Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

Nothing screams comfort food quite like homemade meatballs. Slowly simmered in a rich marinara sauce, these savory bites are perfect for a family dinner or a hearty appetizer. Plus, cooking these in a slow cooker not only makes preparation a breeze but infuses each meatball with unbeatable flavor. This easy-to-follow recipe will guide you in making your own slow cooker meatballs that are sure to become a household favorite.

Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

Photos of Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

Most of the ingredients in this recipe are common kitchen staples, such as ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, and onion. However, you may need to make a trip to your local grocery store for items like Italian breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Both bring a distinctive flavor and texture that elevate this dish. Don't forget to grab a jar of your favorite marinara sauce and canned tomatoes for a slow-simmered sauce that perfectly complements the meatballs.

Ingredients for Slow Cooker Meatballs

Ground beef: The star ingredient that forms the base of the meatballs. Use lean beef for a healthier option.

Italian breadcrumbs: Adds texture and helps bind the meatballs together.

Parsley: Brings a fresh burst of flavor.

Garlic: Gives a robust, savory taste.

Onion: Adds sweetness and depth to the flavor profile.

Egg: Acts as a binder for the meatballs.

Parmesan cheese: Provides a rich, salty bite.

Salt: Enhances the overall flavor.

Pepper: Adds a little heat.

Cooking spray: Prevents the meatballs from sticking to the baking sheet.

Marinara sauce: Creates a flavorful base for the slow cooker.

Tomatoes: Adds freshness and a touch of acidity to the sauce.

Tomato sauce: Gives a rich thickness to the sauce.

One reader, Jacki Heflin says:

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This slow cooker meatballs recipe is a game-changer! The meatballs turned out so tender and flavorful. The prep was a breeze, and the end result was absolutely delicious. The whole family loved it, and I can't wait to make it again. It's a definite winner in my book!

Jacki Heflin

Techniques Required for Making Slow Cooker Meatballs

How to broil the meatballs: Preheat the broiler and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and broil for about 8 to 10 minutes until browned.

How to shape the meatballs: Take the meat mixture and shape it into 1-inch meatballs using your hands. Ensure they are evenly sized for even cooking.

How to mix the meatball ingredients: In a bowl, combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, egg, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. If the mixture is too dry, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time, until a smooth mixture forms.

How to cook the meatballs in the slow cooker: Place the broiled meatballs in the slow cooker and add the marinara sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Gently stir to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

How to serve the meatballs: Top the cooked meatballs with a sprinkling of parsley and parmesan cheese before serving.

How To Make Slow Cooker Meatballs

This meatballs recipe calls for slow-cooked ground beef, cheese, and various herbs and spices mixed with a hearty tomato sauce. Best served over pasta.

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 4 hours 10 minutes
Total: 4 hours 25 minutes



  • lbsground beef,use 90% lean
  • ¾cupItalian breadcrumbs
  • ¼cupparsley,fresh, chopped plus more for serving
  • 1tspgarlic,minced
  • ½cuponion,minced
  • 1egg
  • cupparmesan cheese,grated, plus more for serving
  • 1tspsalt
  • ¼tsppepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 28ozMarinara Sauce
  • 16oztomatoes,crushed
  • 15oztomato sauce


  1. Preheat the broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

  2. Place the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, egg, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined. If it’s hard to get everything to mix together, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time until a smooth mixture forms.

  3. Shape the meat into 1-inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.

  4. Broil the meatballs for about 8 to 10 minutes until browned.

  5. Place the meatballs in the slow cooker. Add the marinara sauce, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir gently to combine.

  6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours or High for 3 to 4 hours.

  7. Top the meatballs with a sprinkling of parsley and parmesan cheese, then serve.


  • Calories: 533.90kcal
  • Fat: 33.26g
  • Saturated Fat: 10.92g
  • Trans Fat: 1.35g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 14.59g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.20g
  • Carbohydrates: 29.57g
  • Fiber: 5.31g
  • Sugar: 13.31g
  • Protein: 28.79g
  • Cholesterol: 115.44mg
  • Sodium: 1197.12mg
  • Calcium: 208.04mg
  • Potassium: 1198.61mg
  • Iron: 5.16mg
  • Vitamin A: 134.66µg
  • Vitamin C: 22.42mg

Helpful Technique Tip for Slow Cooker Meatballs

When shaping your meatballs, try to keep them all the same size. This ensures they cook evenly and at the same rate in the slow cooker. A good tip is to use a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to portion out the meat mixture. This will help you get consistently sized meatballs. Also, don't pack the meatballs too tightly. A lighter touch results in a more tender meatball.

Time-Saving Tips for Making Meatballs in a Slow Cooker

Prep ahead: Prepare the meatball mixture the night before and store it in the refrigerator. This will save time on the day of cooking.

Use a cookie scoop: Use a cookie scoop to portion out the meat mixture for uniform meatballs, saving time and ensuring consistent size.

Double the batch: Make a double batch of meatballs and freeze half for later use. This way, you'll have ready-to-cook meatballs on hand for a quick meal.

Slow cooker liners: Consider using slow cooker liners for easy cleanup, saving time on washing the slow cooker pot.

Pre-cut ingredients: Purchase pre-cut onions and garlic to save time on prep work. This can be a huge time-saver in the kitchen.

Set a timer: Use a kitchen timer or smartphone timer to remind you to check on the meatballs, allowing you to focus on other tasks while they cook.

Organize ingredients: Before starting, gather all the ingredients and kitchen tools needed for the recipe. This will streamline the cooking process and save time searching for items.

Substitute Ingredients For Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

  • ground beef - Substitute with ground turkey: Ground turkey is a leaner option and can be used as a healthier alternative to ground beef. It also has a similar texture and flavor when cooked.
  • italian breadcrumbs - Substitute with panko breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs have a coarser texture and will provide a crispier coating for the meatballs.
  • parsley - Substitute with fresh basil: Fresh basil can add a slightly different flavor profile to the meatballs, giving them a fresh and aromatic twist.
  • garlic - Substitute with garlic powder: Garlic powder can be used as a convenient alternative to fresh garlic, providing a similar flavor without the need for mincing.
  • onion - Substitute with shallots: Shallots have a milder and sweeter flavor compared to onions, adding a subtle and delicate taste to the meatballs.
  • egg - Substitute with flaxseed meal: Flaxseed meal can be used as a binding agent in place of eggs for a vegan-friendly option.
  • parmesan cheese - Substitute with pecorino romano: Pecorino romano cheese has a similar salty and tangy flavor to parmesan and can be used as a substitute in the meatball mixture.
  • marinara sauce - Substitute with tomato puree mixed with Italian seasoning: A mixture of tomato puree and Italian seasoning can replicate the flavor profile of marinara sauce when used in the slow cooker.
  • tomatoes - Substitute with canned diced tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes can be used as a convenient alternative to fresh tomatoes, providing a similar texture and flavor in the slow cooker recipe.
  • tomato sauce - Substitute with passata: Passata is a smooth, uncooked tomato puree that can be used as a substitute for tomato sauce in the recipe.

Best Way to Present Slow Cooker Meatballs

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the slow cooker meatballs, focus on creating an elegant and visually appealing plate. Use fresh herbs and microgreens to add a pop of color and freshness to the dish.

  2. Incorporate texture: Add a textural element to the dish by serving the meatballs on a bed of creamy polenta or al dente spaghetti. This will provide a contrast in textures and elevate the overall dining experience.

  3. Garnish with precision: Pay attention to the finer details by garnishing the dish with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. This will enhance the flavors and add a touch of sophistication to the presentation.

  4. Focus on symmetry: Arrange the meatballs in a symmetrical pattern on the plate, creating a visually appealing presentation that showcases attention to detail and precision in plating.

  5. Utilize elegant serving ware: Choose sophisticated serving dishes that complement the dish and elevate the overall presentation. Opt for minimalist yet stylish plating to showcase the meatballs as the star of the dish.

  6. Incorporate a touch of luxury: Consider adding a shaving of truffle or a sprinkle of edible gold flakes to add a luxurious touch to the dish, appealing to the refined palates of the culinary professionals.

Essential Tools for Making Meatballs in a Slow Cooker

  • Baking sheet: A flat, metal sheet used for baking and broiling foods in the oven.
  • Mixing bowl: A bowl used for combining ingredients and mixing them together.
  • Slow cooker: A countertop electrical cooking appliance used for simmering at low temperatures.
  • Broiler: An oven compartment used for cooking food by exposing it to direct radiant heat.
  • Cooking spray: A sprayable oil used to prevent food from sticking to cooking surfaces.
  • Food processor: A kitchen appliance used for chopping, slicing, and pureeing ingredients.

Storing and Freezing Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • Allow the meatballs to cool completely before storing or freezing. This will prevent condensation from forming and causing soggy meatballs.
  • For short-term storage, place the cooled meatballs in an airtight container along with the sauce. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • To freeze the meatballs, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour, or until the meatballs are firm.
  • Transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer-safe container or resealable plastic bag. Pour the sauce over the meatballs, making sure they are well-coated. This will help prevent freezer burn and keep the meatballs moist.
  • Label the container or bag with the date and contents, then place it in the freezer. Frozen slow cooker meatballs can be stored for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat, thaw the meatballs and sauce in the refrigerator overnight. Transfer the contents to a saucepan or slow cooker and heat over low heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave.
  • If you have leftover meatballs without sauce, freeze them separately on a baking sheet, then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag once frozen. To reheat, thaw the meatballs in the refrigerator and warm them in the marinara sauce until heated through.

How To Reheat Leftover Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • Stovetop method: place the meatballs in a saucepan along with any leftover sauce. heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are heated through and the sauce is simmering. this method allows you to control the temperature and ensure even heating, while also keeping the meatballs moist.

  • Oven method: preheat the oven to 350°f (175°c). arrange the meatballs in a baking dish and cover with foil. bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the meatballs are heated through. remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to allow the tops of the meatballs to crisp up slightly. this method is ideal for reheating larger quantities of meatballs and helps maintain their shape.

  • Microwave method: place the meatballs and sauce in a microwave-safe dish. cover the dish with a damp paper towel to prevent splattering and to help retain moisture. microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until the meatballs are heated through. while this is the quickest method, it may result in uneven heating and can cause the meatballs to dry out if overcooked.

  • Slow cooker method: if you have the time, reheating the meatballs in the slow cooker can help them retain their moisture and flavor. place the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 1-2 hours, or until heated through. this method is particularly useful if you want to keep the meatballs warm for an extended period, such as during a party or gathering.

  • Sous vide method: for the most precise and even reheating, consider using a sous vide machine. place the meatballs and sauce in a vacuum-sealed bag or a resealable plastic bag with the air removed. submerge the bag in a water bath set to 140°f (60°c) and let the meatballs reheat for about 30 minutes, or until warmed through. this method ensures that the meatballs are evenly heated without losing any moisture or flavor.

Interesting Fact About Slow Cooker Meatballs

The slow cooker meatballs recipe is a popular dish for gatherings and parties. It's a versatile recipe that can be served as an appetizer, a main course, or even as a topping for pasta or sandwiches. Meatballs are a classic comfort food enjoyed by people of all ages and are a great way to add protein to your diet. They can be made with various meats and seasonings, making them a customizable and delicious option for any occasion. Meatballs are also a great make-ahead dish, as they can be prepared in advance and reheated when needed, making them a convenient and time-saving option for busy days.

Is Making Meatballs in a Slow Cooker Cost-Effective?

The slow cooker meatballs recipe is highly cost-effective for a household. Ground beef is a budget-friendly protein, and the addition of breadcrumbs and onions stretches the meat further. The use of a slow cooker also helps to tenderize tougher cuts of meat, making it a great way to utilize more affordable options. The total cost for a household of 4 people is approximately $15-$20, making it an economical choice. Overall Verdict: 8/10

Are Slow Cooker Meatballs Healthy or Unhealthy?

The slow cooker meatballs recipe, while delicious, may not be the healthiest option due to a few factors:

  • The recipe relies heavily on ground beef, which can be high in saturated fat and calories, especially if a higher fat content is used.
  • Breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese add additional calories, carbohydrates, and fat to the dish.
  • The sodium content may be high due to the addition of salt, parmesan cheese, and the use of pre-made sauces like marinara and tomato sauce.

However, the recipe does include some nutritious ingredients, such as onion, garlic, and parsley, which provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following modifications:

  • Opt for lean ground beef (90% or higher) or substitute a portion of the beef with ground turkey or chicken to reduce the fat content.
  • Use whole wheat breadcrumbs or oats instead of regular breadcrumbs to increase the fiber content.
  • Reduce the amount of salt and parmesan cheese used, or opt for low-sodium versions of the sauces to decrease the overall sodium content.
  • Incorporate more vegetables into the dish, such as grated zucchini or carrots, to boost the nutrient profile and add moisture to the meatballs.
  • Serve the meatballs with a side of steamed or roasted vegetables and a whole grain option, like quinoa or brown rice, to create a more balanced meal.

Editor's Opinion on This Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

The slow cooker meatballs recipe is a classic and comforting dish that is sure to please a crowd. The combination of ground beef, Italian breadcrumbs, and savory seasonings creates a rich and flavorful meatball. Slow cooking the meatballs in a marinara sauce infuses them with even more delicious taste. The broiling step adds a nice caramelization to the meatballs, enhancing their texture and flavor. Overall, this recipe is a winner for its simplicity and satisfying taste.

Enhance Your Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Garlic Mashed Potatoes: Creamy mashed potatoes with a hint of roasted garlic, topped with chives and a dollop of butter.
Roasted Vegetables: A colorful medley of seasonal vegetables, roasted to perfection with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs.
Fruit Salad: A refreshing mix of juicy fruits, such as strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi, tossed in a light honey-lime dressing.
Creamy Polenta: Smooth and velvety polenta, cooked to a creamy consistency and topped with a savory mushroom ragout.
Chocolate Lava Cake: Indulgent chocolate cake with a molten center, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Similar Recipes to Slow Cooker Meatballs

Creamy Chicken Alfredo: This creamy and indulgent pasta dish is perfect for a cozy night in. The combination of tender chicken and rich alfredo sauce will leave you wanting more.
Roasted Vegetable Salad: This vibrant and flavorful salad is a great way to enjoy a variety of roasted vegetables. The mix of textures and flavors will make this dish a hit at any gathering.
Berry Cobbler: Indulge in the sweetness of fresh berries with this delicious cobbler. The warm, gooey filling and buttery topping make for a comforting dessert that's perfect for any occasion.

Appetizer and Dessert Pairings for Slow Cooker Meatballs

Stuffed Mushrooms: Impress your guests with these savory and indulgent stuffed mushrooms. The combination of earthy mushrooms, creamy cheese, and flavorful herbs will leave everyone wanting more. These bite-sized delights are the perfect way to start any meal.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip: This creamy and cheesy spinach and artichoke dip is a crowd-pleaser. The rich and indulgent flavors of the spinach and artichoke pair perfectly with crispy bread or crunchy tortilla chips. It's the ultimate comfort food appetizer for any gathering.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth texture and decadent flavor will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Apple Pie: Savor the warm and comforting flavors of a classic apple pie, with a flaky golden crust and tender, cinnamon-spiced apples. Pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.

Why trust this Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe:

This recipe guarantees delicious meatballs that are bursting with flavor and made with high-quality ingredients. The combination of ground beef, Italian breadcrumbs, and fresh parsley ensures a perfect texture and taste. The slow cooking process allows the meatballs to absorb the rich flavors of marinara sauce, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, resulting in a mouthwatering dish. Trust this recipe for its carefully selected ingredients and precise cooking instructions, promising a delightful dining experience.

Share your thoughts on this slow cooker meatballs recipe in the Recipe Sharing forum and let us know how it turned out for you!
How long should I cook the meatballs in the slow cooker?
You can cook the meatballs on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
Can I use a different type of meat for the meatballs?
Yes, you can use ground turkey or ground chicken as a substitute for ground beef.
Can I freeze the meatballs?
Yes, you can freeze the meatballs after they have been cooked. Allow them to cool completely, then store them in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Can I use store-bought marinara sauce instead of making it from scratch?
Absolutely! You can use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce to save time.
Can I add other vegetables to the sauce?
Of course! You can add diced bell peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini to the sauce for extra flavor and nutrition. Just make sure to adjust the seasoning accordingly.

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