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.
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!
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Combine. Stir the meatball ingredients together.
- Form. Shape the meatballs, then place in a lightly greased slow cooker.
- Add the Sauce. Along with the garlic and red pepper flakes (if using).
- Slow Cook. Cook crockpot meatballs on HIGH for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Top with Parmesan and parsley.
- Serve. With pasta, as a sub…whatever you please. ENJOY!
Serve your meatballs with Sangiovese, Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Tuscan red blend.
- 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.
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.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Slow Cooker. Perfect for making any of my slow cooker recipes.
- Mixing Bowls. This set of nine mixing bowls has everything you need.
- Cheese Grater. Grating your own cheese is worth the extra step.
- 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
- Instant Pot Brown Rice or cauliflower rice
- Hoagie buns and Provolone cheese for making a sub
- 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.
- 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Turn up the heat on these slow cooker meatballs by adding more red pepper flakes to taste.
Yes, you can make this recipe gluten free by swapping the panko breadcrumbs for gluten free panko breadcrumbs.