This easy skillet dinner of greek turkey meatballs and lemon rice is jam-packed with flavor and can be on your table in about 45 minutes!
Greek Turkey Meatballs + Lemon Rice
If you haven’t figured it out yet, one pan dinners are totally my thing. Unnecessarily dirty dishes make my heart hurt, and if I can stuff it into one pan, you better believe I’m going to do it!
This meatball rice technique can be used for lots of different flavor profiles– think Italian meatballs in tomato-dotted garlic rice topped with parmesan cheese, or chicken and caramelized onion meatballs immersed in sweet pepper rice– but today we’re going greek.
I took my greek turkey burger recipe and transformed it into skillet meatballs cooked alongside fragrant lemon rice. To finish, I topped it with crumbled feta cheese, fresh tomato, and fresh parsley. It’s a serious explosion of flavor.
Cooking Greek Meatballs
Traditional greek meatballs are called Keftedes and are made with beef, red onion, mint, and oregano. This recipe is a little non-traditional as far as “greek meatballs” go. My greek turkey meatballs use turkey to keep them lean and include spices like cumin, cardamom, and dill. I also use a panade to keep the meatball tender and super moist.
What is a Panade?
A panade is a paste made from bread and milk that’s often used to keep meatloaf and meatballs moist and help them keep their shape. There’s a lot of science that goes into why a panade works the way it does, but here are the basics:
- When ground, meat forms a tangled web of proteins that kind of glue themselves together. When cooked, this “web” shrinks, squeezing out moisture, making meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf dry and tough.
- The liquid of a panade (typically milk) adds moisture to the ground meat to replace what’s lost.
- The molecules of the starch (typically bread) get in the way of the meat proteins and prevent them from forming too strong of a “web, making the meat more tender.
Making the Lemon Rice
Paired with the greek turkey meatballs, this lemon rice is phenomenal. There’s not much to it, just some chicken broth, garlic, salt and lemon juice but the flavor is bright! The best rice to use for this is Basmati, but long grain rice works well, too.
One key to getting great flavor out of rice is to toast it first with aromatics. In this recipe, we’re toasting it in olive oil to bring out the nuttiness of the grain and then adding garlic to get that flavor going strong before the chicken broth even hits it.
Want more easy skillet meal recipes?
- Chicken Black Bean Enchilada Skillet
- One Pan Smothered Chicken Skillet
- Oven Roasted Potato and Sausage Skillet
Tools Used in making this Greek Turkey Meatball + Lemon Rice Recipe
- 10″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet: Cast Iron Skillets are your BEST friend and are totally underrated. Cast iron retains heat really well and allows you to get that irresistible sear on steaks and other meats you can usually only get at a restaurant. Pair this with the fact that they are CHEAP it’s a no-brainer.
- Better Than Boullion: I use a lot of chicken/beef/vegetable broth in my recipes because it adds such nice flavor, but I don’t love keeping cans or cartons of it in my pantry. For this reason (and more) I use this broth base anytime I call for broth in my recipes. It only takes one teaspoon of base to make 1 cup of flavorful broth and can be stored for quite a while in the refrigerator.
Greek Turkey Meatballs + Lemon Rice Skillet
- 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 /4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 cup sweet onion finely chopped
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 pita bread halves soaked in milk until soft
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups long grain or basmati rice
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 1/2 cup fresh tomato diced
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
Combine turkey, oregano, cardamom, cumin, salt, dill, paprika, onion, parsley, and egg in a bowl. Take pita bread out of milk and gently squeeze a bit of the excess milk from it. Place in the bowl.
Stir ingredients together until it forms a cohesive mixture, but don't over mix as it can make the meatballs tough.
Use a cookie scoop to portion the meatballs and roll each meatball into an even ball.
Heat olive oil in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers and is hot. Add the meatballs in a single layer and brown on each side. There's no need to cook them through here as they will finish cooing in the rice.
Gently scoop the meatballs out of the skillet and onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain and return the skillet to medium heat (wiping out any excess grease – leaving just a tiny bit for the rice).
Add the rice to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the edges of the rice start to lightly brown. Add the garlic and salt and cook for another minute. Stir in the broth and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a simmer.
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.
Remove the skillet from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 or so minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with feta cheese, chopped tomato and additional fresh parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.