Learn how to make juicy chicken piccata meatballs! A fun twist on an Italian classic. These meatballs are filled with flavor from lemon, tangy capers, and fresh basil. It’s a restaurant-worthy dish that you can make quickly at home!
If you’re familiar with Italian chicken piccata, then you will love this version of it! It has all the same flavors from the classic recipe, just reimagined into meatball form.
What is chicken piccata? If you’ve never had chicken piccata, it’s a popular Italian chicken recipe that is made with three main ingredients – chicken (also sometimes fish or veal), lemon, and capers! The chicken is dredged in flour, cooked on the stovetop, and simmered in a sauce made with butter, lemon, and capers.
Why I Love This Recipe
IT’S AN ITALIAN CLASSIC. Piccata is a classic Italian cooking, even in meatball form. If you’re a lemon and capers fan, you will love this dish!
A FUN TWIST. I have to say, I love making chicken piccata into meatballs the most! The meatballs are tender, juicy, and made with the perfect balance of breadcrumbs, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese. It’s a fun and delicious spin on using chicken breasts like a traditional piccata.
ELEVATED FLAVORS MADE EASY. Another reason to love this recipe is how easy and approachable it is! This dish uses simple ingredients and instructions to create an impressive and elevated dinner that will wow your family & friends.
This recipe uses traditional chicken piccata ingredients, the only difference is adding breadcrumbs and an egg to bind the meatballs together! Below you’ll find the full list of ingredients, plus some ingredient substitutions if needed.
- Ground chicken – instead of chicken breast (or veal) for classic piccata, this recipe uses ground chicken!
- Capers – these tangy, salty gems are actually flower buds from a caper bush. They add a lot of flavor, but they can be quite salty! So I recommend rinsing them under water before using them in the recipe.
- Lemon – both the lemon zest and juice are used for bright flavor.
- Garlic – and lots of it! Fresh garlic is used in the meatballs and the lemon sauce. This aromatic is essential for developing flavor in a piccata. If you prefer not to use garlic, you can also swap for shallots instead!
- Basil -most traditional piccata recipes use fresh Italian parsley, but I think fresh basil adds more flavor (and it’s my go-to herb for any Italian dish). You can of course use fresh parsley instead! But only use fresh herbs in these meatballs, not dried ones.
- Flour– this is to help thicken the lemon sauce. Only a little is used, and to make it a little healthier I use white whole wheat flour.
- Fresh parmesan cheese – this salty Italian cheese gives flavor and tenderness to the meatballs. We also like to dust it over the meatballs when we serve them!
- Breadcrumbs – are used for binding the meatballs together! I use homemade breadcrumbs with healthier bread, but you can also use store-bought panko breadcrumbs too.
- Egg – for binding the meatball ingredients together.
- Butter & oil – I like to use a blend of both butter and olive oil for browning the meatballs and making the lemon sauce!
- Broth – the chicken broth is used for the base of the lemon sauce, but you can also use a combination of white wine and chicken broth.
How to Make Chicken Piccata Meatballs
Add the meatball ingredients to a bowl. In a large bowl add the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, lemon zest, capers, parmesan cheese, and egg.
Mix together. Then use a large spoon or rubber spatula to thoroughly mix together all of the mixture until completely combined.
Form the meatballs. First, prepare a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper. Then use a small cookie scoop or measure and form and roll into 2 inch meatball using your hands. Place meatballs on the sheet pan and repeat until the mixture is finished.
Brown the meatballs. In a pan on medium heat with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter, brown the meatballs for 3-4 minutes. Adjust the heat if the pan gets too hot. When the meatballs are browned all around, remove them from the heat onto a separate plate.
Make the sauce. Without cleaning it, use the same pan to make the sauce. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and sauté the minced garlic for about 30 seconds. Then add 1 Tablespoon of flour and add the chicken broth, lemon juice, capers, and salt. Whisk constantly until the sauce is smooth in consistency. Let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes until it thickens.
Add the chicken meatballs. When the sauce has thickened, add the meatballs and fresh basil. Stir together, then cover and let them cook in the sauce on a gentle simmer for about 8-10 minutes. The meatballs internal temperature should be 165F when ready.
Tips for Success
Always rinse capers. If you’re familiar with capers, then you know how salty they can be! Because they are soaked in a salty brine, rinse the capers with water before using them. This helps remove the extra salt but keeps the tangy flavor they naturally have.
Make it gluten-free. To make this recipe gluten-free friendly, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or my homemade breadcrumbs with your favorite GF bread. For the flour, you can either swap for a 1 to 1 gluten-free flour blend or leave out the flour completely and simmer the sauce a little longer to naturally thicken it.
Add some wine to the sauce. A lot of traditional piccata recipes use white wine for the sauce. I personally like to use chicken broth, but if you prefer to add wine I would use half chicken broth and half dry white wine (such as a pinot grigio).
Use a cookie scoop for measuring the meatballs. One of my favorite tools to use when making meatballs is a small cookie scoop. It measures the perfect amount and makes the process so much quicker! Just scoop and roll into a ball.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if the meatballs are cooked? Using a meat thermometer is the most accurate way. The meatballs are fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165F. To test without a thermometer, the center of the meatballs should be cooked and no longer pink when sliced in half.
What do I do if the sauce is too thick? Piccata sauce should be thick, but not too thick. Stir in extra broth to thin out the sauce consistency as needed.
Can I leave out the flour from the sauce? You can make the sauce without the flour, although it will be thinner in consistency. If you choose to not use flour, I would recommend simmering the sauce for 5-10 minutes longer to help naturally thicken it.
How long do leftovers keep? These meatballs can be kept chilled in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Can I freeze them? Yes, they are freezer-friendly! Add the cooked meatballs to a freezer-friendly container or ziplock bag with the sauce and freeze for up to 1-2 months.
What to Serve it With
Pasta. We love to serve these meatballs with pasta! Either regular wheat pasta, gluten-free, or whole wheat pasta. The lemon sauce goes perfectly drizzled over the top of it too, along with fresh parmesan cheese!
Vegetable noodles. For a low-carb option, you could also serve these meatballs with vegetable “pasta” noodles such as zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or carrot noodles!
Vegetables or salad. To keep things healthy, you can also serve them alongside roasted asparagus, cauliflower, or broccoli. You can also serve a bright salad such as our Tuscan artichoke salad, or my go-to Greek chickpea salad.
More Italian Recipes to Try
Chicken Piccata Meatballs
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup homemade breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons capers, rinsed & drained then roughly chopped
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Make the meatballs: First, in a large bowl use your hands or a utensil to mix together the meatball ingredients (not including the butter and olive oil).
- Form the meatballs: Next, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Then use a cookie scoop or measure enough for a 2-inch sized meatball and use your hands to roll it into a ball. Place the meatballs on the sheet pan and repeat until finished.
- Brown the meatballs: Then heat a saucepan with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil + 1 Tablespoon of butter. Place the meatballs in the pan and brown for about 3 minutes, then flip and brown for another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Once the meatballs are browned, transfer them onto a plate. Note: the meatballs will not be fully cooked yet, they will finish cooking with the sauce.
- Make the sauce: Without cleaning the pan use the same pan you cooked the meatballs in to make the sauce. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter and minced garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds, then add the flour and whisk the broth in with the flour, whisk constantly to smooth out the sauce. Then add the lemon juice, capers, and salt. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for about 5 minutes.
- Add the meatballs: When the sauce has thickened, stir in the fresh basil and meatballs. Cover and let simmer on low with the sauce for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve when the meatballs are fully cooked through and no longer pink (the internal temperature should be 165F).
- Serve: When the meatballs are done, serve with fresh parmesan cheese over top and additional basil if desired. Cheers!