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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. made these for the first time just now and…WOW! So Good!!! grated the onions and cilantro along with the zucchini in the food processor to save a couple of steps and squeezed out as much liquid as i could before adding chicken and spices. these would be great with tazikki too! thanks so much for the great recipe!!!

    1. A food processor makes this such an easy dinner, doesn’t it? I’m so glad you enjoyed them! Here’s to many happy meals in the future!

  2. I made these for my family last night…BIG hit and so tasty…WOW! Is all I can say and no processed sauces etc. so great! Thank you so much!

  3. I now make these once a week. My favorite!!! Thanks for the recipe. It wouldn’t let me select 5 stars tho!!!!

  4. These were awesome. I leave out the onions & garlic because I can’t have them. I also halved the salt and pepper because it was way too much the first time around.

    These are fantastic easy protein to eat cold while travelling. 🙂

  5. My husband popped one in his mouth and said “YUM” but as someone else said, it would not allow me to rate a 5

    1. Sandy – I have never baked them in a muffin pan, so I don’t think I could advise you well regarding cooking times. I do bake them on a cookie sheet lined with foil (I use a cookie scoop to scoop them into little “meatballs” on the baking sheet). You’ll see baking directions in the recipe, but I don’t have muffin pan baking times, I’m sorry. If you try them this way, I’d love to hear how they turned out!

  6. these little babies are IN.CRED.I.BLE!!! i made them a few months back and have thought of them often since. time to make them again. perfect to have in one’s whole30 arsenal. super YUM!!!

  7. Made these tonight into larger patties … so yummy and a great hit with the family! The mix was a bit wet so added a little flour. Highly recommend it though!

  8. Just made these, they are as good as they look! The cilantro really offsets the other ingredients, I love them. And the lime gives just enough of a kick to the dip . Easy, quick, and delicious. Thank you so much!

  9. I did not have ground chicken on hand tonight but I did have chicken sausage. I omitted the salt added flax seed meal and almond meal and they are delicious!

  10. You had me at cilantro and cumin! BTW, my family is gluten free, and I have been making my own pita flatbreads for about a year using an all purpose flour mixture that I got from the cookbook Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Nardone. She was editor in chief for Every Day with Rachael Ray, and it doesn’t hurt that she owned an Italian bakery in Brooklyn. I’ve used this flour mixture for about 3 years now in everything from pitas to carrotcake cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and homemade noodles. No one can tell the difference. My daughter took carrotcake cupcakes to work for a potluck,knowing that one of her coworkers was newly diagnosed with celiacs. No one believed her either. Namaste makes a pizza crust that is GF, and the moment you open the package, you smell the herbs.. it’s like a Tuscan crust that even our non gluten free friends devour! Looking forward to making these with guacamole, marinara, may be tzatziki?

    1. I just left the info on the GF flour mixture and pitas, and GF pizza crust as your original post asked for a GF pita, we’ve been on the GF quest for five years now, and can’t imagine going back. I guess we’re clean eaters, but all of us have decided if we can’t pronounce it, it doesn’t go in our bodies. It has served us well.

  11. I love love love these !! They are so good I can eat a whole batch by myself! So easy and healthy!!

  12. Great alternative to standard meatballs. I have lots of patients who don’t like ground beef for a number of reasons, I bet they would love this!

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