Porcupine Meatballs made easy with uncooked rice, ground turkey, eggs and without tomato sauce. Then bake, cook in slow cooker or Instant Pot, or freeze for later.
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I grew up eating porcupine meatballs. My mom always made them in a clear sauce with broth and spices. Also she made meatballs large, so you eat only one or two meatballs.
This slow cooker porcupine meatballs recipe is amazing! Meatballs hold their shape while being flavorful and tender. And so juicy, saucy and filling because of brown rice and turkey’s high fiber and protein content.
Ingredients for Porcupine Meatballs
- Ground turkey: I use extra lean ground turkey because it is healthier. You can use any meat like extra lean ground beef, ground pork or ground chicken.
- Rice: We use brown rice because it contains bran and fiber. You can use white rice. The key is to use long grain rice so it sticks out. But you can use any, to be honest.
- Eggs: Eggs act as a binder although you can skip them. I tried and porcupine meatballs do not fall apart.
- Broth: Meatballs actually cook in a broth because we use uncooked rice. You can use homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth, Instant Pot chicken broth, broth from a carton or organic bouillon cubes mixed with water.
- Cornstarch: For the slurry to thicken the sauce.
- Simple seasonings like Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
How to Make Porcupine Meatballs in Slow Cooker
This recipe yields 10 large porcupine balls. You can make 20 small ones.
I decided to make porcupine meatballs in slow cooker because I thought they make a perfect candidate for “dump and go” crockpot recipe. Even brown rice is uncooked!
- Shape the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, rice, eggs, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix very well and then shape into 10 large meatballs and place at the bottom of large crock pot.
- Slow cook: Cook for 4 hours on high heat or for 8 hours on low heat. While rice is slowly expanding it acts as a binder along with eggs to keep ground turkey shaped into meatballs.
- Thicken the sauce: At the end, whisk cold water with cornstarch, add to the slow cooker, cover and cook on High for 10-20 minutes or until thickened.
How to Make Porcupine Meatballs in Instant Pot
To cook porcupine meatballs in Instant Pot:
- Follow the recipe to form the meatballs.
- Pressure cook on High pressure for 15 minutes in 8 quart Instant Pot or for 20 minutes in 6 quart Instant Pot.
- You can release pressure using Quick Release method. Open the lid and separate meatballs from each other, if necessary.
- Press Saute, whisk in a slurry and cook until sauce has thickened a bit. It helps to remove a few meatballs and then add them back.
Can I Bake Them?
Yes. Bake porcupine meatballs in a baking dish while covered in preheated oven to 375 degrees F for 45 minutes. Check for doneness and if rice is ready, uncover and pour the slurry into the liquid spots. Bake for another 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
Tips for Best Results
- Don’t overwork the meat mixture: Once all ingredients are incorporated with ground turkey, stop mixing. This will ensure your porcupine meatballs turn out light and fluffy.
- Use cold ingredients from the fridge: The colder is meat and eggs, the easier it is to shape the meatballs. They also turn out more juicy because the fat melts during cooking and not before.
- For easier rolling: Dip your hands into a bowl with water in between rolling each meatball.
- Do not open the lid: During slow cooking do not lift the lid and peek inside to check on meatballs. Every time you do that, the steam escapes and cooking time increases. It’s OK to check on meatballs towards the end though.
What Do I Serve Porcupine Meatballs with?
Porcupine meatballs are a meal on their own including the meat and rice. However, if you’re super hungry you could serve it with extra starch like healthy mashed potatoes or Instant Pot mashed potatoes.
On lazy days, it is a green smoothie or just some crusty bread for mopping up the sauce!
How to Store
Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Freeze cooked: Fully cook, cool completely, and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw porcupine meatballs in a refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a microwave or in the oven at 375 F for 10 minutes.
Or freeze uncooked: Form the meatballs, place on a baking sheet and freeze for up to 2 hours. Then transfer to a Ziploc bag and store in a freezer for up to 3 months.
When ready to cook, I would recommend to bake them from frozen with extra 10 minutes. For Instant Pot, no changes are necessary. And for slow cooker, you have to thaw meatballs first and then cook as per recipe.
No, the liquid and steam should be plenty to cook the rice inside the meatballs.
Your porcupine meatballs are ready when the rice is sticking out like on a porcupine. Also when you insert an instant read thermometer into the center of the meatball and it reads at least 165 F.
Yes, use long grain white rice, basmati rice or jasmine rice to make the meatballs. I think they might be ready in 3 hours on high heat or 6 hours on low heat in your slow cooker then.
Yes you can make porcupine meatballs with any ground meat you prefer like lean ground beef, ground pork, ground chicken or ground bison.
More Dinner Recipes to Try
- Healthy turkey meatballs
- Turkey meatball soup
- Slow cooker turkey meatloaf
- Cranberry turkey meatballs
You might also love to browse all of my healthy ground turkey recipes!
Slow Cooker Porcupine Meatballs
- 2 pounds ground turkey chicken, beef or pork
- 1 cup brown rice uncooked, rinsed & drained
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or 1/2 tsp dried basil + 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 cups chicken broth low sodium
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons green onions, parsley or dill finely chopped (for garnish)
- In a large mixing bowl, add ground turkey, rice, eggs, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix just enough to combine.
- Form 10 large meatballs a size just a bit shy of a tennis ball’s size. Or you can make 20 or so smaller meatballs.
- Place in a single layer on a bottom of large slow cooker. Meatballs will fit snuggly. Just pack them gently and tight. Pour broth gently over the meatballs.
- Slow cook on Low for 7-8 hours or on High for 3-4 hours.
- In a small bowl, whisk cold water with cornstarch. Pour slurry over the meatballs, cover and cook on High for 10-20 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Serve warm.
- Store: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely, and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in a refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a microwave or in the oven at 375 F for 10 minutes.
- In Instant Pot: Pressure cook on High pressure for 15 minutes in 8 quart Instant Pot or for 20 minutes in 6 quart Instant Pot. Release pressure right away and separate meatballs. Press Saute, whisk in a slurry and cook until sauce has thickened a bit.
- In the oven: Bake porcupine meatballs in a baking dish while covered in preheated oven to 375 degrees F oven for 45 minutes. Check for doneness and if rice is ready, uncover and pour the slurry into the liquid spots. Bake for another 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened.