Sneaky Meatball Subs (Freezer-Friendly)


Gluten-free Sneaky Meatball Subs are a fun and flavorful dinner. Freezer-friendly, too!

 Sneaky Meatball Subs #glutenfree |

I’ve never been much of a sneak. Besides the whole moral dilemma that goes along with being a little ratfink, I’m just no good at it!

Too square to sneak out of the house in high school.

Too guilt-ridden after getting my nose pierced in college to wait even 24 hours before calling home to confess then remove it a month later.

Too giggly to try and lie about really anything. I can’t help it!

Ok, I did borrow some of my brother’s Peanut Butter Captain Crunch the last time I babysat my niece and nephew, and the half eaten bowl may have been left out by mistake (idiot!) causing me to be completely busted out via text message, but you know what I mean!

What happens, though, when sneaky behavior can be used for good instead of peanut-buttery evil, like with the stealthy addition of healthy vegetables into a yummy meatball sub?! I saw we sly dogs go for it!

Sneaky Meatball Subs #glutenfree |

Whether you’re looking to “sneak” some extra veggies into your children’s, spouse’s, or your OWN diet, the addition of grated zucchini into 100% ground turkey meatballs not only gives this fun and flavorful dinner a vitamin boost, but also keeps the meatballs ultra moist and juicy.


I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you’re going to expose our Sneaky Meatball Subs’ secret but either way, nobody will be turning down homemade meatballs snuggled in a whole-wheat bun, topped with marinara sauce & melted cheese!

Sneaky Meatball Subs #glutenfree |

Start the Sneaky Meatball Subs by making the turkey meatballs laced with zucchini & super-yummy seasonings.


Attach the grating blade to a food processor then send 1 small zucchini, 1/4 small onion, and 4 garlic cloves down the chute.

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If you don’t have a food processor – no worries – just use a box cheese grater, flat grater, or if you can’t get your hands on any of those items, chop everything up real small like.

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Remove the zucchini mixture to a bowl, pull out the grating blade and switch to a non-sharp S-blade, then add the zucchini back to the processing bowl.


Now add 1lb ground turkey to the mix. I went with 100% ground turkey vs 100% ground turkey breast as regular ground turkey is a bit higher in fat, which makes the meatballs super moist and juicy.


To the turkey, add 1 egg white, 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce,

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and 1/2 teaspoon each Italian seasoning, salt & pepper.

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Finally, add 1/2 cup gluten-free crushed Rice Chex or panko bread crumbs, which I forgot to photograph cause I was too busy thinkin’ about these meatballs!


Pulse the ingredients together until well combined, then scoop into a large bowl. Alternatively, use your hands to mix everything up.


Roll the mixture into 15 balls using about 2 Tablespoons worth of the turkey mixture per ball.


Place the meatballs onto a non-stick sprayed wire rack (don’t forget this step or your balls will stick to the rack – GAH! ) on top of a foil-lined baking sheet.


Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center. I cut one open around 18 minutes to check on its progress.


While the meatballs cool ever so slightly, bust out the buns. 100% whole wheat hoagie or hot dog buns – gluten-free or regular. Open the buns, then slice up 1oz portions of mozzarella cheese.

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Place 3 meatballs into the center of the buns,


top with your favorite marinara sauce,


then lay the mozzarella cheese on top.


Broil until the sauce is warm, and the cheese is golden brown & gooey!

Sneaky Meatball Subs #glutenfree |

Sneaky Meatball Subs

serves 5


Gluten-free Sneaky Meatball Subs are a fun and flavorful dinner. Freezer-friendly, too!


  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1/4 small onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup crushed gluten-free Rice Chex or panko bread crumbs
  • 5 gluten-free or regular hoagie or hot dog buns
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 5oz fresh mozzarella cheese


  1. Grate the zucchini, onion and garlic in a food processor with the grating blade attached, then remove the contents to a separate bowl. Alternatively you could use a box grater for the zucchini and onion, and finely mince the garlic, or chop by hand. Attach a non-sharp S-blade to the food processor then return the zucchini mixture to the processing bowl.
  2. Add the ground turkey, egg white, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and Rice Chex or bread crumbs to the food processor then pulse to combine. Alternatively, use your hands to mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees then place a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet, and spray generously with non-stick spray. Shape turkey mixture into 15 meatballs, using ~2 Tablespoons of the mixture per meatball. Place onto the wire rack and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until no longer pink the center.
  4. Turn the oven to broil, then open up the buns and place three cooked meatballs in the center. Spoon marinara sauce on top of the meatballs, then top with 1oz mozzarella cheese per sub. Broil until the sauce is warm, and cheese is golden brown.
  5. To freeze and reheat leftover meatballs: Cool cooked meatballs completely then place the baking sheet into the freezer until meatballs are frozen solid, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a freezer-safe container or bag. To reheat, microwave for 4-5 minutes, or place onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats,

I tell you what – you can sneak vegetables into my meals any day of the week if they come out tasting like these meatballs, which made the subs taste so decadent and comforting. I could have put back 10!


The zucchini practically melted into the ground turkey, and I couldn’t pick out its texture for anything. Nor the onions, which is what always gets Ben. He HATES crunchy onions. Grated is the way to go!


What’s even more beautiful about this recipe, is that the leftover meatballs freeze beautifully.

To freeze the leftover meatballs let them cool on the baking sheet, then pop the baking sheet into the freezer to let the meatballs freeze solid. Place the frozen meatballs into freezer bags or containers then send ’em back into the frozen tundra. To reheat, just crack the lid and microwave for 4-5 minutes, or bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees on a sheet pan.

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So what say you – to sneak, or not to sneak veggies into your food? That is the question!

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  1. Those look tasty! And who doesn’t love a freezer friendly meal?!

  2. Emily 06.06.2012

    These look SO good! Adding them to my meal planning list as we speak!

  3. I just made turkey meatballs for dinner and am so wishing there was grated zucchini in them now! These look fantastic :)

  4. holy yum. those look delish!

  5. Dawn Patricia 06.06.2012

    YUM! I think I’ve mentioned this before on your blog. TJ’s breads are different from region to region… I’ve never been able to find anything other than some dinner-type rolls and they are different from week to week. I’d love to find the TJ’s hot dog buns! Thanks for (another!) great recipe!

  6. Lauren 06.06.2012

    Sneaky Sneaky! I love adding grated veggies in burgers and meatballs. I can totally get this past my husband, especially when I cover it in cheese. :)

  7. Kim 06.06.2012

    What kind of food processor do you own? I have a bullet, but haven’t had the best of luck with it.

  8. Kim Lee 06.06.2012

    Your pictures always look beeeautiful, even when they are of a meatball sub!!

  9. Maria 06.06.2012

    Eww I have a nose ring scar too :(
    I called home crying about my poor decision to get it and took that sucker out after a week. That was my “rebellious” stage.

  10. oh my gosh that melted cheese looks aaamaaaziinnggg

  11. heather 06.06.2012

    my mom has made *meatloaf* like that for years, she uses different kinds of squash for it, though. no one has ever complained about it, either.
    i got my nose pierced when i was about 20 and i still have it in–and im going to be thirty in less than 5 years…juvenile much, lol?!? i still think i’m a cool kid, deep down, i guess.

  12. Jill 06.06.2012

    Can’t wait to make this recipe for my meatball loving, not fond of zucchini young sons! By the way, baking meatballs on the wire rack is a brilliant idea…Thanks for the tip.

  13. Joanna 06.06.2012

    These look so amazing. I can’t wait to try it. I am not a sneak either, I guess I have a guilty look and it gives me away each time.

  14. Megan 06.06.2012

    I made something similar this week. Did you squeeze out extra juice from the zucchini? I tried to add to a meatloaf once and it turned to mush (tastey, but still mush). However, I squeezed it out this time and used oatmeal instead of bread crumbs and it was FANTASTIC.

    • Iowa Girl Eats 06.06.2012

      I didn’t squeeze it out. The turkey mixture was “wet” but firmed up in the oven just fine!

  15. I love the idea of sneaking veggies into main dishes and desserts…this will definitely make it into our dinner rotation sometime soon! We’re actually having meatball subs for dinner tomorrow night, now I wish I could make yours :)

  16. Cristy 06.07.2012


  17. Yum-o. That sandwich looks great, without the guilt of eatingt graziano meatballs! Sarah and I picked up a trick a few years ago. We make our meatballs in a non-stick mini muffin tin. The holes are the perfect size for a meatball, clean up is simple, and the meatballs stay in a nice circle all the way around.

    We are making this soon!

  18. Ly 06.07.2012


    Just wanted to say I’ve been silently stalking your website and love all the healthy recipes you create. Tried the cauliflower/mashed potatoes and will definitely be trying this out! x

  19. We did mini meatball subs like this (ground beef though) just last week, and I love using hot dog buns for it instead of huge hoagie rolls. I didn’t sneak in any veggies though — turkey and zucchini is a great combo!

  20. Nancy 06.07.2012

    sounds delicious to me!

  21. Not sure why I never thought to blend everything up in a food processor! Genius and these look incredible :)

  22. colleen 06.07.2012

    I have been adding grated zucchini and some carrots to my chili and spaghetti sauce for a long time. It really cooks down to almost nothing in the sauces and only I know its more healthy!

  23. Heather Burkart 06.07.2012

    I sneak things into my kids food all the time, pumpkin in chili, spinich in spagetti sauce :) One thing I am HUGE fan of is Jimmy Johns day old bread for recipes like this. Cheap (I think I got 3 big loaves the last time for under $2.00) and tasty!

  24. Andrea 06.07.2012

    I can’t wait to try these!! YUMM!! :)

  25. Daisy 06.07.2012

    you should have kept the nose piercing. I can totally see you with one!

  26. Lisa 06.07.2012

    I do this when I make meatballs, but instead of zucchini I add mushrooms that I’ve processed in the food processor. I also do the same for taco meat.

  27. ErikaMC 06.07.2012

    Oh my! I think my husband would actually eat these. I have no problem being sneaky :)

  28. My mouth is literally watering

  29. Trisha 06.07.2012

    Funny, didn’t you try to trick Ben with “meatballs” before?? I seem to remember a cake ball incident… ;) These look so yum, can’t wait to mix them up in my own kitchen!

  30. These look. SO. GOOD.

    Also, I totally have the nose piercing scar, too :) Memories!

  31. Since my hubby is allergic to poultry and doesn’t *love* vegetables, I’ll use lean ground beef and enjoy sneaking the healthiness in! Thanks.

  32. […] more from the original source: Sneaky Meatball Subs (Freezer-Friendly Recipe!) | Iowa Girl Eats ← One Skillet Pasta Puttanesca | Iowa Girl […]

  33. Audrey 06.08.2012

    I just made these for a quick and easy Friday night dinner and they were amazing!

  34. Mariko 06.12.2012

    Those look so good! I have to admit, I’m surprised about how moist they look. I’ll put it on my list to try.

  35. […] love when you can sneak extra vegetables into a normal, everyday recipe.  I saw this recipe on Iowa Girl Eats last week and was excited to try it right […]

  36. kristin 06.20.2012

    these were SO good! my husband had no idea that there was zucchini in them; he’s the pickiest eater, but he loved these!

  37. […] I come back after my hiatus making a recipe from here: Turkey Meatball Sub […]

  38. I use hotdog buns for meatball subs too. They do not look as nice in my pictures though :)

  39. […] Sneaky Meatball Subs  Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrPinterestStumbleUponLinkedInEmailDiggRedditPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged food, healthy eating, healthy life, healthy-living, recipe […]

  40. Traci 09.05.2012

    I am making these for the big Iowa/ISU game this weekend! Don’t tell my guests, I want them to eat the heck out of these before I tell them they’re actually healthy :) I’ve made them before and got busted while throwing the zucchini in, I’m making them ahead of time so no one knows what is in them!

  41. […] If my high school had done senior quotes in our yearbooks, I probably would have picked George Bernard Shaw’s adage, “There is no love more sincere than the love of food.” Eating is a spiritual experience and there is almost nothing better, to me, than an amazing meal.  […]

  42. […] Source: Iowa Girl Eats […]

  43. […] Meatballs (adapted from Iowa Girl Eats) Image from Iowa Girl […]

  44. […] or homemade meatballs – just make sure they’re cooked and hot. I made a batch of my Sneaky Meatballs using 90/10 beef instead of turkey while the squash was roasting!Top the meatballs with 1/4 cup […]

  45. Natalie 10.19.2012

    These look so yummy! Super excited that I will be able to bake these meatballs especially since have a one year old and my cooking time is limited to when he naps. Thank you!

  46. Samantha 10.22.2012

    Made these for dinner last night & they were amazing! Very moist & no one noticed the zucchini until I told them after they raved about how good it was :)

  47. Alyssa 10.24.2012

    I made these tonight and served over linguine with your Best Tomato Sauce. It was delicious, even though the pieces of zucchini weren’t very hidden! I wasn’t won over by the Best Tomato Sauce until I had it again the next day, when all the flavors had a chance to mellow out together (I chopped the onion and left it in the sauce because we love onions!).

  48. Morgan 11.14.2012

    These were amazing, I made them for dinner tonight! They have so much flavor and the zucchini keeps them really moist and juicy. I will definitely be making these again, thanks so much for the post!

  49. Brie 12.20.2012

    I’d call you crazy, but…I sneak zucchini into my turkey burgers and everyone says they’re the best!!

    Juicy burgers each and every time!

  50. Yum yum YUM! I am definitely pinning this recipe!

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