These crock pot meatballs are Italian style made with ground beef, breadcrumbs, parmesean, herbs and spices. The homemade meatballs are slow simmered in the crock pot and are served over spaghetti, in meatballs subs, or as a hearty appetizer. This crockpot meatballs recipe is ideal for a busy day or as a freezer meal.
After a busy day, it’s so nice to come home to dinner that’s already made. That’s where these crock pot meatballs come in.
These meatballs only take about 10-15 minutes to make, and the slow cooker does the rest of the work for you. I often make a double batch so that I can freeze some and use them in the future. Our favorite way to eat these is in spaghetti and meatball subs.
Ingredients for crock pot meatballs:
The detailed crockpot meatballs recipe is below, but here are a few quick notes about some of the ingredients.
Ground Beef: When making meatballs, it’s best to use ground beef that is about 80-89% lean because it adds great flavor. Remember, when cooking beef, fat equals flavor. If you use meat that it extremely lean (90-95% lean), the meatballs won’t have as much flavor.
As a refresher, this ratio on ground beef is known as the lean point ratio. It identifies the lean-to-fat ratio by stating the percentage lean and fat found in the package, for example 80/20, 85/15 and 90/10. The top number of the ratio indicates the leanness and the bottom number is the fat. For example, beef with a label that says 85/15 is 85% lean beef and 15% fat in the package.
Marinara Sauce: These cook in a simple, homemade marinara sauce. If you’re in a pinch, you can use store-bought sauce (Rao’s is our favorite).
How to make crock pot meatballs:
- Combine the ground beef, seasonings, breadcrumbs, and egg together as indicated in the recipe below.
- Shape mixture into approximately 24 balls that are 1 1/2-inches. Place 1-inch apart on pan. If the mixture sticks to your hands too much, you can wet your hands slightly and that will help.
- Place meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until temperature reaches 160°F and no longer pink in center.
- Transfer meatballs to slow cooker and add ingredients for marinara sauce. Or, you can let the meatballs cool and freeze for future use.
Do you have to brown meatballs before slow cooking?
Technically, you do not have to bake the meatballs before slow cooking. However, we strongly recommend that you do because it adds so much flavor. It also creates a nice texture on the outside, while allowing the middle to remain tender and juicy as it finishes cooking in the tomato sauce. When baking, the meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees F on a digital meat thermometer.
To make this recipe as a freezer meal, make and bake the meatballs as directed above. Cool completely. Label a heavy-duty zip-top freezer bag with the recipe name, date, and slow cooking instructions. Combine all marinara sauce ingredients in the freezer bag. Add the cooled meatballs to the bag. Freeze flat for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook, either thaw overnight and cook in crock pot as directed. Or, you can also place the frozen meatballs in the crockpot without thawing and cook for 5-6 hours (see below).
How long do you cook already cooked meatballs in the crockpot?
Are you really crunched for time? If you’ve made these meatballs in advance and they’re frozen, you can cook them from the frozen state in the crockpot WITHOUT thawing them. Simply add them to your crockpot with the simple pasta sauce recipe or your favorite store-bought sauce. Cook on low for 5-6 hours until meatballs are cooked through.
Crock Pot Meatballs
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 28 ounces
- 1 can tomato sauce 15 ounces
- 1 can tomato paste 6 ounces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp parsley flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Prepare baking dish with parchment paper
- Combine egg, garlic, Panko, Parmesan, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Stir with a fork until well combined.
- Add ground beef. Mix lightly but thoroughly. Using hands, shape into 1-1/2-inch balls. Place on parchment-lined baking dish
- Bake meatballs for 10-12 minutes, until they are cooked through (160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer).
- While meatballs are in the oven, place all sauce ingredients in the crock pot and stir to combine.
- Add meatballs, stirring gently to coat. Cook, covered, on low 5-6 hours, until meatballs are cooked through.
- Remove bay leaves. Serve with spaghetti.
To Make as Freezer Meal:
- Make and bake the meatballs as directed above. Cool completely. Label a heavy-duty zip-top freezer bag with the recipe name, date, and slow cooking instructions. Combine all marinara sauce ingredients in the freezer bag. Add the cooled meatballs to the bag. Freeze flat for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and cook in crock pot as directed above.
To Store Leftovers:
- Store your leftover meatballs and sauce in an airtight, lidded container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Make a fresh batch of spaghetti when you’re ready to reheat and enjoy.
Other favorite Ground Beef recipes
- Stuffed Bell Pepper
- Taco Soup
- Egg Breakfast Casserole with Ground Beef
- Best Hamburger Seasoning
- Maple Meatballs (Party Meatballs Appetizer)
Kitchen products we love
One more thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Join our weekly e-newsletter where we share farm happenings, recipes and beef availability. Sign-up and get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer. Or, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a cattle farmers perspective.
Here are a few other links you may like:
- What everybody ought to know about beef cuts
- Buying a Cow. How Much Beef Is It?
- 7 Steps to Grilling a Steak to Perfection
- How We Raise Our Grass Fed Beef
- Bonfire Burger
- Prime Rib Roast with Garlic Herb Butter
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