Porcupine meatballs are a healthy, simple and scrumptious dinner idea. This easy recipe features tender meatballs filled with long grain rice and covered with velvety, rich tomato sauce mixture. It's so effortless to make and something the whole family can enjoy! You can't go wrong with this classic comfort food.
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When I was a kid, my mom used to make us a version of this recipe often. I loved it so much and cutely referred to it as "porky pine meatballs." I loved the little "porcupine quills" sticking out of each sphere.
Mom's original recipe for these classic meatballs used Campbell's tomato soup, but my rendition is made with a tasty, rich tomato sauce derived from more whole food ingredients.
And it's seriously to die for!
If you love this recipe, be sure to check out my Ground Turkey Swedish Meatballs! They are equally delicious.
What To Serve With Porcupine Meatballs
I really appreciate how these delicious meatballs can be flawlessly paired with so many different sides. Try serving your meatballs with:
- Simple Oven Roasted Asparagus
- Roasted Broccoli And Cauliflower
- Roasted Beet & Goat Cheese Salad
- Cucumber Tomato Feta Salad
- Creamy Mashed Cauliflower
- Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
- Simple Garden Salad Recipe
- Green beans & mashed potatoes!
- Cheesy garlic bread or rolls
- Corn bread
And of course, I almost always spoon my meatballs over some fluffy brown or white rice. Cauliflower rice is also tasty and in carbs and calories.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Lean ground beef: ground turkey or chicken can be substituted.
- Rice: you'll want to use a long grain, white rice.
- Egg: including an egg in your meatball mixture will keep them from falling apart or turning out dry and crumbly.
- Seasonings: salt, ground black pepper, smoked paprika (regular also works), Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
- Tomato sauce: the base for our delicious sauce.
- Tomato paste: a little tomato paste makes a big difference.
- Heavy cream: half and half will also work, but I definitely prefer to use heavy cream whenever possible.
- Worcestershire sauce: adds major flavor!
- White wine vinegar: red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar will also work. I've also made this recipe without vinegar by mistake and it was still delicious, just not QUITE as flavorful.
- Chicken broth: or vegetable stock.
- Optional toppings: fresh chopped parsley leaves and parmesan cheese!
How To Make Porcupine Meatballs
Keep scrolling for the full recipe card and measurements. We’ll start here with a quick overview!
- Measure ground beef, egg, uncooked rice and spices into a large bowl.
- Mix until well incorporated, but don't over-do it! Meatballs can turn out a little bit tough if overworked.
- Portion meatball mixture into 2 tablespoon-sized balls. It's okay if they aren't perfectly even in size, you can definitely eyeball it. To keep them perfectly uniform, use a measuring spoon or cookie scoop. A kitchen scale will also do the trick, each meatball will weigh around 35 grams.
- Arrange balls in a single layer in your skillet (try to keep them apart, if they touch a little bit, that's okay).
- Measure all sauce ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk well.
Cook meatballs in sauce:
- Pour sauce over meatballs, if it totally covers them, that's fine! As the sauce cooks it will thicken and reduce.
- Place a lid on your skillet and put it on the stovetop. Turn heat to high and bring ingredients to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Test one meatball to see if rice is fully cooked. If it's still a bit crunchy, simmer 5 minutes longer.
- Serve your meatballs with rice (or cauliflower rice) and a tasty veggie side or some crunchy garlic bread. Enjoy!
Save extra tomato paste: When purchasing tomato paste at the grocery store, you'll notice the smallest can is 8 ounces. This recipe uses only 2 ounces (2 tablespoons) of paste. Scoop extras into a Ziploc bag, then flatten and freeze for later use! I really like using my extra tomato paste to make homemade enchilada sauce.
Ground beef: I always use lean (93/7) ground beef in this recipe. If you've got higher fat content ground beef to use up, I recommend browning your meatballs and draining off excess fat before adding sauce mixture to the pan. When using lean beef, there's no need to brown meatballs first.
How To Store Leftover Porcupine Meatballs
Allow leftovers to cool completely and place them in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 4 months.
You can reheat your meatballs in a skillet on the stovetop, on with your microwave. Just be sure to cover them to avoid splatter!
It's really easy to make this recipe ahead of time so it's ready on a busy weeknight. You have two options:
- Make your meatballs and sauce ahead of time but don't cook them. Store meatballs in a large airtight container in the refrigerator or on a plate covered in plastic wrap. Make the sauce and refrigerate it separately. When it's time to cook, you'll have everything ready to go!
- Fully prepare your dish and simply heat it back up at dinner time. These meatballs taste great when reheated. They also store well in the refrigerator and are freezer friendly. Note: the sauce will get quite a lot thicker when stored, you can add a bit or water or broth to thin it back out. I like doing this because I normally serve my meatballs with rice and I like lots of sauce for my grains.
Frequently Asked Questions
They are meatballs made with rice (which resembles the quills on a porcupine)! This American dish was popularized during the great depression and is typically made with minimal, simple ingredients. This generally includes ground beef, rice, and a tomato sauce or soup mixture. (source: wikipedia)
By including a binding ingredient, such as an egg, in your meatball mixture!
Generally, yes! An egg is a binder and will keep meatballs from falling apart or turning out dry/crumbly. Egg also adds nice flavor.
Include a binding agent (such as an egg) and lots of spices! When mixing ground beef together with other ingredients, don't over-do it. Over working the meat mixture can result in toughness.
More Ground Beef Recipes
- Butternut Squash Ground Beef Casserole
- Sweet Potato Ground Beef Casserole
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Casserole
- Hamburger Potato Soup
- Easy Crockpot Beef Chili
- Homemade Shepherd's Pie
- Beef Taco Stuffed Peppers
- Low Carb Taco Casserole
- Nachos With Ground Beef
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The Best Porcupine Meatballs Recipe
- Large skillet
- 1 lb. lean ground beef *I use 93/7 or 96/4.
- ½ cup white long grain rice *uncooked
- 1 large egg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika *regular paprika also works
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste *see note below
- ¼ cup heavy cream *see note below
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar *see note below
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 14.5 ouce can (1.75 cups) chicken broth *or vegetable broth *see note below
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Fresh shredded parmesan cheese
Recipe notes:Tomato paste: the smallest can you can purchase is 8 ounces. This recipe calls for just 2 ounces (2 tablespoons). It's easy to save extras! Scoop them into a Ziploc bag, then flatten and freeze for later. I often use leftover paste to make super cheap and delicious homemade enchilada sauce. Heavy cream: you can also use half and half though I really prefer heavy cream for it's richness. White wine vinegar: red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar can be substituted. You can also leave vinegar out all together and still have a delicious final product, but it will be slightly less flavor packed. Broth: chicken and vegetable broth are both good options for this recipe. One of my favorite kitchen hacks? Always keep bouillon cubes or broth base in your home for convenience sake!
- In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Do not cook the rice before adding it to the meat mixture. Gently stir everything together until well incorporated, but don't overwork ingredients (this can result in tough meatballs).1 lb. lean ground beef, ½ cup white long grain rice, 1 large egg, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings
- Portion mixture into small, even spheres. I make my meatballs approximately 2 tablespoons in size and typically end up with 17-18 total. You can eyeball it, they don't have to be perfect! If desired, use a measuring spoon, cookie scoop, or kitchen scale to keep them more uniform! Each ball will weigh around 35 grams.
- Arrange meatballs in a large skillet (be sure to use a skillet that has a lid). You can also use a large soup pot if necessary. Try to keep the meatballs apart, it's okay if they touch slightly.
- In a separate bowl, combine sauce ingredients and whisk well.1 15 ounce can tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, ¼ cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 14.5 ouce can (1.75 cups) chicken broth
- Pour sauce over the meatballs, it's okay if they are completely covered by the mixture. The sauce will reduce and get thicker as it cooks! The rice will also absorb a good portion of it.
- Place skillet on the stovetop on high heat. Cover and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- ***If you want to eat your meatballs with rice (or another grain), I would begin cooking it according to package instructions at this point.
- After 30 minutes, test one meatball to see if the rice is done. If it's still a bit crunchy, simmer 5 more minutes.
- Spoon over rice, if desired, and enjoy!
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