Bourbon & Cider Glazed Turkey Meatballs


This is a good one people!  So. Good!  I love fresh apple cider in the fall – and I REALLY love things cooked with apple cider!  Like apple cider donuts, which sadly, I have yet to recreate in a low carb and gluten free format.  Until I figure that out, one way to get the cider flavor into a dish without all of the sugar and calories, is to cook it down and glaze or sauce things with it.

Last fall I made these amazing cider glazed chicken thighs, and wild mushroom, swiss chard & goat cheese strudels with bourbon cider sauce.  This year, I wanted to make something low carb and gluten free with the cider – and of course one of my other favorite drinks, bourbon! 

These meatballs are so delicious, it was all I could do not to eat the entire batch!  They have a subtle herby flavor from the rosemary and sage, and when you add the sweet glaze to them they just scream fall with every delicious bite!  This recipe far exceeded my expectations – I knew the concept was sound, but I never expected these meatballs to be that addictingly delicious! 

You guys MUST try these!  But make sure you aren’t alone or you’ll eat them all – trust me on this!!!!  This is the perfect low carb appetizer recipe for a party – just make sure you make a ton of them because they will go FAST!  And hopefully not before all of your guests arrive!  ;)
Note:  This recipe is considered Paleo, to lower the carbs even more for you Keto or Atkins peeps, replace the 1 1/2 cups of cider in the glaze with 1 cup of cider, 1/2 cup of water, and 1 Tbl of sweetener – plus the bourbon and rosemary.  Nutrition info for both Keto and Paleo is at the bottom of the post.

Makes 18 meatballs

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground turkey
1/2 Tbl fresh sage, chopped
1/2 Tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 Tbl dried onion flakes
1 egg

For the glaze:

1 1/2 cups cider
1/4 cup bourbon
3″ sprig rosemary

Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a medium bowl.  Roll into about 1″ balls.  They should be cocktail sized.  You can bake these for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees (F), or brown them in a small amount of olive oil in a medium nonstick saute pan until cooked through.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the glaze ingredients and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes or until the glaze is shiny and slightly thickened. 

Add the cooked meatballs to the glaze and toss to coat thoroughly.  Let them sit for about five minutes to absorb the glaze before eating.  Serve with toothpicks – or if you really want to get fancy, you can use 2″ rosemary twigs trimmed to have just a little sprig on top – just push one into each meatball and serve on a platter.  Adorable and delicious!

Approximate nutrition info. for 3 meatballs (Paleo): 200 calories, 7g fat, 7g net carbs, 14 g protein

Approximate nutrition info. for 3 meatballs (Keto):  190 calories, 7g fat, 5g net carbs, 14g protein

For more great recipes check out my e-cookbook, The Gluten Free Low Carber!

  1. Rose

    Will give them a try. I’m thinking they will be great at our girls weekly card game. Thanks

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-24-2012

      Oooh I love cards! What do you guys play? I’m sure the meatballs will be a hit! Better make a double batch! :)

  2. Rose

    We play Canasta. I am from VA. and now live in KC, MO. When I was growing up we always went to Myrtle Beach each summer. Playing Canasta in the evenings at the hotel was a great past time while listening to the ocean waves. I read you live in SC bet you have enjoyed the beach too. Thanks again for helping me lose the pounds in a tasty way.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-25-2012

      Your welcome Rose! We used to play a game similar to Canasta years ago! Being from CT originally we’ve spent more time playing cards on Cape Cod. I’ve only been to Myrtle Beach once so far but looking forward to checking it out again soon!

  3. Laurie

    These look awesome! I saw another low carb dish that gained the apple flavor from apple tea. Wonder if that Would work here too.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-25-2012

      That’s an awesome idea Laurie! So many different flavors from tea, totally going to try that, thanks for sharing!

  4. Quill

    This is probably a dumb question, but what exactly is apple cider? Do you mean hard cider (alcoholic), or…? Thanks!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-25-2012

      Actually that’s a great question Quill and I should have been more specific. I used fresh apple cider which is sold around this time of year – usually refrigerated and in the produce section of your market. Apple juice would probably work just as well, but the apple cider isn’t filtered and has a more pronounced apple flavor I think. Hard cider would probably also work though!

  5. emsenn

    Hi, I just found your blog through reddit, and just wanted to say that I think it’s great how you’ve communicated with the other readers in your comment section. Sign of a top-notch blog writer. Also, the recipe looks delicious and I’m going to try it at my earliest convience!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-25-2012

      Welcome and thanks! I don’t always get to answering all the comments as quickly as I’d like so I feel bad about that, but I do try to answer them all eventually and I love having conversations with people that take the time to comment! We have some great conversations over on the facebook page too so be sure to “like” us and join in anytime! :)

  6. Diana @ Eating Made Easy
    Diana @ Eating Made Easy09-26-2012

    I am loving all the ingredients in this recipe especially the use of apple cider! Perfect for fall! Can’t wait to try it.

  7. flamidwyfe

    These look amazing! I made the Mushroom & Goat Cheese Lasagna from your book the other night and it was a hit!!

  8. Rachel

    These look so yummy! Thanks for sharing. Doing the Whole30 now but as soon as it’s done I’m going to give these a shot. I have a feeling my boyfriend will love them :)

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny10-02-2012

      I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the completion of the Whole 30 than these! Hope you guys like them!

  9. Kim Bee
    Kim Bee10-02-2012

    Dude you are totally making these for me one day when I visit right….right…right!

    You rock my world.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny10-02-2012

      If and when you visit, I’ll make you anything your little “aboot” saying Canuck heart desires!!!! ;)

  10. Rico

    Hi Melissa,
    Thank you for this! Found the recipe yesterday and tried it today with what I had in the house and garden. Really great. I am actually glad I didn’t have anybody over, so I could eat them ALL ;) NOMNOMNOM
    I used strong cider as I read the comments only during eating and saw this question answered. And since I didn’t want to buy extra garlic powder and dried onions, I used fresh ones from the garden. I also added some chopped dried chilli (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) and some fresh parsley, but used too little salt, so I’ll follow your lead there the next time. The glaze didn’t work so well, but I guess that’s because the cider was clear and had some CO2 in it to begin with, so it didn’t really thickened (and I made waaay to much of it anyway)… better luck next time :)
    Thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny10-09-2012

      Rico, I’m relieved that you enjoyed them even though the glaze wasn’t the same as mine – hope you get a chance to try them with regular cider – even more nom-worthy I promise! ;)

  11. Nicole

    I think I’ve made these at least 6 times since I found the recipe. I usually have to double the recipe also because they’re such a hit!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny05-08-2013

      Thanks so much Nicole, I LOVED these and they are still one of my favorite meatball recipes! :)

  12. Jane Temple
    Jane Temple09-23-2013

    Made these to take to work. Put them in a crockpot instead of baking them. It was more like meatballs swimming in soup than glazed meatballs. I must say the “soup” was tasty but because it was liquid didn’t lend much flavor to the meatballs. The liquid doesn’t thicken enough to glaze them.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny09-23-2013

      A crockpot is covered and doesn’t allow the liquid to reduce, that’s why you ended up with soup instead of sauce.

  13. Kaitlyn Kusaywa
    Kaitlyn Kusaywa11-10-2013

    I made these meatballs and they were absolutely delicious. However, my glaze did not come out as glaze. Do you only include the cider and bourbon? I had mine on the stove over hot heat for a good 15 minutes and nothing happened, it just warmed up. Is there something I am missing about this? Much appreciated!

  14. Betty Murphy
    Betty Murphy11-11-2013

    Question: Isn’t bourbon is distilled w/grain therefore not gluten free?

  15. Stephanie Jeremiah
    Stephanie Jeremiah01-04-2014

    I also had trouble with the glaze and since I made these to take to a party (I know, I should always do a test run first) I added cornstarch to the cider/bourbon mix to thicken it. I also baked the meatballs in the oven and had to wash off the congealed ooze before I put them into the crockpot (for their trip to the party). I guess I really messed this one up – they are good, but don’t have the addicting flavor I was hoping for. Sigh.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny01-07-2014

      Sorry this one was a disappointment Stephanie! It sounds like the glaze didn’t reduce enough to become thick and concentrated in flavor. I hate that you didn’t get to taste them at their best! For a really addicting and sweet meatball you might want to try the General Tso’s Meatball which is another of our favorites!

      • Fiona

        Hi Melissa,

        I am looking forward to testing this recipe out for the Broncos/Patriots game this weekend! My close friend is gluten free so i was trying to find a gluten free option for the bbq sauce we usually put on our meatballs and pulled pork. (would this work with the pork btw?) Anyway, I was wondering if i could substitute the bourbon with dark rum? I live in Bermuda and we dont really drink bourbon, so if I could avoid buying a bottle of bourbon just for this recipe I’d like too. If you have time to write back before the end of the week that would be great for your thoughts! Thanks!

        • Mellissa Sevigny
          Mellissa Sevigny01-17-2014

          Absolutely Fiona, it would add some carbs but if that’s not an issue go for it! Or just omit it altogether and they will still be very tasty!

  16. Larina Johnson
    Larina Johnson09-27-2014

    Great Recipe! I have a traditional meatball mix blend of ground meats on the counter right now and i just bought a bottle of Pumpkin Cider! a quick trip to pick up some bourbon and these guys are on the menu tonight! thanks for the recipe!

  17. Eileen

    My glaze also did not turn out. What did I do wrong?

    I read all the posts and didn’t see a response in there regarding the glaze. I also followed the recipe exactly.

    My bourbon / cider mix stayed completely liquid and did not thicken at all.

    Please let me know so I can correct this next time I make them.

  18. Shoshanna

    I am making this recipe tonight as we speak for thanksgiving dinner tomorrow THANK YOU!!!!

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