Porcupine Meatballs

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CROCKPOT PORCUPINE MEATBALLS! Delicious and easy porcupine meatballs that take minutes to make and cook in your crockpot. Little prep and impressive results! via chelseasmessyapron.com

Delicious and easy Porcupine Meatballs take mere minutes to whip together and then slow cook until they’re fall-apart-tender! These meatballs require minimal ingredients and are coated in a four-ingredient sauce. Just a little prep time brings impressive results!

Serve these savory meatballs on top of a bed of cooked rice with some roasted vegetables and a big garden salad like this Olive Garden salad. How’s that for a filling and well-rounded meal?


Overhead image of Porcupine Meatballs over a bed of rice.

Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs are a fun twist on traditional beef meatballs — they’re loaded with rice, seasonings and onion and then slow-cooked in a rich tomato sauce and served over rice.

Despite the name, no porcupines are harmed in the making of these meatballs. Instead, the name comes from the rice that is stuffed in the meatballs. As they cook, the rice expands and pokes out of the meatballs resembling the quills on a porcupine.

These meatballs are incredibly simple to throw together and after slow cooking for most of the day, you won’t believe how flavorful and tender these are!

Process shots-- images of the meatballs being made and broiled; then added to the slow cooker.

What are Porcupine Meatballs made of?

  • Ground beef. I recommend 93% lean (7% fat) ground beef for these meatballs. Any leaner and you’ll lose out on flavor; any fattier, and the dish will end up a bit greasy.
  • Long-grain white rice. One of the best things about this dish is there’s no need to cook the rice beforehand! It becomes perfectly tender in the slow cooker. Be sure to use long-grain white rice for even cooking.
  • Yellow onion. While admittedly an arduous task, I highly recommend grating the yellow onion on a box grater. This ensures even dispersion throughout the porcupine meatballs and no crunchy (uncooked) onion chunks.
  • Minced garlic.  Finely dice or grate the garlic on a microplane. For a shortcut, use pre-minced garlic!
  • Egg. The egg is important for binding everything together.
  • Seasonings. Just a few seasonings add all the flavor needed in these Porcupine Meatballs: salt, pepper, dried basil and Italian seasoning.

The sauce ingredients

With so few ingredients, the ingredients you use matter! Below are my recommendations for the best-possible tasting sauce! None of the below brand recommendations are sponsors of this post or site, but rather, are my personal favorites.

  • Beef stock. We love Swanson’s® beef stock best, but beef broth will also work. In a bind, water also works.
  • Tomato sauce. Not to be confused with tomato paste or crushed tomatoes, the label should read “tomato sauce.” Use a high-quality tomato sauce brand (our favorite is Muir Glen®). Cheaper tomato sauce can taste a bit acidic, so you may need to slightly increase the sugar used. Be sure to check to see if the tomato sauce is salted or unsalted and adjust salt/pepper as needed based on the sauce you purchase.
  • Brown sugar. I recommend gently packed light brown sugar. If you’re concerned about the overall sweetness of the Porcupine Meatballs, start with less sugar and add more as needed. The sauce does need some sugar to counteract the acidity of the tomato sauce.
  • Worcestershire sauce. Yes, 1/4 cup is a lot! But it works in this recipe. We love Lea & Perrin’s® or French’s® Worcestershire sauce best in the sauce.

Process shots-- images of the cooked meatballs in the slow cooker; meatballs being served over the rice.

Porcupine Meatball Tips

  • Don’t overwork the meat mixture. Once the ingredients are incorporated into the ground beef, stop mixing. Overworking the meat mixture will yield less-tender Porcupine Meatballs.
  • Roll small, even-sized meatballs. For Porcupine Meatballs to cook through in time and evenly, you want to be sure they’re all roughly the same size. This recipe makes about 22-25 meatballs (each one being about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons).
  • Broil the meatballs before adding to the slow cooker. We broil these meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker. This doesn’t cook them through, but rather gives them a nice crispy exterior which helps keep them together as they cook. Without broiling the meatballs, they tend to break apart in the slow cooker.


A few tips to make rolling meatballs easier:

  • Keep the ingredients cold; the colder the ingredients, the easier these Porcupine Meatballs are to roll and shape.
  • Spritz your hands with cooking spray or add a bit of cooking oil to your hands for easier rolling.
  • Use a cookie scoop if you have one.
  • Scoop all the meat out into portions and then roll all the meat portions at once (as opposed to rolling one at a time; it goes quicker this way).

Up-close overhead image of Porcupine Meatballs about to be eaten.

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Porcupine Meatballs

5 from 9 votes
Delicious and easy Porcupine Meatballs take just minutes to whip together and are then slow-cooked until they're fall-apart tender! These meatballs require minimal ingredients and are coated in a four-ingredient sauce. Little prep time and impressive results!
Print Recipe

Porcupine Meatballs

5 from 9 votes
Delicious and easy Porcupine Meatballs take just minutes to whip together and are then slow-cooked until they're fall-apart tender! These meatballs require minimal ingredients and are coated in a four-ingredient sauce. Little prep time and impressive results!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword porcupine meatballs
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Chelsea Lords
Calories 367kcal
Cost $5.61


  • 6 quart slow cooker



  • 1 pound (16 oz.) lean (93/7) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice uncooked
  • 1/3 cup grated yellow onion (grate on a box grater)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: fine sea salt and Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • Cooking spray


  • 1 cup beef stock (or broth)
  • 2 cans (15 oz. EACH) tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • Optional: fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • Cooked white or brown rice for serving (See Note 1)


  • PREP: Preheat the oven to high broil (550 degrees F.) Line a large tray with foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
  • MEATBALLS: In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, uncooked white rice, grated white onion, minced garlic, large egg, salt, Italian seasoning, pepper, and dried basil. Knead the mixture until just combined, avoiding overmixing (which makes the meatballs dense).
  • FORM MEATBALLS: Form meatballs by measuring out 1 and 1/2 tablespoons per meatball and tightly squishing the mixture together until a firm meatball is formed. Repeat until all of the mixture is used up. The mixture should make around 22-25 meatballs.
  • BROIL: Place all of the formed meatballs on the prepared tray, generously spritz with cooking spray, and then broil in the oven for 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total). This helps ensure they don't break apart in the slow cooker. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • SLOW COOKER TOMATO SAUCE: Spray the slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add in the beef stock/broth, both cans of tomato sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir.
  • ADD MEATBALLS: Layer the meatballs on top of the tomato mixture. Gently spoon the sauce over.
  • COOK: Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, high for 3-5 hours or until rice is tender and meat is cooked through (165 degrees F.) I recommend cooking on low; my slow cooker takes 6 hours exactly. Avoid checking too often; when a slow cooker's lid is removed it takes a while for everything to get back to temperature.
  • SERVE: Taste meatballs and sauce and add any additional salt/pepper as needed. Gently spoon out meatballs and sauce from the slow cooker and serve over cooked white or brown rice (See Note 1). Garnish with fresh parsley if desired and enjoy!


Recipe Notes

Note 1: We love serving these meatballs over cooked basmati rice. Here's a quick breakdown of the process:
  • Measure the rice and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.
  • Place that rice in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for about 5-10 minutes.
  • While the rice is soaking, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, drain the rice and add it to the pot.
  • Cook, without reducing the heat, for 5 minutes (taste and test to make sure it is tender, if not add another 1-2 minutes) and then drain and fluff with a fork.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 367kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 117mg | Sodium: 364mg | Potassium: 720mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 68IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 4mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


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Recipe Rating


  1. I’ve never heard of Porcupine meatballs and was very intrigued when I saw this title, haha. 🙂 These meatballs look awesome though! Fantastic idea to cook them in a slow cooker.

  2. 5 stars
    When I was a kid my aunt would make us similar porcupine meatballs and I was obsessed. Pretty sure back then it was the name that got me. Annnd somehow it still does. Can’t wait to try these out! Nom nom

  3. My mother made these but with a gravy style brown sauce, I had completely forgotten about them so glad to see this recipe!! One question cause I don’t remember how my mom did it but do you use instant rice, cooked white rice or raw/uncooked white rice in the meatballs?? TIA!!

  4. If I were to make this ahead and freeze for later, would I combine the meatballs and sauce together for freezing purposes?

  5. I have a question, it says tomato sauce? Do u mean tomato soup, tomato spaghetti sauce, or like a canned tomato puree? Tomato Sauce can mean many different things 🙁

      1. hi Chelsea. is it like a tomato puree/passata type sauce? when I click that google link it shows both a tomato puree and soup type options.

    1. I haven’t personally tried, it may be a little bit much for one slow cooker, but I’m not sure! Sorry wish I could be of more help!

  6. I made your meatball last night, they turned out soooo good. Thank you for sharing your recipe keep up those good recipes.

  7. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! The canned soup in other porcupine meatball recipes is always a downer – too acid for my liking. This sauce is easy and super tasty. Totally lifts this meal

  8. 5 stars
    I love porcupine meatballs. I remember my mother making these when I was about 5 years old. Yours are almost identical. Hers where cooked in a pressure cooker. But delicious is delicious. Thank you!!

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