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Zesty Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine meatballs gently spiced with chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. This simple, flavorful recipe appeals to kids and adults alike.

Porcupine meatballs on a plate with salad

Meatballs are the ultimate comfort food and family pleasing dinner. I love meatballs in all flavors and forms, but one of my favorite spins on a meatball recipe is the porcupine meatball.

What is a Porcupine Meatball?

If you've never heard of a porcupine meatball, I'll briefly explain. It's a baked meatball that has uncooked rice inside. When the meatball cooks, the rice expands and "pokes" out of the sides of the meatball, thus giving the appearance of a porcupine.

Uncooked porcupine meatballs in a baking dish.
Cooked meatballs in a baking dish

I've had a few different versions of porcupine meatballs over the years, but I wanted to create my own with a slightly more savory spin. This recipe has just a hint of chili and cumin flavoring, which perfectly balances the sweetness of the tomato sauce. It's a huge hit with my family.

It's a great recipe to make if you want to use up pantry ingredients and spices.

Shortcuts and Substitutions:

  • This recipe calls for canned, plain tomato sauce, which is different from pasta sauce (you'll find it in the canned tomato section of the store). If you don't have any tomato sauce on hand, you can puree a can of diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes as a substitution.
  • I tamed the spice in this recipe to make it kid friendly, but if you'd like to up the zesty factor, feel free to add in some additional cumin, chili powder, or a hint of cayenne pepper.

What to serve with porcupine meatballs:

I usually serve porcupine meatballs with a salad or a roasted vegetable. Since the rice is already in the meatball, you don't need a separate starch, but if you'd like a heartier meal, you could always add some crusty bread (good for sopping up the sauce) or potatoes.

Zesty Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine meatballs seasoned just right with chili powder and cumin in a zesty tomato sauce.
5 from 12 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 446kcal
Author: Kate


  • ½ cup long grain rice uncooked
  • ½ cup water
  • cup onion diced finely
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder divided
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 15 oz canned tomato sauce*
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a medium sized bowl, combine rice, water, onion, salt, celery salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and 1 teaspoon of the chili powder. Stir to combine.
  • Add beef to bowl and use your hands to combine gently, but thoroughly.
  • In a separate bowl, combine tomato sauce, beef broth, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 teaspoon chili powder.
  • Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking dish. Form the meat mixture into balls, approximately 1.5-2 inches (about the size of a golf ball) and place into baking dish. **You should make about 15-16 meatballs.
  • Pour remaining sauce over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 1 hour, turning over once during cooking to ensure the rice cooks evenly.
  • Meatballs are done when rice is tender and "poking" through the meat of the meatball. Allow to sit for several minutes before serving to allow the sauce to thicken.


Calories: 446kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 1363mg | Potassium: 740mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 525IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 4mg
Recipe Rating

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Shel P

Tuesday 6th of February 2024

My new go to meatball recipe! Meatballs came out super tender and not dry at all. I added siracha sauce for a little zip, delicious.


Sunday 28th of January 2024

My mother had a version of porcupine meatballs that us kids loved! I made her version for my boys and they loved! I made this version for the kids at the preschool I work at and they loved them! Make a batch at home tonight the house smells amazing! Turned out perfect! The recipe is a Keeper! 😋 Keep sharing!

Ana F.

Sunday 26th of April 2020

I never heard of a porcupine meatball but this is exactly how we make albondigas Mexican soup. How funny! These look delicious and definitely will be on my rotation!


Sunday 26th of April 2020

Porcupine meatballs are so much fun to make and eat! Thank you for sharing this delicious variation on them.

Kavita Favelle

Sunday 26th of April 2020

I have never ever come across such a thing but I love it, what a fun idea, love how the rice pokes out once cooked!

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