Slow Cooker Meatballs are traditional Italian meatballs that are slow cooked in tomato sauce until tender and juicy. These meatballs make the perfect weeknight meal or tailgate party appetizer.
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I’ve lightened up this go to family favorite by using ground chicken, but you can use ground beef, pork, or turkey; whichever meat you like. These meatballs are made with simple pantry ingredients-onion, breadcrumbs, seasonings and jarred tomato sauce and are nestled into your crock pot and slow cooked until juicy and tender.
Serve these meatballs over a big plate of spaghetti or on rolls for easy meatball subs. Meatball hoagies are a huge family favorite. A big batch of slow cooker meatballs would be great for a tailgate party!
What you’ll need:
- 7-8 quart crock pot and non stick spray
- Ground meat-I’m using ground chicken, use what you have on hand, or do a blend of beef and turkey, beef and pork
- Milk– any type works, this makes the meatballs tender
- Breadcrumbs– seasoned or non-seasoned, panko or regular. If you don’t have breadcrumbs on hand, use 2 slices of fresh bread broken into pieces.
- Seasonings– Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic
- Onion-finely diced or grated
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Eggs– to hold it all together
- Tomato sauce– jar or homemade, you’ll need about 3 cups
- Shredded mozzarella cheese– this is optional and added at the end to make the meatballs extra cheesy
- Fresh chopped parsley or basil– (if you have it on hand) to sprinkle over the finished meatballs
How to make Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Spray the crock pot with non stick cooking spray. Pour all of the sauce into the bottom.
2. In a bowl combine all of the ingredients, except for the shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix together and scoop into 1 tablespoon sized meatballs.
3. Snuggle all of the meatballs together in the sauce. It will be tight, but they will all fit, so just keep stuffing. You’ll get approximately 35 meatballs; more or less depending on size. I use a heaping 1 tablespoon scooper.
You can make a bunch of smaller 1/2 tablespoon meatballs. The meatballs can sit on top of each other, so don’t worry if it looks really full, they will cook through.
4. Cook on low 4 hours or high for 2 hours.
5. Once the meatballs are finished cooking, sprinkle on the shredded cheese. Cover and cook an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
How to serve
- Serve as appetizers at a party or tailgate
- Serve on hoagie rolls as meatball subs
- Scoop over your favorite pasta for an easy weeknight family dinner
- Serve with a side salad for a low carb meal
Do I need to brown the meatballs first?
These meatballs hold up well in the slow cooker, so there’s no need to brown them on the stove first. After simmering for hours the meatballs are so flavorful and juicy, you can skip the browning step and save yourself some time.
What type of meat to use?
I like ground chicken or ground turkey or a combination of beef and pork or beef and turkey because the leaner meats will not make the sauce greasy. If using only ground beef, choose the leaner 90/10.
What kind of sauce should I use?
This recipe uses jarred spaghetti sauce- it’s easy and it’s flavorful. You can use 3 cups of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of tomato pasta and 1 tsp of sugar instead. Add any additional seasonings you like to the sauce or add extra fresh basil and parsley at the end before serving.
Can these be make ahead?
Yes! Prepare the meatballs and refrigerate in an airtight container the day before. When you’re ready, add the sauce and meatballs to the crock pot and cook an additional 30 minutes from what the recipe directs. (Because the meatballs will be cold)
Makes a great freezer meal!
These can be frozen as well. Cook and cool completely. Add to a freezer safe bag or container and freeze up to 4 months. If you’re using a freezer bag, make sure the meatballs are in a single layer. This saves room in the freezer and makes re-heating a breeze. Heat from frozen in a baking dish in the oven at 350ºF for 1 hour. Or thaw the meatballs in the fridge for 24 hours and heat in the oven for 30 minutes or until hot.
Other meatball variations
Use this meatball recipe but change up the sauce. Try one bottle of BBQ sauce and 1 jar of grape jelly for a sweet meatball. Use buffalo sauce for easy buffalo meatballs served with ranch dressing and celery and carrot sticks. Use a jarred sweet and sour sauce and serve the meatballs over rice. Or try these Peach Glazed Meatballs in the Crock Pot for a delicious and easy party appetizer.
If you love Crock Pot Recipes, try these:
Or check out my Crock Pot E-Cookbook, available for purchase and filled with 30 easy, delicious, family friendly crock pot recipes.
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Easy Slow Cooker Meatballs
- 2 lbs ground chicken turkey or beef
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 onion finely diced
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs whisked
- 24 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Spray a crock pot with nonstick spray. Add the sauce to the bottom.
- In a bowl mix together the ground meat, milk, breadcrumbs, seasonings, garlic, onion, eggs and parmesan cheese. Scoop into 1 tablespoon meatballs and add to the crockpot in a single layer. Nestle the meatballs in the sauce close together.
- Cook on low 4 hours or high 2 hours.
- Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese and cover another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or basil.
- Serve alone, over pasta, or as meatball hoagies.