A classic meatball with a twist, these fun porcupine meatballs are laced with tender white rice and flavorful spices, then baked on a bed of homemade red sauce.

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Baked porcupine meatballs in a baking dish on a bed of red sauce.

About Porcupine Meatballs

With a combination of ground beef, seasonings, and long-grain rice, these porcupine meatballs are not only delicious, but each bite also counts as a serving of meat and grains.

Talk about tasty efficiency!

Plus, porcupine meatballs have a trademark look that lives up to their name, making them as fun to serve as they are enjoyable to eat.

What are porcupine meatballs?

This recipe has a pretty unique name, and it’s a fitting choice to match how they look: each meatball appears to have “spikes” like a porcupine.

Essentially, porcupine meatballs (also called porcupine balls) are classic meatballs with rice baked inside. Uncooked rice is used when forming the meatballs, so when they bake and the rice expands, it gives the meatballs a spiny look. And while they might look a little different than your average meatball, fans of beef and rice are going to love how this spin on the classic tastes.

You can serve porcupine meatballs however you like, but traditionally, they’re baked and served on a bed of red sauce.

What’s in porcupine meatballs?

In order to whip up a batch of these retro meatballs, you’ll need to collect the following ingredients:

  • Tomato sauce, water, light brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce – Used to create the red sauce that the porcupine meatballs are baked in. If you’d like, you can substite all of these for another sauce of your choosing, but make sure to still mix in some water; the rice needs the extra moisture to cook.
  • Long-grain white rice – When cooked inside the meatballs, the rice expands and protrudes slightly, giving the meatballs their “porcupine” appearance and added texture.
  • Yellow onion, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, canola oil, and paprika – Used to add delicious flavor and moisture to the meatballs.
  • Ground beef – The primary protein used to make and form the meatballs.
  • Parsley – Totally optional, can be used as a garnish for a shock of color and flavor.
Top down view of porcupine meatballs in a baking dish.

What tools you’ll need

Meatballs are easier to make than you’d think, and only require five tools from your kitchen.

So before getting started, just make sure you have:

  • Two mixing bowls, with at least one of them on the larger side.
  • A spatula for mixing the meatballs and a whisk for mixing the sauce.
  • A spoon for scooping and forming the meatballs.
  • A 9×13 baking dish (or similar size) for baking.

What to serve with these meatballs

Although they look a tad different, you can treat these meatballs just like you would any “normal” meatball. So when picking foods to accompany them, any of the following classics would be great:

  • Garlic bread, whether it be cheesy or extra buttery.
  • Steamed or grilled veggies (green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, etc).
  • Sweet or savory salads.
  • On a bed of your favorite pasta.
  • In a meatball sub.

How long are porcupine meatballs good for?

Once prepared and cooled, porcupine meatballs can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three to four days.

Can you freeze porcupine meatballs?

Yes, you totally can! These meatballs freeze very well. And better yet, whether you’re freezing them cooked or uncooked, the process is the same:

  • Place room-temperature meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (Note: this means that if you’ve already cooked the meatballs, they should first be cooled to room temperature.)
  • Transfer the baking sheet to the freezer until meatballs are frozen.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the freezer, then transfer the frozen meatballs to a ziplock bag.
  • Seal the bag and store it in the freezer until ready to eat. Raw meatballs can be frozen for up to three to four months while cooked meatballs can be frozen up to two to three months.

When you’re ready to use the meatballs, let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat them as desired.

Close up side view of porcupine meatballs in a baking dish, showing off rice and parsley garnish.

Should you freeze meatballs before or after cooking?

The decision really boils down to personal preference. Both raw and cooked meatballs can be effectively frozen, but each approach has its unique advantages.

But if you’re having trouble deciding, there are some minor benefits between the two:

  • Freezing raw: This method will capture the freshness of the ingredients and give you more freedom in how the meatballs are cooked up later (whether that be baking, frying, simmering in sauce, etc). Raw meat also still has plenty of moisture, so it will be less susceptible to freezer burn than its cooked (and dryer) counterpart. Plus, freezing raw meatballs is great for meal-prepping days when you don’t want to turn on the oven.
  • Freezing cooked: Cooked meatballs are the ultimate heat-up-and-eat meal and can be added to a variety of dishes. And once cooked, the meatballs will have a more even and firm texture (so they’ll maintain their shape better once frozen) and they’ll be less likely to harbor bacteria.

How to reheat meatballs

When ready to reheat the leftovers, allow the meatballs to sit on the counter for 30 minutes to come to room temperature, then use the following guidelines for bringing these porcupine meatballs back to their original tastiness:

  • Microwave method
    • Place meatballs in a microwave-safe dish.
    • Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid, paper towel, or paper plate, ensuring that there’s a loose corner to vent the steam.
    • Heat on medium power for one to two minutes, or until heated through. Check and stir every 30 seconds to ensure even heating.
  • Oven method
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    • Place meatballs in a baking dish, preferably in a single layer.
    • Heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until they’re heated through. For frozen meatballs, you might need to extend the time.
  • Stovetop method
    • Place meatballs in a skillet or saucepan.
    • If you have a sauce, add it now; it will help rehydrate the meatballs and prevent them from drying out.
    • Cover and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are heated through. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
  • Slow cooker method
    • Add meatballs (and sauce, if using) to the slow cooker.
    • Cover and heat on the LOW setting until they’re warmed through, anywhere from one to two hours.

Notes & tips for this porcupine meatballs recipe

  • This recipe is great for making larger batches. I’ve doubled and tripled the recipe with great success.
  • When baking, use the center rack of the oven if you can; it’ll ensure the meatballs are cooked evenly from top to bottom.
Wooden spoon scooping up three porcupine meatballs from a baking dish.

More tasty recipes with beef

How to make porcupine meatballs

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Prepare the simple red sauce by whisking together the tomato sauce, water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce until smooth and the sugar has dissolved. Once done, set the sauce aside.

Step 2 – Start the meatballs by mixing together the following in a large bowl: rice, water, onion, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika.

Step 3 – Add the ground beef and canola oil to the bowl, then use a spatula to mix everything together, making sure to thoroughly break apart the beef and distribute it throughout.

Step 4 – Scoop up some of the meatball mixture and roll it into a ball. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, then place the prepared meatball in the dish. Repeat this step until all the meatball mixture is used, spacing the meatballs about one inch apart.

Step 5 – Pour the red sauce over the meatballs. If needed, gently shake the dish to help distribute the sauce evenly.

Step 6 – Bake!

Step 7 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Baked porcupine meatballs in a baking dish on a bed of red sauce.
4.28 from 11 votes

Porcupine Meatballs

15 minutes prep + 1 hour cook
394 kcal
Yields: 5 servings (6 meatballs per)
A classic meatball with a twist, these fun porcupine meatballs are laced with tender white rice and flavorful spices, then baked on a bed of homemade red sauce.



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, then set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce until sugar has dissolved. Set bowl aside.
    15 ounces tomato sauce, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • In a large bowl, add rice, 1/2 cup water, onion, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika. Use a spatula to toss ingredients together until mixed.
    1 cup water, 1/2 cup long grain white rice, 1/3 cup chopped yellow onion, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Add ground beef and canola oil to rice mixture, then mix thoroughly until beef has broken down and ingredients are incorporated throughout.
    1 pound ground beef, 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Scoop up about 1-2 tablespoons of meatball mixture, roll and mold it into a ball, then place formed meatball into prepared baking dish9x13 baking dish. Repeat this step until all meatballs have been formed, spacing each meatball about 1 inch apart.
  • Pour prepared red sause over meatballs. Give baking dish a gentle shake to distribute sauce throughout dish.
  • Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
  • Sprinkle finished porcupine meatballs with chopped parsley as garnish (optional).
    1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • Serve immediately.


Recipe should make roughly 30 meatballs total.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 394kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 966mg | Potassium: 573mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 488IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 3mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Rachel
    • 2 stars

    I used the Ling grain rice and cooked for the time period above and the rice was WAY undercooked (still hard). I suggest maybe cooking the rice before adding to the mixture.

    • Angel

    I baked this for an hour and the rice was so raw, you couldnt eat it. I baked it for another hour. The rice was OK, but the meat was dried out. I recommend using leftover rice or minute rice.

    • Kaela
    • 5 stars

    This was amazing! I used to have these as a kid growing up in Minnesota. I made them myself for my husband & I and they came out perfect!! I used minute rice in this recipe and cooked just fine. Adding oil to the recipe made my sauce come out really oily, but still tasty. Might use less oil next time. I’m not one who cooks very much at all and am impressed with how simple this was! Will definitely be making again!


    Followed recipe. Meatbalks took well over hiur and a half to cook. rice was still hard Disappointing dinner

    • Lola Osinkolu | Chef Lola’s Kitchen
    • 5 stars

    My children love meatballs, can’t wait to make these!

    • Kathy

    When I make Porcupine Meatballs, I use my same recipe for making meatloaf, which is : lean ground beef (7% lean), ketchup, mustard, garlic, diced sweet onion, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, diced celery, crushed Ritz crackers, form meatballs, put them in a glass baking dish, pour Chicken and Wild Rice Condensed Soup over the meatballs. Bake at 350F for about 30 to 35 minutes. I cover it with foil for the first 15 minutes. I have served this over mashed potatoes or cooked rice.