Set-it-and-forget-it, no browning required, Nonna-approved Crockpot Meatballs have me so excited for your dinner tonight!

The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

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Serve ‘em with noodles, pile them into a sub, or settle them on top of Zucchini Pasta; however you enjoy them, they’re a feel-good dinner for all ages.

Italian food is a top genre in our household, with meatballs being the number one go-to.

We can serve them multiple ways, they are stellar leftover, and let’s get to the point: meatballs taste amazing.

A bowl of spaghetti with crockpot meatballs and sauce

When you don’t start cooking until 5 or 6 p.m., a fast oven meatball recipe like Baked Chicken Meatballs or Baked Turkey Meatballs is excellent and always delicious.

When you have a little leeway to start ahead, slow cooker meatballs are a gift to your future self.

  • Cooking meatballs in the crockpot means you can avoid the predinner scramble.
  • When hunger strikes, you and your family simply stride into the kitchen, where a hearty, healthy, garlic-scented dinner awaits.
The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

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.
  • 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 all the more homemade.
  • 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. Parsley and Italian seasoning help give these meatballs an Italian flair.
  • 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. Stir the meatball ingredients together.
Meatballs in a slow cooker
  1. Form the mixture into meatballs, then transfer them to a lightly greased slow cooker.
Sauce being added to a slow cooker
  1. Pour the pasta sauce over the meatballs. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using).
A slow cooker full of meatballs and sauce
  1. Cook slow cooker meatballs on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Top with Parmesan and parsley.
A bowl of spaghetti with crockpot meatballs
  1. Serve as desired and 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

What to Serve with Crockpot Meatballs

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Slow Cooker

Avoid overcooking your food with this programmable slow cooker. It will switch to a “keep warm” setting once the cook time has ended.

The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

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Make it a meatball day!

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.

The best crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker

Crockpot Meatballs

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

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 30 mins

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, 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.

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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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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4 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!