Classic Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs Recipe in a small white oval dish

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 70 mins
Total: 85 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
309 Calories
14g Fat
11g Carbs
34g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 309
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 18%
Saturated Fat 5g 27%
Cholesterol 101mg 34%
Sodium 736mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 34g
Vitamin C 6mg 31%
Calcium 39mg 3%
Iron 4mg 25%
Potassium 760mg 16%
*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 freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, if cooking on the stovetop, optional

For the Sauce:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (or 2 [8-ounce] cans)

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 

    Ingredients for porcupine meatballs gathered

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

    Porcupine meatball mixture of ground beef, rice, and seasonings in a stainless steel bowl with a spoon

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  3. 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 porcupine meatballs into a walnut-sized ball with a scooper

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  4. Make the sauce by mixing together the tomato sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce in a measuring cup or bowl.

    Porcupine meatball sauce with a spoon in a white bowl

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  5. 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 in a white casserole dish

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  2. Uncover and bake the meatballs 15 to 20 minutes longer, until bubbling and cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

    Porcupine meatballs uncovered and baked, in a white serving dish

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On the Stovetop

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

    Oil heating in pan for porcupine meatballs

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  2. Add the shaped meatballs and cook, turning, until the meatballs are evenly browned. Drain and discard the drippings. 

    Browning porcupine meatballs in a skillet

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  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. Serve and enjoy.

    Porcupine meatballs in a skillet with tomato sauce

    The Spruce Eats

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.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Any leftover porcupine meatballs will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Wrap them tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or place them in an airtight container.
  • Go ahead and freeze them. Porcupine Meatballs can be frozen either raw or cooked. For pre-cooked meatballs: Place them on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for a few hours. Pull them out and put them in a plastic freezer-safe bag, then back in the freezer to store. Precooked meatballs will last for 3 to 4 months in the freezer. For cooked meatballs: Allow them to cool, then place in a freezer-safe bag. Cooked meatballs can be frozen for 2 to 3 months.