chicken & zucchini poppers (gf, df, Paleo, Whole30)

These Chicken Zucchini Poppers are squeaky clean, but not short on flavor! Gluten free, Paleo, and Whole30 friendly!
Chicken Zucchini Poppers (Paleo, Whole30 approved) // One Lovely Life

Have you heard of Whole30? I first heard about it a few years ago when the book It Starts With Food came out. In essence, Whole30 is a chance to reset your body by eating squeaky clean for 30 days, giving you a chance to see if you have any latent food sensitivities, break any food addictions or unhealthy patterns you may have, clear up any food-related inflammation or and to start fresh.

Well, it’s making a comeback. Several great bloggers are in the middle of theirs (Jenna of Small Fry is one of my faves), so I’ve seen a huge resurgence of healthy recipes floating about the web. We aren’t on a Whole30, but we eat pretty darn clean most of the time. I’ve loved the huge variety of inspiration out there lately! These Chicken & Zucchini Poppers are delicious, and while they may be squeaky clean, they don’t skimp on flavor.

 

Chicken Zucchini Poppers (Paleo, Whole30 approved) // One Lovely Life     Chicken Zucchini Poppers (Paleo, Whole30 approved) // One Lovely Life

First off: Michael H-A-T-E-S zucchini. Hates the texture, doesn’t like the flavor. BUT he loves these. Really loves them. Enough that he always asks when we can make them again. If you’re a zucchini hater, you should still give these a try! Grated, you don’t really get much of the squash texture, and they keep the meatballs nice and tender and juicy. So if you’re a zucchini hater, don’t hesitate to give these a try!

We LOVE them. They’d make great game-day food for something lighter or a great addition to a buffet table. We love them for dinner with a little dish of guacamole for dipping and some sweet potatoes and fruit on the side. Not a guacamole fan? No problem. They’d be great with salsa or ranch. If you’re not gluten free, they’d be awesome in a pita. (p.s. anyone have a good GF pita recipe?)

I can’t wait to try other versions–swapping basil for the cilantro and maybe adding a bit more garlic for an Italian-ish version (might be dynamite with marinara).

What are you eating, craving, and loving lately? Any great recipes, blogs, or instagrammers you want to share?

UPDATED NOTE: Several of you have asked if you can bake these rather than pan fry them. I’ve included directions for baking them below. 

Chicken Zucchini Poppers (Paleo, Whole30 approved) // One Lovely Life

4.9 from 16 reviews
Chicken & Zucchini Poppers (GF, DF)
 
Author:
Serves: 4-5
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast
  • 2c grated zucchini (leave peel on)
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 3-4 Tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • (optional: ¾ tsp cumin)
  • olive oil, for cooking (or coconut oil, avocado oil, or ghee)
Instructions
  1. Toss chicken with zucchini, green onion, cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper (and cumin, if using). Mixture will be quite wet.
To cook on the stovetop:
  1. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Use a small scoop or a heaped tablespoon to scoop meatballs into the pan. Cook 8-10 at a time for about 5-6 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown and the centers are cooked through.
To bake:
  1. Drizzle a bit of olive or avocado oil onto a baking sheet. Scoop meatballs onto the greased pan. Drizzle a bit of additional oil over the meatballs. Bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through. If desired, place under the broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes or until browned on top.
  2. Serve with guacamole, salsa, or your favorite dip.

 

Comments

  1. Momma Lynn says

    Ooolala These sound very tempting in all the varieties you describe! (That small bowl of guacamole is calling my name…)

  2. Cynthia says

    Yum! I even have ground chicken in my freezer…I am adding this to my menu this week with the sweet potato not fries.

    • Cynthia says

      Just wanted to say…so good! Made these tonight and really liked them – only one of my kids ate them but hey the others may come around at some point :) I think next time I may try and Italian variation with marinara sauce.

  3. Jade says

    These sound so good Emily. I’ll have to see if I can get the rank and file to eat them. Lol.

    I always make my regular (turkey) meatballs with a ton of shredded zucchini and carrot in them and use oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs. They turn out fabulous. The kids love them and it’s nice to know that there is something good in there for them. I’m looking forward to giving these a try and seeing how it goes. I’m thinking of putting them in a sandwich with some marinara like a chicken parmesan sandwich.

  4. Carly says

    I made these last night – (I did omit the cilantro because I am not a fan), but while I was cooking them (and the noodles for spaghetti- cause that was the direction i was headed) They smelled Asian-y to me -soooo I threw some carrots, and more zucchini in the pan tossed it all with teriyaki sauce and some cooked ramen noodles, and oh my gosh- newest quick healthy dinner plan.

    Thanks for the versatile recipe-so excited to try other versions…

  5. jess h says

    Just stumbled upon your site!! So excited to see a new blog that follows my proper eating habbits! Also if you are looking for a good GF blog, http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/ is my lifesaver!! She has a book called baked bread and is a lifesaver for me! The ingredients are pricey to start, You use a whey protein isolate which contains some dairy) but once you have them pretty easy to maintain! Homemade bread is awesome! Can’t wait to keep exploring, and make these for dinner tomorrow night!

  6. Marjory Leidy says

    Emily, these look fabulous. My husband hates any kind of vegetable except green beans. Would love to get him to eat these – will never tell him what’s inside. Any idea about the calories, fat, protein, etc. in this dish?

    • emily says

      Marjory – My husband HATES zucchini and loved these. Fingers crossed that your husband does too! As for the nutrition information, click the “recipe magic – get nutrition info” button right above the recipe and you’ll be taken to see it’s estimated nutrition facts. Happy eating!

    • Tabitha says

      My husband hates turkey and he ate these. I did the recipe as written except for the ground turkey substitution. My nephew doesn’t love veggies, but he really liked these. I’m thinking of putting a paleo crust and calling it a nugget. It’s yummy and moist with no mystery ingredients. Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Erin says

    These look SO yummy! Wondering if these can be frozen for reheating?? Hoping I can make ahead for easy lunches…

    • emily says

      Erin – I haven’t tried freezing them, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t freeze well. Most meatball recipes I’ve tried do great in the freezer. If you do freeze them, please let me know how they work for you!

  8. Donna says

    These are AWESOME and so easy to make……thanks for recipe…..I will be making them again and again

  9. Ashlynn says

    I remixed this recipe, I used ground turkey instead of chicken. Substituted cucumbers for jalapeños added feta cheese to the mix and pan fried small meat balls in olive oil until browned. Oh my goodness was it delicious paired with some tortellini’s and pasta sauce.

  10. cindy says

    Do you put A chicken breast in food processor and. Ground it?. Can’t find ground chicken breast. Or will ground turkey roll work?

    • emily says

      Cindy – I buy pre-ground chicken breast, but when I can’t find it, I just put a chicken breast in my food processor. Try not to puree it too much. You want there to still be some texture. If it’s too smooth, your meatballs might be too wet. If you prefer, you can use ground turkey. I just find ground turkey to have a stronger flavor.

  11. Micki says

    These look delicious, but I will have to substitute the chicken with something vegetarian. My question is why does it say 21 day diet?

    • emily says

      Laura – Sure! Just click on the “Recipe Magic – Get Nutritional Info” button right before the text of the recipe. Hope that helps!

      • Torie says

        Just made these and they’re almost gone! So yummy :) I also love that the nutritional info is provided but wanted to ask …how many poppers would you consider a “serving”? I used a cookie scooper and was able to get 33 meatballs. Thanks!

        • emily says

          Great! I’m so glad you liked them. I made slightly bigger meatballs (I get between 20-25 each time), so for me, I divide that among 4-5 people. Each person gets 4-5 meatballs. My husband is a bigger eater than me and the kids, so it depends on what you like. The whole recipe is designed to feed 4-5 people, so I’d just divide the meatballs (6-8 meatballs per person). Hope that helps!

    • emily says

      Karen – I have no problem cooking them in olive oil or avocado oil, but if you prefer baking them, I’m sure you could. I don’t have a time or temperature for you, since I’ve never baked them. If you do try baking them, I’d love to know what you think!

    • Lydia says

      I used a muffin tin and baked them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. They came out perfect, not dry at all. I recommend using a little cooking spray on the bottom of each tin to keep them from sticking. I actually prefer the baked version to the fried one but they were both good! I added a little chopped mushrooms to mine because I like mushrooms.

      • emily says

        Lovely! I’m so glad you shared this. I have a mini muffin tin and had thought about trying them this way. Thank you so much for the feedback!

  12. Tonya says

    Ok.. So my husband (Mr. Meat and Potatoes man) and my 16 month Son (very picky eater) Love these. I could not cook them fast enough. They were on the floor in the living room popping them back and playing and coloring on the floor… *(however, I can get them veggies in them works for me). I LOVED THEM! a small salad with them and we were good to go! Thank you for sharing!

  13. Brian says

    May I ask a somewhat stupid question…. does one skin/peel the zucchini prior to grating, or just grate it whole?

    • emily says

      Brian – Not a stupid question at all! I keep the skin on. If it bothers you, you’re welcome to peel it. I think it’s pretty, and most of the nutrition is in the skin.

  14. JOAN E says

    I am going to try these with turkey burger since that is what I have plenty of , Wondering if baking these would be better for us then frying them in a pan of oil.
    Thank you for the great recipe. I am excited to see what the ladies at work will say about them. We have weight watchers tomorrow. Going to take them to try. :)

    • emily says

      Baking would reduce the fat content, but will change the texture somewhat. I don’t worry about cooking with healthy oils. These meatballs are not deep fried, and if you use a nonstick pan (cast iron, enameled, etc) you don’t need much oil at all! I wish you all the best trying the recipe!

  15. Natalie says

    I saw these on a shared link on FB and I knew I had to try them! I made them per ingredients listed. As for the cooking the only thing I did different was I browned them for about 3 mins on each side. Then I baked them in a Pyrex for about 20 mins on 350. They were perfect! Not dried out at all like I feared they would be. They were crispy on the outside and nicely moist on the inside. These are Delicious! A huge hit here at my house in GA. Thank you for this recipe!

  16. Rebecca says

    They don’t have ground chicken here in Panama. Can you use ground beef instead? They don’t have zucchini here very often for that matter — if you find it, it is imported. I will have to stock up next time I see some at the store, and then shred it and freeze it.

    • emily says

      Rebecca – I haven’t tried the recipe with ground beef. I think you could try it. If you have access to chicken and a food processor, you can make it yourself. I pulse the chicken until it’s pretty finely ground, but not a puree. It works great! I hope you’re able to find what you need!

    • Mandy says

      I tried these today and only had ground pork on hand. And they were delicious! ! My picky toddler gobbled them down. I dipped them in guacamole and had some sauteed squash and zucchini on the side YUM!

  17. Mary Beth says

    Major problem with this recipe… I made it to take to a friend’s house for a potluck – and I’m realllllly struggling not to just sit down and pig out on these! SOOOO good! made some minor changes – but don’t we all? These are a new favorite – please let me know if the other commenter ever gave you feedback on how well they freeze – because if they freeze well I’m making a double-batch just for that purpose! THANKS!

    • emily says

      I’m SO glad you liked them! If anyone tries freezing them, I’ll let you know! They’ve never lasted long enough for us to freeze any :)

  18. Diana says

    The nutrition info states 4-5 servings, which would appear to be more “patty” sized, like your second two photos. Any idea how many small poppers (as pictured in the first photo) this makes?

    • emily says

      Diana – I’ve been able to get about 20-25 poppers out of the recipe. The 4-5 servings is 4-5 poppers per person. Hope that helps!

      • Eileen @ Phoenix Helix says

        I’m so glad you linked up. You were the reader favorite, and I’m featuring your recipe at this week’s roundtable, which just went live tonight. If you have any other AIP recipes, please feel free to join us again. I host the roundtable every week.

        • Barb C says

          I just made these last night from the roundtable link, and they were FABULOUS! My husband hates zucchini, and DEVOURED these, as did I. I used parsley instead of cilantro because that’s what I had on hand, and I did use cumin which was absolutely delicious. Making again – maybe even today!!

          • Barb C says

            Also – I used chicken thighs that I ground up in the food processor. Worked really well.

  19. Kelly says

    This is the best new recipe that I’ve made in a long time. Yum, yum, yum. They were a lot juicier than I expected. I’ll definitely be making this again.

  20. Pattie says

    Emily, you asked about a good GF pita recipe. Try myheartbeets.com . She has some amazing recipes. I just made her 3 Ingredient Paleo Naan, which I am sure you could use as pita. It was good. Although I really like it warm, I did eat some cold and it was ok. Thanks for this recipe. Will try it asap. Always looking for clean food recipes for this big family.

  21. Dana Dagate says

    Can you make ahead and freeze?
    Should you make and freeze prior to cooking or after cooking.
    I would like to prep them today, because will be working the rest of the week.
    So try to get things prepared when have a minute to spare and not at 8 when I get home from work and kids activities.
    Thanks

    • emily says

      Dana – I’d fully cook them and then freeze them. That way, you just need to thaw them, heat and eat! I hope you like them!

  22. Kate C. says

    I doubled the recipe, made them into burger sized patties, pan fried each side, then baked to finish. They were delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe! I’ll definitely be making this again.

  23. DeeDee says

    Hello, I started AIP this week after a diagnosis of RA. I’ve been paleo for awhile so it wasn’t a huge transition, but making meals for myself and separate meals for my family is getting tedious! We made an agreement that we would start this week with everyone joining me in one AIP meal a week with the hopes of gradually increase my “kid friendly” recipe stash. This was the recipe I chose for our first family meal. What a hit. My junk food junky teenager said they were awesome. I just wanted to say thanks and I look forward to introducing more of your recipes to my kids. DeeDee

  24. Cindy says

    These are delicious! This is the second time I have made them using ground turkey and this time I made a double batch so that I can freeze a few (that is if I don’t eat them all first). The first time I made these I served them to my non Paleo family and they loved them. I topped them with quacamole but I also love to eat them cold and plain. Thank you for this recipe, it is a keeper!!

  25. Kelly says

    Dinner was a big hit tonight! I substituted ground turkey for the ground chicken and served these with salsa and guacamole. The kids said that we need to have this every week. I told them if they were really good to me maybe these would show up in their lunch boxes. We’ll see!

  26. Christy says

    I made these and they were great! I do have one suggestion though. I think you should add that the zucchini should be squeezed in a cloth after grating it to remove some of the excess moisture. Mine were so wet that I had to add bread crumbs. Luckily I’m not on paleo yet, so it was fine, but next time that’s what I’m going to do. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Cheers!

    • emily says

      Christy – Thanks for your feedback, and sorry you had some trouble! In my experience, they’re wet going into the pan, but the excess liquid cooks out while they’re cooking. I never squeeze out my zucchini. Maybe anyone that has the same problem will find some help in your solution, though. Thank you for sharing!

  27. Susan says

    Wanted to send along a quick thank you for this recipe. Just made these and was very pleased with how moist they are! The zucchini addition is genius (I did squeeze out just a bit of the zucchini moisture with a paper towel, but not much). I served mine with an Asian-style dipping sauce made with tamari, rice vinegar and chili oil, very tasty. Thank you for a helpful addition to my menu rotation. :)

  28. Paula Johnson says

    Awesome~ I made these this evening for my husband and I with squash and corn on the cob. Great flavor, they really need nothing to dip them in. I thought for sure my husband would wrinkle his nose at the turkey factor (didn’t have ground chicken), but they smelled so good, neither of us could wait to dig in. Bonus there was enough left to add to the left over spaghetti squash for two lunches this week! Lucky me!

  29. Sara says

    I also have a zucchini hating husband who likes these poppers. I have made them several times and love the recipe. Several times I have packed them to take with me when I am out and about and have eaten them cold and love them that way too. Thanks for a great recipe!

  30. Jena Lowry says

    Made them tonight with ground turkey served over Fettuccine & Alfredo…DELICIOUS!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  31. Harlow says

    Made these tonight with turkey mince (since it was what I had in the fridge). Served with home made low carb blue cheese dressing. Was delicious!

  32. Ri says

    These look amazing! I can’t wait to try them, but most likely with ground pork. Anything with cilantro in it has to be good! ^^

  33. Margaret says

    Made these for dinner tonight exactly as written and they were a success! I found that two (large/soup) spoons worked well for scooping them into the pan. I could use the spoons to shape them into neat rounds and tidy up any trailing strands of zucchini. I started out with a regular (non-non-stick) skillet liberally coated with coconut oil but found that even after allowing them to brown quite well, they really stuck to the pan, so I switched to a non-stick pan for the rest. With sides of guacamole, roasted cubed sweet potatoes, and roasted kale these made a great dinner!

  34. Simone Edwards says

    I made these today and they taste great but mine were boiling in zucchini juice for a long time before they started frying . Otherwise they were very good .

  35. Melissa Romano says

    these make me think of the inside of a potsticker… thinking of adding some fish sauce and seeing if i can put an asian spin on them

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Rate this recipe: