How to Make the Best Meatballs

How to make meatballs! Our best meatball recipe is easy and calls for a short list of ingredients. Use any ground meat in our recipe, such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey. These easy homemade meatballs are juicy, tender, and packed with flavor.

Watch the video

How to Make Meatballs Recipe Video

Are you looking for a great meatball recipe? You’ve come to the right place! These homemade meatballs are not only easy to make, but they’re also versatile and delicious. You can cook them in a skillet, bake them in the oven, slow-cook them in a crockpot, or crisp them up in an air fryer.

These meatballs are perfect to serve with red spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, or on their own. You can use them to make spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, add to soups or enjoy them as a simple meatball appetizer with your favorite sauce. For big, juicy meatballs, see this Italian meatballs recipe.

A bowl of juicy and tender meatballs

Key ingredients for meatballs

Ground beef is the most popular type of meat for meatballs, but I love to use ground turkey, chicken, and pork. You can also combine different types of meat, as we did with the meatballs in this meatball soup or these Swedish meatballs. Our meatballs recipe below works with any ground meat.

For tender, juicy meatballs, we add egg, milk, and bread crumbs (or crushed saltine crackers as we did with this meatloaf). Then, for amazing flavor, we mix in Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper.

How to cook meatballs

  1. Cook them in a skillet. This is my favorite way because they turn golden brown and stay juicy.
  2. Bake them in the oven. This method is excellent for easy cleanup. Cover your baking sheet with foil, parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat for speedy cleanup.
  3. Simmer them in a sauce. This method causes the meatballs to lose their crispy exterior. Still, they will absorb more flavor from the sauce and become soft and tender. Plus, they will stay moist.

Use a skillet for golden brown & juicy meatballs

For perfectly cooked meatballs with an almost crunchy crust, cook them in a skillet on the stovetop. Cooking them this way allows you to rotate them in oil, adding a lovely golden crust to the outside while keeping them juicy and tender.

  1. To prevent the meatballs sticking to the pan, make sure that the pan is hot before adding the meatballs.
  2. Lightly grease the pan with oil. I use two tablespoons of oil and a heavy-bottomed skillet.
  3. Cook the meatballs over medium heat until they are browned on all sides.
Step shot showing how to cook meatballs in a skillet.

Bake meatballs for easy cleanup

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to bake meatballs. Preheat your oven to 425 °F. Place meatballs on the baking sheet and bake until browned and cooked in the middle, about 20 minutes.

Thanks to the breadcrumbs, milk, and egg in our meatball mixture, the meatballs will still be juicy and tender after baking. I prefer the crust a skillet creates, but I love how baking meatballs is hands-off. If I’m feeling rushed, baking meatballs is my answer. We bake these stuffed chicken meatballs and love them.

Step shot showing how to bake meatballs on a baking sheet in the oven.

For the most tender, moist meatballs, simmer in sauce

Simmering meatballs right in the sauce is underrated! It’s easy and hands-off. We use this method when making our turkey meatballs and love it. Bring your favorite sauce to a simmer, then gently drop formed raw meatballs into the simmering sauce. Leave them without moving, and cover the pot with a lid. After 20 minutes of gently simmering, the meatballs are firm enough to flip in the sauce.

Using a slow cooker, air fryer, and pressure cooker:

Since sharing our meatballs recipe, some of you have asked about cooking them in a slow cooker, air fryer, and pressure cooker. Here are our suggestions:

  • Slow cooker: Simmer meatballs in sauce for 4 hours on low or 2 hours on high.
  • Air fryer: Preheat to 375°F and cook meatballs for 12-15 minutes or until cooked.
  • Pressure cooker: Bring sauce to a simmer on SAUTE. Add meatballs and cook on HIGH for 8 minutes. Allow the cooker to naturally release pressure for 5 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure.

How to tell meatballs are cooked

Meatballs are cooked through when they reach an internal temperature of 165° F. I use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meatballs.

How to serve meatballs

Meatballs ready to eat

Make ahead and storing tips

  • Refrigerate RAW meatball mixture: You can refrigerate raw meatball mixture overnight and bake it the next day. Follow your recipe for baking instructions.
  • Freeze RAW meatball mixture: You can freeze the raw mixture for up to three months. To do this, form the meatballs and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Freeze the meatballs until they are firm. Then, transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to three months. When ready to cook the meatballs, bake until lightly browned and cooked through — about 20 minutes.
  • COOKED meatballs will last up to three days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container or frozen for up to three months in an airtight, freezer-safe container.
A bowl of cooked tender meatballs

How to Make the Best Meatballs

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

This is our go-to meatball recipe. It’s quick to make, calls on ingredients we always have on hand and the recipe guarantees juicy, tender and flavorful meatballs. The recipe calls for one pound of ground meat. The meat you choose is up to you. We love using a combination of ground pork and ground turkey.

Makes about 35 meatballs

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1/2 cup (35 grams) bread crumbs, we prefer panko or homemade bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy

1 large egg

1/4 cup (1/2 ounce) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 pound ground meat, use beef, pork, chicken, turkey or a combination; we prefer a 50-50 blend of pork and turkey

1 to 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, for cooking; try avocado oil, grape seed oil and vegetable oil

Directions

  • Prepare Meatball Mixture
  • 1Stir breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl, and then let sit for 5 minutes. Add the egg, cheese, oregano, salt and the pepper. Stir until well blended.

    2Add the ground meat and use a fork or your fingers to gently mix everything until combined. For the most tender meatballs, try your best not to over mix.

    3Wet your hands, and then form the mixture into small balls (1-inch to 1 ¼-inch balls). You should get about 35 meatballs. A small cookie scoop is useful for portioning out the meatballs. Raw meatballs can be refrigerated overnight and baked the next day. You can also freeze the raw meatballs and store up to three months. To freeze them, form the meatballs, and then place them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Place the baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until the meatballs are firm. Transfer frozen meatballs to an air-tight, freezer friendly container and freeze up to three months.

  • Option One: Bake Them
  • 1Heat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil or a silicone baking mat.

    2Place formed meatballs onto the baking sheet, leaving a little space in between each meatball.

    3Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with cooking spray or brush with oil.

    4Bake until they are cooked through, the outsides are browned, and they register 165°F in the middle on an instant-read thermometer; about 20 minutes.

  • Option Two: Cook on Stovetop
  • 1Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a wide Dutch oven or nonstick pan over medium heat.

    2Place the meatballs down into the hot oil and cook until they are cooked through, the outsides are browned, and they register 165°F in the middle on an instant-read thermometer; about 15 minutes. Depending on the shape or size of the pot, this might need to be done in two batches.

  • Storing
  • 1Cooked meatballs will last up to three days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container or frozen for up to three months in an airtight, freezer-safe container.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Cooking tips for using a slow cooker, pressure cooker (Instant Pot), air fryer and convection oven are in the article.
  • Dairy-free: Substitute the milk for unsweetened dairy-free milk and the cheese for 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
  • Gluten-free: Substitute the bread crumbs for crushed gluten-free cereal or crackers
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. We included 8 ounces of turkey and 8 ounces of pork for the calculations.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 5 small meatballs (recipe makes about 35) / Calories 189 / Total Fat 11g / Saturated Fat 3.8g / Cholesterol 74.4mg / Sodium 396.7mg / Carbohydrate 6.9g / Dietary Fiber 0.4g / Total Sugars 1.4g / Protein 15g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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90 comments… Leave a Review
  • Kim February 20, 2024, 6:20 pm

    This is our favorite meatball recipe that we have made many times. I like to make them in the oven for easiest cleanup. I think the milk and breadcrumb mixture is key to tender meatballs.

    Reply
    • Adam February 20, 2024, 6:21 pm

      Yes, the milk and breadcrumbs are key here. So happy you loved the recipe 🙂

      Reply
  • Ju January 29, 2024, 6:52 pm

    Fantastic! Flavorful! Moist!

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:36 pm

      Woohoo! That’s exactly what we aim for.

      Reply
  • Rachel January 13, 2024, 3:09 pm

    Followed the recipe exactly. Did not turn out so great. I used chicken and maybe this is not the best meat for this recipe because the mixture was too soft.

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:35 pm

      Thanks for giving the recipe a try! It sounds like the mixture might have been a bit too wet. Chicken sometimes stays a bit more soft than other proteins, so reducing the milk slightly or increasing the breadcrumbs next time could help tighten things up. Let me know if you try it again and how it goes!

      Reply
  • Linnea December 6, 2023, 11:46 am

    I’m looking for a healthy, interesting and delicious Christmas Eve appetizer, and these meatballs would tick all the boxes. HOWEVER – we follow a ketogenic diet, so we can’t use breadcrumbs or panko. Do you have any suggestions for keto substitutions? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Joanne January 6, 2024, 5:29 pm

      Hi Linnea, We have always used bread crumbs or saltine crackers, but I do know that some people sub almond flour for them. I am unsure as to how much, so you might need to do some experimenting yourself.

      Reply
  • Fran October 24, 2023, 1:44 pm

    I want to cook the meatballs and sauce the day before. Is it okay to refrigerate the sauce and meatballs together for reheating the next day?

    Reply
    • Joanne October 24, 2023, 6:03 pm

      Yes, definitely!

      Reply
  • TINA BURGER October 19, 2023, 4:59 am

    I am going to make it for the Rugby Eng and Springbokke !! Sounds delicious !!

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:36 pm

      Let us know how it works out!

      Reply
  • Raewyn vork September 4, 2023, 5:22 am

    I am a good cook but my meat balls always break up when cooking so tomorrow I will use your recipe and hopefully they will not break up

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:37 pm

      I hope the recipe helps! Let me know how it goes – good luck and I’m rooting for perfectly formed meatballs.

      Reply
  • Tina May 17, 2023, 4:02 pm

    So happy I found this recipe. SO GOOD.

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:37 pm

      Yay! It’s definitely one of our favorites too.

      Reply
  • Recipe land May 17, 2023, 8:15 am

    Very easy recipe to follow. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:38 pm

      You’re so welcome! Glad it was easy for you.

      Reply
  • margie March 19, 2023, 4:46 pm

    Thanks for letting us know the smell amazing. Wonder what they taste like.

    Reply
    • Joanne February 15, 2024, 3:38 pm

      My personal experience says the taste lives up to the smell!

      Reply
  • Margie December 24, 2022, 4:12 pm

    Making these to take to a family gathering. Look and smell amazing.

    Reply
    • Joanne February 27, 2023, 4:35 pm

      That’s wonderful, Margie!

      Reply
  • Kathryn Marie Wasylak October 27, 2022, 2:56 pm

    Just found your site looking for a great,easy chicken soup recipe.Yours sounds perfect. Love the videos! Makes the cooking look so easy.Thanks

    Reply
    • Joanne February 27, 2023, 4:35 pm

      So happy that your found us!

      Reply

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