Easy Chicken Meatballs are a delicious and lighter option for those days when you’re craving an alternative to the classic Italian beef meatball. With delicious flavor additions of pancetta, Parmesan and fresh basil, these meatballs are baked not fried.

5 chicken meatballs in a shallow pan with fresh basil

These flavorful meatballs are made without breadcrumbs, making them gluten-free and they also have no egg making them allergy friendly.

Chicken or Beef Meatballs

I do love a good beefy meatball, I even love them stuffed with cheese like my Cheese Stuffed Mini Meatballsrecipe, but I also like to mix-it-up and enjoy these lighter, chicken meatballs. If you are one of those people who can’t tolerate beef, say hello to your new little meatball friends.

Now we all know chicken does not have a lot of flavor on its own and there is 1 ingredient I like to use to add so much flavor to many Italian dishes, pancetta. I add it to my Bolognese sauce,  Italian Style Meatloaf – Polpettone, and these chicken meatballs are just the delicious flavor boost they need.

A closeup of a chicken meatball sprinkled with chopped basil

Ground Chicken Meatballs

When I first wrote this recipe back in 2018, it was not easy to find ground chicken in the grocery store, so I would grind it up in my food processor and they would turn out great. If you can’t find ground chicken try this method, but don’t over-mix or the meat will be slimy and gummy. A few pulses will do.

How to Make Easy Chicken Meatballs in 4 Easy Steps:

Step by step of making meatballs

This recipe yields about 12-14 ice cream scoop-size meatballs.

Meatball Shaping Tip

The mix for the meatballs is quite wet and sticky. I like to use my ice cream scoop for shaping the meatballs. It is also best to wet your hands so they don’t stick when you shape them, this way they are perfectly formed and all the same size.

Meatballs on a baking sheet right out of the oven
Why do chicken meatballs fall apart?

I find that baking them, rather than frying keeps their shape. It is due to the moisture in the meatball, the hot oil makes it escape and this makes them fall apart. Baking is a gentler heat method. You can also cook them right in the tomato sauce, but they will not brown.

Freezing Meatballs

Making ahead a large batch of these meatballs and freezing some for future use is a great way to have an easy dinner on hand. To freeze uncooked meatballs, line them up on a small baking sheet without touching, make room in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours. This makes it easy to transfer them to a ziptop bag for long-term freezer storage and they won’t stick together.

Serving Baked Chicken Meatballs

Did you know that the Italians don’t serve their meatballs mixed with pasta? Meatballs are served on their own in sauce the ‘secondi’ (second) course with other dishes. I like them with my easy homemade marinara sauce. (see below). After baking, I put them in the pan of sauce and they help flavor the sauce. You can also put them in a baking dish, cover and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Marinara sauce being poured into a pan

Yield: 4

Easy Chicken Meatballs

A pan of easy chicken meatballs in marinara sauce garnished with fresh basil

Ground chicken breast is mixed with pancetta, Parmesan and fresh basil for a lighter, gluten-free delicious meatball.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) pancetta, finely diced
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound (453 grams) ground chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • Small pinch of salt, (there is salt in the Parmesan)
  • ¼ tablespoon ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C.
  2. To a sauté pan add the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and onions and cook until the onions start to soften. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute taking care not to burn the garlic.
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, cook for 1 minute. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  4. To a large bowl add the ground chicken, Parmesan, basil, cooled onion pancetta mix, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are combined, don't over mix.
  5. Lightly wet your hands (so they don't stick). Scoop 2 tablespoons of the meat into your hand and roll into a ball, place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the meat is used (see note for freezing from this point).
  6. Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes or until browned. Do not overcook.


  • This recipe yields about 12-14 meatballs depending on the size
  • To freeze uncooked meatballs, line them up on a small baking sheet without touching, make room in the freezer and freeze for 2 hours. This makes it easy to transfer them to a ziptop bag for long-term freezer storage and they won't stick together.
  • The recipe calls for a small pinch of salt as the Parmesan contains salt

Nutrition Information



Serving Size

3 meatballs

Amount Per Serving Calories 421Total Fat 32gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 20gCholesterol 144mgSodium 327mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 31g