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Chicken Zucchini Poppers (Paleo & Whole30 Approved!)

Chicken Zucchini Poppers – My MOST POPULAR RECIPE EVER! These chicken zucchini meatballs are squeaky clean, but not short on flavor! Gluten-free, Paleo, and Whole30 friendly!

Chicken Zucchini Poppers with Citrus Avocado Dipping Sauce from 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 unhealthy patterns you may have, clear up any food-related inflammation and start fresh.

Well, it’s making a comeback. Several great bloggers are in the middle of theirs, 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.

Paleo Chicken Zucchini Poppers with Citrus Avocado Dipping Sauce from 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 some veggies and a little dish of guacamole or Citrus Avocado Sauce for dipping and some sweet potatoes or salad and fruit on the side. Not a guacamole fan? No problem. They’d be great with salsa or paleo ranch. If you’re not gluten free, they’d be awesome in a pita. (p.s. anyone have a good GF pita recipe?

Whole30 Chicken Zucchini Poppers with Guacamole from One Lovely Life


DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! Squeezing the liquid out of your zucchini is *really* important here. Why? Well, zucchini has a lot of moisture (which is one of the reason these poppers are so great), but if you don’t squeeze out some of that liquid, your meatballs/poppers will have a harder time sticking together and if you pan-fry them, you run the risk of them scorching and falling apart.

PAN-FRYING VS. BAKING. My favorite way to make these is to pan-fry them. I’m not using a ton of oil here–just enough to cover the bottom of the pan. I use my cast-iron skillet for a really nice browning effect and keep the heat on the low end. That will allow the poppers to brown while still allowing enough time for the centers to cook. Baking is *really* convenient and fast, so I do that plenty as well. Do whichever works for you!

TRY ONE OF THESE VARIATIONS! This recipe is an awesome base recipe. Over the years, people have made it with pork, beef, turkey…even venison! Use your favorite. I also list the cumin here as optional. It gives these a tex-mex flavor that’s great with salsa, ranch, and guacamole. BUT. You can also easily swap the flavors by switching the cilantro for basil to give these a Mediterranean vibe. They’re great with my favorite pasta sauce and noodles, or you can use parsley or dill for other flavor combinations!

CAN’T FIND GROUND CHICKEN? TRY THIS! I get ground chicken breast at Sprouts, but when it’s not in stock, I make my own by buying boneless skinless chicken breast (or thighs) and pulsing them in a food processor until it’s ground and no large pieces remain. It’s one extra step, but it works great!


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Paleo & Whole30 Chicken Zucchini Poppers from One Lovely Life

Chicken Zucchini Poppers

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 45 servings 1x


My MOST POPULAR RECIPE EVER! These chicken meatballs are squeaky clean, but not short on flavor! Gluten free, Paleo, and Whole30 friendly!


  • 1 lb. ground chicken breast (raw)
  • 2 c. grated zucchini (leave peel on and squeeze out some of the liquid with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel)
  • 23 green onions, sliced
  • 34 Tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 tsp cumin (optional)
  • Optional (if pan-frying): avocado oil, for cooking (or coconut oil, or ghee)


In a large bowl, mix together chicken, zucchini, green onion, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin (if using). Mixture will be quite wet. Scoop meatballs with a small scoop or heaped tablespoon and gently smooth with your hands. I can usually get around 20-24 poppers. You may be able to get more or less, depending on how large you size them.

To cook on the stovetop:
Heat a drizzle of oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Cook 4-5 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:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a bit of olive or avocado oil onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. If desired, place under the broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes or until browned on top.

Serve with guacamole, salsa, or your favorite dip.


CHICKEN: If you can’t find ground chicken breast, you can grind your own. Simply weight out 1 lb. chicken breast and pulse it in your food processor to “grind” until no large pieces remain. You can also easily substitute ground chicken thighs, ground turkey, ground pork, etc. Use what you like and what you can find!

ZUCCHINI: Don’t be tempted to skip drying out your zucchini a bit with a paper/kitchen towel. Zucchini has a lot of moisture, and if you don’t squeeze it out beforehand, your meatballs may stick more to the pan if you’re pan-frying and have a bit more trouble holding together during baking.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: main dish, appetizer, chicken
  • Method: stovetop, oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: chicken, chicken zucchini poppers, zucchini poppers, chicken meatballs, chicken recipes, gluten free, whole30, paleo

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


  1. These sound amazing and I will definitely be making these as soon as I can get to the market! My question is: how do they not fall apart without the use of binding agents such as bread crumbs and egg?

    Thanks again! I love your site and have subscribed!

    1. Loreen – Great question! It’s the zucchini! Be sure to squeeze out any extra liquid and then it helps bind everything together. We’ve made these loads of times and love them!

  2. I love these! Have made them several times and my toddler likes them too. I’m having baby#2 soon and wanting to make some freezer meals and think these would be great to have on hand. Any recommendations for freezing? Bake then freeze (microwave to heat up), or freeze as patties and then bake from frozen?

    1. Congratulations on Baby #2! These are a great freezer meal. I cook them completely then freeze them for 30-45 minutes on a baking sheet (or plate) lined with parchment paper. This will allow them to harden without sticking to each other. Then, transfer them to a freezer bag or airtight container, and you can pull out as many or as few as you like!

  3. I’m doing a Whole30 and made these Sunday and LOVE them! So do my family – they ate all of the ones I had in the refrigerator so I had to pull out some of the ones I had frozen to take for dinner yesterday to work. I doubled the recipe and did 3 cups of shredded zucchini and one cup of shredded carrot. I didn’t have to squeeze out the liquid from the zucchini doing it that way – the carrot seemed to help soak it up! I also used regular yellow onion that I sauteed for a little while in olive oil first (my husband hates raw onion). Last night I ate them with some homemade marinara sauce and they were AMAZING! I will definitely be making these again!

  4. I Made these today for my family and they were amazing ! looking forward to more recipes I will try from this site ! thank you .

  5. Made these tonight. Super easy and tasty! I just served them with a side of veggies, but kept thinking how good they’d be with a marinara or in a lettuce wrap. Even passed the recipe along to my sister

  6. Made these last night and we all LOVED them!!! We made them with ground turkey because it was what we had. We’ll try them with chicken next time. We have been looking for a way to eat more guacamole, and this was perfect! All six of us have been doing Whole30, and on our Day 20, we were definitely grateful for such a fantastic recipe! Thanks so much! This is now a favorite.

  7. So excited to try this recipe! I love to make meatballs (I bake them in a mini muffin tin which is amazingly easy to make enough for the freezer). I am trying to expose my step kids to healthy foods but get a turned up nose when it comes to veggies. Love hiding them in recipes that they love then having them help me make them to discover that they have been eating them! Sometimes we need to be sneaky!

  8. These were amazing – thank you for the recipe! I took your suggestion and made them with basil instead of cilantro. I also doubled the garlic and used 3/4 tsp. of dried oregano in place of the cumin. Dipped them in Whole30 compliant marinara and they were to die for! Thanks again 🙂

  9. These were really delicious! I loved the cilantro and mine only took 20 minutes in the oven. I used 2 large zucchini and only pressed out a little water. I loved how they didn’t need an egg or breadcrumbs at all. They didn’t stick to the pan and were so easy to make! I may add chopped jalapeño or lime juice next time but this recipe is perfect. I served it with sweet potatoes and peas but they are so versatile, you could serve them lots of ways! Great recipe!

  10. Hi, Emily! Thanks so much for this recipe! I made these tonight and doubled the recipe with a result of 40 Poppers total. I did wring out the zucchini, used the optional cumin and did broil for 2 minutes after baking for 26 minutes. BTW – no issues with sticking as I greased the tinfoil lined baking sheet with olive oil and allowed the Poppers to cool completely before simply removing with a spatula. Absolutely amazing! Saved in my “Favorites” folder on Pinterest 🙂

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