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.
5 from 1 vote
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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)

Addictive Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes
Jump to Recipe

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy fries…Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation.  The beans really take on the crunchy saltiness from the parmesan and breadcrumbs, but also hold onto the freshness from the beans.

They are also really easy to make, with only 4 simple steps: clean, dip in egg, coat in parm breadcrumbs, bake!

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Green Beans are a Healthy, less Musical Bean!

My girls recently learned the little ditty, ‘beans beans, the musical fruit, beans beans, make you toot.’  Well, if that’s a concern for your digestive system, you are in luck with Green Beans.  They are low on the FODMAP, meaning they are easy on your digestive system.  Foods that are high on the FODMAP, such as many other beans (ex. black beans), can lead to gas, belly pain, diarrhea, and constipation.  Green Beans are easy on your digestive system so they make a great alternative to other legumes!

A cup of Green Beans has only 31 calories, almost 3g fiber, and 2g protein.  They also contain many vitamins, including Vit A, C, and folate, as well as many important minerals, such as calcium and iron.  For more on the health benefits of green beans, check out this article from Healthline.com.

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

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

Nothing special for this one! Just a large sheet pan (I use a 17×11).

PREP-AHEAD TO MAKE YOUR CRISPY GREEN BEAN FRIES

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (See the recipe below for more details)

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

For these Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries, you can prepare the Mustard Mayo Sauce and coat the beans with the Parm breadcrumbs in advance.  However, do not cook them until you are ready to serve as they will get mushy if you try to reheat them.

For the sauce, I love this simply Garlic, Mustard Mayo sauce.  I use yellow mustard vs. dijon here because I love the tang and milder flavor so that the flavor from the parmesan and beans really stands out.   

Mustard and mayo in bowl for Sauce for Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Mixed Mustard Sauce for Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Rince the green beans and snip off the stems from the ends. Dry with a towel.

Spray or drizzle a large sheet pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray. TIP: line with aluminum before spraying for easy cleanup

Mix the parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in a medium-size bowl (large enough to place 5-6 green beans at a time). 

In a second medium-size bowl, beat 1 egg with a tablespoon water.

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Make the bean fries in batches of 5-6 at a time. You can get more into the egg, but transfer only a few at a time to the breadcrumbs or else you risk it all getting clumpy on you. 

Dip the beans in the egg.  Let excess egg drip off, then coat with the Parm breadcrumbs.

Place on an oil coated pan – leave space between the green beans so they are not overcrowded.

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries

Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries and putting on sheet pan.  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Once you have all of the beans coated, you can cover with plastic wrap or foil and store in the fridge for 1 day or move straight to baking.  

COOK YOUR GREEN BEAN FRIES 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the beans on center rack in oven for 10 minutes.

Raw Parmesan Green Bean Fries on sheet pan.  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries cooked on sheetpan!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Serve the Green Bean Fries with the Mustard Mayo and Enjoy!  😍 Carrie

RECIPE FAQS

Can I freeze these?

Once you have all of the beans coated, you can cover with plastic wrap or foil and store in the fridge for 1 day or move straight to baking.  Note, these do not freeze well as the beans have water that will make them mushy and they just won’t crisp up.

What can I serve these with?

Make these Crispy Green Bean Fries by themselves as an appetizer or snack or with any of these recipes for a complete meal:

 

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes
5 from 1 vote
Print

Crispy Parm Green Bean Fries with Mustard Mayo

Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation.  The beans really take on the crunchy saltiness from the parmesan and breadcrumbs, but also hold onto the freshness from the beans. They are also really easy to make, with only 4 simple steps: clean, dip in egg, coat in parm breadcrumbs, bake! #greanbeans #vegetablerecipes #sidedishes #healthyrecipes #healthysnacks

Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword vegetable, vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Green Bean Fries

  • 12 oz Fresh Green Beans (not frozen)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Tbls Water
  • 3/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese grated
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Mustard Mayo Dipping Sauce

  • 3/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbls Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Rince the green beans and snip off the stems from the ends. Dry with a towel.

  2. Spray or drizzle a large sheet pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray. TIP: line with aluminum before spraying for easy cleanup

  3. Make the Mustard Mayo sauce by combining the mayonnaise, mustard, and garlic powder in a small mixing bowl. Mix to combine all ingredients and store in the fridge.

    Mixed Mustard Sauce for Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes
  4. Mix the parmesan, breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in a medium-size bowl (large enough to place 5-6 green beans at a time)

    Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries
  5. In a second medium-size bowl, beat 1 egg with a tablespoon water.

    Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries
  6. Make the bean fries in batches of 3-5 at a time. First dip the beans in the egg. Scoop out and let excess egg drip off. Then dredge in the Parm breadcrumbs and toss to coat.

    Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries
  7. Scoop out and place on an oil coated pan. Make sure to leave some space between the green beans so they are not overcrowded.

    Making Parmesan Green Bean Fries and putting on sheet pan.  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes

Cook

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the beans on center rack in oven for 10 minutes.

    Raw Parmesan Green Bean Fries on sheet pan.  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes
  2. Serve the Green Bean Fries with the Mustard Mayo and Enjoy!

    Crispy, crunchy, salty, and addictive!  These are my healthy Crispy Parmesan Green Bean Fries!  Such a great way to transform beans and add a new vegetable into dinner rotation. #vegetablerecipes