Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup

by heidi on January 8, 2014

We’re all feeling it aren’t we? It wouldn’t be the New Year without focusing on cleaning up, clearing out and cleansing from tip to toe.

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup is a healthy version of Italian Wedding Soup

Keeping with my new year tradition every single year, I’m taking advantage of my healthy resolve and I’m eating clean. This week. And maybe next. With just a side of butter and maybe a bite or six of cheese. And please, don’t hold it against me if there’s a nibble of chocolate here and there.

Balance, it’s the new black.

In thinking about eating strategies and menu planning, I still have cravings that need to be filled. Savory but simple. Filling and fortifying.

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup is a healthy version of Italian Wedding Soup

And can we make it in the slow cooker please?

Meatballs. I’m a fan. Proof → Mexican Turkey Meatballs with Avocado Smash. Or Tabasco Chicken Meatballs in a Spicy Tomato and Apricot Sauce.

While these full fledge meatball recipes are delish, I’m craving bite size babies. In something warm and comforting. Like soup to steel me for the winter chill.

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup is a healthy version of Italian Wedding Soup

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup is a healthy version of Italian Wedding Soup

You may have already guessed my Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup is a riff on Italian Wedding Soup, of which there are some great recipes by other food bloggers. But like every girl, I wanted to be the bride instead of the bridesmaid so I created my own version.

About the recipe:

This recipe is another one of mine that celebrates one pot slow cooker cooking. No other pans, pots, panini presses, George Foreman grills or toaster ovens needed. Just one slow cooker (this is the KitchenAid version I have)and you’re in business. I rolled these turkey baby balls out, cut up a few veggies and plopped it all in the slow cooking pool so I could leave the house for a few hours and let it do its thing.

While most ground turkey in the grocery stores is 93% fat free, I prefer more fat in my turkey so the meatballs don’t dry out. But, if you’re really watching the calories, go for the low-fat version anytime.

I used kale in this version—my favorite green leafed filler—but escarole, swiss or rainbow chard and even spinach would add the hearty veggie heft this soup calls for. If you’re hoping for the leaves to retain their bright green color, add the kale in the last 1 ½ hours of cooking. If you’re not concerned, they cook up tender and flavorful with the total cooking time.

I thought about adding in a can of diced tomatoes for another layer of flavor. Maybe next time. And if you beat me to it, let me know what you think.

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup

Yield: serves 8 makes, about 55 ½-inch meatballs

Skinny Slow Cooker Kale and Turkey Meatball Soup


¼ cup milk
2 slices bread
1 pound lean ground turkey (85% lean)
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (64 ounces)
1 15-ounce can white Northern beans or other small white bean, drained and rinsed
2 carrots, sliced
½ yellow onion, chopped
4 cups kale (about 1 pound)


  1. Add milk to a large mixing bowl then tear the bread into chunks and add to the milk to soak. Add the turkey, shallot, garlic, nutmeg, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, cheese, parsley and egg and gently mix with your fingers until the mixture is combined. Use a small scoop or melon baller to form ½ inch balls.
  2. Add the broth, beans, carrots, onion and kale to the insert of a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker.
  3. Drop the meatballs onto the kale, cover and cook on low for 4 hours or until the meatballs float to the surface.
  4. Serve the soup garnished with grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and fresh parsley leaves.

adapted from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever

Remember what I said about the year of the meatball? Well, it’s alive and well and still totally craveable. Here’s proof.


Faith puts the tin can version of Spaghetti Os and Meatballs on its ear with An Edible Mosaic’s healthier, homemade Spaghetti Ring and Meatball Soup


It takes just one pot to create Add a Pinch’s tomato-flavored Meatball Soup, so clean up is a cinch, making way for more time to get the other chores done.


Making balls out of links is how Bev rolls. Or at least rolls her balls. Meatballs that is. Join the party with Bev Cooks Soup with Sausage Meatballs, White Beans and Kale.


Lauren may have been lacking focus in her day’s duties, but it’s a pretty good thing she did because Lauren’s Latest‘s Chicken Meatball and Barley Soup is the delicious result of it. Mr. Holland’s Opus, yo?


Food Nouveau’s Ginger, Sesame and Coriander Meatball Soup are also a tasty treat when they’re taken out of the soup pot and served up as an appetizer small bite.


Maria puts Josh to work to create a hearty—aka meaty—version of one of her faves in Two Peas and Their Pod’s Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup.


And lest you think this is my first meatball rodeo, check out this blast from the past: My Matzo Ball Soup with Chicken Meatballs. Matzo balls are my weakness.

As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. 

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Posted in: chicken and turkey,recipes,soups and stews,vegetables and fruits

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn January 8, 2014 at 1:55 am

I’m a big fan of your idea of balances. Soup + chocolate seems like the best way to go. Love the flavours in this and how it manages to be both hearty and light at the same time.


Robyn | Add a Pinch January 8, 2014 at 6:02 am

I love meatball soup, slow cookers, and your plan for balance. It sounds like perfection to me! xo


Maria January 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

We finally dusted off our slow cooker and have been putting it to good use! I know Josh will want to try this recipe! Perfect for a cold day!


Megan @ Country Cleaver January 8, 2014 at 8:22 am

I’m all for slowing things down and cleaning this up with food! This looks perfect for winter and the NY resolutions!


Christine @ Cooking with Cakes January 8, 2014 at 8:27 am

love the itty bitty meatballs!! why are things so much tastier when they’re small?

and yeah, my healthy eating always comes with a side of chocolate and a hunk of cheese #gofigure


Lisa January 8, 2014 at 8:38 am

So beautiful! Pulling out the slow cooker right now. I only have ground beef on hand but figure it will still work…. A tiny meatball is a tiny meatball right? :) thanks for the great recipe!


Rachel Cooks January 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm

This looks absolutely amazing! As do the rest of those meatball recipes. Putting it on my must-make list!


Ali | Gimme Some Oven January 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Mmmmm, my kind of comfort food. Looks beautiful!


Arthur in the Garden! January 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm

A great interpretation!


Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough January 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm

So much goodness! I’m declaring this the year of the meatball. And of the slow cooker. And of this soup.


Patti January 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Yummy hearty soup on a cold snowy day sounds perfect, and the slow cooker is an real bonus.
Love it!


Sarah | The Sugar Hit January 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm

I could go for some cold weather right now! It’s mid-summer in Australia and it is SOOO HOT, but all I want to eat is soup!


Tieghan January 8, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I need to get on this the meatball train! I have only made them once, but need to make more. This soup looks so cozy and perfect!


Sarah Adler of Simply Real Health January 9, 2014 at 9:21 am

Ha! Bride and not a bridesmaid!


Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) January 9, 2014 at 9:45 am

This soup looks absolutely mind blowingly fantastic!


Dina January 9, 2014 at 10:10 am

it looks very comforting!


kelley January 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Love the recipe. Didn’t mean to bust your chaps about the “skinny” thing yesterday- just not my favorite adjective. What can I say? I was an aspiring Women’s Lit major when I started college. Gotta love the slow cooker and anything with kale and meatballs, I’m all over! xo


Jenny Flake January 10, 2014 at 6:20 am

Oh yah!! I need a nice big bowl of this! Looks perfect! xoxo


Adrienne @ Chronicles of an Amateur Food Lover January 12, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Wow, this soup looks delicious! I too share your love of meatballs. They’re just so customizable! :) I must make this!


Michelle January 21, 2014 at 7:37 am

Love this recipe! I made it last night and it was just as good as it sounded. The only thing is my carrots didn’t get real soft, any suggestions?


Courtney B May 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm

So either I have a 3QT slow cooker or this recipe requires a 7QT. (I’m pretty sure it’s the latter). It’s cooking now but it was just ever-so-slightly too full of stuff when I followed the directions to a “T” and I had to put a cloth napkin around the slow cooker to soak up the slow drips over the edges.


heidi May 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I have the larger 6 quart slow cooker. I will amend that in the directions. Thanks for pointing it out.


Shirley August 24, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I tried this soup and it was a terrible failure. The recipe doesn’t say to brown the meatballs or to saute the onions prior to cooking. Kind of my fault, as I should have known better.


amanda October 13, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Ditto, Shirley. It was very frustrating to make (and fail at making!!). The meatballs just disintegrated in the broth and it ended up rendering a greasy, flesh colored mess!


heidi October 13, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Sorry you had that experience. Perhaps the amount of fat in the ground turkey (or lack thereof) contributed to the meatballs not staying together. I used lean rather than extra lean. I’ve amended the ingredient list.


Holly November 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

This is great, but it needs to be cooked on high. 4 hours on low led to pink meatballs that never cooked through.


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