12 Best Meatball Recipes

When you think of meatballs, you may immediately picture them on top of spaghetti, but every culture has its own take on this seemingly simple dish. Believe it or not, you won't find meatballs (polpette) served with pasta in Italy, they are a stand-alone appetizer or snack. Mediterranean-style meatballs (outside of Italy), are often made with beef or lamb, and feature bold flavors with herb-heavy recipes. In China, the popular Lion's Head meatball is made from pork and slow-braised until tender. Cajun and Mexican cuisines add spice and rice to their meatballs, while countries in the Middle East traditionally incorporate bulgur wheat and other grains into their versions. 

Even within cultures, everyone has that relative who boasts a secret, perfect recipe featuring a preferred blend of proteins, secret spices, complementary sauces, or a panade of milk-soaked breadcrumbs. These relatives don't often share their secrets, so if you want to become the new meatball master of your family, check out these Tasting Corner recipes.

1. Special Italian Meatballs

In this comforting recipe, milk-moistened bread crumbs and rich egg yolk are gently worked into ground beef and veal to bind the proteins and ensure that the meat stays juicy throughout the cooking process. Essential oregano, minced garlic, onion, and Parmesan cheese add signature Italian flavors to the meatballs before they get popped in the oven and roasted to tender perfection.

After baking, the meatballs are set to simmer in a pancetta and Chianti wine-based tomato sauce, soaking up tangy flavors from San Marzano tomatoes while imparting their savory essence to the sauce. Enjoy over your favorite pasta or with crusty bread for a comforting dish that's anything but basic.

Recipe: Special Italian Meatballs

2. French Onion Chicken Meatballs

If you're craving the sweet and savory flavors of a bold French onion soup but want a protein-packed meal, make it more substantial with meatballs. Onions are sauteed until caramelized — enhancing their natural sweetness with a hint of char — before they're added to savory beef broth and set to simmer. Light and tender chicken meatballs join the savory sauce and are topped with extra Gruyere to amplify the signature French onion flavor. 

Sop up the savory-sweet flavors of this soup-esque dish with a hunk of crusty artisan bread or pair with earthy greens.

Recipe: French Onion Chicken Meatballs

3. Spiced Lamb Meatballs With Green Raisin Pesto

In this recipe, mint-based pesto sweetened with the fruity essence of golden raisins is a unique and complementary dipping sauce for gamey lamb meatballs. The flavor of lamb is enhanced with toasted coriander, cumin seed, turmeric, and spicy red pepper flakes, creating a boldly-seasoned bite.

Offer these meatballs as an appetizer paired with pickled jalapeños, thin-sliced sweet onion, warm pita bread, and fresh herbs. Enjoy watching guests create their own intensely flavorful mini meatball sandwiches.

Recipe: Spiced Lamb Meatballs With Green Raisin Pesto

4. Rustic Italian Wedding Soup

Tender pork and beef meatballs are the hidden treasures found in this classic Italian soup that features light flavors and filling ingredients to satisfy any appetite. Based in rich, savory chicken stock, this soup boasts complementary flavors of Parmesan cheese and tart lemon that enhance the sage, rosemary, and thyme-seasoned meatballs. Earthy spinach and tiny acini de pepe pasta add extra heartiness to the soup and round out the flavor profile.

Garnish this rustic soup with extra shaved Parmesan and serve with a side of focaccia or artisan bread.

Recipe: Rustic Italian Wedding Soup

5. Classic Swedish meatballs

Don't hold out for leftovers after serving up these ever-popular Swedish meatballs, complete with their signature rich and tangy cream sauce. Ground beef and pork meatballs are simply flavored with garlic and onion and bound with crispy panko breadcrumbs before they're browned on the stovetop and finished in the oven. The savory beef and chicken stock sauce gets that classic kick from a dollop of Dijon mustard and soy sauce before it's thickened with rich heavy cream.

Serve this crowd-pleasing dish as an irresistible appetizer, or enjoy these tender meatballs over a bed of mashed potatoes.

Recipe: Classic Swedish Meatballs

6. Trader Joe's Instant Pot Meatballs

When you want to make meatballs within a budget, swing by Trader Joe's and grab all the ingredients you need to make a classic dish that doesn't break the bank. While you're saving money, save yourself some time by busting out the Instant Pot for this simple and delicious dish.

Savory ground beef benefits from the rich flavors of lightly caramelized onions, garlic, spicy chile flakes, nutty Parmesan cheese, thyme, and parsley that come together to create a classic meatball. Pressure-cooking the meatballs in a simple tomato sauce cuts down on cooking time but not on flavor. Garnish with fresh basil and serve over spaghetti or tuck into a baguette for an unforgettable meatball sandwich.

Recipe: Trader Joe's Instant Pot Meatballs

7. Albondigas (Mexican Meatballs) Soup

This hearty Mexican soup is full of tender meatballs and craveable savory flavors in every spoonful. Cinnamon and cumin bring the rich, warm spices of Mexican cuisine, while the rice inside the meatballs soaks up the savory flavors of the chicken stock-tomato broth base. The soup hosts a garden of vegetables like zucchini, peas, potatoes, and carrots for an especially satisfying meal.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and enjoy every tender, nutrient-rich spoonful of albondigas soup.

Recipe: Albondigas Soup

8. BBQ Meatballs

Satisfy everyone at the table with the palate-pleasing flavors of these tangy, savory BBQ meatballs. Sweet and smoky BBQ sauce joins tangy ketchup, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to impart an umami-rich essence to the tender meatballs before roasting in the oven. The BBQ sauce makes a repeat performance, coating the meatballs in a sticky-sweet glaze just as they come out of the oven.

These flavorful meatballs pair perfectly with starchy potatoes or a simple side of thick Texas toast.

Recipe: BBQ Meatballs

9. Vegan Meatballs

The versatile flavor and hearty texture of high-protein tempeh create a plant-based meatball that leaves nothing to be desired. After pulsing in a food processor, the subtly flavored vegan protein is enhanced by sweet sauteed onion, garlic, thyme, and vegan Parmesan made from ground cashews. Aquafaba, breadcrumbs, and almond milk bind the meatballs and keep them moist as they pan fry until golden brown.

Serve these flavorful vegan meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce over pasta garnished with a sprinkle of nutty vegan Parmesan.

Recipe: Vegan Meatballs

10. Best Cranberry Meatballs

Dried cranberries add their signature tangy-sweet flavor and chewy texture to minced beef seasoned with garlic powder, parsley, and onion powder in these fruity, umami-forward meatballs. A sweet and tart glaze made from cranberry sauce, orange juice, and brown sugar with a hint of cayenne pepper is poured over the meatballs, creating an elevated dish with holiday-reminiscent flavors that can be enjoyed anytime.

Garnish these cranberry meatballs with chopped parsley and serve as an appetizer, main course, or snack.

Recipe: Best Cranberry Meatballs

11. Italian Meatball Sandwich

It's hard to beat a hearty meatball sub piled high with all the classic fixings. Italian-seasoned beef meatballs bake up juicy thanks to the addition of milk-soaked breadcrumbs and make for a tender bite when tucked into a toasted sub roll. Tangy tomato sauce covers the meatballs, along with an essential handful of shredded mozzarella cheese melted over the top.

If you somehow have leftovers, feel free to freeze the meatballs and sauce so that you can enjoy an Italian meatball sandwich anytime the craving hits.

Recipe: Italian Meatball Sandwich

12. Moroccan Meatballs

Meatballs have made the menu of many cuisines, and this recipe gives you a taste of Africa with Moroccan-spiced meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce. Paprika and cumin-spiced ground beef is combined with egg, sauteed onion, and herbal chopped cilantro before being pan-fried to create a craveable exterior crust. The meatballs are then slow-simmered in an onion and garlic-forward tomato sauce cooked with brown sugar to balance spicy flavors with a hint of sweetness.

Serve these savory spiced meatballs over rice or with a warm flatbread to soak up the flavorful tomato sauce.

Recipe: Moroccan Meatballs