Follow Us

Follow Me on Pinterest


How to Make Turkey Meatball Stew

Turkey meatball stew with dijon dumplings

This is one of our favorite recipes, going back years. This time we made it with as many local ingredients as we could get.

Admittedly, it can be a bit of a bear. Luckily, it yields a LOT and it freezes well, which makes for both left-overs during the week and frozen dinners for the future. It’s not nearly so bad if you sequence the steps correctly, but when we get it wrong it can add 30 to 60 minutes to the process. Documenting it correctly, so that we never flub it again, is one reason this post has taken so long!

Be sure to read through the recipe entirely first (always a good idea). There are a lot of moving parts and hot pans with liquid on the stove, so you need to keep on your toes and never take your eyes completely off the stove top! This is also one of those recipes where it helps to have multiple kitchen timers.

Don’t let all that scare you. Give it a shot on a chilly, wet Saturday. You’ll be glad you did.

We’ve broken the ingredient lists down separately for the three components: the meatballs, the stew itself, and the dumplings. If you want, you can skip either the meatballs or the dumplings, but it works best as a team.

Turkey Meatball Stew
Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients: Meatballs

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
1 lb Ground turkey We bought boneless breast and ground it ourselves Quattro’s Game Farm *
1 Small onion Diced (~3/4 cup) Paffenroth Gardens *
2 cups White bread Crumbled
1 cup Milk Whole, low fat, or skim Milk Thistle Dairy Farm *
2 Eggs Beaten Northshire Farm *
1.5 TBsp Sunflower oil Or olive oil Stolor Organics bought at Cayuga Organics *
2 TBsp Parsley leaves Chopped (we have it in the freezer from last summer in 1 TBsp cubes) Keith’s Farm *
1/2 cup Golden raisins Hydrated in warm water Whole Foods bulk section
1/2 cup Pine nuts Toasted Whole Foods bulk section
1 cup Vegetable oil
0.5 tsp Kosher salt
0.5 tsp Black pepper Freshly ground
~ 1 cup Flour A layer for rolling the meatballs in

Ingredients: Stew

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
1 Large onion Diced Paffenroth Gardens *
1 Large carrot Diced Paffenroth Gardens *
2 stalks Celery Diced (we didn’t have celery so we added extra carrots)
2 quarts Beef stock
1/2 cup Orange lentils Or any lentils Whole foods bulk section
1/3 cup Barley We substituted farro Cayuga Pure Organics *
2 cups Dried beans We used Jacob’s cattle and kidney beans Cayuga Pure Organics *
1 TBsp Sunflower oil Or olive oil Stolor Organics bought at Cayuga Organics *
1 TBsp Butter Ronnybrook Farm *

Ingredients: Dumplings

Amount Ingredient Preparation Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
2 cups All-purpose flour Cayuga Pure Organics *
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp Baking powder
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup Water


  1. If using dried beans, soak them overnight, or at least for a few hours. Whether using using dried beans or from a can, at this point drain them, rinse them, and set aside.
  2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Pour the beef stock into a sauce pan and place on medium heat. The purpose is to get the stock up to temperature, but we won’t need it for a bit. Keep an eye on it, as you continue with the steps below, and when it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and just let it simmer on low until needed.
  4. Start the work in earnest by focusing on the meatballs, otherwise this will hold up the other steps in the stew. Place the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl (we recommend grinding your own). Be sure to wash your hands after each time you handle the raw meat.

    Feeding the stand mixer meat grinder100% ground turkey

  5. On a separate deep plate (we used a glass pie dish), create a generous layer of flour.
  6. Next, come three steps that each involve about 5 minutes of waiting, so line them up together. Break up the bread and place it in a bowl with the milk. In a separate bowl, soak the golden raisins. Last, place the pine nuts on a small baking sheet and put them in the middle rack of the 400 degree oven.

    Check on the pine nuts after about 3 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Take them out once they are lightly toasted, which will be no more than 5 minutes, and add them to the mixing bowl with the ground turkey (and turn off the oven).

    Let the bread soak for 5 minutes, then squeeze it out and add it to the bowl. Drain the raisins and add them as well.

    Bread soaking in milkSoaking an re-hydrating golden raisins

  7. While waiting during the previous step, chop the parsley, beat the egg, and add them to the meat bowl.
  8. Chop all of the onions at once (one small from the meatball ingredients and one large for the stew itself).
  9. Heat 2 TBsp of oil and 1 TBsp of butter in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes until they are soft. Remove about 1/3 of the sautéed onions and place them in the meatball mixing bowl.
  10. While the onions are cooking, chop the carrot and celery. Add the carrot and celery to the remaining onions in the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes. Once the vegetables have softened, add the stock, assuming it’s already been simmering; if not, you’re going to need to wait for the stock to come to a boil and simmer before adding it. Once you add the stock you can just leave the dutch oven on the heat for now and go back to focusing on the meatballs.

    Diced carrotSautéing the onions and carrots

  11. In a cast iron pan, pour a layer of vegetable oil between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch deep. Place it on low heat to get it up to temperature. You may want to cover with a splatter guard. Keep an eye on it.
  12. Once you have added the onions, your meatball mix is ready. Fold everything together until well mixed, but don’t overwork the meat.

    Using your clean hands, scoop up a two-finger amount of the mix and shape into a (golf) ball. As you shape them, roll them in the flour pan to coat, and add them directly to the cast iron pan full of hot vegetable oil. That pan will be full before you are out of meatballs, so place the extra ones on a separate plate.

    The meatball mixShaping the meatballsCoating the meatballsFlour-coated turkey meatballs

  13. After 3-4 minutes the first side of the first meatballs should be browned. Flip them using tongs and keep them in for another 3-4 minutes. Getting the meatballs nice and brown is key to getting best results from this recipe, but at the same time they will continue cooking in the stew, so it’s OK if the meatballs are still somewhat raw in spots. As the meatballs are done browning, remove them to a separate plate and add new meatballs.

    Pan-frying the meatballsPan-frying the meatballsA perfectly browned turkey meatballsBrowned meatballs

  14. Once you are done creating the meatballs and handling raw meat with your hands (and while the meatballs are frying), wash your hands. Measure out the lentils and barley, add them to the stew/stock, stir, and cover. Let it cook for 5 minutes.

    Red lentils and farroThe basic stew

  15. Add the beans and let cook for 5 minutes.
  16. If the meatballs are all done at this point, add them to the stew now. If not, add the ones that are done and keep going with the frying, adding them as they are done browning.
  17. Finally, begin on the dumplings. In a mixing bowl add together the flour, salt, baking powder, and Dijon mustard. Add the water sparingly, only about 1/4 tsp at a time, folding it all together until it forms a dry dough. If it’s TOO dry, add a tiny bit more water and mix, but be careful not to get the dough too moist. Use two tablespoons to scoop and shape the dough into dumplings slightly smaller than the meatballs, and as you shape them drop them directly into the stew pot.

    The dumpling doughShaping a dumpling

  18. At this point we generally realize that we are playing a game of chicken with our Dutch oven because we’ve brought it right to the brink of its capacity. As it cooks, the level of the liquid will reduce, but at the same time the dumplings will expand (see the difference between the pictures below).

    This last time we made this we finally decided that we were cutting it too close, and we ladled 2-3 ladles full of stock (mostly just liquid) into a separate pot. You can see it peeking out on the back burner in these pictures. After everything was cooked and we served ourselves for dinner, we added this stock back in and it became part of our leftovers. No harm, no foul, no risk of boiling over.

    The Dutch oven is full after adding the meatballs and dumplingsFull pot

  19. Put the lid on and let the stew continue to simmer on medium for 25-30 minutes. During this time, we recommend that you get a head start on your dishes. You will have a lot to clean! But it you do it right, everything but the stew pot can be clean (or in the dishwasher) by the time dinner is served!
  20. To serve, ladle into bowls and be sure to include a mix of all the ingredients (you might have to dig to the bottom to get the lentils and barley). Turn off the stove and leave the rest of the servings in the pot to cool.

    Once completely cooled, ladle the leftovers into storage containers, but we recommend using containers that hold no more then two servings each. This will help you distribute the various goodies evenly (meatballs, dumplings, vegetables, grain), and it will make it easier to throw the excess into the freezer after a few days. Make sure to have some freezer-read containers handy. In a pinch we have thrown it into Ziploc bags to freeze it. Freeze anything that you are not sure that you will eat within 5-7 days.

Teamwork tips: we advise that you tackle this recipe with two people (like we do). If you have the luxury of a helping hand in the kitchen, split the tasks accordingly:

  • Person 1 focuses on getting the stock up to temperature, chopping the vegetables, and starting ASAP on cooking the onions.
  • Person 2 focuses on getting the meatballs started ASAP, first by preparing all of the other ingredients and then by tackling the raw meat and combining everything.
  • Person 1 then acts as Person 2′s clean hands assist until the raw meat is over (getting the flour dredge ready, preparing the frying pan for the meatballs, frying the early meatballs as Person 2 continues to shape the rest.
  • Person 1, once cleaned up, pulls the stew together and makes the dumplings as Person 2 focuses on browning all of the meatballs.
  • While it’s cooking, Person 1 can clean the counters while Person 2 tackles the dishes, but that’s really a matter of personal preference.

Turkey meatball stew with dijon dumplings

Comments are closed.