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Porcupine Meatballs Recipe – A Thick & Hearty Comfort Food Recipe

Porcupine Meatballs are meatballs that are made with not only ground beef, but also onions, cooked white rice and various seasonings. They get their iconic name because of the little grains of cooked rice that stick out of each little ball, resembling the quills of a porcupine.

Once the little balls are formed they are simmered in a zesty tomato sauce until they become tender and full of flavor.

It is a delicious comfort food recipe that is hearty enough to be a stand alone meal. Or serve it on top of rice, mashed potatoes or noodles for a hearty meal that will keep you feeling full for hours.

porcupine meatballs
A classic bowl of Porcupine Meatballs ready to be served.

This dish was a staple meal during the Great Depression. It was an inexpensive way to get food on the table that would also be filling and satisfying.

Rice was included in the meatballs for two reasons. First, rice was used as a filler so that less beef was needed.

Second, rice along with potatoes, eggs, and beans were staple pantry items that would help feed a family a complete and nourishing meal.

This dish became popular again in the 1970’s and included cooked rice instead of uncooked rice grains that were used in the 1930’s. However, instead of sticking with the original meatball recipe, many versions of this dish began to take shape.

Other ingredients were added into the mixture to make it have more flavor and a variety of textures. Diced green peppers, onions, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and even horseradish were sometimes added to the meat mixture.

Then there was an option to switch out the thick tomato sauce with cream of mushroom soup to give it an entirely different flavor profile.

However, now that grocery prices are on the rise and we all are trying to stretch our budgets, the classic porcupine meatball recipe is making a huge comeback.

ground beef
Traditional porcupine meatballs are made with ground beef. However, you can substitute ground sausage, turkey or chicken if you prefer.

Helpful Recipe Tips

1. Beef

The type of beef that you use does matter in regards to flavor and the end size of the cooked meatballs. Ground beef that has a 80/20 lean to fat ratio will give you the most flavor.

However, because of the fat content, the meatballs will shrink significantly during the cooking process.

On the contrary, if you use lean ground sirloin that has a 93/7 lean to fat ratio, the meatballs will retain close to their original shape. And because they will be simmering so long in the sauce, they will become tender even without the extra added fat.

Therefore, you can use whatever type of meat that you purchase. Just be aware that there is a slight difference between the two.

2. Rice

The original recipe for porcupine meatballs included uncooked white rice. However, for this recipe we are going using cooked rice so that the meatballs don’t have to simmer all day.

Therefore, technically you can use cooked white or brown rice. In fact, you can also use Jasmine or Basmati rice as well.

Any rice that you would typically eat as a side dish or in a casserole can be used here.

3. Tomato Soup, Juice & Sauce

The combination of tomato soup, juice and sauce really adds a depth of flavor not found in other similar recipes. Most recipes only included condensed tomato soup and broth.

However I find that the addition of tomato juice and tomato sauce gives a nice thick texture that is full of flavor. However, you can adjust the amount of each to your liking.

For instance, if you have a larger can of tomato sauce, simply adjust the other tomato ingredients so that you have a total of 3 cups plus 2 ounces of liquid.

mixing meatballs
If you use your hands to make the meatballs, be sure not to over work the mixture.

And when it comes to what type of canned tomato products to purchase, I always recommend using low-sodium products whenever possible. You can always add salt later, but it is rather difficult to take it away.

Another way to adapt the recipe is the type of tomato juice that you purchase. If you want to add a little flavor and heat add spicy tomato juice.

I have even added Spicy Homemade Bloody Mary Mix to the sauce and it turns out fantastic for those who like a little heat.

4. Make Ahead Instructions

If you want to make this ahead of time follow the instructions on how to make the meatballs. Then cook the meatballs on the stove, in the oven, or in an air fryer until cooked through.

The meatballs are ready when they register 165°F in the center when tested with an instant read digital thermometer. Then remove them from the heat source and let them cool.

Place them in an air tight container and freeze. When you want to make this recipe, thaw the meatballs and cook in the tomato mixture as instructed.

Porcupine Meatballs Recipe

*Specific measurements and complete recipe instructions are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to continue to read the tips and tricks to making this recipe below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ cup cooked long grain rice, white or brown
  • ¼ cup onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, diced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg

Sauce:

  • 1 10 oz. can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup vegetable juice (ex. V8 juice )
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Optional Garnish

  • chopped parsley
porcupine meatballs
As a make ahed meal you can cook your meatballs ahead of time and then freeze. When you are ready to make dinner, thaw the Porcupine meatballs and bake them in the tomato sauce mixture.

INSTRUCTIONS

To make porcupine meatballs, start by preheating the oven to 350°F (177°C). Then spray a 2 quart baking dish with non stick spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, add the ground beef, cooked rice, diced onion, garlic powder, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and pepper. Use a fork to mix until just combined.

If you do use your hands to mix the ingredients together, be sure not to over mix. Just like when forming Meatloaf, if you work the ingredients too much the meatballs will turn out dense.

Once the mixture is incorporated, shape into approximately 20 balls. I prefer to use a small or medium size cookie scoop so that each ball turns out similar in size.

Once the porcupine meatballs are formed, place them in the prepared baking dish. Set aside.

tomato sauce over meatballs

Now it is time to make the sauce. In a medium size bowl, combine all ingredients for the sauce and then pour it evenly over the meatballs.

Place the dish in a preheated oven and bake uncovered for 1 hour. Test to make sure that the meatballs are cooked through.

Test The Internal Temperature Before Serving

The center of each meatball needs to be cooked to 165°F when tested with an instant read digital thermometer. If they aren’t quite done, place them back in the oven until cooked through.

Remove the pan from the oven and garnish with parsley if desired. Serve warm as stand alone main dish, or serve over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles.

Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The leftover porcupine meatballs make for a delicious meatball sub lunch the next day!

Enjoy! Mary

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Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs

Meatballs made with ground beef, rice, onion and seasonings and then cooked in a hearty tomato sauce for the perfect main dish to serve over noodles, rice or alongside mashed potatoes.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup cooked long grain rice
  • ¼ cup onion diced
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons parsley fresh
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg (or egg substitute)

Sauce:

  • 1 10 oz. can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 cup vegetable juice (ex. V8 juice )
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

Garnish

  • chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with non stick spray, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix ground beef, rice, onion, garlic powder, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and pepper until just combined. Do not over mix
  3. Shape the mixture into approximately 20 balls and place in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Combine all ingredients for the sauce and pour over meatballs.
  5. Bake for uncovered 1 hour.
  6. Garnish with parsley is desired. Serve warm as stand alone main dish, or serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Notes

Meatballs can be made ahead of time and frozen for later use.

Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

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