What can I substitute for an egg in turkey meatballs?

If you are looking for an egg substitute in your turkey meatball recipe, there are several great options to consider. Eggs act as a binder to help hold the meatballs together, so it’s important to replace them with another binding ingredient. Substitutes like breadcrumbs, oils, mashed potatoes, and flours can all work well in place of eggs.

Quick Answer

Some good substitutes for eggs in turkey meatballs include:

  • Breadcrumbs or panko
  • Oils like olive oil or canola oil
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Ground flaxseeds mixed with water
  • Chia seeds or ground chia seeds mixed with water

Adding any of these in place of 1-2 eggs per pound of ground turkey will help bind the meatballs. Adjust the amount as needed to get the right texture.

Why Do Turkey Meatballs Need Eggs?

Eggs are commonly used in meatball recipes to act as a binder and help hold the ground meat together. As the proteins in the eggs cook, they set and create a “glue” that binds the meatballs into a cohesive shape.

Without eggs or another binder, turkey meatballs will often fall apart easily. The ground turkey is made up of very fine minced meat that doesn’t contain much natural connective tissue. So something needs to be added to create structure.

While eggs work very well for this purpose, there are a number of great substitutes to use in their place. As long as another ingredient can mimic eggs’ binding capabilities, your egg-free turkey meatballs will hold their shape beautifully.

Breadcrumb Substitutes

Breadcrumbs are one of the most common replacements for eggs in meatballs. They perform a very similar function by soaking up moisture from the meat and helping hold the meatball together.

You can use any type of breadcrumbs you prefer. Standard dry breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, or fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless bread will all work well. The finer the crumbs, the more they can replicate the smooth consistency eggs provide.

For each egg replaced, use about 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs. Make sure to account for any breadcrumbs that may already be in your recipe. You’ll need to reduce the amount of breadcrumbs if there are already some included.

Along with binding, breadcrumbs also help keep the meatballs tender and add nice texture. Just keep in mind that they will absorb moisture, so you may need to compensate by adding a little extra liquid like broth or milk if your mixture seems too dry.

Using Panko Breadcrumbs

Panko breadcrumbs work particularly well in turkey meatballs as an egg substitute. The coarse, flaky texture of panko helps provide structure similar to cooked egg proteins. Panko also tends to absorb less moisture than standard breadcrumbs.

Replace each egg with about 1/4 cup of panko crumbs. You can use traditional panko made from wheat or get gluten-free panko if necessary. Use your hands to gently incorporate the panko into the ground turkey to evenly distribute it without over-mixing.

Making Fresh Breadcrumbs

For extra binding power and texture, you can make fresh breadcrumbs from slices of bread. Remove the crusts from bread slices then pulse the bread in a food processor into fine crumbs.

Fresh breadcrumbs may absorb a bit more moisture compared to dry crumbs. So you may need to compensate by adding another tablespoon of liquid or so. But they provide an excellent substitution for the binding and moisture absorbing qualities of eggs.

Oil Substitutes

Using oil in place of eggs is another way to replicate the moist texture and binding. Oils like olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil can all work well.

For each egg replaced, use about 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Pour the oil over the ground turkey and mix gently but thoroughly to distribute. The oils will keep the meat moist and help hold everything together.

You may need to experiment with the exact amount of oil based on the wetness of your other ingredients. Start on the lower end with 2 tablespoons per egg. You can always increase if the mixture seems dry.

One benefit of using oil over breadcrumbs is that it adds moisture rather than absorbing it. This can help keep your meatballs extra juicy. But oil alone may not provide quite as much structure. So combining it with breadcrumbs works very well.

Olive Oil

Opting for olive oil is a great choice for its flavor and healthy fats. The richness of olive oil can mimic the creamy consistency of eggs. For each egg, use about 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Make sure to mix it in slowly as you want the olive oil to emulsify with the meat rather than pool. Olive oil combined with some fresh breadcrumbs makes an excellent egg substitute in turkey meatballs.

Canola or Vegetable Oil

For a more neutral flavor, canola or vegetable oil work nicely in place of eggs. They provide moisture and binding without impacting the flavor of the meatballs.

Use about 2-3 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil for each egg replaced. The lighter consistency of these oils gets incorporated easily without making the mixture oily.

Mashed Potato Substitutes

Mashed potatoes are an ingredient you may already have on hand that can act as a great egg replacer. The starch in the potatoes acts as a binder similar to eggs.

Use about 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes for every egg. Make sure the potatoes are well mashed and smooth with no large lumps. Then mix them into the ground turkey gently to distribute evenly.

Mashed potatoes add nice moisture and tenderness to turkey meatballs. They work best combined with some breadcrumbs to help provide a bit more binding power.

You can use either standard mashed potatoes or try substituting cooked, mashed sweet potatoes. Both work well!

Quick Mashed Potatoes

If you don’t have leftovers on hand, you can quickly cook some potatoes to mash. Simply microwave a potato or two until soft, then mash smoothly.

Let the mashed potatoes cool slightly before mixing into the ground turkey so they don’t overheat the meat. Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or broth if needed to get a smooth consistency.

Using Leftovers

Leftover mashed potatoes are a great shortcut option. You don’t have to cook anything new. Just make sure to break up any larger chunks as you incorporate them into the meatballs.

If reheating leftovers, let them cool off first before mixing in. You want the potatoes incorporated evenly, not hot enough to start cooking the meat.


Ground flaxseeds mixed with water create a thick, gelatinous binder similar to eggs. This makes a great vegan substitute.

Use 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed combined with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg. Make sure to let the mixture sit for at least 5 minutes to thicken before mixing into the meat.

The viscous, sticky texture mimics how eggs bind. Flaxseeds also add fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients. Just be aware that flax can add a slightly nutty flavor.

Grinding Flaxseeds

If you buy flaxseeds whole, you’ll need to grind them first. Use a coffee grinder, small food processor, or spice grinder to grind into a fine powder.

Make sure to grind the flaxseeds just before using them. Otherwise they can oxidize quickly and lose potency. Store whole flaxseeds in the fridge or freezer then grind as needed.

Purchasing Ground Flax

You can save yourself a step by buying pre-ground flaxseed meal or flour. Make sure to check the expiration date for freshness.

Look for pure ground flaxseeds rather than a flaxseed blend. You want 100% flaxseeds for binding rather than added ingredients.

Chia Seeds

Like flaxseeds, chia seeds also create a gel when mixed with water that can bind meatballs. Either white or black chia seeds will work.

Use 1 tablespoon of chia seeds combined with 3 tablespoons of water to replace each egg. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before mixing into the meatball mixture.

Chia creates a tapioca-like consistency as the seeds absorb the water and swell up. This mimics the coagulation of eggs to hold everything together.

Grinding Chia Seeds

You can grind chia seeds in a spice grinder or small food processor to make a powder. This helps the chia absorb the water faster.

But unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don’t have to be ground. They will still gel up when combined with water. Grinding just speeds the process.

Chia Gel

Another option is mixing chia seeds with water in advance to create a ready-made gel. Use 1 tablespoon chia seeds per 1/4 cup water and let sit overnight in the fridge.

Scoop out the amount needed to replace eggs, then mix the pre-made gel into the meatballs. This helps ensure the chia is fully hydrated and gelled before adding it.

Other Binders

In addition to the most common substitutions above, there are a few other ingredients that can work to bind egg-free turkey meatballs:

  • Ground oats – Use 1/4 cup dry oats per egg replaced. Process to a flour-like consistency in a food processor if not already ground.
  • Chickpea flour – Use about 2 tablespoons per egg substituted. Chickpea flour acts as a binder and adds protein.
  • Ground nuts or seeds – Try grinding nuts like almonds, walnuts or seeds like sunflower to use as a binder replacement.
  • Rolled oats – Use 1/4 cup dry oats per egg. Process briefly to coarsely grind the oats.
  • Nut butter – Use 2-3 tablespoons smooth nut butter like almond or peanut butter to replace an egg.

These options all add binding power as well as extra nutrition to your turkey meatballs. Get creative with the ingredients you have to make an egg-free meatball mixture.


Here is a quick summary of how much of each egg substitute to use in turkey meatballs:

Binder Amount
Breadcrumbs or panko 1/4 cup per egg
Olive oil, canola oil, etc 2-3 Tbsp per egg
Mashed potato 1/4 cup per egg
Ground flaxseed + water 1 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp water per egg
Chia seeds + water 1 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp water per egg

Tips for Egg Substitutes

Here are a few helpful tips when using egg substitutes in turkey meatballs:

  • Add any dry binders like breadcrumbs or oats to the ground turkey first before any wet ingredients.
  • Mix liquid substitutes like oil or mashed potatoes in slowly until evenly distributed.
  • Don’t overmix once ingredients are added or meatballs may get dense.
  • Add a little extra liquid like broth if mixture seems dry.
  • Let flaxseed or chia seed mixtures sit 5-15 minutes to thicken before using.
  • Try a combo approach with 2 substitutes like breadcrumbs and oil.
  • Shape into balls and pan fry a small tester meatball before shaping all to check bind and texture.

Egg Substitute Meatball Recipes

Once you know the basics of replacing eggs, you can modify any turkey meatball recipe to be egg-free. But here are a couple recipe ideas using common egg substitutes:

Breadcrumb Turkey Meatballs

This recipe uses panko breadcrumbs in place of eggs to bind juicy turkey meatballs with garlic, parmesan, and herbs.


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mix ground turkey, panko, garlic, parsley, parmesan, basil, salt, and pepper gently in a bowl until combined.
  2. Roll into 1 1/2-inch balls. Should make about 20 meatballs.
  3. Pan fry over medium heat in batches until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Simmer in pasta sauce for added flavor.

Chia Seed Turkey Meatballs

These protein-packed meatballs use a chia seed and water gel as a vegan egg substitute.


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano


  1. In a small bowl, combine chia seeds and water. Let sit 20 minutes to gel.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together ground turkey, oats, shallot, garlic, tamari, and oregano.
  3. Add chia seed gel and mix until fully incorporated.
  4. Roll into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.


With some creativity and experimentation, you can make delicious egg-free turkey meatballs using ingredients you likely have on hand. Breadcrumbs, oils, mashed potatoes, flaxseeds, and chia seeds all make great substitutes.

The keys are finding a substitute that can act as a binder, adding enough liquid, and mixing gently to distribute ingredients evenly. Follow these tips and you’ll have healthy, egg-free turkey meatballs the whole family will love.

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