Slow Cooker Meatballs

These Slow Cooker Meatballs don’t need any precooking – just mix, roll, and drop them in the slow cooker with the sauce. These soft and juicy meatballs are freezer-friendly and great for sub sandwiches or served with pasta.

meatballs and sauce in a slow cooker.

Until recently, I swore I would never serve meatballs that weren’t browned in a pan first. “You have to brown the meatballs,” I’d cry with my fist in the air. Browning develops a delicious crust, but this is a slow cooker meatball recipe, and who wants to brown meatballs in a splattering pan of oil in the morning? Not me, dear reader, and I’m guessing you don’t want to either.

Easy Meatballs in the Slow Cooker

  • First, the meatball recipe is super easy – no chopping! I use pantry seasoning and spices, so the meatball-making part is quick.
  • The meatballs go right into the slow cooker – mix, roll, and drop them in!
  • And, no, they don’t fall apart – instead, they hold their shape and come out tender and soft.
  • What I love best is the sauce – the meatballs simmer for several hours, infusing it with a deep, savory, meaty flavor.
  • Serve these slow cooker meatballs with pasta or use them to make fantastic meatball subs. They’re also freezer-friendly.

Moral of the story? Never say never. You are released from browning meatballs! We’re free from the tyranny of splattering oil!

meatballs and sauce being stirred in a slow cooker.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Ground beef
  • Italian sausage
  • Eggs
  • Dried bread crumbs
  • Garlic and onion powder
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned tomato sauce
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped garlic
  • Red pepper flakes

Meat: I like the combo of beef and Italian sausage, but you can use all ground beef. Or pair the Italian sausage with another kind of ground meat – I think turkey would work well. Just be sure to have some fat in the meat. It adds flavor and moisture so your meatballs aren’t too dry.

Frozen meatballs: Of course I love my homemade meatballs, but you can swap them for frozen meatballs for a semi-homemade situation. Sauce from scratch with a meatball shortcut is a great way to save some time.

Jarred sauce: Or, make the meatballs and skip the homemade sauce. A good-quality jarred marinara will work great (I love Rao’s marinara). You will need about five cups of sauce.

three meatball subs topped with melted cheese.

How to Make Slow Cooker Meatballs

Sauce: Mix the olive oil, tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes in the slow cooker.

Meatballs: Combine the eggs, breadcrumbs, and seasonings in a large bowl. Add all of the meat and mix just until combined. Form the mixture into meatballs and drop them in the sauce.

Can you over cook meatballs in a crockpot?

Yes, if you leave them in too long they will overcook. If this happens, they’ll end up dry – the longer they cook, the more moisture they release.

Four hours on high is a good amount of time for slow cooker meatballs to cook. You can also cook them on low for six hours or so.

Can you cook frozen meatballs in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can use your favorite frozen meatballs and you don’t have to thaw them first.

Different Ways to Serve Them

  • Pasta: This one’s a no brainer. Boil some spaghetti and toss it with some sauce. Pile those juicy crockpot meatballs on top with plenty of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle fresh parsley if you’re feeling fancy-like.
  • Rice: Or, spoon the sauce and meatballs over a bed of rice. Add some garlic toast on the side for some bonus points.
  • Mashed potatoes: For a super comforting dinner, serve them over mashed potatoes.
  • Subs: Get some soft sub rolls, line the meatballs up inside and top them with mozzarella cheese. Pop the meatball subs under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Sounds good, right?

Storage Tips

  • Refrigerator: The sauce and meatballs will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator. Just keep them in an airtight container.
  • Freezer: After they’re done, allow the sauce and meatballs to cool and then store them in freezer containers. They will keep well for several months.

Happy slow cooker meatball making!

April
slow cooker meatballs.

More Slow Cooker Recipes

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Slow Cooker Meatballs

slow cooker Italian meatballs.

These slow cooker meatballs don’t need any pre-cooking – just mix, roll, and drop them in the slow cooker with the sauce. These soft and juicy meatballs are freezer-friendly and great for sub sandwiches or served with pasta.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: approximately 30 meatballs 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Italian-American

Ingredients

Scale

For the Tomato Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (32-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

For the Meatballs

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup store-bought plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage

Instructions

  1. In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the olive oil, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggs, breadcrumbs, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, and oregano. Add the ground beef and sausage and, using your hands, mix it all together just until combined. Scoop approximately one ounce of the mixture to form each ball. Place the meatballs in an even layer in the sauce. Spoon some sauce over the meatballs so they are covered, place the lid on the slow cooker and set it to cook on high for four hours. Serve on rolls or with pasta.

Notes

Storage: Leftover meatballs and sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to four days. Or, store them in a freezer container, and they will freeze well for several months.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 3 meatballs
  • Calories: 299
  • Sugar: 5.4g
  • Sodium: 932.4mg
  • Fat: 19.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.7g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 11.4g
  • Trans Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.8g
  • Fiber: 2.5g
  • Protein: 19.3g
  • Cholesterol: 98.5mg

Keywords: easy slow cooker meatballs, slow cooker meatballs in tomato sauce, slow cooker Italian meatballs

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.

Post updated from the archives. First published in May 2018.

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5 Comments

  1. One thing I love are meatballs and a meatball sandwich sounds even better. Can’t wait to try it, thanks for the recipe.

  2. I made these and they turned out great – kept some for me, gave some to a neighbor, and freezing the rest when family comes to visit in a few weeks. This is a keeper!

  3. This recipe makes for a really classic Italian tasting meatball, and they made great meatball sandwiches. We didnt have all the ingredients in the house, so we subbed in some basic Italian spice to cover some that were missing. If you are making these for meatball sandwiches, I’d recommend a good soft Italian bread or french bread. Again, we were forced to use what we had on hand and we used a wheat slider type bun. The slightly sweet flavor of the bun distracted a bit from the great flavor of the meatball recipe. We subbed in our favorite jarred marinara from a local Denver restaurant, added in some good Mozzarella cheese slices, and voila!…a perfect ‘stay-at-home’ dinner! Cin, Cin!

  4. Maybe not my favorite meatballs – family recipe and all that – but there is a lot to like here.

    Despite making a sauce and a boat load of meatballs this is truly a no mess thing. No bubbling tomato sauce on the stove, no grease splattered from browning your balls. And it goes together fast.

    Changes?

    Someone else noted a lack of sugar and I did too. Added 2 Tbl sugar to the sauce to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

    Also added 1/4 cup parmesan to the sauce.

    The meatyballs were treated to a panade by adding 1/4 cup milk to the bread crumbs. Also 1/4 cup parmesan and some parsley. (Family recipe adds parmesan and parsley.) And a scant 1/4 tsp baking soda to improve browning in the crock pot.

    That’s the great thing about these recipes – tweak as you desire.

    This method won’t usurp the family recipe but it’s so easy and so good I’ll definitely be making again. Oh! We got over thirty 1 to 1.5 ounce meatballs out of this – great for feeding a crowd.

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