Classic Porcupine Meatballs

Baked Porcupine Meatballs

The Spruce

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
374 Calories
16g Fat
22g Carbs
35g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 374
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 20%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 515mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 22g 8%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 35g
Calcium 41mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Porcupine meatballs are an old-fashioned favorite, developed during the depression to stretch the amount of ground meat. They are so-named because once cooked the rice sticks out of the meatball looking a bit like porcupine quills. The recipe is simple: Seasoned beef and rice are formed into meatballs, combined with tomato sauce, and baked to perfection in the oven, or simmered over low heat on the stovetop.

Although a great thing about these meatballs is that they don't have to be browned on the stovetop first, you do need to make sure to use lean ground beef to avoid excess fat in the sauce (because you won't be cooking it off). If you do use fattier ground meat, you might want to brown them before you combine them with the tomato sauce.

Enjoy these flavorful baked porcupine meatballs with mashed potatoes and broccoli salad or your family's favorite steamed vegetables.


Click Play to See This Classic Porcupine Meatballs Recipe Come Together


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup raw long-grain white rice 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (or Cajun seasoning)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (if cooking on the stovetop)
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (or two 8-ounce cans)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Porcupine meatball recipe ingredients
    The Spruce 
  2. Heat the oven to 350 F. 

  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with the rice, water, chopped onion, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and pepper.

    Porcupine meatball mixture of rice, beans and seasonings
     The Spruce
  4. Shape the ground beef mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Use a tablespoon or small cookie scoop to help make them uniform in size. (Or you can weigh them as you shape them.) Place them in an ungreased 2-quart shallow baking dish.

    Shaping meatballs in a scooper
     The Spruce
  5. Make the sauce by mixing together the tomato sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce in a measuring cup or bowl.

    Porcupine meatball sauce
     The Spruce
  6. Now it's time to cook the meatballs. Continue reading for the oven method, or scroll down to the stovetop method.

In the Oven

  1. Pour the sauce over the porcupine meatballs, cover the baking dish tightly with foil, and bake the meatballs in the preheated oven for 55 minutes.

    Porcupine meatballs with tomato sauce
     The Spruce
  2. Uncover and bake the meatballs 15 to 20 minutes longer, until bubbling and cooked through.

    Porcupine meatballs
     The Spruce
  3. Serve and enjoy!

On the Stovetop

  1. Add about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large deep skillet over medium heat. 

    Oil heating in pan
    The Spruce 
  2. Add the shaped meatballs and cook, turning, until the meatballs are evenly browned. Drain and discard the drippings. 

    Browning porcupine meatballs
     The Spruce
  3. Add the tomato sauce ingredients to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Continue cooking for about 45 minutes. Check occasionally and add water, if necessary.

    Porcupine meatballs in tomato sauce
     The Spruce
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Variations

  • If you prefer, you can add an egg to the meatball mixture and use milk instead of water.
  • For a richer and chunkier sauce, replace the tomato sauce and water with a 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes and a 10 3/4-ounce can of condensed tomato soup. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a little water to thin it.