When an authentic Italian meatball meets chicken parm, really good things happen. Bake a skillet of chicken parmesan meatballs oozing with mozzarella cheese and you'll have to fight them off with a fork. A cheesy pan of comforting goodness with chicken meatballs that are tender (and not one bit dry) thanks to ground chicken thighs.
You read that right, my friend! It's totally possible to make tender chicken meatballs (and chicken parmesan meatballs, no less).
I served these for dinner after a day of recipe testing and photographing and they were hands down the favorite recipe. And when my husband heard they were chicken meatballs, he couldn't believe it because they were so flavorful and moist.
And here's the secret: we use ground chicken thighs.
Before we share more...let's focus...
...on how tender. How cheesy and how incredibly flavorful chicken parm meatballs can be. And how they can be prepped in about 10-15 minutes.
You just might get a standing ovation when you come to the table.
The key to a juicy chicken meatball
Maybe you skipped a few sentences (trust me, I get it...I jump to recipe too) and maybe didn't see that the title includes "chicken thighs".
And that is the key to a not dry meatball...ground chicken thighs.
After an long conversation with my butcher, I learned that you can typically tell by color if the ground chicken you're buying is dark or white meat (or even sometimes a combo). Many times, white meat is used because the majority of consumers prefer chicken breasts.
Which strikes me as interesting. Dark meat is typically less expensive than white so why not use dark meat and charge more since it's ground?
My goal is to help you make really moist chicken meatballs (and not product manage grocery prices) so here's what you'll do:
Go to a butcher or meat market where they'll grind meat for you. And ask them to grind chicken thighs in whatever quantity you need.
To quote one of my culinary heroes, Ina Garten, "how easy is that"?
What makes this a chicken parmesan meatball?
If you adore homemade chicken parmesan, you probably know that the components are crumb-coated chicken breasts that are pan-fried, topped with an Italian red sauce, some cheese and popped under the broiler until ooey and gooey.
For chicken parm meatballs, you'll quickly mix ground chicken thighs with some of the breadcrumbs and cheese, herbs and garlic roll them around in some more of each. Then you'll fry quick fry them and let them finish baking in the oven.
They take about 10-15 minutes to prep, another 10-15 to fry and about 15 more to finish in the oven. Fast and easy.
Ready to learn the steps?
Foolproof tips and tools for crispy parmesan chicken meatballs
How to make chicken parm meatballs
Meatball frying tip
The temperature of the oil will drop when you add the breaded meatballs to the heated oil. Adjust the flame or heat on your burner to maintain the temperature of the oil between 325-350˚ so the meatballs brown without soaking up too much oil and also avoid burning.-Josie + Nina
Make ahead options
Method #1: Shape meatballs (without breading) and place in a freezer safe bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge. Bread, fry and bake in sauce when ready to serve.
Method #2: Shape, bread and fry meatballs. Drain on paper towel lined plate. Allow to cool completely. Without allowing any meatballs to touch, place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze until solid. Remove from tray to a freezer safe bag and freeze up to 3 months. Defrost and proceed with recipe for baking.
Suggested side dishes...
Storage, reheating and freezing options
Storage. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight, resealable container or bag for 3-4 days.
Reheating. Preheat oven to 350˚. Add some sauce to a small baking dish. Place meatballs on sauce and sprinkle with more cheese, as desired. Heat until warmed through about 10 minutes.
Or heat in a covered, microwave safe dish for about 1 minute. Stir and heat again until desired temperature is reached.
Freeze. Separate meatballs from sauce and place in a freezer safe container or resealable bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Defrost completely. Dry with paper towel as needed before baking in sauce and cheese per the recipe.
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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
- 1 lb ground chicken, if you can find dark meat, all the better or have it ground
- ½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs, divided
- ½ cup panko, divided
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 eggs
- ¼ grated onion
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Canola oil
- Reserve ¼ cup of both bread crumbs and parmesan and mix together in a pie plate. Set aside
- Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Roll into meatballs (count how many meatballs we get) and then coat each meatball with the breadcrumbs mixture.
- Place meatballs onto a baking sheet with a rack inserted.
- Heat ½” of oil in a wide, enameled skillet (or any that can go in the oven) over medium high heat to 350˚ (use a oil/candy thermometer).
- In a single layer, fry the meatballs about 3-4 minutes on each side making sure you don’t crowd the pan.
- Remove to the rack on the sheet pan to drain.
- Pour out the oil and blot the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚.
- Pour in the tomato sauce about ½” high. Using tongs, nestle meatballs in the sauce, not crowding them. In between the spaces, add torn fresh mozzarella.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until cooked through and the sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted and gooey.
About Lori Murphy
Lori has over 30 years in the food industry as a marketing strategist, culinary instructor and chef for three kids with discerning palates. As the chief content creator at Josie + Nina, Lori is dedicated to helping home cooks create food memories through fresh ingredients and Italian flavors.