White Bean & Rosemary Turkey Meatballs (Slow-Carb Meatballs)

slow-carb meatballs, turkey meatballs, spaghetti squash, gluten free meatballs, dairy free meatballs, grain free meatballs, kosher meatballs

Fact: as of yesterday, my gym banned chalk. I’m probably the only female who cares.
Fiction: There goes my deadlift progress.

Fact: I’ve adopted a license to freely eat ice cream.
Fiction: As long as it’s dairy-free and post-workout, ice cream is actually good for you.

Fact: I really try to take super good care of my body and do everything my acupuncturist says, like getting 8 hours of sleep every night, and avoiding wheat, dairy, sugar, and caffeine.
Fiction: I get 8 hours of sleep every night. And I didn’t have a (soy) latte today.

Fact: I’m always surprised to learn that certain people are paying super close attention to my blog .
Fiction: It doesn’t matter what I write here, no one is reading it.

Fact: I have trouble coming up with content on my own and therefore take inspiration from friends.
Fiction: I will never come up with a witty, inspiring post again.

Fact: I love meatballs.
Fiction: I’ve always loved meatballs.

The truth is, I grew up hating meatballs. As it turns out, my mom just didn’t know to make very good meatballs. (Sorry, Ma. But it’s ok, last I checked we don’t have an ounce of Italian blood.) I didn’t know I liked meatballs until Ben made them soon after we started dating. Like my mom, Ben isn’t the least bit Italian. Unlike my mom, Ben’s biggest hit in the kitchen has been making meatballs. I learned that tender, flavorful meatballs come from milk and breadcrumbs and a lingering simmer in a rich red sauce. And a meatball is not a meatball without cheese.

Or so I thought. Until I came across this recipe, which seemed like the perfect use for leftover cannellini beans sitting in my fridge and the perfect companion to my wheat and dairy-free diet. Actually this was before I started said diet. But never one to follow the norm, the recipe sounded darn good to me.

slow-carb meatballs, turkey meatballs, spaghetti squash, gluten free meatballs, dairy free meatballs, grain free meatballs, kosher meatballs

So what’s this whole slow-carb thing about? The slow-carb diet plan was introduced by Tim Ferriss in his popular book  The 4-Hour Body. The rules of the diet are that one must avoid all white carbohydrates, fruit, sugar, dairy and alcohol six days per week. The final day is a freebie, or cheat day. Don’t ask me anything else about the book because I haven’t read it, this is just information I’ve gathered online.

But even though I haven’t read the book, I can certainly get behind making sure that most of the carbs I eat are slow carbs, or carbohydrates with a low glycemic index. These kinds of foods, including legumes, whole grains, and sweet potatoes, are known to cause a slower release of glucose in the blood stream. Maintaining relatively even levels of blood sugar is key to a healthy weight and prevention of heart disease. Not to mention, these kinds of carbohydrates help us feel more satisfied then their higher-glycemic counterparts.

I’m already eating slow carbs, why not put them in my meatballs? Using white beans in place of traditional milk and bread crumbs, along with plenty of fresh veggie and herbs, eliminates the gluten, grain and dairy in this recipe. And by default makes them kosher meatballs too, if you happen to be looking for that sort of recipe. Bascially, I just can’t say enough good things.

Fact: These are hands-down my new favorite meatballs. The white beans do utterly amazing things, creating a texture anyone would mistake for milk-soaked breadcrumbs and all-day simmering. Only, you won’t be doing any of those things because this recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, and comes together a lot faster than that. The flavors of fresh herbs and sweet sundried tomatoes in every tender bite is nothing short of addicting (and truly? made me forget there was no cheese.) And the sauce? Just do it. You won’t be sorry.

Fact: I’m not just saying that because I don’t eat dairy and wheat right now. And you should not skip these even if you do.

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Slow-Carb Turkey Meatballs

Yield: 6 servings

These amazingly tender and flavorful, gluten-free, dairy-free meatballs get their velvety texture from the addition of pureed white beans and fresh vegetables. No milk or breadcrumbs needed.



1 cup cooked white beans (cannellini beans)*
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 oz sundried tomatoes*, reconstituted in hot water for 15 minutes
1 1/2 lbs 93% lean ground turkey
2 eggs
2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt

1 small red onion, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 26oz boxes chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (choose low sodium, boxed tomato sauce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 medium spaghetti squash, cooked, strands removed

Opt for cooking your own beans from dry beans. Not only is this a lower-sodium option, it is also far more economical. (A 1lb bag of dry beans, at about $1.25, yields the same as four 15oz cans of beans. Cooked beans may be frozen.) If using canned beans, choose low-sodium beans from a BPA free can such as Eden Organic.

Choose sundried tomatoes that are sold dry, not in oil, such as Bella brand.


To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 425ºF. Combine beans, onion, carrot, garlic and sundried tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl with the ground turkey. Add the eggs, rosemary, parsley, red pepper and salt. Use hands to gently mix until thoroughly combined. Form into meatballs using a medium scoop, and place on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Place the onion, carrots and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the vegetables for 5-8 minutes, until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and partially cover. Simmer until meatballs are done baking. Stir in balsamic vinegar.

When meatballs are finished baking, transfer them to the sauce and continue simmering for 15 minutes, to blend flavors. Serve with hot, cooked spaghetti squash.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving
Calories 296.6
Total Fat 9.8 g
Saturated Fat 3.0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.7 g
Cholesterol 141.7 mg
Sodium 931.5 mg
Potassium 294.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 23.1 g
Dietary Fiber 10.9 g
Sugars 13.5 g
Protein 27.3 g

Adapted from A Spicy Perspective

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22 Responses to “White Bean & Rosemary Turkey Meatballs (Slow-Carb Meatballs)”

  1. 1

    Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit — January 13, 2012 @ 7:34 am Reply

    Loving the slow carb approach! “As long as it’s dairy-free and post-workout, ice cream is actually good for you.” AMEN to that! Also, super lame that your gym banned chalk. Is that even legal? I couldn’t live without it… luckily, there are some alternatives! Have you tried the chalk gel? It works just like chalk but comes in a gel/cream. It’s awesome! Also, you can tape your hands (just under the fingers) with hockey tape. Works really well 🙂

    • 1.1

      Cara — January 13, 2012 @ 8:50 am

      Thanks Leanne, I’m definitely going to look into that chalk gel!

  2. 2

    Shawnda — January 13, 2012 @ 10:12 am Reply

    Such an interesting use of beans – love the idea of healthier meatballs!

  3. 3

    Michelle — January 13, 2012 @ 11:05 am Reply

    Hi Cara! I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now and just wanted to say how much I adore each and every one of your posts! Keep up the good work!!! 🙂 Btw I’m totally looking forward to making these meatballs this weekend…..

    • 3.1

      Cara — January 13, 2012 @ 11:10 am

      Aww, thanks Michelle! I adore hearing from new readers 🙂

  4. 4

    Susan — January 13, 2012 @ 2:48 pm Reply

    Loving your blog. Like you grew up not a big fan of the meatball or meatloaf for the same reason. Recently I discovered chia seeds as a binder. OMG we love meatballs and meatloaf now! I grind them in a coffee grinder and use 2 tablespoons per pound of meat, mixing the ground seeds into the meat before adding anything else to be sure they are well incorporated, then proceed as usual with seasonings, spices and liquid. Yummy! Also making some awesome turkey sausage with the same proceedure. High fiber ground meat. Who knew? Keep up the good work.

    • 4.1

      Cara — January 13, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

      thanks for the kind words and the tip, Susan!

  5. 5

    Megan — January 13, 2012 @ 6:24 pm Reply

    I’m allergic to that chalk. It was a huge issue when I did gymnastics when I was little. I don’t think I realized anyone used it at the gym. That’s a bummer though.

    And these meatballs look so good! Wish I had some for dinner tonight. I have no motivation to cook.

  6. 6

    Gretchen @gfedge — January 13, 2012 @ 6:47 pm Reply

    Love the beans instead of bread crumbs for gluten-free. I had beans soaking already when I read this. Now I can make our favorite meatballs (with plenty of leftovers). We love leftovers at our house – then you have a night off from cooking!

    • 6.1

      Cara — January 14, 2012 @ 8:56 am

      Agreed, leftovers are the best! (When I actually remember they’re in my freezer, ha!)

  7. 7

    Norma Chang — January 13, 2012 @ 9:01 pm Reply

    Great idea, substituting beans for bread crumbs in meatballs.
    First time visiting your blog, love your style, will continue to visit.

    • 7.1

      Cara — January 14, 2012 @ 8:58 am

      Welcome, Norma! Thanks for the kind words. Off to check out your site too!

  8. 8

    Joanne — January 13, 2012 @ 9:11 pm Reply

    Now, the question is…can I find a substitute for the turkey. I wonder if TVP would work?

    I’m Italian through and through and I HATED my mom’s meatballs. They were awful. Actually I just don’t think I’ve ever particularly liked ground meat all that much. But meatballs and meatloaf, never my thing. Maybe if they’d have had white beans in them though…

  9. 9

    Emily @ A Cambridge Story — January 13, 2012 @ 9:18 pm Reply

    Nice call on adding beans to the meatballs! Extra hearty!

  10. 10

    Kate — January 14, 2012 @ 4:47 am Reply

    Interesting – I wouldn’t think to add beans to meatballs, but higher protein is always a plus, right?

  11. 11

    grace — January 14, 2012 @ 6:30 pm Reply

    slow carb! what a concept! as far as i’m concerned, beans can be added seamlessly into any entree. 🙂

  12. 12

    lizzy — January 15, 2012 @ 9:27 am Reply

    Wow, maybe you do have some Italian blood afterall. This sounds like such a good and healthy use for white beans. I will have to give them a try. I’m sure my Italian hubby will approve!

  13. 13

    elly — January 15, 2012 @ 1:21 pm Reply

    These look awesome. I’ve been toying with the idea of a white bean/roasted red pepper burger, but these sound even better since they have more protein. Starred! Hopefully they get made soon.

  14. 14

    Kristi Rimkus — January 16, 2012 @ 12:13 am Reply

    I love the use of beans in turkey meatballs. They would do a great job of binding and adding moisture! This is a must make recipe.

  15. 15

    Jenn @LeftoverQueen — January 20, 2012 @ 5:54 pm Reply

    Oh wow, these look and sound so good!

  16. 16

    Kate — January 5, 2014 @ 5:42 pm Reply

    So deicious, loved them. Just made traditional for Christmas and these are just as good!

  17. 17

    Mara — January 21, 2014 @ 8:12 am Reply

    Made this for dinner last night; John, Charlie & I thought it was delish! Best part: leftovers tonight!!

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