Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

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.

baked pan with chicken parmesan meatballs in red sauce topped with cheese and parmesan.
A baking dish with saucy cheesy chicken parmesan meatballs makes the best comfort food.

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.

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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?

Ingredients for Chicken Parmesan Meatballs including bowls of ground chicken, bread crumbs, grated parmesan, onion, eggs, garlic and herbs.
Simple ingredients for chicken parmesan meatballs…other than the chicken thighs, you’ll probably have most of them!

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?

Pro tip for parmesan

Freshly grate your parmesan cheese so you end up with the crispiest, most flavorful breaded coating.

Foolproof tips and tools for crispy parmesan chicken meatballs

A spoon of chicken parmesan meatballs coming out of a cheesy pan.
Spoon up some baked chicken parm meatballs for an easy Sunday supper. The kiddos will love them!
  • Make sure you use a skillet or pan with sides to avoid splattering hot oil on your or your countertops. I have two favorites: a 12″ Lodge cast iron skillet (great for maintaining the temperature of the oil) or an enameled cast iron dutch oven with a wide bottom like this Staub 5 1/2 qt Dutch oven. Both have black interiors that look great as they are seasoned and each are so easy to clean!
  • Invest in a candy/oil thermometer with a clip that attaches to the side of your pot. That way, you’ll be able to adjust the heat of your burner should the temperature suddenly rise or fall too quickly. You want the oil temperature to maintain around 325-350˚ so that the breading gets golden brown which will be really hard to do without a thermometer.
  • Don’t skip out on the lemon zest! It adds an unexpected but really welcome acidic brightness to the ground chicken mixture.
  • If making homemade marinara sauce isn’t in today’s schedule, use a really good jarred sauce! My all-time favorite is Rao’s Marinara Sauce (and you can sometimes find good deals on it at Costco😊).

How to make chicken parm meatballs

Pie plate with grated parmesan and bread crumbs for chicken parmesan meatballs
Mix bread crumbs together in a pie plate along with parmesan cheese.
White bowl of meatball ingredients for chicken parmesan meatballs and pie plate of breading mixture.
Combine ground chicken thighs with the eggs, grated onion, garlic and seasoning. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are worked through the meat mixture.
Breading for chicken parmesan meatballs
Roll the meat mixture into meatballs and roll each meatball into the breadcrumb mixture.
Sheet pan with rack of breaded chicken parmesan meatballs
Place the meatballs on a rack inside a sheet pan. You can also line the sheet pan below the rack with paper towel for easy cleaning.
hand with tongs frying chicken parmesan meatballs in a cast iron skillet.
Heat canola oil in a large skillet with sides to 350˚. Fry the meatballs in batches until golden, turning to coat all sides. Keep the temperature to no less than 325˚. This process should take about 3-4 minutes.
Close up of fried chicken parmesan meatballs draining on a rack in a sheet pan.
Remove the meatballs to a rack inside a sheet pan lined with paper towels to allow the grease to drain and the meatballs to stay crisp.
Staub baking dish of unbaked chicken parmesan meatballs topped with fresh mozzarella
Add about 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of a baking dish. Nestle meatballs in dish and top with fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
a cast iron baking dish of chicken parmesan meatballs with red sauce, melted cheese and fresh chopped basil.
Bake until the cheese is golden on top and the meatballs are cooked through. Check temperature of the meatballs using your meat thermometer (you’re looking for 165˚).

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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5 from 4 votes

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

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.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:15 minutes
Fry time (included oil heating time):15 minutes
Total Time:45 minutes
Servings 16 meatballs

Ingredients
 

Instructions

  • 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.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!
5 from 4 votes (1 rating without comment)

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6 Comments

  1. Amazing recipe! Super easy and great when in need for a quick tasty dinner. Definitely adding it to the rotation5 stars