Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs are an easy, budget, weeknight dinner. Tasty ground beef meatballs with onions, breadcrumbs and rice, simmered in a rich tomato sauce.

What’s not to love about Homemade Meatballs? These retro meatballs are budget friendly, delicious, and can just as easily be a Main Dish as an Appetizer Recipe

Porcupine Meatballs


Just like Baked Spaghetti, these tasty, old fashioned meatballs are a delicious walk down memory lane with every bite. For almost a century this classic American recipe has been a delicious easy way to feed your family on a budget. Simple ingredients baked in a casserole dish, for easy clean up, this is the ultimate nostalgic weeknight dinner.

If you’ve been around a while, or just really love vintage advertising, you may recognize Porcupine Meatballs from retro Campbell’s Tomato Soup ads. They were given the funny name from the uncooked rice that puffs up while baking, making your meatballs look like they have quills.

Usually topped with a can of tomato soup or tomato sauce, Porcupine Meatballs are designed to be low cost and use everyday pantry items. And of course, what would an old fashioned recipe be without Worcestershire Sauce? It’s been a staple in beef recipes and no wonder. Just a little bit of it adds a lot of signature smoky, salty flavor so it’s an ingredient that stretches far.

This Porcupine Meatball recipe swaps out the tomato sauce for a little bit more flavorful marinara. You can use any jar of your favorite marinara or try this easy Homemade Marinara recipe. We always keep a few batches in the freezer for recipes like these Porcupine Meatballs.

Another traditional ingredient that was swapped out in this recipe is onion mix. Instead of the dry seasoning mix, this Porcupine Meatballs recipe uses fresh onions and garlic plus dried spices. It gives so much more flavor and also makes it easier to substitute or swap out spices to adjust to your taste.

These hearty Porcupine Meatballs are delicious served over Mashed Potatoes or White Rice. You want a starchy side to soak up every bite of the extra sauce. To round out this inexpensive old fashioned dinner serve with simple side of seasonal vegetables like Sautéed Green Beans.

More easy side dishes for your dinner table!


  • Meat: Using ground chicken or ground turkey works just as well as lean ground beef since you want less fat in these meatballs.
  • Sauce: Instead of marinara sauce, try Cream of Mushroom Soup, Enchilada Sauce, or a brown gravy. Go retro with a can or two of Campbell’s Tomato Soup!
  • Veggies: You can add finely chopped carrot, mushrooms, or bell peppers to your meatballs to make them heartier and healthier.
  • Rice: Use any long grain rice in this recipe. You could also substitute brown rice by increasing to 2 hours cook time. 
  • Spices: You can easily adjust the spices in this recipe. Try other ground spices like dry mustard, cumin, paprika, or herbs like ground thyme and oregano.
  • Porcupine Hamburgers: Shape the meatballs into 6 patties instead and bake as usual. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, cover each patty with a slice of mozzarella cheese and bake until melted.

Porcupine Meatballs in baking pan

Porcupines in Skillet

  • Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain and set aside.
  • Add onion and cook until until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 more seconds.
  • Pour ½ cup water and 1 cup marinara and return to beef to pan.
  • Stir in ¾ cup uncooked rice.
  • Cover skillet and cook for 25 minutes. Top Porcupine Skillet casserole with cheese if desired.

Slow Cooker Porcupine Meatballs

  • Prepare the meatball ingredients as usual, rolling and squishing together until tight condensed.
  • Optional: Broil meatballs 3-4 on both sides to help keep the together if your mixture is too loose.
  • Mix sauce ingredients together. Spray crockpot with cooking spray.
  • Add ½ cup tomato sauce bottom of slow cooker. Cover sauce with meatballs in 1 layer.
  • Top meatballs with 1 cup sauce. Repeat layering meatballs and covering with sauce.
  • (You can’t stir these meatballs so it’s important to add sauce between layers).
  • Cover with lid and cook on low 5-7 hours or high for 3-4 hours, until meatballs are fully cooked.



  • Serve: Store Porcupine Meatballs after no more than 2 hours at room temperature. You can keep this dish warm in a slow cooker with the sauce for up to 4 hours.
  • Store: Transfer meatballs to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop at medium heat.
  • Freeze: Freeze either pre-cooked or raw meatballs for up to 3 months. Flash freeze on a baking tray for one hour before transferring to a container to keep from sticking together.

Simmered Porcupine Meatballs stuffed with rice

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Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs are an easy, budget, weeknight dinner. Tasty ground beef meatballs with onions, breadcrumbs and rice, simmered in a rich tomato sauce.
Yield 6
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1/2 cup long grain rice , uncooked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup onion , chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl combine the rice, water, onion, salt, celery salt, pepper, ground beef, breadcrumbs, garlic and vegetable oil.
  • Roll into 2 inch sized balls.
  • Place in baking dish.
  • Mix together marinara sauce, water and Worcestershire sauce and pour it over the meatballs (make the sure sauce level is higher than the meatballs.
  • Cover and cook for 90 minutes.


Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 1544mg | Potassium: 929mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 707IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 4mg
Keyword: Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. What do you like to serve this with? My mother used to make these and we had them with mashed potatoes. I’m making this tomorrow. It sounds delicious.

  2. Love your site! I especially love all the variations you give as well as freezer instructions for almost everything! How would you cook these from frozen? Would you freeze them without the sauce?

    1. I would freeze them without the sauce. If you’re cooking from frozen, just make sure they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.

  3. Can you tell me where the breadcrumbs are and how much? Making this for dinner and just finished the marinara.

  4. Breadcrumbs are mentioned multiple times but there aren’t any in the recipe. Were these forgotten?

    1. You’ll want to add 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs with the other ingredients in step 2. I’ve edited so I’m not sure why you aren’t able to see it corrected. Sorry about that.

  5. This is so easy! I’ve been using frozen meatballs just because before I thought it was time consuming and labor intensive but it totally isn’t!

  6. I love the meatballs with the rice. I’ve never tried putting rice in my meatballs.
    I also liked the Worcestershire sauce in the mix.

  7. how much breadcrumbs..non are in list of ingredients but are mentioned in commentary

  8. There is supposed to be bread crumbs in this recipe. Can you take a look at the amount and revise please? Thank you!