Classic Porcupine Meatballs (Beef & Rice Meatballs)

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Porcupine Meatballs are seasoned beef & rice meatballs slowly simmered in a savory tomato sauce in the oven! Serve over potatoes, rice, or pasta for a family-friendly and filling meal.

Porcupine Meatballs over mashed potatoes

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Have you ever tried Porcupine Meatballs? These tasty little meatballs are made with rice and ground beef covered in a tomato sauce and baked to perfection. (One of my favorite beef and rice meals along with my Ground Beef and Rice Skillet and Mexican Ground Beef Casserole!)

The original porcupine meatball recipe because popular during the Great Depression as a way to save money. The addition of the rice to the meat helps stretch your grocery dollars, which is always a good thing in my book!

Porcupine Meatballs over mashed potatoes in white bowl with fork and napkin


  • ground beef, low fat is better for this recipe
  • instant or long grain rice
  • onion & garlic powder season to perfection
  • celery salt add a little something extra
  • salt & pepper let you season the recipe to your taste
  • tomato sauce provides the perfect base for this yummy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce gives a tangy, sweet and savory flavor to the sauce
  • water thins the sauce so the rice can absorb it while cooking

Step by step

  1. Mix the meatballs and layer in a baking dish
  2. Add the 3-ingredient tomato sauce
  3. Bake for an hour and let the rice in the meatballs absorb all that delicious flavor!

While this dish bakes, the tomato sauce thickens, the rice within the meatballs cooks and the beef meatballs become fork-tender and delicious!

As you may have guessed, porcupine meatballs get their name because as they cook, the rice begins to poke out of the meatballs like porcupine quills. 🙂

close up of spoon holding Classic Porcupine Meatballs

How to double this recipe

These meatballs start with a few basic ingredients mixed into ground beef. My original recipes calls for one pound of ground beef, but since I am feeding 2 teenagers, I doubled the recipe and made 15 BIG meatballs in a 9×13 baking dish. If you stick with one pound of ground beef, you’ll get about 12 normal sized meatballs in an 8×8 baking dish.

Serving suggestions

I like to serve these nestled in a generous mound of mashed potatoes with extra sauce on the side!

If you are not a mashed potato person, you can spoon the meatballs and sauce onto additional rice, cauliflower rice or even plop them into a toasted bun for a twist on a meatball sub! Just definitely don’t let any of that rich, tomato-y sauce go to waste!


This is an easy recipe to customize, here are some ideas:

  • use a different protein like ground pork, chicken, or turkey
  • add finely chopped vegetables to the meatballs
  • add your favorite shredded cheese to the meatballs or form the meatball around a cube of cheese for a surprise inside!
collage of Classic Porcupine Meatballs


Do these meatballs freeze well?

Yes! These freeze well! Simply prepare your meatballs and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, store in a gallon freezer bag until ready to bake, up to 4 months. You can also cook the meatballs first then freeze and store up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

How do you store leftovers?

Store in an airtight container up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

How do you reheat porcupine meatballs?

Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until heated through.


  • Use low-fat ground beef, I prefer 10% fat content.
  • I usually use instant rice but you can use uncooked long grain rice if you prefer, the long baking time will allow the rice to cook regardless of which you choose.

Have you ever had Porcupine Meatballs? Do you call them something different in your family, like Rice Meatballs? I’d love to hear about some of your family’s favorite comfort food dishes, so leave a comment or pop over to Facebook to share them with me!

You might also like these comfort food recipes:

If you like this recipe, please comment and rate it below!

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Classic Porcupine Meatballs (Beef & Rice Meatballs)

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4.8 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Melissa Riker
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12 meatballs 1x


Classic Porcupine Meatballs – beef & rice meatballs – are baked in a savory tomato sauce until they are fork tender and flavorful! This comfort food dish is one of our family favorites!



For the Porcupine Meatballs

  • 11 1/3 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup instant rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper or to taste

For the Sauce

  • One 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare an 8×8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, rice, water and seasonings.
  4. Form mixture into 12 meatballs and place in the baking dish.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, water and Worcestershire sauce and pour over the meatballs.
  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake meatballs for 45 minutes.
  7. Remove foil and bake up to an additional 15 minutes until meatballs are tender and cooked through.
  8. Serve over additional rice, mashed potatoes or in a toasted bun.


You can double the recipe and bake in a 9×13 baking dish as well.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: dinner
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 3 meatballs
  • Calories: 269
  • Sugar: 7.9 g
  • Sodium: 482.3 mg
  • Fat: 4.3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28.8 g
  • Protein: 27.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 67.8 mg

This recipe was originally published in 2009 but was last updated in 2020 with new pictures and additional information.




Its easy! I will show you how.

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  1. I can’t think of anything better than mashed potatoes with these. We always added a can of diced tomatoes and some brown sugar to the sauce. I guess that made it taste more like ketchup. My mother said we ruined her cooking with ketchup. Thanks for reminding me of this tasty dish.

    Wishes for tasty dishes,

    1. My grandma’s cabbage rolls bake in a tomato sauce with diced tomatoes and brown sugar, so I bet that would be awesome with these porcupine meatballs, too! Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda!!

  2. My mom made these for us in the ’50s & ’60s! I forgot all about them until I saw them here! Mom served them on spaghetti or garlic rolls. Delicious! Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Karen – I figure you can never go wrong with a classic! And these porcupine meatballs would be delicious stuffed in a garlic roll!

  3. These look great and simple to make! I’ve got some bell peppers and baby bellas that need used, so I think I’ll chunk them up and coat them with the sauce, too, before baking. Thanks for the awesome supper idea!

  4. I call mine : Porcupines at Red Lake with snow on the mountains. Love,love,love this stuff on a cold rainy night.

  5. We used to have these all the time when I was growing up! One of my favorite meals! Our recipe was a little different, we used tomato soup instead of sauce. I will be trying your recipe over the weekend! Thank you!

    1. I too use 1 can of tomato soup, a squirt of ketsup and couple Tbsps of brown sugar along with worchesteshire sauce and water. Excellent recipes.

  6. Hi. I’ve made these twice now and I followed your instructions. I even set the oven to 360 and the rice STILL came out hard. What can I do to make the rice cook? Thank you very much, Melissa Kelly.

    1. This is a pressure cooker recipe. Notice how the photos up there have no “porcupine” to them at all? I make these in a pressure cooker and they are done in about 15 minutes, and great. I’d imagine with raw rice they would need two hours to bake, and turn out mush-tastic.

  7. I grew up eating porcupine meatballs. A recipe passed down from my grandma. She used tomato juice and added a little sugar to lessen the tangy tomato flavor.

    I haven’t had them in forever and can’t remember how to make them, so I turned to Pinterest, where I found your recipe. I think I will give these a try and hope they taste as good as I remember.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Porcupines were my favorite birthday dinner when I was growing up. They are my grown kids favorite, but I use spaghetti sauce instead of tomato soup.

  9. This recipe is exactly how my mom made us Porcupine Meatballs when we were kids and it’s still a family favorite. The only exception is because we’re from South Texas and of Mexican ancestry my mom always had to “Tex-Mex” up all her recipes (mostly to please my dad’s palet!) and would add about a teaspoon of ground cumin to the tomato sauce and would serve them with fresh pinto beans and pico de gallo……it’s still how all my brothers and sisters fix and serve their Porcupine Balls!

  10. I cooked exactly as directed, and my rice was still hard after cooking. Very disappointing 🙁 The sauce was delicious though.

    1. Hi Angi,

      While I’ve used regular rice without an issue, I’ve recently retested this recipe with instant rice and it worked just fine. The instant rice tends to split a bit but still tastes delicious, so I hope you give this another try!


  11. I LOVE this recipe. I use long grain rice but I pre cook it. I also in the sauce add 1 Tbs only of brown sugar and dry mustard. It adds a zing to the sauce. My goodness Thank you so much. Made a triple batch and froze them for later meals. Much love

  12. I make these we use Spanish Rice Robin and V8 juice really good. I serve them with mashed potatoes and corn and or salad.

  13. I cook my rice before adding it to the mixture. I’ve found that since I use a very lean ground beef, there isn’t enough fat in the meat to cook the rice till done. I also cover the dish with foil so that the rice that is sticking out of the meatballs won’t get hard from baking.

  14. I divided the recipe between two 5×5 dishes to make two one-dish meals. I add dry basil to the sauce with brown sugar and W.sauce and dried onions using 1 minute dry rice.
    Thanks for this recipe.

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