Apple Sage Smoked Meatballs

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You know what is great about Apple Sage Smoked Meatballs? You can make them anytime you want. Meatballs, the ultimate comfort food, effortless meal prep and your wild card for experimenting in the kitchen. 

cooked meatballs in a glass bowl, apple and few sage leaves in the lower left corner

Apple sage smoked meatballs are simple to prepare

and can be made in advance, making them a convenient option for busy cooks. You can also adapt meatball recipe to your own taste by adding various seasonings and ingredients. 

Appetizer or Main Course, you decide. Meatballs can be served as appetizers, sandwiches, pasta toppings, or main courses. This adaptability makes them a versatile choice for different occasions and cuisines. Yes, you can also serve them for breakfast in a hash with potatoes, vegetables, and eggs.

Why you will love this smoked meatballs recipe 

If you’ve never tried a smoked meatball, I’m here to say: now is the time! Here’s why:

Versatility – Smoked meatballs can be made with a variety of meats, or even vegetarian. Wide range of flavor profiles and cooking styles, makes them a favorite choice for many.

Comfort Food – Meatballs are loved by many and are called the ultimate comfort food. Their savory, tender texture and rich flavors provide a sense of satisfaction during eating.

Ease of Preparation – Smoked meatballs are simple to prepare without the need for special equipment. They can be made in advance, making them a convenient option for busy cooks. 

Appetizer or Main Course – Meatballs can be served as appetizers, sandwiches, pasta toppings, or main courses. Yes, you can have them for breakfast in a hash with potatoes and veggies.

Family-Friendly – Meatballs are often enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions to make Smoked Meatballs recipe

Ground Beef – provides a rich and robust flavor to the meatballs. Choose a blend with moderate fat content for juiciness. Experiment with your ground meat – with grass-fed or leaner options for a healthier twist.

Ground Pork –  complement the beef for a balanced texture. It blends very well with other meats offering savory and slightly sweet notes.

Apple – introduces a subtle sweetness and moisture to the meatballs.  Use Granny Smith for a slightly tart flavor or Gala for sweeter taste. Ensure the apple is finely grated for even distribution.

Parmesan Cheese – adds salty and savory kick, enhancing the overall umami flavor. Experiment with other hard cheeses for unique variations. Use freshly grated if possible. Don’t use the powdered parmesan cheese found at the grocery store.

Egg – Acts as a binding agent, contributing to the structure and moisture of the meatballs. Beat the egg well for a lighter texture. Adjust the quantity based on the size and desired moisture of your meatballs. As a substitute you can use: mashed banana, yogurt of buttermilk, applesauce, flaxseed or chia seed egg, or silken tofu.

Fresh Sage – infuses the meatballs with a distinctive earthy and aromatic flavor. Fresh sage provides a more pronounced flavor. Adjust quantity based on personal preference. Dried sage can be a suitable substitute. 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs roughly equals to 1 teaspoon of dried herbs.

Fresh Thyme and Rosemary – additional aromatics you can use to enhance the herbal and savory notes in the meatballs. Dried thyme and rosemary can be used if fresh is unavailable.

Chipotle in Adobo Sauce – you cannot skip this ingredient if you want to internally infuse the meatballs with smoky and spicy element. Not a fan of spicy, use smoked paprika.

Salt, Pepper – Essential for seasoning and enhancing the overall taste of the meatballs. Season gradually, tasting as you go. 

raw meatballs on a baking sheet

Equipment you will need 

  • Pellet Smoker, grill or you can make it in the oven and stove top
  • Large baking sheet
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large cast iron pan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large spoons for mixing
  • Cutting board  
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cheese grater
  • Parchment paper

Most Common mistakes to avoid when making meatballs

Using Lean Meat Only – having too little fat can result in dry and flavorless meatballs. Balance is the key, use a mix of lean and slightly fatty ground beef and ground pork.

Skipping the Binders – Binders like breadcrumbs and eggs are essential for holding the meatballs together and providing the desired texture. 

Not Seasoning Adequately – Don’t be shy with herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic and onion. Taste the mixture before forming the meatballs to ensure it’s well-seasoned.

Choosing the Wrong Cooking Method – Using the wrong method can affect the texture and flavor of the meatballs. Follow the recipe instructions for the best results.

Cooking in a cold pan or oven – can result in uneven cooking and lack of browning on the outside. Ensure your cooking surface is properly preheated.

Step by step instructions

  • Preheat the pellet smoker to 225F  

TOP TIP: Which flavor of wooden pallets you should use when smoking meatballs:

  • Hickory: strong and robust, slightly sweet flavor; great for ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
  • Mesquite: Intensely smoky and somewhat earthy. If you enjoy a bold, southwestern flavor, mesquite can be a good choice. Use it sparingly, as it can be overpowering.
  • Applewood: Sweet and mild with a subtle fruity aroma. Poultry or pork. Applewood adds a delicate smoke flavor that won’t overpower the natural taste of the meat.
  • Cherrywood: Sweet and fruity, providing a milder smoke flavor. Works well with a variety of meats, including beef, pork, and poultry. It adds a touch of sweetness.
  • Pecan: Mild and slightly sweet, with a nutty undertone. Pecan is a versatile option that pairs well with a variety of meats, including ground meats in meatballs.
  • Maple: Sweet and light with a subtle maple essence. Ideal for pork or poultry. Maple adds a delicate sweetness that enhances the overall flavor.
  • In a bowl combine all ingredients for the meatballs; mix well (don’t overmix)

TOP TIP: overmixing can lead to dense and tough meatballs. Gently combine the ingredients until just incorporated to maintain tender texture.

  • Use your hands to shape the meat mixture into 1.5″ meatballs

TOP TIP:  Make sure all the meatballs are the same size to ensure they will cook at the same rate.

  • Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; smoke meatballs @225F for 2 hours (or bake @375F for 25-30 minutes)
  • For extra flavor and texture I finished cooking the meatballs on a cast iron pan;

TOP TIP: use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of the meatballs. Regardless of the type of meat used, the internal temperature should reach a minimum of 160°F (71°C) to ensure they are safe to eat. Overcooking them will result in dry and tough meat.  

  • Rest, garnish with fresh herbs and serve over pasta or with a side of sauce for dipping.

TOP TIP: Letting the meatballs rest after cooking allows the juices to redistribute, enhancing their flavor and juiciness. 

Oven instructions:

No time for smoked meatballs? Try the oven instead:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Set your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Shape the Meatballs: into evenly sized balls.
  3. Arrange on a Baking Sheet: Place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased to prevent sticking.
  4. Bake in the Oven: for approximately 20-25 minutes. The exact time may vary based on the size of your meatballs.
  5. Optional Broiling: If you want additional browning on the top of the meatballs, you can turn on the broiler for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. Keep a close eye to prevent burning.
  6. Check for Doneness: The internal temperature of the meatballs should reach at least 160°F (71°C). Use a meat thermometer to verify the temperature.
  7. Resting Time: Allow the meatballs to rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps them retain juices and settle.
meatballs on a round plate with a side of sauce; dark background; apple and few sage leaves in the lower right corner

Unique ideas to enjoy Apple Sage Meatballs:

Spaghetti and Smoked Meatballs – pair with butternut or pumpkin sauce and top with grated parmesan

Smoked Meatball Bowl – serve them on a bed of rice, quinoa or couscous

Smoked Meatball Soup – drop them in a broth and add veggies for a heathy meal

Pizza topped with Smoked Meatballs – slice, add blue cheese and a sauce of your choice

Smoked Meatballs Tacos – fill tortilla or wrap with meatballs and top with apple-cabbage slaw, chopped onion, and cheddar cheese

Smoked Meatball Stir-Fry – add crisp-tender vegetables like bell peppers, snow peas, water chestnuts and splash of soy sauce.

Sandwich or sub with Smoked Meatballs – peppery arugula, sage infused mayo and a row of meatballs

Smoked Meatballs as an appetizer – with selection of dipping sauces

Smoked Meatball Curry – serve over rice or with flatbread

Mashed potatoes and Smoked Meatballs – don’t knock it till you try it! This is a deliciously satisfying entrée option.

You may also like:

Storage and reheating instructions

  • Refrigeration:
    • allow the meatballs to cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Place them in an airtight container or sealable bag. Refrigerate promptly to prevent bacterial growth.
    • Use within 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
  • Freezing:
    • Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer frozen meatballs to a freezer bag or airtight container.
    • use within 2-3 months for the best quality and taste.  
  • Reheating:
    • Microwave: place the meatballs in a microwave dish, cover with damp paper towel to retain moisture. Heat in 30 seconds increments.
    • Oven Stovetop: preheat your oven to 350F (175°C); place the the meatballs in an over-safe dish, cover with foil to prevent drying; Heat for about 15-20 minutes. 
    • Stovetop: heat a skillet over medium heat, add small amount of oil to the pan; place the meatballs in the pan, in a single layer; turn them occasionally until heated through
  • Thawing Frozen Sauce: If you are planning on using previously frozen meatballs, it is recommended to first thaw them in the refrigerator overnight.

apple sage meatballs cooked and styled on a plate

Apple Sage Smoked Meatballs

Sylwia Vaclavek
Meatballs, the ultimate comfort food, effortless meal prep and your wild card for experimenting in the kitchen.
3 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 321 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 pellet smoker
  • 1 large baking sheet
  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 cast iron pan
  • 1 measuring cups
  • 1 measuring spoons
  • 1 utensils for mixing
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 chef's knife
  • 1 cheese grater
  • 1 parchment paper

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 medium apple grated
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme and rosemary
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the smoker to 225F (or oven to 400F)
  • In a bowl combine all ingredients for the meatballs; mix well (don’t overmix)
  • Using your hands form uniform 1.5 inch meatballs
  • Place them on a baking sheet; smoke @225F for 2 hours (or bake @375F for 25 minutes) or until the internal temperature is 160F
  • For extra flavor and texture, finished cooking the meatballs on a cast iron pan;
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and serve over pasta.

Notes

Do not to overmix the meat. Gently combine the ingredients until just incorporated to maintain a tender texture. Remember to make uniform in size meatballs.
Season adequately. Don’t be shy with herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic and onion. Taste the mixture before forming the meatballs to ensure it’s well-seasoned.
Preheat the oven or pan. Cooking in a cold pan or oven can result in uneven cooking and a lack of browning on the outside. Ensure your cooking surface is properly preheated.

Nutrition

Serving: 6pieceCalories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 33gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 167mgPotassium: 483mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 163IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 79mgIron: 3mg
Keyword apple, fall, meatballs, sage, smoked
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Smoked Meatballs Conclusion

So, what do you think? Are you ready to experiment and make Apple Sage Smoked Meatballs. Sweet apples, aromatic sage, and a medley of savory ingredients creates a truly unique and delightful culinary experience. I guarantee you will love these juicy meatballs.

The smoked meatballs recipe is simple and versatile, making it an ideal choice for various occasions. Whether you’re preparing a cozy family dinner or impressing guests with a creative twist, Apple Sage Meatballs are sure to please.

If you made the Apple Sage Smoked Meatballs I’d love to hear about your experiences and adaptations in the comments below – after all, the joy of cooking is best when shared.

meatballs in a bowl with fork and spoon

Apple Sage Meatballs FAQ

How do I prevent meatballs from becoming too dense?

Handle the mixture gently and avoid overmixing. Gently form the meatballs.

Can I use different types of meat in my meatball mixture?

Yes, combining different meats (e.g., beef and pork) can add complexity to the flavor. Experiment with different meat flavor profiles and fat content combinations to suit your taste

What can I use as a binder instead of breadcrumbs?

Eggs, rolled oats, crushed crackers or tortilla chips, grated vegetables, only few great options that can serve as a binder in meatballs

How do I keep smoked meatballs moist?

Adding ingredients like grated apples, soaked breadcrumbs, or finely chopped vegetables can help retain moisture in meatballs.

Can I prepare meatballs in advance and freeze them?

Yes, meatballs can be formed and frozen before baking. Ensure they are properly sealed to prevent freezer burn. Click HERE to read about storage instructions.

What’s the best way to cook meatballs?

Meatballs can be pan-fried, baked, simmered in sauce, grilled or cooked on the smoker. The cooking method depends on your personal preference.

How do I know when meatballs are cooked through?

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature; it should reach at least 160°F (71°C). Cut one open to ensure there’s no pinkness in the center.

Can I make smoked meatballs without eggs for a vegan version?

Yes, there are various egg substitutes for binding in vegan meatballs, such as flaxseed or chia seed eggs, mashed bananas, or commercial egg replacers. Click HERE to read more about egg substitutes.

What herbs and spices go well with meatballs?

Common choices include garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, and thyme. Experiment with different herbs and spices to suit your taste.

How should I store leftover meatballs?

Refrigerate leftover meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze them in a sealed bag or container for 2-3 months. Click HERE for more detailed Storage instructions.

Don’t these smoked meatballs need barbecue sauce?

Nope no need for BBQ sauce with this smoked meatball recipe! The apple and sage does the job here.

meatballs atop of noodles with sauce, glass with water, another bowl with meatballs

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