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).


(photo by Mr. Usaji)


  1. susan says

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

    • says

      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 says

      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.

      • says

        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 =-.

    • says

      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!

  2. Elizabeth says

    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!

  3. says

    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!

  4. says

    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.
    .-= Starr´s last blog post …Yes, You Can: Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake =-.

  5. Michel says

    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).

    • says

      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.

  6. Stephanie says

    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.


  7. says

    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.
    .-= Starr´s last blog post …Yes, You Can: Dairy-Free Christmas Cookie #1 =-.

  8. says

    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 says

        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

  9. Whitney says

    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

  10. Elise says

    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.

  11. says

    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.

  12. says

    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 =-.

  13. says

    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 =-.

  14. says

    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 =-.

  15. kscatskill says

    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.

  16. leda says

    I’m confused about you let them completely thaw before reheating or reheat frozen?

  17. Kristin m roach says

    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!

  18. Grandma Len says

    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

  19. says

    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.

  20. says

    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.

  21. Jennifer says

    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!

  22. Milena says

    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.

  23. Erin says

    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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