These versatile Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Meatballs cook up plump and deliciously tender in a flavorful tomato cream sauce. A unique method and a few tips and tricks ensure a foolproof result.
Ground chicken is used to make these delicious meatballs and my Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken Meatballs.
I had the task of deciding which of the 75 recipes in my new cookbook to share with you first here on the blog and these delicious meatballs won out. This recipe is one of my favorites from The Foolproof Family Slow Cooker and Other One-Pot Solutions and I’m happy to add it to the collection here on Valerie’s Kitchen.
SO much recipe testing went into all of the recipes in this book and I was especially pleased with the method that resulted for these Chicken Parmesan Meatballs. There are some tricks when using ground chicken to make meatballs and I’m going to share all of those tips with you in this post.
- Ground chicken: Lean ground chicken has a very soft and sticky texture but it’s easy to turn it into plump, perfectly formed meatballs in your slow cooker. See my tips for shaping them below.
- Eggs: A couple of large eggs.
- Bread crumbs: Seasoned panko bread crumbs work as a binder and also add some nice flavor.
- Parmesan cheese: Finely grated.
- Onion and garlic: A wonderful way to add flavor without compromising the tender texture of these meatballs is to grate the onion with a cheese grater.
- Seasoning: Dried parsley, dried basil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. The potent flavor of dried spices hold up well in slow cooker recipes. I like to add a little fresh basil at the end of the cooking process for some fresh, herby flavor.
- Tomato cream sauce: A jar of marinara sauce and a can of Italian style crushed tomatoes create the base of this easy sauce. It’s seasoned with a little Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes add a little kick. A little heavy cream adds richness and balances the acidity in the tomatoes.
How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
- Make the meatballs: Make the chicken meatball mixture and as you shape them, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet.
- Chill the meatballs: Cover and refrigerate the meatballs for at least 1 hour or more.
- Make the sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, cover, and cook for 1 hour on High.
- Cook the meatballs: Place the refrigerated meatballs into the warm sauce, reshaping them into nice balls as you add them. Spoon the sauce over any exposed meatballs so that they are all immersed in sauce. Cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours on Low, until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked.
- Finish the sauce: Stir in the cream and fresh basil, cover, and continue to cook until the sauce is warmed through.
You can cook these meatballs from start to finish in a Dutch oven on the stove. See the recipe card below for the alternate stovetop method.
Tips for the Best Ground Chicken Meatballs
Shaping the Meatballs: Ground chicken has a very soft and sticky texture and is quite different than working with ground beef or pork. When shaping the meatballs, wetting your hands works like a charm to prevent the sticky ground chicken mixture from sticking to your hands. Just wet your hands as needed throughout the rolling process.
Refrigerate Before Cooking: Chicken meatballs firm up as they chill which ensures they’ll hold their shape well as they cook. Once all the meatballs are rolled and placed on a foil-lined baking sheet, cover and refrigerate them for at least an hour or longer. I like to make them a day in advance and refrigerate them overnight for super quick prep the next day. Once chilled, they become really easy to reshape, if needed, as you add them to the warm sauce in the slow cooker.
No Browning Needed: There is very little fat in ground chicken so there is no need for any browning or baking before adding them to the sauce. You can add them straight into your slow cooker, and they will cook up perfectly tender, leaving very little grease behind.
Don’t Stir: After adding the chilled meatballs to the hot sauce in the slow cooker, avoid stirring them during cooking to help them keep their shape. Once they’ve cooked a bit and firmed up, you can gently stir them, if needed.
Leftover Chicken Parmesan Meatballs reheat very well. Or, make the meatballs and freeze them for an easy meal on a busy day.
- Refrigerate: Transfer the meatballs and sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
- Freeze Before Cooking: Prepare the meatballs as directed and transfer the baking sheet to the freezer for about 1 hour. When frozen solid, the meatballs can be place in a freezer-safe zippered storage bag or other airtight container and frozen for 2 to 3 months. When ready to cook, thaw them in the refrigerator and follow the recipe as directed to make the sauce and cook the meatballs.
- Freeze After Cooking: The meatballs and sauce can be frozen in a freezer-safe airtight container for 2 to 3 months.
These meatballs make a great addition to a party menu or can easily be transformed into a meal.
- Party Meatballs: I did these on New Year’s Eve to include a hearty, yet wholesome addition to my party food menu.
- Add Pasta: Cook up 1 pound of your favorite pasta and add it to the slow cooker to combine with the fully-cooked meatballs and sauce. Top it with some additional grated Parmesan cheese. SO good! Toss a Simple Italian Salad and make my easy Cheater Garlic Bread to complete your meal.
- Meatball Subs: Pile them on toasted hoagie rolls and top with Provolone cheese. My boys love these substantial Chicken Parmesan Meatball Subs and this is how I featured the meatballs in the cookbook.
Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
- 2 large eggs
- 2 pounds ground chicken
- 1 cup Italian-style panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- ⅓ cup grated onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tomato Cream Sauce
- 28 ounce can Italian-style crushed tomatoes
- 24 to 26 ounce jar marinara sauce
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
For Meatballs Subs or Pasta
- hoagie rolls, sliced provolone cheese, dry pasta, additional shredded Parmesan, see instructions below
Make the Meatballs
- To make the meatballs, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly. Add the chicken, bread crumbs, Parmesan, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, and using your hands, mix and knead the mixture to combine it well.
- Form the mixture into twenty-eight meatballs about 1½- inches in diameter. The mixture will be a bit sticky, so wet your hands as needed to make rolling the meatballs easier. Place the meatballs on a foil-lined baking sheet, and cover them with another sheet of foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or more. The meatballs can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Make the Sauce
- To make the sauce, add the tomatoes, marinara, water, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 1 hour on HIGH.
Cook the Meatballs and Finish the Sauce
- Place the refrigerated meatballs into the warm sauce in the slow cooker, reshaping them into nice balls as you add them. Spoon the sauce over any exposed meatballs so that they are all immersed in sauce. Cover and cook for 4 to 6 hours on LOW, until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked. Avoid stirring the meatballs during cooking to help them keep their shape.
- Once meatballs are cooked through, stir in the cream and basil. Cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
For Meatball Subs
- Preheat your oven to broil, and place opened but unsplit hoagie rolls on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil them briefly, until the bread is toasted. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and top the toasted rolls with 3 or 4 meatballs and sliced cheese. Return the baking sheet to the oven, and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese has melted.
- Prepare 16 ounces of the pasta of your choice according to the package directions. Drain well and pour the cooked pasta into the slow cooker with the finished meatballs and sauce. Stir to combine and serve with additional grated Parmesan on the side.
Alternate Stovetop Method
- Follow the directions to make and refrigerate the meatballs. While the meatballs are chilling, prepare the sauce by heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over MEDIUM heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is tender, then add the remaining sauce ingredients (except the cream and basil). Cover and allow to simmer over LOW heat for about 30 minutes.
- Add the chillled meatballs to the sauce in the Dutch oven and increase the heat, as needed, to bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce the heat to LOW, cover the pot, and simmer the meatballs for about 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Finish by adding the cream and basil to the sauce and continue cooking, until the sauce is warmed through.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.