Incredible Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef

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Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef on a plate with fork cutting into one and pan in background.  They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Flavorful, succulent, moist, salty, garlic-y, and healthy.  Is there anything better in a meatball? Get ready to have your world rocked!  These are my Incredible Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef.  From this point on, you will never want to eat a meatball without zucchini again!  No, really.  

These incredible meatballs are loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  Because the garlic and onion are both minced, they really infuse every morsel of meat with big flavor.  The zucchini brings so much more to this flavor party!  It brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

These meatballs are super easy to make ahead and freeze for busy weeknights.  Want more freezer tips for making busy family dinners easier?  Click here to get my printable cheat sheet with 10 Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

What Makes These Healthy Meatballs?

First, I want to acknowledge that “healthy” means something different to everyone.  Always consult your doctor for any dietary changes and regarding your own health.  That said, healthy for me and for my family means a balanced diet with real food, high in vitamins and nutrients.  I also try to keep calories in check with lean meats.  

First, these Healthy Meatballs use lean ground beef without antibiotics.  I used 90% lean (only 10% fat) ground beef.  You will pay more per pound for really lean beef, but it’s worth it in my opinion.  

Second, adding zucchini into these meatballs acts as a healthy filler – more veg, less beef needed per meatball.  Zucchini has great health benefits!  It’s low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin A.  Zucchini is also rich in antioxidants that are linked to benefits for your eyes, skin, and heart.  

Overall, you get about 24 meatballs with 6 meatballs at 282 calories, 4 meatballs only has 188 calories.

Meatballs for Days!

These Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini are so versatile!  You can add them to a variety of dishes with potentially just a few other ingredients to change the flavor profile.  Here are some of my favorite meatball recipes where you could swap in these Healthy Meatballs!

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

For this recipe, you need a food processor for the onions, garlic, and zucchini. I used my go-to mini food processor.

If you are making the meatballs in the oven to add to another recipe, you need a large skillet/frying pan for searing the meatballs on all sides. I use my absolute favorite 12″ Ceramic Pan, which is great because food really does slide right off with minimal oil and I don’t have to worry about food sticking and burning.  Then you need a large sheet pan (I use a 17×11) to finish baking the meatballs in the oven.

If you are going to make these meatballs and finish them in a sauce (tomato or cream or other sauce) you will want a dutch oven or skillet that is large enough to hold the meatballs and the sauce.

PREP-AHEAD STEPS FOR YOUR HEALTHY MEATBALLS

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are steps you can prepare ahead to save time on busy nights! (See the full recipe below)

To make the meatball prep as easy and painless as possible, you can chop finely all of the ingredients right in a food processor! 

Peel the onion, cut off the stems, cut it into quarters and put into the food processor. Pulse and then blend until chopped up into small rice-size pieces. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Minced onion in food processor for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut into thick slices. Add all pieces to the food processor and blend until complete chopped up into small rice to pea-size pieces. Transfer the zucchini to a clean dish towel or thick paper towel and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Then add the zucchini to the bowl with the onion.

Minced zucchini in food processor for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Hand squeezing liquid out of towel with zucchini for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

To the onion and the zucchini, add the minced garlic and egg. Mix everything together and then add in the ground beef, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix the beef together with everything making sure that it is evenly mixed through.

Ingredients in bowl for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Meatball ingredients mixed in bowl for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Divide the mixture in half in the bowl, so that you can make sure to get 12 meatballs from each half, for a total of 24. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon or small ice cream scoop of the meat mixture and roll into a ball. Place on a baking sheet. Do this for the rest of the meat mixture. Either cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge or move on to cooking.

Raw meatballs on pan for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Can I make these gluten free?

To make these meatballs gluten free, you can either replace the breadcrumbs with a gluten free prepared breadcrumbs or make your own.  I love to buy gluten free bread and toast it in the oven at a low temperature, such as 250 F until it’s fully dried out.  Then pulse in the food processor to turn into breadcrumbs.

You can also replace the breadcrumbs with grated parmesan cheese.

Can I freeze the Meatballs Raw?

Yes, these freeze incredibly well!  Place the raw meatballs on a sheet pan and then directly into the freezer to flash freeze.  Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a storage bag.  They will keep in the freezer for 4-5 months.  Then bake them in the oven 400 F degrees directly from the freezer for 30 minutes.

COOK YOUR HEALTHY MEATBALLS

Preheat a large skillet or dutch oven (if you are going to add tomato sauce). Add a teaspoon of olive oil and spread it around. Add the meatballs (don’t overcrowd) and cook on each side until browned (a minute or so for each side).

Meatballs cooking in pot for Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Once all sides are browned, transfer to a sheet pan to finish in the oven or transfer to a plate if you will be making sauce in the same pan.

Finish Cooking in the Oven

To finish cooking your meatballs in the oven, you will place them on a sheet pan.  This method is great for dinners where you are adding meatballs to a sandwich, a salad, or just eating them with a dipping sauce.  To a 400 F degree oven, finish cooking the meatballs for 10 minutes or until cooked through to the center.

Finish Cooking in a Sauce

If you are going to make a sauce, using the meatball pan and finishing the meatballs in the sauce is the way to get the most flavor!  After removing the meatballs to the plate, use the same pan to add your onions, garlic, or any other ingredients to the pan and then the liquids.  Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the wonderful brown meatball bits.  Once your sauce is assembled and ready to simmer, add the meatballs back and let them finish cooking in the sauce.  It may take about 10 minutes for them to cook through, but you can remove one to test it.

What to eat on the Side!

Well, if your making a sauce, then pasta, rice, quinoa, or bread for dipping are all good options.  Here is my Easy Luscious Creamy Tomato Sauce Recipe.  Or just get your favorite jarred Marinara sauce from the store!  When the meatballs simmer in the sauce it deepens the flavor to make it taste more homemade.

Other options for sides….Try my Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash for a healthy side!  Or my Mushroom Quinoa Risotto!  Or how about this Green Rice!

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef on a plate with fork cutting into one and pan in background. They're loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  The zucchini brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.
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Incredible Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini and Lean Beef

Flavorful, succulent, moist, salty, garlic-y, and healthy.  Is there anything better in a meatball? These Incredible Healthy Meatballs with Zucchini & Lean Beef are loaded with flavor from the garlic, minced onion, salt, and pepper.  Because the garlic and onion are both minced, they really infuse every morsel of meat with big flavor.  The zucchini brings so much more to this flavor party!  It brings moisture, texture, and bulks up the meatballs with healthiness.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword ground beef, healthy dinner, Meatballs, zucchini
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 282 kcal
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Ground beef 90% lean
  • 1 Zucchini medium
  • 1 Onion small
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg, large
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Optional: Easy Luscious Creamy Tomato Sauce Recipe (see recipe for ingredients & details)

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Peel the onion, cut off the stems, cut it into quarters and put into the food processor. Pulse and then blend until chopped up into small rice-size pieces. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

  2. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut into thick slices. Add all pieces to the food processor and blend until complete chopped up into small rice to pea-size pieces. Transfer the zucchini to a clean dish towel or thick paper towel and then squeeze out the excess liquid. Then add the zucchini to the bowl with the onion.

  3. To the onion and the zucchini, add the minced garlic and egg. Mix everything together and then add in the ground beef, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix the beef together with everything making sure that it is evenly mixed through.

  4. Divide the mixture in half in the bowl, so that you can make sure to get 12 meatballs from each half, for a total of 24. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon or small ice cream scoop of the meat mixture and roll into a ball. Place on a baking sheet. Do this for the rest of the meat mixture. Either cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge or move on to cooking.

Cooking Steps

  1. Preheat a large skillet or dutch oven (if you are going to add tomato sauce). Add a teaspoon of olive oil and spread it around. Add the meatballs (don't overcrowd) and cook on each side until browned (a minute or so for each side). Once all sides are browned, transfer to a sheet pan to finish in the oven or transfer to a plate if you will be making sauce in the same pan.

  2. OVEN: If you're finishing in the oven, preheat the oven 400 F degrees. Place the meatballs on a sheet pan.  Bake in the oven on center rack for 10 minutes or until cooked through to the center.

  3. IN SAUCE: Cook your sauce in the same pan or pot used to cook the meatballs. Once your sauce is assembled and ready to simmer, add the meatballs back and let them finish cooking in the sauce.  It may take about 10 minutes for them to cook through, but you can remove one to test it.

Recipe Notes

Serving Size = 6 meatballs (assumes 24 meatballs in this recipe)

Easiest 5-Ingredient Green Rice Recipe

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Green Rice on platter with chicken kabobs on top.  This Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients.  Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

This Green Rice Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.  Basil gives it fresh herb flavor, chives bring a slight onion flavor, and spinach rounds it all out with beautiful green color and so many healthy vitamins.  In just a few minutes you can turn your white rice into this fantastic Green Rice Recipe!

Close Up of green rice in pot. This Green Rice Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

FROM PLAIN TO SUPER RICE! 

While white rice is a great backdrop for sauces and big flavors, it really has very little in the way of nutritional value.  By adding basil, chives, and spinach to it, you are infusing it with flavor, vitamins, and nutrients!!  With the addition of the small amounts of basil and chive, their role here is really to bring the flavor.  But the Spinach is what brings the nutrition to the party!

White rice has very little fiber, but spinach is high in fiber, which makes it a great addition!  While white rice does have Vitamin A, it is lacking on most other vitamins, including the all important Vitamins C which is an antioxidant that promotes skin health and immune function.  And while white rice has 0% calcium, guess what is a great source of calcium?  Yep, spinach!  Check out all of the benefits that spinach brings to the mix.

This rice would go great with any of these main proteins!

Basil, chives, spinach, and sour cream blended in a bowl for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

For this recipe either a food processor or blender will work. My go-to mini food processor was perfect for the job.

EASY STEPS TO MAKE YOUR GREEN RICE

You can make this Green Rice up to 5 days in advance and reheat heat it.  There really are only 3 easy steps to this.  

1.Make your rice.

2.Add the basil, chives, sour cream and spinach to the blender or food processor and blend.

Basil and chives in food processor for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

Basil, chives, and sour cream in food processor for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

Basil, chives, and spinach in food processor for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

Basil, chives, spinach, and sour cream blended in food processor for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

3.Mix the sauce into the rice.

Basil, chives, spinach, and sour cream blended and added on top of cooked white rice in pot for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

What other herbs could I use?

In place of the basil, you could go with cilantro or dill.  I wouldn’t combine all three together, but select one as your primary flavor.  

If you don’t have chives, you could use 1-2 scallions or skip it all together, but I really like a slight onion flavor in this.  

You could also add parsley.  If you want to add kale, you may want to saute if first to soften it a bit as it has a heartier texture and won’t get as creamy from the raw state as spinach. 

Will other grains work with this?

Of course!  Instead of white rice, you could use brown rice, quinoa, farro, couscous, or even a small pasta, like orzo. 

Can this Green Rice be frozen?

You can make this recipe and freeze it for up to 6 months.  To freeze it, you will want to cool it in the fridge first.  Then you can place it in a large storage bag and flatten it to freeze it.  Or you can spread it out on a sheet pan and freeze it, then transfer it to a container.  You can freeze it in a freezer-safe bowl, but it can take a long time defrost when it’s in a large clump.

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Green Rice in pot. This Green Rice Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.

5-Ingredient Easy Green Rice

This Green Rice Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.  Basil gives it fresh herb flavor, chives bring a slight onion flavor, and spinach rounds it all out with beautiful green color and so many healthy vitamins.  In just a few minutes you can turn your white rice into this fantastic Green Rice Recipe! #ricerecipes #sidedishes #healthysides #greenrice

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword 30 Minute Meal, healthy recipes, meal prep, rice, Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 67 kcal
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

  • 20 Basil Leaves
  • 10 Chive Sprigs
  • 2 cups Baby Spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Make the rice according to package instructions. Or…to a small-medium pot with a lid, add 4 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt, and rice. Bring water to boil, stir, turn heat down to lowest setting, cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off the heat, but leave covered until ready to serve.

  2. Add the basil, chives, and sour cream to the blender or food processor. I add the spinach leaves last just so the sour cream is near the bottom and can help it blend. Pulse to start and then blend until smooth and creamy.

    Basil, chives, spinach, and sour cream blended in food processor for Green Rice Recipe. It takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.
  3. Mix the sauce into the rice. Enjoy!

    Green Rice in pot. This Green Rice Recipe takes white rice from plain to amazing with just 5 ingredients. Filled with herbs and spinach, it has the perfect herby flavor.