This Porcupine Meatball recipe is a fun twist on the traditional meatball recipe. The tender meatballs are made with a combination of ground beef, white rice, and seasonings with fresh parsley, and they're cooked in a simple tomato sauce that packs a ton of flavor!
Table of Contents
This easy Porcupine Meatballs recipe is perfect for any day of the week; whether you're looking for a cozy meal or an easy weeknight dinner, this recipe has got you covered. It's quick, straightforward, and guaranteed to satisfy your cravings for classic comfort food with a touch of whimsy.
Porcupine Meatballs trace back to the era of the Great Depression, when home cooks needed to stretch their meals as far as possible on a very low budget. They added rice to the meat mixture to bulk it out, creating a filling dish that would feed the whole family for less.
The grains of rice also gave the meatballs their signature "porcupine" look, as the rice grains look like little porcupine quills when cooked and poking out of the meatballs.
It's become a beloved and classic comfort food that's been warming bellies and bringing smiles to dinner tables for generations, making it a timeless family recipe.
Why We Love This Recipe
- Easily change up the kind of meat, rice, or seasonings used to change the flavor of this dish.
- Most of the ingredients used are pantry staples, so it's great for last-minute dinner decisions!
- You can make this recipe ahead of time or have it fresh and on the table in just over an hour, making it perfect for busy weeknights for the whole family.
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Lean Ground Beef - Lean ground beef is the base of your meatballs, providing rich flavor and protein.
- Rice - Long grain rice gives the meatballs their "porcupine" look and adds a delightful texture.
- Egg - It acts as a binder, holding your meatballs together during cooking.
- Onion - A freshly chopped onion will add a great savory flavor, moisture, and even a subtle sweetness to the meat mixture.
- Salt & Pepper - Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt will enhance the natural flavors of the dish.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder - They both contribute depth and savoriness to the meatballs.
- Worcestershire Sauce - This brings a tangy, umami-rich dimension to both the meatballs and the sauce.
- Parsley - Freshly chopped parsley adds a burst of color and fresh flavor; divide between the meatballs and garnish.
- Oil - I use canola oil for browning the meatballs, ensuring they get that delicious crust.
- Condensed Tomato Soup - Forms the base of the sauce, enveloping the meatballs in a creamy tomato embrace.
- Broth - Adds a depth of flavor to the rich tomato sauce.
- Brown Sugar - Just a touch will balance the acidity of the tomato and add a hint of sweetness to the sauce.
How to Make This Recipe
- Mix meat and egg. Place the ground beef and egg in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add onions and rice. Then put the onions and rice into the bowl and mix until just combined.
- Season the meatballs. Add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley and mix.
- Form meatballs and cook. Make meatball mixture into even-sized balls (about 2 tablespoons each or 1½ inches in diameter). Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs to the pan and turn them every 1–1½ minutes through all sides.
- Make sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Add sauce to meatballs and cook. When the meatballs are all browned, pour the sauce over them. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 35–40 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is tender. Top the meatballs with the remaining parsley and serve hot.
The meatballs are done when they are no longer pink in the center and the rice is tender. They will reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) when they're fully cooked.
Definitely! After browning, place the meatballs in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over them. Cook on low for 6–8 hours or on high for 3–4 hours.
Yes! Prep this easy dinner by making the meatballs and storing them, uncooked, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before cooking them in the delicious tomato sauce! Store the meatballs in a single layer, or place a piece of parchment paper between the layers to prevent them from sticking together.
Once your cooked meatballs have fully cooled to room temperature, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For longer storage, porcupine meatballs can be frozen. Place them in a freezer-safe airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Label the container with the date, and you can freeze them for up to 3 months.
Tips for Success
- Be careful not to overmix the meat or the meatballs will be tough.
- This recipe made 22 1.5-inch meatballs. You can make your meatballs smaller or larger, but you will need to adjust the cooking time.
- Work in batches when you're cooking your meatballs. Overcrowding the meatballs will prevent them from browning properly.
- The meatballs won’t be fully cooked after browning them. They will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Stir the meatballs gently when simmering, so they don’t break apart.
- This recipe uses raw long-grain rice. Other types of rice will alter the cooking time.
- I used a 10” cast iron skillet to simmer the meatballs, but a similar-sized pot would work as well.
How do I serve Porcupine Meatballs?
These meatballs would also work well with a salad like my Bacon Broccoli Salad.
You can use this easy meatball recipe with any other recipe that calls for meatballs - try them in my Cheesy Meatball Sliders, or in a hearty sub sandwich with leafy greens like arugula or Romaine lettuce, slices of tomatoes, and a sprinkle of grated Mozzarella on top! Check out my French Dip Sandwiches for some inspiration too!
Substitutions and Variations
- Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of beef for a lighter option if you prefer. You can also use ground pork for a different flavor if you have it. If you use leaner meat, you may want to add a little extra oil to keep the meatballs moist.
- You can use brown rice as a healthier option if you prefer, although it will require a longer cooking time. Instant rice can be used for a quicker cooking process but may not offer the same texture.
- Get creative with your seasonings and spices to change or enhance the flavor as you wish. Try using dried rosemary and thyme, basil, or Italian Seasoning in the meatball mixture to add more flavor.
More Easy Dinner Recipes
- Chicken Spaghetti Recipe
- Zuppa Toscana Soup
- Chessy Lasagna Soup
- Creamy Chicken Marsala
- Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- Chicken Stroganoff
- Poppyseed Chicken Casserole
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup long grain rice, uncooked
- 1 egg
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 1 (15-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set it aside.
- Place the ground beef, rice, egg, onions, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons of the parsley in a medium-sized bowl and mix until just combined.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat
- Form the meatball mixture into even-sized balls (about 2 tablespoons each or 1½ inches in diameter).
- Working in batches, add the meatballs to the pan and turn them every 1-1½ minutes to brown all sides.
- When the meatballs are all browned, pour the sauce over them. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 35–40 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is tender.
- Top the meatballs with the remaining parsley and serve hot.
- Storage: Once your cooked meatballs have fully cooled to room temperature, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: For longer storage, porcupine meatballs can be frozen. Place them in a freezer-safe airtight container or a heavy-duty freezer bag. Label the container with the date, and you can freeze them for up to 3 months.