe using Jennie-O sweet Italian turkey sausage (because it is what I had), over the weekend. It was delish!

    Definitely looking forward to trying mor of your recipes.

  18. Laura Jorgenson says:

    What am I doing wrong with my meatballs? Anytime I try to make them with turkey they fall apart. I use the Jenny-O trays. When I substitute beef they work fine. I need some turkey meatball tips!

    • Mel says:

      Hmm, not sure, Laura. Try omitting the milk and maybe adding a few extra tablespoons of bread crumbs. Ground turkey is definitely softer in texture than ground beef so that may help.

  19. Angie says:

    I made this tonight, and everybody (even my picky 4 year old) gobbled it up! I used the “15 minute brown rice” from Trader Joes and added about 1/4 cup more broth. It was perfect. Only change I would make next time is doubling the meatballs and keeping the rice the same. We have rice left but no meatballs. Thanks for the great recipe.

  20. Heidi says:

    Made this for dinner, great weeknight meal!

  21. Nita says:

    I made this today and it was yummy! The flavors were so perfect together ! My 11 year old does not like rice but she really loved this. I will definitely be making this again, it was simple and delicious!

  22. Wendy says:

    I made this tonight, and we all loved it!! Even my highly allergic baby gobbled it up.
    I have one question though, the meatballs stuck to the pan horribly. I’m not sure what I did wrong. The only modifications I made (to accommodate food allergies) was to sub crushed Rice Chex for the breadcrumbs and coconut milk for the milk.

    • Mel says:

      Not sure why, Wendy – did you use a nonstick pan or a stainless steel pan (without a nonstick coating)? That could certainly make a difference.

  23. Traci says:

    This was delicious! I loved the lemon – this dish will go into my regular rotation! I sprinkled feta cheese over my serving on a whim & it was excellent – I’ll definitely add that finishing touch the next time too!

  24. sarita says:

    I made these for dinner last night and everyone gobbled them up! I ended up using brown rice. I increased the liquid according the rice instructions and then added the meatballs to the rice when it had 20 min or so left to cook. I’ll definitely be making this one again. Thanks Mel!

  25. Sarah says:

    Made this for dinner this evening. Quite yummy! I thought lemon with the meatballs would be odd, but it turned out light and fresh. I think this meal could be excellent with a different flavor emphasis as well, but I’m not quite sure what. Thanks for a lovely meal!

  26. Barb says:

    I made this a few days ago and i’m still thinking about it- it was that good! It may not be Ina Garten, but it is real and delicious and satisfying. nothing ordinary about it. I know it will be making repeat performances in my kitchen after its rock star premier.

  27. Sylvia says:

    Made this for dinner. Still need to master browning meatballs without them falling apart. But, this was an amazingly easy to follow recipie. And delicious. Will be making again!

  28. Lauren says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I made it tonight and my family really enjoyed it (16 month old, husband and me). We don’t typically make meals with lemon, but wanted to try something different; I’m glad we did and I will make this again for sure!

  29. Jill says:

    My husband loved this. Trying to cook more healthy lately and these are perfect!

  30. Lisa says:

    Made this last week for dinner–so delicious I can’t stop thinking about it! Will definitely make it many, many more times! Thanks for the great recipe.

  31. alyssa says:

    Well tasty enough that my husband requested again this week!

    Oh for those whose meatballs stuck to the pan (mine always do!), maybe roast in the oven to brown up instead? I followed your directions for your meatball subs and roasted in oven first then added to the rice and it came out fine.

  32. Jenn A says:

    Made this last night for my family. They all liked it and we will definitely have it again! I’m thinking about maybe adding mushrooms and/or spinach to the rice. Seems like both might be yummy variations.

  33. Julie says:

    Just wanted you to know this came out excellent! I made gluten free meatballs by using potato flakes and following the America Test Kitchen meatball recipe loosely. I also had to use 2 lbs of meat, so instead of browning, I put the meatballs on a parchment covered baking sheet and put them in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. That allowed me time to get everything else going, and then put the meatballs in the pan. Only problem, I need a bigger pan!

  34. Asparagus says:

    Family loved this one tonight. Someone earlier suggested quinoa – which I used instead of rice, but with all the other ingredients as listed. Delicious. Thanks.

  35. Neena says:

    I bought ground turkey yesterday but the weight is 1.25 pounds vs 1.5. Do I need to adjust the other ingredients for the lesser weight of meat used? Thank you.

  36. Jenai says:

    These were so very good. My husband has requested that this goes into the rotation. I used brown rice and upped the liquid just a bit and it was perfection. Thank you so much for a great dish!

  37. Jennie P says:

    First day back to school teaching and I totally did not feel like cooking. But then I remembered that I had the right ingredients for this, and having made it a couple weeks ago and totally loved it, got right up off the couch and put it together. So delicious!

  38. JaNae says:

    I couldn’t believe how much my kids LOVED this meal. There were no leftovers tonight! 🙂 Thanks for another simple, healthy weeknight meal!

  39. Cari H says:

    I needed a quick dinner (like super-fast) the other night and stumbled across this recipe. With a few modifications and about 5 minutes of prep-time, this was the perfect solution. I put all the lemon rice ingredients in an electric rice steamer (except cheese – put that on at the end) + some homemade meatballs straight from the freezer, and even added a bag of frozen veggies so I didn’t need to cook them separately, then just pushed “cook” on the steamer. While I went back to working on my project, everything cooked on it’s own and I had a fabulous meal in about an hour without spending any time in the kitchen. The meatballs were fluffy & delish from steaming along with the lemon rice. My family LOVED this recipe! Thank you for saving dinner… AGAIN 🙂

  40. Mamalala says:

    Made this for dinner and most of us liked it. I am a big lemon fan so I absolutely loved the lemon rice. Going to make the rice again and maybe put another spice in the meatballs next time- Maybe curry or turmeric. Not much but figure it needs a bit tweaking for our family’s taste.

  41. Asparagus says:

    Not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but we’ve used quinoa instead of rice and it is very tasty (using the quinoa:liquid ratio instead).

  42. Amy C. says:

    I made this tonight with a few changes and it was very tasty. My three (well, four counting my husband) boys loved it. I used saltine crackers for the bread crumbs, dried parsley instead of fresh and mozzarella cheese instead of Parmesan (only because it’s all I had). Thanks for another winner, Mel. I can always count on you!

  43. Laura says:

    This was a big winner tonight for my family of 6. Thanks for a fantastic recipe – couldn’t have been more simple. Quick cleanup too, can life get any better??

  44. Crystal Ann says:

    Loved it!!!
    Excited to make many times over:)
    Thank you so much❤️

  45. Amy says:

    Made this tonight and it was amazing. My husband loved it too. Thank you for the excellent recipe!

  46. Andrea says:

    I only had brown basmati rice and was short on time, so I combined all rice ingredients (plus 1 T coconut oil) in my pressure cooker and set it to cook for 10 minutes on high pressure. While the rice cooked, I prepped & browned the meatballs, then poured the rice/liquid over the meatballs. Covered the skillet & cooked for another 15 minutes (and added 1/2 cup additional water). Results were perfect & SUPER delicious. My picky 9-year-old even raved, “All hail Mel!” So funny I had to share. 🙂

  47. Katie says:

    Made it tonight and everyone loved it!

  48. Ashley says:

    Made this with brown rice and grass fed beef. I did need a bit more water but the results we oh so delicious! More easy recipes like this that jazz up super basic things! Love this

  49. Shawna says:

    I was thinking about making this for a friend after surgery. Do you think it would keep well in the refrigerator to be reheated when they are ready to eat?

  50. Jenn says:

    I’ve had this bookmarked since you first posted it and I’m finally making it tonight. Can’t wait. When I try to print this, there’s an ad that prints in the middle of the directions and forces the recipe onto 2 pages instead of the nice neat 1 page that I appreciate your site for! Is there a way around that?

    Thanks for another great recipe. I can always trust your recipes!

    • Mel says:

      Oh that’s so annoying, Jenn! I think it’s fixed now. There definitely should NOT be ads printing. Let me know if you continue to have issues with that.

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