Porcupine Meatballs feature a perfectly seasoned ground beef and rice mixture that cooks in a savory tomato sauce. This easy and delicious one pan dinner is a classic and loved by everyone!
Easy Porcupine Meatballs Recipe
Porcupine meatballs are an old-school one pan dish that dates back to the Great Depression. Because rice was so cheap, they added it to the meatballs to bulk up the ground beef so you’d get more meatballs for less money.
These meatballs with rice get their fun name due to the rice poking out of the meatballs once they’re cooked, like quills on a porcupine. They’re definitely one of those dishes that’s stood the test of time and are just as tasty now as they were generations ago.
Why You’ll Love These Porcupine Meatballs
- Quick and easy. These meatballs with rice take just a few minutes of hands-on time and about 40 minutes to simmer on the stovetop (or in the oven), making them perfect for weeknights.
- Affordable. The reason these meatballs were so popular is because they’re super economical, as rice is really cheap and stretches the meat.
- Packed with flavor. These meatballs with rice are not lacking in flavor, thanks to tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce in the meatballs and the savory tomato sauce they’re cooked in.
This classic recipe is made with just a handful of ingredients.
(Scroll down to the recipe card below for details and measurements.)
- Ground beef – I use lean ground beef to prevent excess grease in the meatballs.
- Long grain white rice – It should be uncooked when added to the meatballs.
- Egg – Helps bind the meatballs together.
- Onion & garlic – For aromatics and flavor.
- Tomato paste – For concentrated sweetness and mild acidity.
- Worcestershire sauce – Enhances the flavor by adding savory umami undertones.
- Parsley – Use fresh.
- Salt & pepper – These season the meatballs.
- Olive oil – To brown the meatballs.
- Tomato sauce – The base of the sauce for the meatballs to cook in.
- Beef broth – Thins the sauce and adds rich flavor.
- Brown sugar – Adds a bit of sweetness with notes of molasses and helps to balance the acidity from the tomato sauce.
How to Make Porcupine Meatballs
Here’s a quick overview of how to prepare this porcupine meatball recipe.
(Scroll down to the recipe card below for more detailed instructions and don’t miss the video below.)
- Form the meatballs. Combine the beef, rice, egg, onion, garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, salt, and pepper. Form into 20 meatballs, 1 & 1/2 inches in size.
- Brown the meatballs. Warm olive oil in a nonstick skillet and working in batches, brown the meatballs on all sides.
- Simmer in the sauce. Wipe any excess oil from the pan and return the meatballs to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, and brown sugar until incorporated. Bring to a gentle bubble then cover and gently simmer for about 40 minutes, tossing the meatballs two or three times, until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is tender.
- Enjoy. Serve over cooked white rice with a pat of butter and freshly chopped parsley.
Tips & Variations
- These work great with other types of ground meat. Try ground pork, ground turkey, ground chicken, or a mixture.
- Use a cookie scoop to form the meatballs. Using a cookie scoop to form the homemade meatballs makes the process faster and also ensures they’re all the same size so they cook the same.
- Bake in the oven. Alternatively, if you would prefer to finish baking them in the oven, you can place the browned meatballs in a casserole dish coated with nonstick spray, pour the sauce over the top, cover tightly with foil. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 40 minutes, tossing the meatballs two or three times. Uncover and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the rice is tender.
Video: Porcupine Meatballs
I typically serve these porcupine meatballs over cooked white rice with a dollop of butter, which is similar to how they were originally served. However, they’re also great over egg noodles or mashed potatoes, if preferred. If you want to add a veggie side, a side salad or roasted broccoli would be great.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Fridge. Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezer. You can also freeze porcupine meatballs in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- Reheat. Gently reheat leftovers in the oven, microwave, or on the stove until warmed through.
More Easy Meatball Recipes:
- Italian Meatballs
- Swedish Meatballs
- Beef Kofta Meatballs
- Grape Jelly Meatballs
- Chicken Meatballs
- Turkey Meatballs
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice
- 1 large egg , slightly beaten
- 1/3 cup finely minced onion
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 & 1/2 cups beef broth
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- butter rice , for serving
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, uncooked rice, egg, onion, garlic, tomato paste, Worcestershire, parsley, salt, and pepper.
- Using a small cookie scoop, form 1 & 1/2-inch sized balls out of the mixture (you should be able to form about 20 meatballs)
- Heat olive oil over medium-high in a large nonstick skillet.
- Working in batches, add the meatballs and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes total. (Add more olive oil if needed and turn down heat if they’re starting to over brown.)
- Wipe out any excess oil and return all the browned meatballs to the skillet. Stir in the tomato sauce, beef broth, and brown sugar until incorporated and the meatballs are covered in the liquid.
- Bring to a gentle bubble, then cover the skillet with a lid or foil and simmer for about 40 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the rice is tender, tossing the meatballs two or three times. Thin the sauce with a bit more broth, if necessary.
- Serve warm over cooked hot white rice with a pat of butter, and a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.