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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

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…

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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

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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)

Instructions

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.

Notes

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

393 Comments

    1. Going to make these for meal preps for lunch next week!! And thank you for the ground chicken idea also!!

  1. Hi! Thank you for this recipe! This is one of our family favorites! We just got an air fryer and wonder if you have ever tried making them in one? Thank you!

    1. Kelly – You can serve them warm or room temperature. (I’ll even eat them cold from the fridge for leftovers, though I don’t recommend that for a party 😉

  2. Looks delicious! I have a whole chicken I cooked in order to make bone broth a couple of days ago. Can you use pre-cooked chicken in this recipe, and if so how would you adjust? Thank you

    1. You can totally skip it, or swap it out for another fresh herb. Lots of folks have made them with parsley with great results! (If you skip the cumin, you can also make them with basil for a Mediterranean vibe!)

  3. These were absolutely delicious. We topped them with homemade guacamole and restaurant style salsa. I will definitely be making these again soon.

  4. These are great! I love that they are quick and easy to make. I didn’t have any cilantro but added some dried oregano and basil. Baked them for about 14 mins at 400F. I dipped them in honey mustard but guac, like you suggested, would be fabulous too! Thanks!

  5. Oh my this was so delicious!!! This is the first time I’ve made ground chicken. I was unsure if it would work since I have a small food processor. I cut my defrosted chicken in large pieces and couldn’t believe I ended up with ground chicken! Woohoo!!! I baked the poppers in the oven and it was flavorful. Again another wonderful recipe!!! Thanks Emily!

    1. YAY! I’m so glad you liked it! (And I know what you mean about making your own ground chicken. It seems like it’d be super hard, but it’s so easy!)

  6. Oy. These were absolutely horrible. But it’s not you, it’s me. I didn’t know I hated ground chicken—I can not. However, I think these are a super healthy awesome frozen treat or supper treat for my dogs. I mean this in no offensive way at all. I’m always looking for fresh, human can-be-consumed treats for them! It wasn’t for me, but my dogs are super happy. Which gets you 5 stars !

  7. Love these soooo much! One of my faves and in my rotation. I now make a double batch so I can freeze and reheat. I’ve tried them fried in a pan and also baked – they are both amazing but I need less oil to bake them. I do NOT recommend an air-bake pan – that was a mistake. Ha! They were still good but no amount of broiling could get them a little browned and crispy.
    Thanks for the amazing recipe! 🙂

  8. I am so exited to make them right now. These are lovely and looking so delicious. Looking forward for more such recipes.

  9. I adjusted the recipe slightly for my own dietary needs, but they still came out delicious! This is definitely a keeper, thanks for sharing!

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