Porcupine Meatballs are made with ground beef and rice. It’s a healthy, delicious way to shake up the traditional meatball with a fun twist. Make this scrumptious porcupine meatballs recipe with easy homemade red sauce.
It’s always fun serving foods that are a bit unique, and porcupine balls certainly fit that bill.
But don’t let the name (or the look) fool you. They’re just regular meatballs with rice inside, making them look a bit like the spikey creature!
Not only are they fun to serve and eat, but each bite also counts as a serving of meat and grains. Talk about delicious efficiency!
You can serve porcupine meatballs however you like, but traditionally, they’re baked or served on a bed of simple homemade red sauce.
Another delicious ground beef and rice combo is our Taco Rice Casserole!
Loaded with cheese, veggies, and Mexican flavor, it’s an easy weeknight meal the whole family will love.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Ground Beef – A lean blend is best for this porcupine meatball recipe so you don’t end up with a greasy mess.
You can also use ground turkey or chicken if you prefer.
- Rice – Use your favorite long-grain version but leave it uncooked. It will absorb moisture as it bakes, coming out perfectly tender.
- Tomato Sauce – This isn’t just your standard canned version! Combine that with brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and a little bit of water, then pour the mixture over your porcupine balls before baking.
- Seasonings – Garlic powder, salt and pepper, and a little paprika help bring out the natural flavors of the beef.
Feel free to toss in some Italian herbs or even warming spices, depending on the flavor you want.
Tips for Making Porcupine Balls
- Don’t overmix the ingredients.
This is the number one cause of tough, dry meatballs! First, mix together the rice, onion, and seasonings with water until well combined.
Add the ground beef and oil, then work slowly and gently to incorporate everything together without squeezing or packing the mixture too tight.
Finally, portion out the mixture with 1 to 2 tablespoon-sized scoops and roll gently into a ball. It helps to wet your hands first so nothing sticks.
- Cover for the first half of baking.
This traps any steam and gives each meatball the chance to cook evenly through to the center,
But don’t forget to uncover later! It’s key to getting that perfectly browned exterior that makes this dish so tasty.
- Use a thermometer to test for doneness.
According to the USDA, ground beef is considered safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
Remove a meatball from the pan, then insert an instant-read digital thermometer into the very center for the most accurate reading.
And always go by temperature, not cooking time! Yours may be ready before the time is up, especially if you made them a bit smaller.
Make Ahead Instructions
Prepare meatballs with rice as directed, then place the rounds in your baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, transfer the baking dish to the counter while you preheat the oven.
Meatballs tend to come out juicier if they are close to room temperature when cooked.
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- 9×13 Baking Dish – This set is one of my favorites! It comes with a lid for easy storage and is great for casseroles too.
- Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
- Cookie Scoops – Also great for cookies, ice cream, and portioning out leftovers. I’ve had this set for years and use them all the time.
Storing and Freezing Meatballs with Rice
Once cooked, leftover porcupine meatballs can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
You can also freeze them if you’d like, either before or after they’ve been cooked.
I often make a larger batch of this porcupine meatball recipe so I can prep once for multiple meals!
- Freezing raw: Since you don’t need to wait for cooking or cooling, this method means there’s less upfront work.
Mix and shape, flash freeze until solid, then store for 3 to 4 months. Cook from frozen (adding 20-30 minutes to the cooking time) or thaw in the refrigerator overnight first.
- Freezing cooked: While you do have to spend time more time up front, the meatballs can be stored right away along with the sauce once cooled.
Then, reheat from frozen within 2 months for an easy meal!
Porcupine Meatballs Recipe FAQ
Experiment with different herbs and seasonings to change up the flavor, or include finely chopped vegetables like mushrooms or carrots in this porcupine meatball recipe.
You could also swap the rice for another grain like quinoa or couscous. Or incorporate some shredded cheese, either in the meatball mixture or sprinkled on top!
Yes to both! Scale the ingredients up or down depending on how many people you’re feeding or what you have on hand.
The cooking time remains the same, though you’ll need two baking pans for a double batch.
Although they look a tad different, you can treat these porcupine balls just like you would any “normal” meatball.
Serve over a bed of pasta with extra red sauce or add a side of garlic bread and salad.
You can never go wrong with steamed or grilled veggies — green beans, zucchini, and asparagus are favorites here.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Easy Meatball Recipes
Perfect Porcupine Meatballs + Video
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup water, divided
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup long-grain white rice, uncooked
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoon Canola Oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped, for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce until the sugar has dissolved. Set bowl aside.
- In a large bowl, add rice, 1/2 cup water, onion, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika. Use a spatula to toss the ingredients together until mixed.
- Add ground beef and canola oil to rice mixture, then mix thoroughly until beef has broken down and ingredients are incorporated throughout.
- Use a spoon to scoop out 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture, then roll and mold it into a ball. Place formed meatball in a 9×13 baking dish. Repeat this step until all the meatballs have been formed, spacing each meatball about 1 inch apart.
- Pour the prepared red cause over the meatballs. Give the baking dish a gentle shake to distribute the sauce throughout the dish.
- Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
- Serve porcupine meatballs immediately with chopped parsley as garnish (optional).
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published April 2020, updated and republished December 2023
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