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.

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Servings: 4

Zesty Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine meatballs seasoned just right with chili powder and cumin in a zesty tomato sauce.


  • 1/2 cup long grain rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup onion, diced finely
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder, divided
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 15 oz canned tomato sauce*
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a medium sized bowl, combine rice, water, onion, salt, celery salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and 1 tsp 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 tsp chili powder.
  • Pour a layer of sauce into the bottom of an 8×8 or 9×9 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.

Nutrition Facts

Calories 446kcal (22%)Carbohydrates 35g (12%)Protein 24g (48%)Fat 23g (35%)Saturated Fat 9g (56%)Cholesterol 81mg (27%)Sodium 1363mg (59%)Potassium 740mg (21%)Fiber 3g (13%)Sugar 11g (12%)Vitamin A 525IU (11%)Vitamin C 11mg (13%)Calcium 81mg (8%)Iron 4mg (22%)
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