Dinner, Fall, Meat/Poultry

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo

Meet your new favorite fall comfort meal: Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo. Juicy oven-baked chicken or turkey meatballs served over a creamy, rosemary-infused pumpkin orzo that comes together in one pot. It’s warm and cozy, optionally dairy free and easy enough to make on a weeknight!

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo

There’s kind of a good story behind this meatball and orzo recipe… I actually came up with it last year while I was living in a college dorm room. I didn’t have a kitchen, just a microwave and an airfryer. I was craving something cozy for fall so I managed to use my two appliances to make something almost identical to the photos in this blog post.

After I had made my dorm-room version, I sent the recipe to my mom who tested it in using an actual stove and oven. I posted the recipe to instagram and everyone LOVED it! It was one of my most popular recipes of the year and know one had any idea I had cooked/photographed it in my 200 square foot dorm room.

So, now that I’m moved into an apartment with a real kitchen (yay!), I decided to give this recipe the love it deserves and write a real blog post.

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo

How to make the best oven-baked meatballs

To make the Lemon Thyme Meatballs, you’ll start by sautéing shallots and garlic in a bit of olive oil. You’ll take half for the meatballs and leave the rest in the pan. This will later serve as the base for the pumpkin orzo.

Mix together the sautéed shallots/garlic with your choice of ground turkey or chicken thigh, thyme, lemon zest, breadcrumbs and salt. Use oiled hands to roll the mixture into balls and place on a sheet pan. Bake the meatballs until they are golden brown and no longer pink in the center.

Creamy pumpkin orzo

While the meatballs bake, make the pumpkin orzo. This creamy pumpkin orzo recipe is honestly the best part of the meal. It uses that same shallot/garlic mixture as a base with fresh rosemary, pumpkin purée and chicken stock for added flavor and nutrients. I like to use full-fat coconut milk to make it creamy and dairy-free, but heavy cream is also a great option!

You’ll toast the orzo for a few minutes with the aromatics before pouring in the liquid and bringing everything to a boil. Cook the orzo over a medium flame, stirring every so often, until al dente and almost all the liquid is absorbed.

The pumpkin orzo will continue to thicken and absorb liquid as it cools, so make sure not to overcook it! You want a consistency similar to the one pictured below.

Pumpkin Orzo

Serve up your Lemon Thyme Meatballs and Pumpkin Orzo with a pinch of flaky sea salt and a lots of freshly ground black pepper.

For a heartier meal, add a roasted vegetable such as carrots, cauliflower or brussel sprouts. A simple side salad with a arugula and fennel is my favorite way to enjoy this recipe.

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Pumpkin Orzo

More fall recipes to try

Made this recipe? I would love to hear what you think in the review section down below! Also, make sure to tag @wandering_chickpea on Instagram with your creations and save this recipe on Pinterest for later!

Yield: 4 servings

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with Creamy Pumpkin Orzo

Lemon Thyme Meatballs with pumpkin orzo

Meet your new favorite fall comfort meal! Juicy oven-baked turkey or chicken meatballs served over a creamy, rosemary-infused orzo.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup dry orzo
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk or heavy cream
  • 1 rosemary stalk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lemon Thyme Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground turkey or chicken thigh
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • Zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt


    1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. 
    2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the shallot and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until translucent.
    3. Transfer half of the shallot/garlic mixture to a large mixing bowl, leaving the rest in the pot. To the mixing bowl, add the ground meat, bread crumbs, thyme, lemon zest and salt. Mix well to combine and roll out into 10-12 golf-ball sized balls. Place the meatballs on a sheet pan and bake for 14-16 minutes or no longer pink in the center.
    4. Return the pot to medium heat. Add the orzo and toast for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown.  Stir in the chicken stock, pumpkin purée, coconut milk, salt a few grinds of black pepper. Nestle in the rosemary stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 9-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Turn off the heat and let the orzo sit for 10 minutes to finish thickening.
    5. To serve, remove the rosemary stalk from the orzo. Serve warm with a few meatballs and garnish with more fresh thyme.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 786Total Fat: 41gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 170mgSodium: 725mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 48g

All nutritional info is an estimation

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a review below and tag @wandering_chickpea on Instagram!

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Pumpkin Chicken Curry - Wandering Chickpea

Leave a Reply