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Set-it-and-forget-it, no browning required, Nonna-approved Crockpot Meatballs have me so excited for your dinner tonight! These juicy, zesty meatballs package traditional Italian flavor with the hands-off convenience of the slow cooker.

The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

Why You’ll Love This Crockpot Meatballs Recipe

  • A Gift to Your Future Self. Cooking meatballs in the crockpot means you can avoid the pre-dinner scramble. When hunger strikes, you and your family simply stride into the kitchen, where a hearty, healthy, garlic-scented dinner awaits!
  • Super Versatile. Serve ‘em with noodles, pile them into a sub, or settle them on top of Zucchini Pasta; however you enjoy them, crockpot meatballs are a feel-good dinner for all ages.
  • A Classic, Re-Imagined. Italian food is a top genre in our household, with meatballs being the number one go-to. Whether it’s these slow cooker meatballs, Baked Chicken Meatballs, or Baked Turkey Meatballs, we can serve them multiple ways, they are stellar leftover, and let’s get to the point: meatballs taste amazing.
  • Easy Fail-Proof Recipe. I tested and re-tested this recipe to make sure it won’t let you down—and that it doesn’t require any more work that needed. No need to sear, and no dry meatballs here!
A bowl of spaghetti with crockpot meatballs and sauce

How to Make Crockpot Meatballs

The beauty of this easy crockpot meatballs recipe is that you don’t need to brown the meatballs before putting them in the slow cooker.

  • Placing the meatballs in a single layer allows the outsides to brown, so you can skip searing or baking them first.
  • Cooking the meatballs on high ensures they hold their shape and don’t dry out.

If you’d like to make a larger batch of meatballs, check out my Crock Pot Turkey Meatballs for a stellar recipe. You can swap beef if you like.

Crockpot meatballs with pasta in a bowl

The Ingredients

  • Ground Beef. To make this a healthy crockpot meatballs recipe, I used lean ground beef. You can also swap ground turkey or ground chicken, or do a blend.

tip!

For more great ground beef recipes, check out Ground Beef Dinner Ideas.

  • Jarred Pasta Sauce. This one-stop ingredient makes recipe prep quick and easy! For the best crockpot meatballs, choose a high-quality sauce. You’ll taste the difference.
  • Panko. Panko breadcrumbs add texture and help bind all the ingredients together.
  • Worcestershire. For a touch of umami. It makes these taste like you spent more time making them than you did. Win!
  • Milk. Ensures perfectly moist meatballs. Any milk you have on hand will work.

Substitution Tip

You can swap the milk for water if you prefer.

  • Fresh Parsley + Italian Seasoning. Whether fresh or dried, herbs are a delicious addition to homemade meatballs.
  • Parmesan. Salty, cheesy goodness.
  • Eggs. Help bind the meatballs together.
  • Garlic. For that must-have garlicky flavor.
  • Red Pepper Flakes. An optional addition that gives your meatballs a hint of spice.

The Directions

A bowl with ground beef, eggs, spices, and herbs
  1. Combine. Stir the meatball ingredients together.
Meatballs in a slow cooker
  1. Form. Shape the meatballs, then place in a lightly greased slow cooker.
Sauce being added to a slow cooker
  1. Add the Sauce. Along with the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using).
A slow cooker full of meatballs and sauce
  1. Slow Cook. Cook crockpot meatballs on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Top with Parmesan and parsley.
A bowl of spaghetti with crockpot meatballs
  1. Serve. With pasta, as a sub…whatever you please. ENJOY!

Wine Pairing

Serve your meatballs with Sangiovese, Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Tuscan red blend.

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate meatballs in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • To Freeze. Freeze meatballs with the sauce in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Meal Prep Tip

The meatballs can be formed up to 1 day in advance. Refrigerate them in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.

You can freeze baked or unbaked meatballs for up to 3 months.

  • To freeze, place meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer the frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer-safe storage container and freeze them.
  • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cook as directed (if raw) or rewarm in the oven.
Crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker with sauce

How to Serve Crockpot Meatballs

  • Spaghetti. A true crowd-pleaser with endless possibilities for customization! Use these meatballs to take Instant Pot Spaghetti up a notch.
  • Spaghetti Squash. To keep things low-carb, serve this dish over Roasted Spaghetti Squash or Crockpot Spaghetti Squash.
  • Sandwiches. With these meatballs, sauce, a toasted hoagie, and some melty cheese, you’ve got the perfect meatball sub!
  • Pizza. Slice the meatballs and use them as a pizza topping. (Try my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough for the crust.)
  • Appetizer. Simply serve the meatballs as is for an easy app.
  • Eggplant Dishes. Elevate eggplant Parmesan by spooning these saucy meatballs over the top (bonus points if you use Grilled Eggplant). Or, add them to a bowl of Eggplant Pasta.
  • Casserole. Use the meatballs in a recipe like this Meatball Casserole.
Crockpot meatballs on top of spaghetti with sauce and Parmesan
The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

Crockpot Meatballs

4.60 from 10 votes
Juicy crockpot meatballs, no browning required! These healthy slow cooker meatballs use jarred sauce to keep the recipe quick and easy!

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 30 minutes

Servings: 4 servings (about 12 meatballs)

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons milk of choice or water
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley plus additional for serving
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar prepared tomato pasta sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional

FOR SERVING (OPTIONAL):

  • Cooked whole wheat pasta
  • Polenta
  • Instant Pot Brown Rice or cauliflower rice
  • Hoagie buns and Provolone cheese for making a sub

Instructions
 

  • Lightly coat the bottom of a 5-quarter or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. In a large mixing bowl, place the beef, panko, Worcestershire sauce, milk, parsley, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and eggs. With a fork, break up the meat and stir the ingredients together until evenly combined.
  • Gently form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs, being careful not to compact the meat. If the mixture is sticking to your hands, wet them slightly. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the slow cooker. You’ll have about 12 meatballs total.
  • Pour the pasta sauce over the top. Sprinkle evenly with the garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook the meatballs on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the meatballs are cooked through (slice one in half to check). With a spoon, gently turn the meatballs to coat them in the sauce and distribute the garlic and red pepper flakes.
  • Sprinkle additional Parmesan and parsley on top, to taste. Serve as desired.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate meatballs in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze meatballs with the sauce in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4), about 3 meatballsCalories: 285kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 31gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 155mgPotassium: 1071mgFiber: 3gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 1198IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 120mgIron: 6mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Overcook Meatballs in a Crockpot?

Because of the sauce, you’re not likely to overcook these ground beef meatballs following the cook time listed. However, it is possible if the meatballs are left in the slow cooker too long. I do recommend using a programmable slow cooker that will switch to low after the cook time elapses to help avoid overcooking.

How Can I Make Spicy Crockpot Meatballs?

Turn up the heat on these slow cooker meatballs by adding more red pepper flakes to taste.

Can I Make Gluten Free Crockpot Meatballs?

Yes, you can make this recipe gluten free by swapping the panko breadcrumbs for gluten free panko breadcrumbs.

More Meatball Recipes

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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Recipe Rating




40 Comments

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    1. Hi Audra! I’ve only tested this out in the crockpot, so I wouldn’t be able to advise on how to cook them in the pressure cooker. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  1. Erin, I am unable to eat both dairy and gluten. I have gluten free panko – do you think this would work with a dairy free milk and no cheese? Thank you – they look delicious!

    1. Hi Pam! I’ve only tested the recipe as written. If you decide to experiment with those ingredients, I’d love to know how it goes!

  2. Finally meatballs with flavor! Love love love this recipe! Kid friendly so I also make a double batch! Thanks for sharing we love it!5 stars

    1. Hi Stacey, I’ve only tested the recipe as written, so I can’t advise how it would work on low. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  3. I’ve been making meatballs my whole life but am always open to new recipes, and we all really loved these! They came out ‘lighter’ than mine, almost fluffier? Maybe it has something to do with making them in a crockpot? The flavor was excellent, too! I’ll definitely make these again.5 stars

  4. These were great! I’m on a reset and made these gluten/grain free and dairy free. I used 1/4c tapioca flour and 1/4 cup almond flour, omitted the cheese & Worcestershire sauce, added a bit more salt, and used almond milk and they were some of my fave meatballs ever!5 stars

  5. I want to get and make these tomorrow night, but how do you think ground turkey meat would work with this recipe?

    1. Hi Arlene! Yes it would! I mentioned several different times in the post that ground turkey would be a great substitute. Hope you enjoy it!

  6. I’m always experimenting with Meatballs recipes. This one is really great. My crockpot seems to cook faster than most recipes call for so I did 1 hr high 1 hr low. It was fine. Very tasty. It’s nice not to have to stand in front of the stove turnings them to brown. I may try to try it with little ground pork. Probably have to add little more liquid. Definitely will be sharing this recipe.5 stars

  7. Hi Erin, This looks great. If I were to double the recipe, how long should I cook them. Still 2-1/2 hours on High?

    1. Hi Kathy! Should be the same but I would just start checking them at that point to see if they are cook through. Enjoy!

  8. I am in the process of making this recipe now. I have a 1/2 pound of bulk Italian sausage which I was thinking of adding to the ground beef. Do you think this would make the MB too greasy for this cooking method?

    1. Hi Roberta! It would be hard for me to say without trying it myself. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

  9. Hello! Excited to taste these. I just made them using 3 tablespoons of “lightly dried parsley”. I didn’t read the packaging and it says 1 tablespoon fresh parsley = 2 tablespoons of lightly dried. Whoops. Do you think they will be alright?

  10. I loved this easy delicious recipe so much I made it again for a friend. I have made many of your recipes and every one has been delicious and repeated in my kitchen.5 stars

  11. These did not turn out well for me unfortunately and I followed the recipe exactly. My family did not like the texture :(1 star

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble with the recipe, Trina. The amounts, flavorings and timing have worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would have been a hit for you too! I know it can be so disappointing to try a new recipe and it does not turn out for you.

  12. Did this recipe change by any chance in the past year or so? I swear it used to say to cook them in the oven for 3 minutes each side before putting them in the crock pot. We love this recipe so I’m so confused lol

  13. Hi Erin,
    The Worcestershire sauce is not listed in the assembly instructions, I am assuming mix it in with beef and spices, milk etc?

  14. Since finding this recipe I don’t make my meatballs any other way. The meatballs are perfect and the sauce is excellent (I use 2 jars of prego). I do thicken the sauce up with parmesan cheese when done cooking and my family LOVES this meal. Thank you so much for sharing this easy, delicious recipe with us!5 stars

  15. These were amazing!! Followed your recipe exactly. We will definitely make them again — thank you!5 stars

  16. I just made this at 1.5x the recipe. Used left over half ground beef and half ground pork. I also had left over Raos marinara, which I hate to waste, added a full new jar and a 8oz tomato sauce since it was going to be 18 meatballs. Since they don’t fit single layer in my slow cooker/instant pot I did sauté in the instant pot for about 4 minutes first and then switched to slow cooker when I added the sauce. This recipe was so easy and made the best meatballs! I don’t think my husband will want me to make any other kind now. They were light and flavorful. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars