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Porcupine Meatballs Recipe

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

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

No matter how you serve them, they’re sure to hit the spot.

Homemade Saucy Porcupine Meatballs with Herbs
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Easy Porcupine Meatballs

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

These babies get their name from the “spikes.” But don’t worry, it’s nothing crazy. Just some rice!

It adds a fun texture to the meatballs and bulks out the recipe, too. So you get more bang for your buck!

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, they added rice to make what little meat they had go further.

Fortunately, the trend stuck around, and people still enjoy this porcupine meatball recipe today. 

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: 

  • Long-Grain Rice. I use Jasmine rice, but feel free to substitute any long-grain rice you prefer.
  • Onion. I use white onion, though any would work. It adds a nice, earthy flavor to the meatballs, making them much tastier. 
  • Salt, Pepper, Celery Salt, and Garlic Powder. Celery salt and garlic powder are the perfect combo of earthy, savory flavors. And a little salt and pepper make everything taste better.  
  • Ground Beef. 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 Make Old Fashioned Porcupine Meatballs

Check out how quick and easy these tasty meatballs come together! It’s easier than you think. 

1. Make the meatballs. Mix everything until blended then roll into balls.

2. Cook. Cook with oil until brown on all sides.

3. Make the sauce. Mix everything in a bowl then pour it over the meatballs and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Serve and enjoy. Add rice, pasta, or even potatoes. Either way, dinner it ready!

Porcupine meatballs arranged in plate.

Recipe Tips and Variations

The great thing about meatballs is how versatile they are. 

So, here are a few tips and modifications 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.
  • 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! 
  • Make them cheesy! Add a small cube of cheddar cheese or mozzarella inside the meatball. It’ll ooze out when you cut them open.
Closeup of porcupine meatballs in plate.

How to Serve Porcupine Meatballs

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

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

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But if you want to turn them into a meal, you’ll need other options.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Meatballs subs. Pile them onto a hoagie roll for a meatball sub with plenty of cheese and tomato sauce. You could even use garlic bread to make them extra tasty!
  • Pasta or rice. Adding a carb creates a perfectly balanced meal. Use whatever pasta or rice you love most. 
  • Veggies. Roasted veggies, like roasted asparagus, or potatoes keep things carb-friendly.  
  • Make an appetizer platter. Pair them with other finger foods, like cheese squares or raw veggies. 
  • Meatball pops. Stick a pretzel stick on the top for an easy grab-and-go treat. 

What to Serve with Porcupine Meatballs

Wondering what goes best with this classic meat dish? I have a few scrumptious suggestions. 

Sweetie Pie’s Mac and Cheese. Everything is better with mac and cheese. The rich, creamy pasta is the perfect contrast to the zippy tomato sauce.

Sweet Potato Fries. I think sweet potato fries go with just about anything! Their delicate sweetness and crispy crunch work wonderfully with these savory meatballs. 

Potato Wedges. Not a fan of sweet potatoes? Crispy potato wedges work just as well! They’re crisp on the outside with tender mashed potato-like insides. 

Colcannon. The earthy greens and buttery goodness of Colcannon (aka Irish mashed potatoes) is another great side. No one will go to bed hungry when porcupine meatballs and colcannon are on the menu!

Appetizing Porcupine Meatballs with Herbs

How to Store  

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

Here’s what you need to know:

To Store: Place cold leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. This is the best option if you have lots of sauce left over.

You can also wrap the meatballs tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, or place them in a Ziploc bag.

To Freeze: This Porcupine meatball recipe can be frozen before or after they’re portioned and cooked. Either way, thaw them in the fridge overnight before cooking/reheating.

  • Uncooked Meatballs: Portion and freeze them on a baking tray until solid. Then, store in a freezer bag for up to 4 months.
  • Cooked Meatballs: Place cooled meatballs in an airtight container and freeze for 2-3 months.

To Reheat: Meatballs are best reheated in the oven, as the microwave can make them a little spongy.

That said, here are the two best methods for reheating porcupine meatballs:

  • In the oven – place them on a greased or sprayed cookie sheet. Then, heat them for about 10 to 12 minutes at 350°F.
  • In the microwave – warm them in 30-second increments on a microwave-safe dish until hot.

More Meatball Recipes To Try

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Easy Grape Jelly Meatballs
Air Fryer Meatballs
Ina Garten’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti
Gordon Ramsay Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs

Course: DinnerCuisine: American


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 uncooked long-grain rice

  • 1 1/2 cup water, divided

  • 1/3 cup chopped onion

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons 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!


  • Rinse the rice before adding it to the beef. This quick step helps remove excess starch and prevents the grains from clumping together.
  • Try and make sure that all meatballs are evenly sized. It helps ensure they cook evenly.
  • Let the meatballs rest in the sauce for a few minutes before serving. This helps them absorb more flavor from the sauce.


  • Calories: 447kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 33g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Fat: 24g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 75mg
  • Sodium: 1271mg
  • Potassium: 423mg
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 13g
  • Calcium: 33mg
  • Iron: 2mg
Porcupine Meatballs

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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