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Porcupine Meatballs (Easy Recipe)

Perfectly seasoned and super saucy, these porcupine meatballs are such a fun weeknight dinner for the family.

So serve them with pasta and dig in!

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Homemade Saucy Porcupine Meatballs with Herbs

Porcupine meatballs are rich, tender, and loaded with meaty goodness.

And no, that’s not porcupine meat in the mix! They get the name from their spiky appearance.

Enjoy them as a snack, appetizer, in a sub, or with a hearty helping of pasta.

You really can’t go wrong with this porcupine meatball recipe.

Porcupine Meatballs Recipe

So, these babies get their name from the spikes. But…what are the spikes?

Well, it’s nothing crazy. Just some rice!

Adding rice to meatballs was very common nearly a hundred years ago during the Great Depression. 

Money was scarce, and most people couldn’t afford meat. So, to make what little meat they had go further, they added rice.

Fortunately, the trend stuck around, and people still enjoy porcupine meatballs today. 

This recipe is my go-to because it’s so simple to make, and you don’t even have to cook the rice ahead of time.

Hungry yet? Me too!

Porcupine Meatballs Ingredients - Rice, Water, Onion, Salt, Garlic Powder, Pepper, Ground Beef, Canola Oil, Tomato Sauce, Sugar, and Worcestershire Sauce


Here’s what you’ll need to make porcupine meatballs: 

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  • Long-grain rice: I use Jasmine rice, but feel free to substitute any long-grain rice you prefer.
  • Water: You’ll use water twice in this recipe.
    • First, you’ll mix it with the seasonings while cooking the beef.
    • Then, you’ll add it to the sauce to keep it from being too thick. 
  • Onion: I use white onion, though any would work. It adds a nice, earthy flavor to the meatballs, making them much tastier. 
  • Salt: A little salt makes everything taste better. 
  • Celery Salt and Garlic Powder: Some porcupine meatballs recipes use other seasonings, like paprika or oregano, but I prefer celery salt and garlic powder. Something about that combination tastes perfect to me. Feel free to experiment with seasonings to suit your tastes, though.    
  • Pepper: Pepper is another important seasoning that’ll enhance the meatballs’ flavor. 
  • Ground Beef: You can’t have meatballs without the meat, right? I use ground chuck because it browns nicely, holds together well, and just makes good meatballs. 
  • Canola oil: Oil is essential for cooking beef. Without it, the meat will stick and burn, and your meatballs will likely fall apart. 
  • Tomato Sauce: Tomato sauce will make up the bulk of your sauce. 
  • Brown Sugar: The best meatballs find a balance between sweet and savory. Adding brown sugar to the sauce ensures your meatballs have the right amount of sweetness.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire’s savory, salty flavor pairs perfectly with brown sugar. Brown sugar + Worcestershire = Phenomenal sweet-n-savory meatballs. 
Homemade Meatballs with Herbs

How to Store Porcupine Meatballs 

Meatballs are a great make-ahead dish, and these leftovers keep really well. 

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. You can also wrap them tightly in aluminum foil. 

To Reheat:

When you want to reheat them, do so in the oven or the microwave. (The oven is best, as the microwave can make them a little spongy.) 

  • If you’re using the oven, place them on a greased or sprayed cookie sheet. Then, heat them for about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • If you’re using the microwave, warm them in 30-second increments. Then, check them after every 30 seconds to see if they’re at your desired temperature. 

Can You Freeze Porcupine Meatballs? 

You can absolutely freeze porcupine meatballs – whether cooked or uncooked!

Place uncooked meatballs in a freezer-safe bag, and they’ll last up to 4 months. 

Let them thaw in the fridge overnight when you want to cook them. Then, follow the directions in the recipe below to finish preparing them.

For already-cooked meatballs, store them in one of two ways:

  • Place them in a freezer-safe bag, and pop them in the freezer. 
  • Wrap them individually in aluminum foil, then put them in a freezer-safe bag or container.

Either way, they should last 2-3 months. 

Let them thaw overnight or cook them from frozen using the oven or the stove.

If thawed, you’ll need 10-12 minutes in the oven. Frozen ones take approximately 20 to 25 minutes to cook in the oven. 

If you’re preparing them in a skillet, the time can vary. I typically reheat mine on low heat, which takes about 30 minutes. 

Appetizing Porcupine Meatballs with Herbs

Tips for the Best Meatballs  

The great thing about meatballs is how versatile they are. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind when cooking porcupine meatballs:

  • Don’t use precooked rice. The rice will cook as the meatballs cook. If you precook it (or use leftover rice), the whole thing will overcook and fall apart.
    • I don’t like instant rice, either. Some recipes say you can use it, but I avoid it. 
  • Use lean beef. Fatty meatballs aren’t tasty, so go for lean ground beef or ground chuck.
    • Chuck has slightly more fat than ground beef, but it holds together well.  
  • Add an egg if necessary. If you’ve tried everything and can’t get your meatballs to stick together, try adding an egg. It’ll act as a binding agent and keep everything properly shaped.
  • Experiment with seasonings. I like salt, pepper, celery salt, and garlic. But you can experiment with other herbs, like paprika or red pepper flakes.
  • Swap up the sauce. As with the seasonings, you can swap the sauce, too. If you prefer grape jelly and BBQ sauce to Worcestershire and brown sugar, that’s fine! 

How to Serve Porcupine Meatballs

What you’ll serve with your meatballs depends mainly on how you serve them.

Are you using them as an appetizer? If so, you may want to leave them by themselves. 

If you want to turn them into a meal, you’ll need other options. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Pile them onto a hoagie roll for a meatball sub. 
  • Eat them on top of plain rice or pasta. 
  • Serve them with your favorite veggies. 
  • Pair them with other finger foods, like cheese squares or raw veggies. 
  • Stick a pretzel stick in the top for an easy grab-and-go treat. 

What to Serve with Porcupine Meatballs

Sweetie Pie’s Mac and Cheese
Sweet Potato Fries
Potato Wedges

Porcupine Meatballs (Easy Recipe)



Prep time


Cooking time





Perfectly seasoned and super saucy, these porcupine meatballs are such a fun weeknight dinner for the family. So serve them with pasta and dig in!


  • 1/2 cup 1/2 uncooked long-grain rice

  • 1 1/2 cup 1 1/2 water, divided

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 chopped onion

  • 1 teaspoon 1 salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 celery salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon 1/8 pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon 1/8 garlic powder

  • 1 pound 1 ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons 2 canola oil

  • 1 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons 2 brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons 2 Worcestershire sauce


  • Combine the rice, 1/2 cup of water, onion, salt, celery salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl. Add the ground beef and mix thoroughly.
  • Once the meat is well-seasoned, form it into meatballs. Each one should be approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • Add oil to a large skillet and cook the meatballs until they’re uniformly brown. Drain them, and leave them in the skillet.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the tomato sauce, remaining water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour the mixture over the cooked meatballs.
  • Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and allow it to simmer for an hour. Then, serve and enjoy!
Porcupine Meatballs

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Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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