Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

What are some of your favorite comfort foods? To me there is something magic about the creamy comfort of risotto. This Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs takes two classics, decadent risotto and tender meatballs and combines them into one dish.

Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

With just a few basic ingredients and a couple of special spices, you will be on your way to a full sensory experience. A taste of the exotic has never been so easy!

The Spice of Life

There’s something about saffron that just makes me pause. Floral, aromatic, and delicate it has the ability to instantly elevate any dish. It’s truly a spice for the senses not only imparting flavor but infusing whatever it touches with a glorious marigold color.

Saffron comes from the delicate stigma and styles of the saffron crocus. When measuring saffron most recipes with call for a pinch of saffron or a specific number of threads. This isn’t a spice you measure out.

In addition to saffron, ras el hanout makes an appearance an appearance in this recipe for Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs. Ras el hanout is a spice blend that translates to “head of the shop”. Every mix is a little different however I am using Collected Foods Ras El Hanout.

Collected Foods Ras El Hanout includes paprika, allspice, mace, coriander, cinnamon, and turmeric among a handful of other spices. It brings warmth, a slight floral note from lavender, a little heat, and depth to these meatballs.

Breaking Down Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

While this dish may sound intimidating it couldn’t be easier. You can have the meatballs in the oven baking while you prepare the risotto. Let’s break it down step by step so you’re on your way to dinner success.

First, let’s start with the meatballs. I am using ground turkey for these, keeping them light while also not overpowering the risotto. When it comes to the perfect meatballs, regardless of the meat, the goal is always to keep them tender.

  • Don’t over work your meat mixture. Be gentle!
  • Do use a scoop or ice-cream scoop to equally portion out the meat. Even sizes mean they’ll cook evenly.
  • Bake your meatballs in the oven instead of pan frying them. This allows them to keep their shape, develop a beautiful crust, and remain moist inside. It’s also easier.
  • Use your favorite balsamic glaze for the sauce. This is a great shortcut to offer up big flavor.

Next up is the risotto portion of Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs. First, take a breath, there’s no need to be intimidated about risotto. It’s almost easier than cooking regular rice.

  • Always use arborio rice, or rice marked specifically for risotto. You want a short grained rice with a high starch content. As the rice slowly cooks that starch will turn the entire dish creamy and decadent.
  • Have warm water/broth on hand. You don’t want to add cold liquid to the rice. This also helps with the creamy texture.
  • Add the warm water/broth mixture one ladle at a time to the pot with the rice. Take your time and allow it to absorb a little before adding the next ladle, always stirring.
  • Don’t rush the process. The most difficult part of risotto is being patient and taking your time. That said, it takes less than 30 minutes so even taking your time this dish comes together quickly and easily.

Looking for more risotto inspiration? Make sure you check out my recipe for Honey Balsamic Shrimp with Creamy Risotto. Now let’s get cooking!

Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

Gluten Free Saffron Risotto with Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

Saffron perfumed risotto is topped with baked turkey meatballs hugged in a balsamic glaze.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 stock pots
  • Baking Sheet


Saffron Risotto

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced large
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • good pinch of saffron
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water

Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ras el hanout
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup oat milk
  • 1/2 cup Gluten Free panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup balsamic glaze


Saffron Risotto

  • Add the water and beef broth to a stock pot and heat over medium heat.
  • In a separate pot on medium heat, add the oil and onions. Sauté 2-3 minutes until fragrant and tender.
  • Add the rice and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes until the rice is beginning to toast.
  • Add the remaining ingredients stirring to combine.
  • One ladle at a time, at the warm beef broth/water mixture, stirring to combine. Keep adding until it's all in the risotto pot, continually stirring.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually until the liquid reduces and begins to thicken and become creamy. Turn heat to low.

Balsamic Turkey Meatballs

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking dish or baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Gently mix all of the ingredients except for the balsamic glaze together until just combined. Don't overmix.
  • Using a scoop portion out your meat mixture into balls.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until they are bronzed and the internal temperature reads 165.
  • Toss the cooked meatballs with the balsamic glaze.
  • Portion out the risotto and top with glazed meatballs. Enjoy!


Ground chicken can be substituted for the ground turkey. 
You can use your favorite Dairy Alternative in place of the oat milk.
Tried this recipe?Mention @TheSaltyCooker or tag #thesaltycooker!

One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    These meatballs were delicious and I love risotto period! Loved the flavor of the saffron, but the meatballs- y’all they were so good! Highly recommend this recipe!

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