How to Make the Perfect Meatballs Out of Ground Beef

Meatballs are a beloved comfort food that can be served in endless ways. From Swedish meatballs to spaghetti and meatballs, meatballs made from ground beef are a versatile and tasty addition to many dishes. With just a few simple ingredients and techniques, you can easily make flavorful, tender meatballs at home using ground beef.

Why Make Your Own Meatballs?

There are several benefits to making homemade meatballs rather than buying premade frozen ones:

  • You control the ingredient quality and freshness
  • Ability to customize flavors to your taste
  • Cost savings from making them yourself
  • Avoid added preservatives and sodium often in store-bought
  • Fun hands-on cooking activity for the family

While homemade meatballs do require a little extra effort, the payoff of fresh, home-cooked flavor is well worth it!

Tips for Making Tender Ground Beef Meatballs

The key to making great meatballs is all in the technique. Follow these tips and tricks:

1. Choose the Right Beef

Opt for ground chuck or ground sirloin with an 80/20 or 85/15 meat to fat ratio. The higher fat content helps keep the meatballs tender and moist, while the sirloin offers more beefy flavor.

2. Add a Binders

Binders like breadcrumbs, milk, or eggs are blended with the beef to add moisture and hold the meatball together.

3. Don’t Overwork the Meat

Gently mix just until combined to avoid dense, rubbery meatballs.

4. Chill Before Cooking

Letting the meatballs chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes firms them up for easier shaping.

5. Brown Properly

Browning the meatballs prior to simmering or baking further develops flavor.

Meatball Mix-In Ideas

One of the best parts of homemade meatballs is customizing each batch with your favorite flavors. Mix in any combination of the following:

  • Onions or shallots: Finely diced or grated onions add moisture and flavor.

  • Garlic: Minced or grated garlic provides a robust, savory kick.

  • Herbs & spices: Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary are all tasty additions.

  • Cheese: Grated parmesan, pecorino, or ricotta cheese make the meatballs extra rich.

  • Breadcrumbs: Use fresh breadcrumbs or panko to help bind the meatballs.

  • Eggs: An egg contributes proteins to bind and add moisture.

  • Milk: A splash of milk or cream lends a subtle sweetness.

Step-By-Step Meatball Recipe

This classic recipe results in flavorful, foolproof meatballs every time:


  • 1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper


  1. Combine ingredients: In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix.

  2. Chill: Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Chilling helps firms up the meatballs for shaping.

  3. Shape meatballs: Roll heaping tablespoon-sized portions of meat into balls. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  4. Brown meatballs: Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add meatballs and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes total.

  5. Simmer in sauce: Add desired sauce and simmer meatballs for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

  6. Serve: Enjoy meatballs over pasta, in sandwiches, with dips, or skewered for appetizers.

Cooking Methods for Meatballs

There are several cooking methods to choose from once your meatballs are shaped:


Baking at 400°F on a rimmed sheet pan is ideal when making meatballs on their own. Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway.


Frying in batches allows the meatballs to brown and develop fond for extra flavor. Use a combination of oil and butter.


Gently simmering in tomato sauce, gravy, or broth infuses the meatballs with moisture and flavor.


Air fryers produce crisp, browned meatballs in record time with no oil required. Spray with oil to prevent sticking.


Meatballs can be grilled directly or threaded onto skewers for easy turning. Use medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes.

Serving Ideas for Meatballs

Homemade meatballs shine in these delicious dishes:

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs – Simmer bite-sized meatballs in marinara sauce and serve over pasta. Top with shredded parmesan.

  • Meatball Sandwiches – Pile meatballs with melted provolone cheese on subs or hoagie rolls.

  • Meatball Appetizers – For easy finger food, coat mini meatballs in your favorite glazy or dipping sauce.

  • Meatball Soup – Add meatballs to soups like chicken noodle, minestrone, or tomato basil.

  • Meatball Casserole – Layer meatballs between sheets of lasagna noodles and cheese sauce.

  • Meatball Skewers – Alternate meatballs and veggies like grape tomatoes and zucchini on skewers.

Meatball Recipe Variations

Change up the flavor profile of basic meatballs by incorporating different herbs, spices, cheeses, and mix-in ingredients.

Italian Meatballs

Add: basil, oregano, Pecorino Romano, fresh parsley

Serve with: marinara, Parmesan, pasta

Greek Meatballs

Add: mint, feta, lemon zest, yogurt

Serve with: tzatziki, pita bread, roasted veggies

Swedish Meatballs

Add: nutmeg, allspice, cream

Serve with: egg noodles, gravy, lingonberry sauce

Southwest Meatballs

Add: cumin, chili powder, cilantro, pepper jack

Serve with: guacamole, tortillas, black beans

BBQ Meatballs

Add: Worcestershire, brown sugar, smoked paprika

Serve with: barbecue sauce, potato salad, coleslaw

Freezing and Storing Meatballs

Properly stored, homemade meatballs will keep for:

  • Refrigerator: 3-4 days
  • Freezer: 2-3 months

To freeze uncooked meatballs:

  • Place shaped meatballs in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, about 1-2 hours.
  • Transfer frozen meatballs to an airtight freezer bag or container. Squeeze out excess air.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.

To freeze cooked meatballs:

  • Allow cooked meatballs to cool completely, then freeze in a single layer as directed above until solid.
  • Transfer to an airtight freezer container or bag.
  • Freeze for up to 2 months.

Thaw frozen meatballs overnight in the refrigerator before reheating on the stovetop or in the oven.

Get Creative with Homemade Meatballs

From classic Italian-style to Greek, Swedish, BBQ and more, the possibilities are endless when making meatballs from scratch. With a few simple tricks and quality ground beef, you can create your own signature meatball flavors. Browning the exterior and gently simmering or baking the interior results in the perfect tender yet textured meatball every time. Serve them over pasta, on sandwiches, as appetizers, or work them into soups, casseroles, and salads. Homemade meatballs truly shine as comfort food the whole family will love.

How to Make Meatballs in Minutes


What makes meatballs stick together?

Add a lightly beaten egg, but not too much. Egg acts as a binder for the ingredients, but you only need a small amount. One small egg will do for one pound of minced meat. Alternatively, if you’re following an egg-free diet, you could soak fresh bread in milk, squeezing out any excess milk, to use as a binder.

What can I use instead of breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Rolled Oats Oats are the perfect substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs or meatloaf. While they aren’t ideal for a crispy coating, they add the right amount of texture to bind meat, eggs and flavorings together into a delicious Italian-inspired feast.

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