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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

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  1. I can tell by all the comments this recipe is a keeper! I’m making them tonight but I’m sick of cooking!! Can i throw all the ingredients together and call it a meatloaf? 🙂

    1. HA! I totally get it. I haven’t ever made them as meatloaf (so I’m not sure if it’d dry out with the added cook time), but I’ve done it as burgers (divide the mixture into 4-6 patties) and it goes really quickly!

  2. I love this recipe! I was thinking about using the recipe but instead of meatballs I was thinking chicken burgers. Have you tried grilling the chicken on a bbq?

    1. I’ve done them as burgers in a skillet and they’ve worked GREAT. I have no doubt they’d work on a bbq! You may want to grease it first 🙂

  3. Made these, and my husband loved, LOVED them. Asked when we were having them again.

  4. What a pleasure to try something new and have a huge hit. Fantastic recipe- these pair well as described with the avocado sauce or as others have noted, with Asian flavors- but they are also good straight up with a salad. Thanks for sharing a great recipe. 5 stars from me!!

  5. These are the most amazing flavor and simplest recipe ever. I actually added an extra cup of zucchini and my son who is only 11 ask me all the time to make this. It is the PERFECT combination of veggies and protein in one bite. It is now a weekly standard at our home.

  6. Came across this recipe and can’t wait to try it! Do you think these could be grilled if they were made into burger size?

    1. Erin – I haven’t tried them on the grill, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t work if you made them burger size. I’d love to know how they turn out for you if you try it! 🙂

  7. question — do I need to squeeze some of the water out of the grated zucchini before I add to other ingredients?? I plan to cook this morning for tonight’s dinner and I can’t wait to try these little poppers.

  8. These are great! Very easy to make and very delicious. I pulsed chicken breast and thighs in a blender to make my own ground chicken. I also added 1 egg and peeled the zucchini since the skin was too tough. I made these even more fun by adding 1/3 cup Frank’s hot sauce and omitting the cilantro to make these Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Poppers. I baked for 22 minutes, then broiled for 10 minutes.
    Thank you for a great and tasty idea to use up that fresh zucchini from the garden!

    1. Natalie – I haven’t used dried cilantro, but typically with dried herbs you use 1/3 the amount (so 1 tsp dried for every Tbsp fresh). Hope that helps!

  9. I used ground venison in place of ground chicken (solely because we have a lot of venison on hand) & they turned out amazing! So good! My family is not a fan of meatballs, but all we digging in to these. Great recipe!

    1. Franny – Honestly, you’ll just need to go with a different recipe. This is a chicken meatball recipe that uses zucchini as a filler, so there really isn’t a vegan substitute. You might like these Vegan Zucchini Fritters from my blogging friend Jessica, though!

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