Gluten-Free is Me: Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs (and a Giveaway!)

Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs | Easy, Healthy Italian Recipe

Like all those cooks out there who’ve had the chutzpah to admit their failures (and, presumably, those annoying beacons of perfection who have not), I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in the kitchen.

In reflecting on them this past week, I’d say that most fall into one of two categories. The first is careless negligence, which includes things like forgetting the brussels sprouts in the oven until they resemble something that Khaleesi’s dragons might have sneezed on. A historical favorite is the time I poured cold stock from the fridge into a straight-from-the-oven Pyrex dish, causing it to shatter/explode dramatically and my neighbors to stop by to make sure everything was okay.

Then there’s the type of mistake that’s just pure technical ignorance. Since I didn’t go to cooking school, I’m particularly prone to this genre of fails. But because I prefer to drink uncurdled eggnog and to not have to throw away 6 ramekins of sunken, nasty soufflés, I tend to stick to recipes that are well within my comfort zone. But this approach to protecting my kitchen confidence proved problematic last week when I had to attend a potluck at Dana Cowin’s apartment, in honor of her new book Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.

Gluten-Free Oats are the secret ingredient in my breadcrumb free Italian meatballs. Gluten-Free Italian Meatballs Recipe - made with gluten-free oats instead of breadcrumbs and healthy ground chicken This healthy meatball recipe uses ground chicken and gluten-free oats instead of breadcrumbs in the classic Italian version These Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs are super easy and gluten-free. My new favorite healthy meatball recipe. The best baked meatball recipe. Gluten-free and Easy. Made healthy with ground chicken and whole grain oats instead of breadcrumbs.
The evening gathered together some of my all time favorite women in the food community, including many who inspired me to start writing about my small kitchen triumphs and failures in the first place (cough cough, Deb). For the meal, we each had to bring a dish that we’d previously failed at and had since mastered.

I had many fails to choose from…obviously. The tortilla espagnola that covered my kitchen with raw egg when I tried to invert it, and the Canal House biscuits that came out as dense as cookies were among the front-runners. But sadly, I hadn’t yet found courage to right my wrongs, and trying to do so in time to impress my idols seemed like yet another recipe for disaster.

So I decided to go a different route, one that was perhaps a loose interpretation of the word “failure” but would at least semi- protect me from inflicting the full meaning of the word on Dana Cowin’s dining room table. My contribution: gluten-free baked chicken meatballs.

The finished gluten-free meatball recipe. Ground chicken and oats - breadcrumb free! The best healthy baked meatball recipe with ground chicken and gluten-free oats instead of breadcrumbs. Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs | Easy, Healthy Italian Recipe Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs | Easy, Healthy Italian Recipe
Finding a creative gluten-free solution to my old baked meatball recipe hasn’t exactly brought me to my knees in the same way as that lumpy eggnog. But it did light a fire under my butt to create something that doesn’t use gluten-free breadcrumbs (cheating!) and yet doesn’t feel like you’re cutting into the culinary equivalent of a lacrosse ball.

My jumping off point was to omit the crumbs all together, like The Meatball Shop does with their gluten-free chicken ball. But the result was too dense for my liking. At restaurants, sometimes my experience can be colored by gratitude when I discover a gluten-free alternative on the menu to something I ordinarily wouldn’t be about to eat. Beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s a cross that we dietarily challenged folk have to bear. But at home, I have much higher standards.

The fix came to me by way of my friend Sophie, who told me years ago that she liked to make her meatloaf healthier by using oats instead of breadcrumbs. At the time, I couldn’t fathom such a dense grain melting away like dried breadcrumbs do. But my frequent gluten-free baking failures have made me a lot more risqué over the years, so I decided to get ballsy with my meatballs.

The gluten-free oats definitely created a lighter ball, but there was still something a little texturally off. Eventually I found the winning combination by pulsing the oats a few times in a food processor so that they were coarsely ground—not as fine as flour or dried breadcrumbs, but a nice happy medium.


Since I’m a masochist, I had to leave a little margin for error the night of the potluck and tried the gluten-free meatballs out with a pork and beef mixture instead of chicken. Luckily, this worked out even better, since the added fat in the pork made them all the more moist and delicious (simply substitute ½ pound pork and 1/2 pound beef for the chicken and omit the olive oil, which I found necessary when using a leaner protein).

The potluck was such an inspiring evening of conversation and food. You can see the full table above with Deb’s Pizza Beans, Anna Watson Carl’s beautiful crudités with green tahini dip, Ali’s savory galette, Sara Kate’s Whiskey Sours, among others. I was relieved to hear that Amanda and Merrill both suffer from mistakes in my “fail category one,” mostly in the form of burnt toast. And that even though she went to cooking school, Serena is just as lazy as I am when it comes to mastering techniques. Kitchen misery loves company, and our tales of fails made me even more confident that perfection is over rated. It also might have been just the fire under my ass I needed to master some of my own shortcomings.

MasteringMistakes hc c-001 Mario Batali & Dana Cowin Preparing Baked Pasta A131014 Food & Wine Making My Mistakes Cookbook 2013

So stay tuned for updated and improved eggnog, tortilla espangola, and soufflé. In the meantime, I hope you’ll learn from some of Dana’s mistakes, which are hilariously captured and beautifully improved upon in her new book, along with advice from some of the best chefs in the world. My friend and fellow weeknight tequila drinker Julia Turshen worked on the recipes. (She recommends the Jerk Roasted Lamb and Creamy Carrot Soup as among her favorites). And good news for you: I’m giving away two copies below!

To enter the Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen Giveaway and win a copy of Dana Cowin’s new book, you must:

1. Comment below and tell me about your worst kitchen failure (and if you fixed it!).

2. Subscribe to my newsletter. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced in next Sunday’s email blast, so you must sign-up to find out.

3. Follow me on twitter @PhoebeLapine. (I will check!).

4. For two extra entries, Tweet the following:

Want to master your kitchen mistakes? @PhoebeLapine is giving away a copy of @fwscout’s fab new cookbook! Enter here:

Oh, and for extra credit for your gluten-free game, make these meatballs!



Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs | Easy, Healthy Italian Recipe

Gluten-Free Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12 balls

Serving Size: 4

Gluten-Free Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

This healthy gluten-free version of baked chicken meatballs uses oats instead of breadcrumbs. It's a great easy spin on a classic Italian meatball recipe.


  • 1 1/4 pound ground dark meat chicken or turkey
  • 1 extra large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup grated aged parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup gluten-free oats
  • 2 cups tomato sauce (preferably homemade)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken or turkey, egg, tomato paste, olive oil, parsley, garlic, shallot, salt, paprika, chili flakes, and Parmesan.
  3. In a small food processor, pulse the oats until coarsely ground. Add to the bowl. With clean hands, mix the chicken with the other ingredients until loosely combined. You don’t want to overly break up the meat. Form the chicken into 2-inch balls (an ice cream scoop works well for portioning) and roll in your hands until round and smooth. Arrange the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until cooked through and beginning to brown on the bottom, about 20-25 minutes.
  4. Toss the meatballs with your favorite tomato sauce and serve immediately.

instagram  If you make this, share a photo and tag me @PhoebeLapine #feedmephoebe - I would love to see it!


Comment54 Share This!

54 Responses to Gluten-Free is Me: Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs (and a Giveaway!)

  1. Mirakol S. says:

    It’s a crying shame! This mistake was recent. I was trying the whole Food52 “make yogurt biscuits without a recipe” thing and used WAY too much baking soda. Beautiful, buttery biscuits tasted RANK! Saddest thing. I almost cried and kept apologizing to my friend for having wasted a stick of butter, flour and cream. Tossed them and learned my lesson. That second shake is a shake to many. :/

  2. Sophie says:

    What a great story and idea for a cookbook! I’m pretty sure a substantial part of my 20’s were about ‘fixing’ rather than ‘cooking’! Too many bad stories to tell, but think the one that sticks out would be eggplant Parmesan that was so incredibly raw and messy that I took the entire thing, threw it in a pan, chopped up more vegetables and tada….ratatouille(ish)!

  3. Caitlyn says:

    I’ve had so many kitchen mishaps, it’s hard to choose just one! I think my all-time worst was, unfortunately, making dessert for a family Thanksgiving. I made a pie with a meringue topping and when making the meringue, accidentally added salt instead of sugar (my mom keeps salt, sugar and floor in very similar-looking containers). I didn’t realize my mistake until my 3 year old niece took a bite and promptly spit it out all over the table. My family loves to remind me of it every Thanksgiving : )

  4. Helen says:

    Such a great concept for a cookbook! A few months ago I made Ina Garten’s mustard sauce with salmon ( and was so pleased with myself when I pulled it out of the oven. Something seemed off! The whole thing smelled like a melted Crayola crayon. I realized that I used wax paper instead of parchment to line the pan 🙁 Fearing that we’d be poisoned, it went straight into the trash.

  5. Whitney says:

    My husband loves Indian food, which he could easily find in London. When we moved back to the states, we decided to try a curry from Jamie Oliver’s app. We knew that we had different philosophies on butter in general: his is “the more, the merrier” while mine was “in moderation, at most.” The recipe was converted through the app to American measurements, and I think it called for 10 tbsp. my husband thought I was just being a butter Scrooge when I said it seemed like a crazy amount of butter, but we were both in hysterics when we realized what had happened. Not only was it too much butter, the 10 was supposed to be a 1! It was inedible even for the butter lover. We haven’t tried Indian good again, actually. Perhaps this is a good nudge to try a successful Indian food adventure!

  6. Steph says:

    Thank you for sharing your kitchen mishaps, Phoebe, and what a great concept for a cookbook–I look forward to reading it! One of my biggest fails actually had to do with meatballs! I am usually far too low-key (well, lazy) of a cook to attempt anything as labor-intensive as meatballs, but I decided to do so one day for a potluck picnic. Not much one for following recipes super closely, I assuredly left out something and in transit was left with a meaty-mess. Luckily I was able to convert my disaster into a last minute bolognese-type sauce and mercifully my dear friend had some pasta on hand in her near-by kitchen. Pasta wasn’t exactly picnic-friendly, but it was actually quite yummy. Ooof!

  7. I’ve had many disasters but I think the worst was a cold glass dish that I took straight from the fridge and put into a hot oven. Need I say more? That was so not fun to clean up. We live and we learn! 😉

  8. Frankie says:

    I used too many eggs in an avgolomeno soup that gave it a raw taste, and the lemon juice was harsh. People politely took a sip or two and then laid their spoons down. Almost as bad as the time I added red wine to a bechamel sauce so it turned bright pink. These faux pas are so irreversible and I’m still carrying the shame around.

  9. Fitzy says:

    So many moments/mishaps to choose from… Among the most cringe-worthy was an ingredient centric mistake (rather than a recipe-centric one).

    During the great truffle fries phase of 2005, I found myself with a bottle of truffle oil and very little knowledge of what to do with it. Obviously, if it was good on french fries it would be good on everything, right? Wrong. it is especially bad in excess and on grilled salmon. Adding insult to injury, I didn’t even eat fish at the time so I couldn’t fully appreciate how terrible (my fairly expensive) mistake was.

    • oof! truffle oil is so good in moderation. and SO bad if overused. that’s hilarious though you were trying to make such a fahncy meal. i’m sure the smell along was difficult to take from across the table! xoxox

  10. My worst kitchen failure was trying to cook bluefish for parents using a Julia Child recipe that I’d never made before. Ugh! It was gray and the sauce was runny and it took twice the time I though it would… terrible. Sometimes you can get a good laugh out of kitchen fail, like the time I made this Amish lemon pie with lemon slices, including the rind. My brother and his wife and kids were so polite, trying to eat it. When I took a bite and pronounced it horrible we all fell into complete hysterics. But there was nothing funny about serving gray bluefish to my dad!

    • I love blue fish, but it’s definitely polarizing. My dad hates it too! I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. One day I will post my mom’s recipe, which is easy and fabulous, and hopefully you’ll try it with more success! xo

  11. Briana says:

    During the summer, I decided to make pancit, a Filipino stir-fried noodle dish. I typically love all forms of citrus juice, especially calamansi juice and lemon juice and I consider the dish incomplete without a taste of citrus! However, I realized I only had lime juice at the apartment and it was too late at night to go out and buy lemon juice. So I figured, being a huge citrus fan and a very hungry college student, that I wouldn’t mind putting lots of lime juice all over the dish. Unfortunately, the taste was quite off and it didn’t go well with the flavors of the noodles. To make up for it, I just put it back on the stove and added more seasoning and with some time, the lime taste became subdued!

  12. Stephanie says:

    Once, I attempted to make lemon bars with a friend, and we decided to halve the recipe. However, we forgot to halve the amount of eggs we put in and ended up with these inedible yellow hockey pucks. Unfortunately, there was no way to turn this around, and we ended up just munching on the crusts and discarding everything else. We were so sad because we were really craving some lemon bars!

  13. Stardancer says:

    I’ve made a lot of things that haven’t quite come out as I want them, but there’s only one thing that my husband and I refused to eat. I made my own bread for a year or two to the point that I had the recipe memorized. I made a batch after not doing so for about a month…and it turned out I’d forgotten the salt. It was awful. It looked like bread, it felt like bread, but it tasted like cardboard.

    Lesson learned: Always check the recipe!

  14. I once tried this sweet turkey meatloaf that was horrible. NO fixing could help it! Sweet meat bread. Gross. The strangest texture too! Just weird. I just stick to my classic meatball recipe now. 🙂



  15. Susan says:

    Hi, Phoebe….the chicken meatballs were Super. Loved the idea of using oats. I wonder how this recipe might be adapted to making meatloaf….proportion of meat, eggs, oats.

    • I’m so glad Susan! I think you can just swap in the same amount of coarsely ground oats for the breadcrumbs in your favorite meatloaf recipe. I used a very similar recipe to my original meatball one, so I think it’s interchangeable. Let me know how it goes! xo

  16. YAY!!!! I have been waiting for you to post this recipe 🙂 These were amazing and I’m totally making them for dinner this week. Thanks for sharing! xoxo

    • hooray! I’m so glad! I made the pork/beef version for the party, so if you don’t mind a little red meat, I’d go with that substitution to replicate the ones you had. Been meaning to shoot you an email to say how nice it was to finally meet you! xo

  17. Pingback: Dana Cowin on Mastering Mistakes | The Naptime Chef

  18. Katherinemae1994 says:

    I adapted you recipe to make a Vegetarian version and it worked out really well!
    I used a can of black beans pureed ( refried bean consistency) in place of meat
    An extra 1/2 c oats
    1/3 c ground nuts (pecans)
    and just some various extra spices like pepper and Italian seasoning it was awesome!

  19. Pingback: Gluten-Free Crab Cakes with Pretzel Crust | Easy, Healthy Recipe

  20. Pingback: Chinese Five Spice Roasted Peking Chicken | Gluten-Free

  21. Pingback: Happy New Year: Welcome 2015 As Your Best Self Yet - The Truth About Thin

  22. Pingback: What I Learned From My Month of Less Meat, More Cooking & No Microwave - Feed Me Phoebe

  23. Pingback: Healthy Banana Pudding Recipe with Rum Compote (Gluten-Free)

  24. Pingback: Healthy Nachos with Mushrooms + Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

  25. Pingback: Happy New Year: Welcome 2015 As Your Best Self Yet - Betty Murray

  26. Pingback: A Back-To-School Farmer's Market Challenge Menu From The Yellow Table - Feed Me Phoebe

  27. Pingback: The Best Fall Farmer's Market Recipes | Feed Me Phoebe

  28. Anne Marie says:

    I wish I read this recipe about two hours ago. Being a Italian vegetarians for two my husband and I decided that we missed meatballs. So I bought some organic ground chicken Make some meatballs way I use to. However now I’m gluten-free now so I decided to use my gluten-free breadcrumbs. Big mistake we have gluten-free mush balls. At first I thought oh my gosh the chicken is not cooked without being poisoned, so then I threw them back to the sauce and let them boil some more (even though I bake them originally). But to our dismay still mushy. Great flavor but mushy. So next time I’ll try the oats! Thanks for the tip!!

    • Ah Anne Marie! I’m sorry about the mushy meatballs. Eek! Hope you’ll try my recipe for next time! Baking really helps with this. I actually always made me regular meatballs this way too. xoxo

  29. Pingback: Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Meatballs | Easy, Healthy Italian Recipe | Onlinegranny's Shared Recipes

  30. Dana says:

    If i just wanted to use oat flour, instead of grounding up my own oats, how much oat flour do I measure out?

    • Hmmm I recommend using something slightly coarser as you’re trying to mimic the texture of breadcrumbs. So if you use flour I would just try it with a little. Maybe 1/4 cup?

  31. Pingback: Easy Baked Tortilla Espanola Recipe with Zucchini | Healthy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *