Porcupine Meatballs

$11.34 recipe / $1.89 serving
by Marsha - Budget Bytes
5 from 5 votes
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I don’t know how I let Beth talk me into making these porcupine meatballs, but I’m glad she did!😄 They’re incredibly tender, super flavorful, very filling, and so delicious! They were a hit in my house and my husband and kids absolutely loved them! And don’t let the name scare you, these meatballs are simply made with ground beef, rice, seasoning and a savory homemade tomato sauce. Adding in inexpensive rice is also a great way to stretch a pound of beef into more servings. And did I mention this meatball recipe is also perfect for meal prep!

Overhead view of porcupine meatballs on a serving plate with white rice and a fork cutting a meatball in half.

What Are Porcupine Meatballs?

Porcupine meatballs are an American comfort food dish that was popular during the Great Depression. During that time supply was limited and these porcupine meatballs only required a few basic ingredients like ground beef, rice, and tomato soup. Their funny name comes from their unique appearance. As the meatballs cook the rice begins to poke out of the side, resembling the look of a porcupine! Does anyone else remember these tasty little meatballs growing up?

Ingredients For Porcupine Meatballs

Here’s everything you need to make these easy porcupine meatballs:

  • Lean Ground Beef: I used 93% lean ground beef to reduce the amount of grease that collects inside the pot while the meatballs are cooking. But 85% lean should also work pretty well.
  • Long Grain White Rice: Rice is a key ingredient! Not only does it help bulk up the meatballs and makes them more filling, but it’s also how you get the classic porcupine look! You’ll want to use long-grain white rice for this recipe. 
  • Onion and Garlic: Onion and garlic creates a wonderful flavor base for the meatballs. 
  • Seasoning:  The meatballs are seasoned with Italian seasoning for lots of herbal flavor along with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Egg: The egg is used as a binder to help keep the meatballs from falling apart.
  • Tomato Sauce: Another key part of this meatball recipe is the delicious tomato sauce. Instead of just using a can of plain tomato sauce, I added Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper to add more depth of flavor. I also added a can of crushed tomatoes to thicken the sauce, a little bit of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, and water to help the rice cook. All together this sauce adds wonderful flavor to these porcupine meatballs!

Should You Cook The Rice First?

You may be wondering if you have to cook the rice first before adding it to the meatballs. The answer is no. Cooking the rice first just adds an extra step to the process, and I didn’t find it necessary. Using uncooked rice allows the rice to cook at the same time as the meatballs and soak up all the seasoning and flavors from the dish.

How To Store & Freeze Porcupine Meatballs

You can store any leftover cooked meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, simply microwave for about 2 minutes, or until heated through.

If you want to freeze the meatballs, I suggest freezing them uncooked, then make the tomato sauce fresh when you need a quick weeknight dinner meal. To freeze uncooked meatballs, place the raw meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze on the baking sheet until solid (1-2 hours) before transferring to a gallon-sized freezer bag to store for up to three months. When you’re ready to cook them, thaw the meatballs in the fridge overnight, then simmer them in the sauce as directed.

Serving Suggestions

You can easily serve these porcupine meatballs with a simple side salad or caesar salad. We served them over a bed of rice, but mashed potatoes or pasta would also be good.

Overhead view of porcupine meatballs in a dutch oven covered in tomato sauce.
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Porcupine Meatballs

5 from 5 votes
These easy and flavorful Porcupine Meatballs are made with ground beef and rice, then simmered in a savory tomato sauce.
Overhead view of porcupine meatballs on a serving plate with white rice and a fork cutting a meatball in half.
Servings 6 (4 meatballs each)
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 40 minutes
Total 55 minutes

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning ($0.20)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($0.05)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt ($0.06)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice, uncooked ($0.15)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef ($7.49)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced ($0.18)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1 large egg ($0.17)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley (to garnish) ($0.18)

Tomato Sauce

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, stir together the Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
  • Rinse the rice in cool water and drain well. Add the lean ground beef to a large bowl along with the rice, finely diced onion, minced garlic, egg, and the seasoning mixture.
  • Use your hands to mix everything together until evenly combined. Try not to overmix as this can make the meatballs tough.
  • Divide and shape the meat mixture into 24 meatballs, about two tablespoons each. Place the shaped meatballs into a large pot or dutch oven. It’s ok if the meatballs are touching each other. I also stacked a few on top of each other.
  • Now make the sauce. In a medium bowl combine the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, and water. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Pour the tomato sauce mixture over the meatballs.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and bring the pot to a low boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the meatballs simmer for 35-40 minutes.
  • Serve over rice or mashed potatoes with fresh chopped parsley on top and enjoy!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Equipment

Nutrition

Serving: 4meatballsCalories: 191kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 19gFat: 5gSodium: 685mgFiber: 1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Overhead view of porcupine meatballs on a serving plate with white rice.

How to Make Porcupine Meatballs – Step by Step Photos

Overhead view of spice ingredients for porcupine meatballs.

In a small bowl, stir together 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper.

Meat and ingredients for porcupine meatballs added to a large bowl.

Rinse 1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice in cool water and drain well. Add 1 lb. lean ground beef to a large bowl along with the rice, 1/2 finely diced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 egg, and the seasoning mixture. Use your hands to mix everything together until evenly combined. Try not to overmix as this can make the meatballs tough.

Overhead view of meatballs being rolled and shaped.

Divide and shape the meat mixture into 24 meatballs, about two tablespoons each.

Porcupine meatballs added to a dutch oven.

Place the shaped meatballs into a large pot or dutch oven. It’s ok if the meatballs are touching each other. I also stacked a few on top of each other.

Overhead view of homemade tomato sauce ingredients in a medium bowl.

Now make the sauce. In a medium bowl combine one 15oz. can tomato sauce, one 15oz. can crushed tomatoes, 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 cup water. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.

Tomato sauce being poured over meatballs in the dutch oven.

Pour the tomato sauce mixture over the meatballs.

Cooked porcupine meatballs inside dutch oven.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring the pot to a low boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the meatballs simmer for 35-40 minutes.

Overhead view of porcupine meatballs on a serving plate with white rice and a fork cutting a meatball in half.

Enjoy by themselves or serve over extra rice or mashed potatoes and top with fresh chopped parsley. I’m a believer now Beth, you were right about this one!😄

Overhead view of porcupine meatballs in a dutch oven covered in tomato sauce.
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Comments

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  1. Could I make these in all you can eat cabbage soup? I love porcupine meatballs, thank you!

    1. That sounds amazing! I totally think that could work and be absolutely delish! I do think that they could better in a thicker sauce/soup so you may see what you can do to make the soup a little less brothy, but either way I think it would work. Let us know how it goes!

  2. Thank you for posting this! We loved these growing up and my kids love them now. You would be surprised how many people haven’t heard of porcupine meatballs or even had a version of them. Now I can show my friends this recipe that validates what I’ve been telling them about!

    1. And I forgot to add that my mom would wedge potatoes and cook along in the pan with these in the sauce and it was a great way to eat potatoes.

    1. These kind of meatballs really need this moist cooking application to ensure that the rice cooks properly in the meatballs and everything stays nice and juicy!

  3. It’s a nice recipe, I just wanted to leave comment asking if you drain the crushed tomatoes or not (I left it undrained, which seemed to be alright)

    Also, is it possible to offer tsp measurement of the minced garlic. I’m not sure if my cooking has the intended amount of garlic, I think it’s maybe a bit too strong in mine, so it’s either because my garlic cloves were bigger than yours or I miscalculated when altering the serving sizes. But I think a precise garlic measurement would help greatly!

    And it was my first time making meatballs, I didn’t press them together hard enough so they fell apart. So tip for fellow meatball novices is compress them with a bit of force

    Also I wonder if somebody can buy store bought tomato sauce if they want to save some time and dishes. Well, I’m sure that’s possible but it would be interesting to compare the flavor.

    Thanks for the recipe! It was fairly easy. Hardest part for me is cleaning up!

    1. Hi Andy! You did the right thing in not draining the crushed tomatoes! We want all those juices. My rule of thumb is that an average clove of garlic generally equals 1 tsp, so you’d want 2 tsp of minced garlic here. Thanks for trying the recipe and sharing your tips!

  4. I gasped when I saw Porcupine Meatballs! How could I have forgotten this recipe from my childhood?! Making them this week! Thanks for the memory :)

  5. These were excellent, very easy to make and a hit with my family. I had pretty much everything already at home and it provided us with 3 large bowls and leftovers! It is being added into our regular dinner rotation. I really appreciate the gluten free recipes, they tend to be costly but this was simple, quick and affordable.

  6. Looks great, love the price breakdown. Interesting to see you pay twice what I do for meat, but half as much for eggs!

  7. Hi Marsha–I’m surprised you hadn’t yet encountered this Depression era recipe designed to stretch meat, although the recipe is actually much older. Early versions often used condensed tomato soup which has been around, believe it or not, since the 1890s. My mom made porcupine balls once in a while as a memory from her own childhood–using tomato soup as the cooking sauce. Mostly we ate them at my grandmother’s house during the 1950s. They are guaranteed kid pleasers, as my own now grown children can attest. I love your updated seasonings for both the meatballs and the sauce–few midwesterners cooked with garlic in the 40s and 50s and now few of us would ever leave it out. Thanks, Marsha–I always look forward to your taste pleasing home style recipes!

  8. I can’t wait to try this updated recipe. My mother made these frequently for our family when we were growing up. I’m glad Beth convinced you to give ‘em a go!

  9. My Mema (grandmother) made these a lot! I bet they’d do great in the crock pot, too – any idea for recipe adjustments to make them that way?