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.

I can’t decide which I love better! These meatballs, my Thai meatballs or Mexican meatballs.

Porcupine meatballs in slow cooker garnished with green onion.

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, eggs, brown rice, chicken broth, cornstarch, green onion, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
  • 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!

Step by step process how to make porcupine meatballs in slow cooker.
  • 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

I am absolutely in love with my Instant Pot! No surprise, I cook meatballs in Instant Pot as well.

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.

I usually make super simple cucumber and tomato salad or garlic green beans to go with meatballs. They also pair well with cabbage like this braised cabbage and apples.

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.

FAQs

Do I have to pre-cook the rice?

No, the liquid and steam should be plenty to cook the rice inside the meatballs.

How do I know my meatballs are done?

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.

Can I use white rice?

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.

Can I make meatballs with ground beef or pork?

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

You might also love to browse all of my healthy ground turkey recipes!

Porcupine meatball garnished with green onion on a spoon.

Slow Cooker Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs made easy with uncooked rice, ground turkey, eggs and without tomato sauce. Then bake, cook in slow cooker or Instant Pot.
5 from 9 votes
Servings 10 meatballs
Calories 193
Diet Gluten Free
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 12 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1meatball | Calories: 193kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 292mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Author: Olena Osipov
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ifoodreal or tag #ifoodreal!

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐➕I was going to make the meatballs in instapot, decided to do 375 convection oven because the mixture was too soft, wouldn’t hold ball shape, and I didn’t have time to chill it. I plopped it into a 9×13 Pyrex casserole dish, used a spatula to separate servings before I poured the broth in the pan, kept it covered the first 40 minutes, then cooked it an additional 15 minutes uncovered at 400- with a sheet pan of quartered new potatoes on the rack below in case any of the broth bubbled over when it reached high temp.(nobody likes to clean ovens, right?!) I cut back 6oz on the broth, so I skipped the slurry step. There was a little liquid left. The remainder will make great meatloaf sandwiches!
    This is by far one of the easiest, most versatile recipes for turkey porcupine meatballs I have found. I will definitely be making it again. Next time, I will freeze half for a quick, easy meal that I can easily pop in the instapot. I served it with Brussels sprouts and roasted baby potatoes tonight.. tomorrow, maybe marinara and pasta shells, meatloaf sandwiches will be awesome, I’m sure!

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