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!
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.
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?
The Best Dipping Sauces For Chicken Zucchini Poppers:
TIPS & TRICKS FOR THE BEST CHICKEN ZUCCHINI POPPERS:
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!
LOVE THESE CHICKEN POPPERS? YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE…
- Citrus Avocado Sauce (Paleo, Whole30)
- Buffalo Chicken Burgers (Paleo, Whole30)
- Healthy Beef & Broccoli (Paleo, Whole30)
- Paleo Slow Cooker Butter Chicken (Paleo, Whole30)
- Slow Cooker Paleo Beef Stew (Paleo, Whole30)
- The Perfect Paleo Meatballs (Paleo, Whole30)
- Paleo Chicken Lettuce Wraps (Paleo, Whole30)
Chicken Zucchini Poppers
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4–5 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)
- 2–3 green onions, sliced
- 3–4 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.
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
My teen age daughter is practicing her nascent kitchen skills and found this recipe for us to try. So easy, so healthy and SO GOOD!! Thank you! Plus, that Citrus Avocado dipping sauce is out of this world! I think I could just eat it on toast!
Oh, I’m so glad you liked it! I agree about that avocado sauce. I seriously put it on EVERYTHING!!!
Hi What is the green dip made of?
Anne – It’s the Citrus Avocado Dip I linked right above the recipe in the “You Might Also Like” section. 🙂
I’ve made this recipe so many times; always a crowd pleaser, especially for my picky little boys.
Oh, I’m SO GLAD! Thank you so much for sharing this with me!
Thank-you so much for this recipe.
It was delicious.
Will definitely make them again.
I’m so glad! They’re one of our all-time favorites!
Would I be able to substitute yellow squash for The zucchini?
Yes, I’d think so! So long as the yellow skin is still soft and tender. If it’s a fairly hard yellow squash, you’d want to peel it first. 🙂
I am new to eating clean and just made these for the first time. I have pretty decent sized balls, for me it’s about 2-3 bites, and got 24 on the sheet with mixture leftover. It’s quite yummy before cooking it, so I’m thinking throw it onto some GF bread or something. I should have a few left to freeze for another time. Thank you so much for all of your amazing ideas, I can’t wait to try more of them!
I enjoy these so much.
In the “Nutrition” section, it says 13g of Fat; is this mostly from the oil used during frying/baking?
Colette – Thanks for your comment! I’ve been slowly updating my nutrition facts (I just switched recipe plugins) and it looks like the old one was a big off. My current nutrition software calculates this as 10g fat. Some of that is from the olive oil for cooking. If you’re baking them, they’re lower fat. 🙂
I am new to eating clean and just made these for the first time.
I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
This recipe sounds good. I wonder how they would turn out in the air fryer…
Several people have made them in the air fryer and posted pics! They look amazing! I don’t have one, so I’m sorry I can’t give you a suggested cook time.
I made these this weekend! I baked them, flipping halfway through and used the broiler for just a minute. Didn’t use the cilantro, not a fan, and did use the cumin. Huge hit with everyone. I was the only one in the house doing Whole30 and had to fight my way through to get a couple.
YAY! I love hearing this!!!
So yummy! Doubled recipe and ate the extra for lunch through the week. Will definitely make again! Thanks for the recipe!
YAY! I’m so glad you enjoyed them!
Have you or anyone you know used an air fryer to make this? I’m curious! Thanks!!
I haven’t, but that sounds like a great option! (I believe another reader has tried it, but I’m not sure about how long/settings, etc.) If you give it a try, I’d LOVE to know how it goes!
Hi, I pinned this recipe but it was removed due to copyright issues. Do you not allow users to pin your recipes on Pinterest?
Angela – I’m sorry for any confusion! I LOVE when readers pin and share my recipes. It’s my favorite!
In this case, there were several websites using that particular photo and pretending like it was theirs. To remove the stolen content from Pinterest, they had to remove all instances of that particular photo. That shouldn’t happen again!
Thanks Emily! I love your recipes!
I have made these several times. Everyone I have ever made them for absolutely loved them. The avo sauce is amazing as well. Great combination. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us ❤️
That’s so wonderful to hear! I’m SO glad you love them as much as we do!
Thank you for this recipe! It’s one of our Friday night favorites. Also, the leftover tots taste great crumbled up in a tortilla with taco fixings and that amazing avocado sauce too! We also occasionally add jalepeno to the tots and they’re just so delicious!
Barbara – I’m SO glad! That leftovers idea sounds amazing!
These are amazing! My toddler son has several life threatening allergies (dairy, egg, peanut, almond) and we have had these a few times since we discovered them last month, we love pan fried and baked! We decided these will be our “party food”!!
We have a vacation coming up, and I was curious if you think these would be good after cooked and chilled to throw in a cooler and eat them from a cooler? We won’t have access to a microwave at the airport or Disneyland. Thanks!
Heather – I’m so glad you love them! I often eat the leftovers cold! I love them, and I do think they could work from a cooler. I hope you have an amazing trip to Disneyland!!!