Make Ahead Frozen Meatballs Recipe

Frozen meatballs come in handy. They dress up many an otherwise boring meal. Kids love them. And by using make ahead frozen meatballs, you can save yourself a lot of time in the kitchen.

If you look at the ingredients label on most pre-cooked frozen meatballs available at your grocery store, you probably will not want to eat another store bought frozen meatball again. Whether it’s soy meal adding texture or hidden MSG, the ingredients are scary. (Read about why MSG is dangerous.)

That’s why I started making my own make ahead frozen meatballs. I cook them all up in a big batch (usually on a Saturday), then freeze them for later use. So easy!

Make Ahead Frozen Meatballs Recipe

The Players

The How-To

Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the next six ingredients and mix well. Finally, add the beef and mix well. Shape the meatballs into one inch balls (should make approximate  100 meatballs). Place in single layers on ungreased 1-inch deep baking pans and bake at 400F for 10 minutes, until done.

Drain the fats and store for later use or (heaven forbid!) discard.

Once the meatballs and pans have cooled to the touch, place the meatballs (tray and all) into your freezer to “flash freeze” them. After they’ve frozen, remove the meatballs from the trays and transfer to plastic freezer storage bags or other freezer storage.

Keep stored in freezer and remove only as many meatballs as you need at a time. You can thank the flash freezing for that. It helps each meatball hold its individual shape and not stick to the other meatballs around it. This way, you can remove as few or as many meatballs as you need for whatever you’re serving up.

Reheat make ahead frozen meatballs on the stove, in sauces, or in the oven (350F for 20 minutes).

Enjoy!

(photo by Mr. Usaji)
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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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44 Responses to Make Ahead Frozen Meatballs Recipe
  1. susan
    December 1, 2009 | 9:21 pm

    i’m wondering if there is a non-grain substitute for the bread crumbs/brown rice? perhaps some kind of nut meal?

    • KristenM
      December 3, 2009 | 3:02 pm

      It sounds like it’d be worth a try. I’m partial to almond meal. Also, I’ve used grated cauliflower as a substitute for rice in other recipes. Perhaps it’s worth experimenting with here?

    • Mason
      December 4, 2009 | 7:02 pm

      There are plenty of alternatives, although none are as straightfoward as using bread crumbs, or cracker crumbs. No other starch (included to absorb the exuded meat juice from the ground meats as they cook) can match their savory quality, since yeast-fermented breads have a special sensory ability to highlight umami flavors in meat and cheese (as do other foods like mushrooms, soy sauce, tomato paste, wine, and so on — this magnifying effect is one reason that pizza is so popular). The next best options are ‘besan’ (ground chickpea flour from India), or toasted, ground oatmeal flakes. Other starches like cornstarch, tapioca/cassava starch, arrowroot, etc. add no flavor and tend to create a gummy texture since they soak up much more liquid than crumbs do. I did find moderate success with “yam starch” from Taiwan (somewhat coarse and white; the plant is halfway between a potato and a sweet potato). Masa harina might be a useful substitute as well.

      For someone trying to low-carb their meatballs, one can try using ricotta cheese, whey powder, or powdered gelatin in place of crumbs. These proteins help prevent meat proteins from interlocking as they cook (which toughens the meatballs) although they do not soak up exuded juices in the way that crumbs do, so the final product will still be a little substandard. A little bit of whey powder or gelatin goes a long way; one can use more significant amounts of ricotta, but it adds a “fluffiness” that may require more egg than in the original recipe to keep the meatballs bound together.

      I haven’t tried nut meals, but I can nearly guarantee that they won’t work well. They don’t soak up much liquid, and even finely ground they are kind of “heavy”, and they contain significant amounts of oil, and their flavor is more assertive and less of a harmony to the melody of the ground meat.

      • Sarah
        February 7, 2010 | 6:15 pm

        Made these today, they came out perfect! I had a little bit of leftover mashed Kumara (like a sweet potato) that I mixed into them as well, not sure yet if it really added anything but I figured it would be a good way to use up leftovers. Thanks for the recipe!
        .-= Sarah´s last blog post …A Clay Bouquet =-.

      • carrie
        March 10, 2012 | 9:50 am

        Thanks for the info. I have tried substitutions and now I know why they are never quite right…..

    • carl
      January 8, 2013 | 4:20 pm

      rice flour at 2 grams per pound

  2. Christy
    December 1, 2009 | 9:40 pm

    I am curious what would you do with the fat from these? I love how I just keep learning. I would hate to waste a usable fat source.
    .-= Christy´s last blog post …Gingerbread Bowl =-.

    • KristenM
      December 3, 2009 | 3:04 pm

      Once it’s washed or well-strained, you can use it as tallow. I hear it makes good pie crusts, but I mostly use tallow when I want a cooking oil that doesn’t taste like coconut or ghee!

  3. Elizabeth
    December 2, 2009 | 12:40 am

    I make a hugh batch of meatballs regularly to freeze – wouldn’t do it any other way. I have never understood why anyone would by pre-made meatballs when they are so simple to make. I make a batch of 100 at a time, but they are much bigger than once inch, LOL. It’s the Italian blood from my mother, I guess!

  4. Heather
    December 2, 2009 | 9:50 am

    This might be a dumb question, but what can you do with the saved fats? I know the answer for bacon grease, but I’ve never used fat drained from beef.
    .-= Heather´s last blog post …Our Thanksgiving =-.

    • KristenM
      December 3, 2009 | 3:23 pm

      Heather — See my answer to Christy above.

  5. Emily
    December 2, 2009 | 1:20 pm

    I used to have a pretty appalling frozen chicken finger habit – and then I realized that what was attractive about them was not the deep-fried factory meat-ness of them, but the quick-hot-protein-ness. Keeping a zipper bag of frozen, grass-fed meatballs in my freezer has helped me boycott Tyson and still get my low-carb, good-fat fix!

  6. Extreme Fitness Results
    December 2, 2009 | 2:24 pm

    Hmm, love this idea. I just made turkey meatballs last week, and it was a labor of love (though it only took me about 30 minutes). Hadn’t even thought of freezing them, so thanks for the great idea!
    .-= Extreme Fitness Results´s last blog post …Lust for Life =-.

  7. Starr
    December 2, 2009 | 2:42 pm

    Such an easy “convenience” food, and we don’t need the corporations at all! One thought – the idea of shaping 100 little meatballs by hand might sound a tad tedious. Using either a large melon-baller or a small cookie-dough scoop makes the process much quicker.
    starrskitchen.com
    .-= Starr´s last blog post …Yes, You Can: Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake =-.

  8. Michel
    December 2, 2009 | 7:19 pm

    What Worcestershire sauce do you use? The stuff in my kitchen – which I won’t be buying again! – contains high fructose corn syrup and natural flavors (always a suspect ingredient).

    • KristenM
      December 3, 2009 | 3:22 pm

      I either make my own by whipping together Thai fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, molasses, garlic, tumeric, and salt, OR I buy the naturally fermented versions of it at my Asian market.

      • Rachel Yance
        March 6, 2012 | 2:38 pm

        Do you mix equal parts of all of these ingredients to make your own Wortchestersire sauce?
        Thanks,
        Rachel

  9. Stephanie
    December 2, 2009 | 9:54 pm

    What would be a good substitute for Worchestershire sauce?

    Every brand I’ve found so far has sugar, typically wheat, and other allergens which I can not have. We are grain free, dairy free, and sugar free.

    Thanks!

    • KristenM
      December 3, 2009 | 3:23 pm

      Stephanie, see my answer to Michel above.

  10. Starr
    December 3, 2009 | 9:25 am

    re. Heather’s question about using drained fat from beef – use it as you would “shortening” or other solid fats. (Technically I think fat rendered from beef or bison is “tallow,” whereas “lard” is pig fat.) You’ll want to strain the drippings well, chill, and reserve them to use as fat for other savory dishes, since they will retain the flavor of onion and other seasonings. If you manage to gather 1/3 c. or more, you can make the BEST pie crust with tallow.
    starrskitchen.com
    .-= Starr´s last blog post …Yes, You Can: Dairy-Free Christmas Cookie #1 =-.

  11. a. borealis
    December 3, 2009 | 11:23 am

    YO! What a GREAT idea.
    .-= a. borealis´s last blog post …Quite thrilling =-.

  12. frankifries
    December 3, 2009 | 4:48 pm

    http://tiny.cc/iQVB8 dinner 2nite *add cheez*, hope franks likes. on my way to pik up milk share & beef.. luv my farmer and his fam

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  13. hippygirl
    December 3, 2009 | 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this. I think I might do this this weekend… have a freezer full of grass-fed beef and lots of eggs from pastured hens. :) And the kids have been loving meatballs.

    I also like the Worcestershire sauce alternative.
    .-= hippygirl´s last blog post …Winter Cakes =-.

    • carl
      January 8, 2013 | 4:32 pm

      you could make your own

      • carl
        January 8, 2013 | 4:51 pm

        2 tsp paprika
        1 tsp cloves
        1 tsp black pepper
        3 tbsp curry powder (of your favourite brand)
        2 tbsp chili pepper (e.g. flakes)
        60 g mustard seeds
        30 g ginger root, bruised
        30 g garlic, bruised
        60 g shallots, bruised
        60 g salt
        240 g brown sugar (Demerara, Muscovado etc)
        120 g tamarinds
        6 anchovies (optional)
        1 l high quality wine vinegar
        ½ l dry sherry
        Black caramel colouring (optional)
        this is what i make

  14. Whitney
    December 7, 2009 | 1:30 pm

    I just made these and they are FABULOUS! Thank you for the simple, nourishing recipe.
    BTW, I made them about 1/2″ – 3/4″ balls so they’d appeal more to my children and the recipe made about 250 small meatballs. YUM

  15. Elise
    December 14, 2009 | 2:39 pm

    Kristen,
    Matt has been craving meatball subs for awhile now. It just seems like too much work for a sandwich. I don’t know why but I never thought of freezing, it would be easy to defrost meatballs for a sub! I know he will appreciate this blog entry.

  16. Gillian
    December 15, 2009 | 9:46 pm

    Would you mind posting rough proportions for the worcester sauce you make? I haven’t been able to find any local to me and have all though ingredients already but would be helped along by some hints to start with.

  17. hippygirl
    December 18, 2009 | 1:40 am

    I made a double batch of these last week and they are delicious. I didn’t have enough bread crumbs, so I put some oats in the food processor and ground those up as a substitute.

    Anyway, I got 4 quart sized freezer bags full, plus enough for dinner the night I made them. And, it forced me to c lean out the freezer that’s in the kitchen (if it weren’t for the outdoor cats I could have flash-frozen them outside! haha). So it was all good. Thanks for the recipe!
    .-= hippygirl´s last blog post …Winter Cakes =-.

  18. hippygirl
    January 23, 2010 | 1:28 pm

    I’m going to make these today with quinoa instead of rice or bread. I think that will increase the protein, reduce carbs, and work like rice or bread crumbs. I’ll let you know how it goes.

    I’m currently on a no yeast, no sugar, gluten free diet. So I’m going to check out the natural Worcestershire sauce I have and if it won’t work then I’ll experiment a bit.
    .-= hippygirl´s last blog post …Winter Highlights =-.

  19. thatgirl
    July 2, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the 4th of July pointer back to these! I’ve been trying to sort out a good meatball recipe to replace the rather tasteless ones from Trader Joe’s. Their ingredient list isn’t exactly horrid, but they’re pretty bland (at least to me, my toddler loves them). But the convenience of having meatballs in the freezer? Priceless! They’re my go-to dinner when I need a Plan B.
    .-= thatgirl´s last blog post …A Month of Pastured Chickens =-.

  20. kscatskill
    March 6, 2012 | 4:37 pm

    I so enjoyed reading this recipe and the comments–this recipe, minus the worcestershire sauce–is the way my gramma made both meatballs and meatloaf in our growing-up years on the farm.
    I am a new subscriber to Food Renegade and have so enjoyed reading the articles and subscriber posts. Thanks for all your efforts.

  21. leda
    March 7, 2012 | 5:36 pm

    I’m confused about something..do you let them completely thaw before reheating or reheat frozen?
    thanks!

    • KristenM
      March 7, 2012 | 5:37 pm

      I reheat from frozen!

  22. Kristin m roach
    June 15, 2012 | 11:17 pm

    Just finished making these for dinner and for freezing. Huge hit with my husband. And unfortunately my dog who scarffed down 6 before we realized what was going on! Thanks for sharing such a deliciously simple recipe!

  23. Tracie
    September 16, 2012 | 4:49 pm

    Could you let the frozen meatball thaw in the fridge and then reheat in micro?

    • carl
      January 8, 2013 | 4:25 pm

      good food and microwave should not be on the same page it sinful to nuke

  24. Grandma Len
    October 11, 2012 | 1:18 pm

    Delicious and so much healthier than those I used to buy at the grocery store.

    Just made these (copied the recipe a long time ago) and found that they cooked better and drained more fat off if I put them on a rack above the sheet pan. My meat was very lean so there wasn’t much fat/grease either way.

    BTW: I live in GT also

  25. Cindy H
    February 1, 2013 | 9:57 am

    Thanks for this! Gonna make it today for Super Bowl Sunday! I hate the texture and taste of the pre-frozen store meatballs, and I always thought I was the only one!
    I was also going to say, you can use leftover fat (strained) to make bird suet! They’ll love you for it. There are all kinds of suet recipes online.

  26. Laura
    February 26, 2013 | 12:07 pm

    Going to make these with our own pastured eggs and grass-fed beef!! I was thinking of trying one batch with the bread crumbs and one with quinoa, I made meatloaf with quinoa instead of breadcrumbs once and it was really good, nice and healthy too! Thanks for the tip on flash-freezing.

  27. Jennifer
    July 9, 2013 | 6:05 pm

    I have a batch of these in the oven now. Last time I made them, my family went meatball crazy! I used some of the meatballs to make homemade pizza pockets that I froze for the kids summer break. So easy and nice to know what is going in your food! On a side note, my batches of them only made about 60, so I’m guessing mine are a bit bigger than 1 inch. :-) My house smells yummy right now!!! Thanks for the recipe!

  28. Milena
    October 16, 2013 | 7:12 pm

    How do you drain the fat? There seemed to be insufficient fat to actually drain but enough to form a white fat circle around the frozen meatball. Thanks.

  29. Erin
    November 8, 2013 | 11:31 am

    Have you tried this with ground turkey? Wondering if it would still taste good. We’re trying to cut back on red meat.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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