How to Make Tender Juicy Meatballs
This is our go-to meatballs recipe. It’s quick to make, calls on ingredients we always have on hand and the recipe guarantees juicy, tender and flavorful meatballs. The ground meat you use is up to you! This recipe will work with beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey or any other ground meat you have access to. Jump to the Juicy Tender Meatballs Recipe
What’s the Best Way to Cook Meatballs?
We cook meatballs a variety of ways in our own kitchen and don’t really think there is any best way to cook them. Here are the methods we use the most often:
Stovetop meatballs — For perfectly golden brown meatballs with an almost crunchy crust, cook them in a skillet on the stovetop. Cooking them this way allows you to rotate the meatballs in oil, which makes sure they turn golden brown on the outside, while staying juicy and tender on the inside.
Baked meatballs — Baking the meatballs in the oven is simple and makes clean-up a breeze. I use my silicone baking mat (ours is a Silpat), but you can use a piece of parchment paper or even foil to line a baking sheet before lining the meatballs up and baking them.
I like to bake them at a high temperature (400°F to 425°F) so that they brown a little. At this temperature, the meatballs should take about 20 minutes. We use this method to make these cheese stuffed chicken meatballs!
Simmer meatballs in sauce — For the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs, skip the browning and cook them directly in simmering sauce. We do this when making our tender turkey meatballs. In that recipe, we make a simple tomato basil sauce — similar to our marinara sauce. After bringing the sauce to a simmer, we carefully drop the meatballs right into the sauce. Not only does this method guarantee tender meatballs, but the sauce becomes more savory and flavorful in the process. If you like the idea of this method, simply use this meatball recipe and follow the cooking method shared in this turkey meatballs recipe.
More Meatball Recipes: Try our Swedish Meatballs or try this method for making ultra tender and juicy turkey meatballs. We also have this plant-based meatball recipe (made with lentils and vegetables).
More ways to cook meatballs!
We use the following cooking methods less often in our own kitchen, but they are still excellent options. Keep in mind that different models of slow cookers, pressure cookers and air fryers might affect cook time so check doneness often.
Slow cooker meatballs — You can absolutely use your slow cooker to make meatballs. Here’s the method we turn to the most often when using our slow cooker. The sauce is cooked first. We throw everything into a crock pot and turn it on. The sauce gets better and better as it cooks. After a few hours on HIGH or 6 hours on LOW, it’s ready for the meatballs. Once your sauce is hot, the meatballs only need an hour on HIGH in the slow cooker — this way, they cook just until done, guaranteeing their juiciness.
Pressure cooker (Instant Pot) meatballs — Add sauce to your pressure cooker and bring it to a simmer (we use the SAUTE function of an Instant Pot to do this). When the sauce is simmering, gently add the meatballs to the sauce, being careful not to smoosh them together as you stack them on top of each other. Close the lid and cook on HIGH for 8 minutes. Allow the cooker to naturally release for 5 minutes, and then manually release the pressure until it is safe to open the lid. If you are unfamiliar with how your pressure cooker works, we highly recommend reading through the manual that came with it before operating.
Cooking the meatballs in an Air Fryer or using the convection function of the oven – Heat the Air Fryer to 375°F and cook the meatballs until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. If baking the meatballs using the convection setting of your oven, use 375°F and cook until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
FAQ: How to tell when meatballs are cooked? Meatballs are done when they are cooked through, the outsides are browned (if baking or pan-frying), and they register 165°F in the middle on an instant-read thermometer.
How do you serve meatballs?
You can enjoy meatballs a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions for you:
- As an appetizer served with your favorite dipping sauce (think marinara sauce, barbecue sauce, this tahini sauce or blue cheese dip).
- Over pasta with spaghetti sauce — I especially love this veggie packed spaghetti sauce.
- Over zucchini noodles — Try adding meatballs to this garlic parmesan zucchini noodle pasta.
- Piled onto a bread roll for meatball subs.
- Stuffed into pita or added to flatbread with vegetables and hummus. You could also swap the chicken in these lettuce wraps for meatballs.
- Served with mashed potatoes and gravy (we did this for our Swedish meatballs recipe)
Making meatballs ahead of time & storing tips
Meatballs are excellent for making in advance and keep well once made. Here’s everything you need to know about making them in advance, freezing and storing them once made.
If you have raw meatball mixture:
- Raw meatball mixture can be refrigerated overnight and baked the next day. Follow our recipe for baking instructions.
- Raw meatball mixture can be frozen up to three months. 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. Place your desired amount of frozen meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake until lightly browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
If you have cooked meatballs:
- Cooked meatballs will last, stored in an airtight container, in the fridge up to three days.
- Cooked meatballs can be frozen up to three months. Store them in an airtight, freezer-friendly container.
How to Make Tender Juicy Meatballs
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.
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
- Prepare Meatball Mixture
- Option One: Baked Meatballs
- Option Two: Cook Meatballs on Stovetop
Stir 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.
Add 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.
Wet 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.
Heat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, foil or a silicone baking mat.
Place formed meatballs onto the baking sheet, leaving a little space in between each meatball.
Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with cooking spray or brush with oil.
Bake 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.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a wide Dutch oven or nonstick pan over medium heat.
Place 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.
Cooked meatballs will last in the fridge when stored in an airtight container for three days. Cooked meatballs can be frozen up to three months. Store them in an airtight, freezer-friendly 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 meatballs: Substitute the milk for unsweetened dairy-free milk and the cheese for 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
- Gluten-free meatballs: 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 meatballs.