Mini Porcupine Meatballs

Who else remembers those old-fashioned Porcupine Meatballs, the meatballs with "quills" of rice sticking out? After decades of not, I now mix up a quick batch every so often and every time am surprised just how delicious they taste. It's a great way to make a quick dinner with a pound of ground beef. Let's make it a retro revival ...

Mini Porcupine Meatballs, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, a retro recipe updated for contemporary tastes. Low Carb. High Protein. Cheap Eats.

Whole Food, Fresh & Fast. Budget Friendly. Another Quick Supper, a Kitchen Parade Specialty. Hearty & Filling. Easy Choice for Cooking with Kids. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. High Protein.

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Retro Made Contemporary

Retro recipes from the 1960s and 1970s may tickle a nostalgic fancy but some times, taste-wise, they no longer measure up. Our palates have become sophisticated, our experiences with food more worldly.

But with a few contemporary touches, these Mini Porcupine Meatballs from my childhood kinda knock me over with grown-up goodness.

What's In a Name?

What makes these mini meatballs “Porcupine” Meatballs?

In the oven, the rice swell out of the meatballs, creating the appearance of "quills".

I don't know about you (or your kids) but the idea of eating a porcupine was amusing to my twelve-year old self: this is one of the very first recipes I ever copied onto a 3x5 card!

My most recent notes, decades later?

  • "Make more often! So good, easy too."
  • "JW loves these, the kids would too."
  • "Meatballs: Easy to adapt. Skipped onion. Used Quick Jalapeño Pickles vs poblano. Added parmesan and bbq sauce."
  • "Sauce: Added salsa and some bbq sauce to tomato soup. VG!"

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this easy retro recipe hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Mini Porcupine Meatballs, another Quick Supper ♥ KitchenParade.com, a retro recipe updated for contemporary tastes. Low Carb. High Protein. Cheap Eats.



QUICK SUPPER: MINI PORCUPINE MEATBALLS

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Oven time: 1 hour
Time to table: 1-1/4 hours
Makes 24 small meatballs, about 6 servings
    MEATBALLS
  • 1/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced poblano pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
    MODERN-DAY SAUCE (tastes like spaghetti & meatballs!)
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce, homemade or from a jar
  • ~ or ~
    RETRO SAUCE (still tastes good!)
  • 1 small can (about 300g) condensed tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat oven to 350F/180C. Find an oven-safe baking dish about 7x11 and keep nearby.

MEATBALLS Stir together the rice, salt, pepper, onion and poblano. With your hands, work in the ground beef, working gently so not to compress the meat.

Form 24 small meatballs about the size of a walnut. Just eyeball it, I like to divide the mixture in half three times, creating 8 roughly equal sections, then make 3 mini meatballs from each section. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the baking dish. (To bake later, stop here, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, preferably the same day.)

MODERN-DAY SAUCE Spoon the spaghetti sauce over top of the meatballs, covering as completely as you can.

RETRO SAUCE In a small bowl, stir together the condensed tomato soup and the water, then spoon over top of the meatballs, covering as completely as you can.

BAKE Cover the baking dish with a tight lid or foil and bake for 1 hour.

CAREFUL! Remove the lid or foil very carefully, pointing the heat away from your body and hands. It's hot underneath that lid!


TIMING TIP This is one of my favorite last-minute suppers. Even though it takes an hour for the meatballs to bake in the oven, it's entirely hands-off and lots of time to make a salad, cook a vegetable or two, do some meal prep, clean out the fridge, etc. The kitchen smells so good! So you might want to put out some sort of snack because people tend to gather!

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Because of the ground meat and the rice, mix and form the meatballs no sooner than the same day as cooking and be sure to refrigerate until ready to move to the oven.

LEFTOVERS reheat beautifully!

VARIATIONS I love to add a small splash of BBQ sauce to both the meatball mix and either one of the sauces.

ALANNA’s TIPS My changes to my mom’s original recipe are minimal, nothing too crazy. The poblano adds a small measure of heat and color. The spaghetti sauce substitutes for the original sauce, a can of Campbell’s tomato soup stirred with a half cup of water. But don't hesitate to stay old-school here, both sauces are surprisingly delicious! Don't worry, the rice will cook right inside the meatballs. It's very cool! This would be a great dish to deliver to someone with a new baby or a family who’s lost a loved one or a household that's just overwhelmed by circumstances.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2012/05/mini-porcupine-meatballs.html .

HOW ABOUT A PRESSURE COOKER That old recipe card includes my mom's instructions for an old-fashioned pressure cooker. "Cook 10 minutes at 10 pounds," they say. My own pressure cooker is buried at the back of a cupboard and the InstantPot remains a dust collector so honestly, I have little idea if these are good or bad or would even work. Any ideas, pressure cooker owners?

Per Meatball/Six Meatballs: 44/177 Calories; 2/7g Tot Fat; 1/3g Sat Fat; 12/49mg Cholesterol; 23/94mg Sodium; 2/10g Carb; 0/1g Fiber; 0/1g Sugar; 4/16g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS Old Points 1/4 & PointsPlus 1/4 & SmartPoints 5 & Freestyle 5 & myWW green 5 & blue 5 & purple 5 & future WW points BLUE & PURPLE PLANS Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of ground beef for a big difference in points. I think you could substitute quinoa for the rice as well though would likely lose the obvious "quills". Brown rice would be purple-plan friendly but I'd be tempted to cook it before mixing with the meat.
Adapted from my mom's recipe for Porcupine Meatballs, published in our family cookbook way back in 2001.

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2012, 2019, 2020 (repub) & 2023

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

Comments

  1. Do you think the same timing would work with brown rice? I want to try this with some venison that I have in my freezer :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous5/23/2012

    My porcupine meatballs, the favorite of my 21 year old son, are made with green peppers, but I'll give yours a try. You never steer me wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  3. RevizMomma ~ Brown rice, y'know, I almost tried brown rice but went with the rice my mom would have used instead. I "think" it would work - the one worry is that the brown rice would take longer to cook than the lean venison. Let me know if it works for you!

    Anonymous ~ Thanks so much for that note, you made my day!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. When I was in Women’s Health Initiative, I adapted it this way:

    > used ground chicken
    > used canned crushed tomatoes w/ basil [Tuttorosso brand, I think]
    > added 1 pkg froz ch spinach, thawed, to tomato, B4 I put in the very small raw meatballs

    So when serving, the actual fat grams per serving were very low, and the veggie servings [tomato + spinach] were increased, plus the grains servings [rice] made it a very good product. And served over rice, even better. I even served it as a hot appetizer once, and it’s comfort food.

    ReplyDelete
  5. wow, blast from the past! I've totally forgotten about these - and never made them. The addition of poblano sounds great. Really fun recipe - thanks for reviving this so we can all experience it again, virtually speaking!

    ReplyDelete
  6. They do look cute - and I love the name :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sharon5/23/2012

    These are absolutely to-die-for done in the pressure cooker. It is an old, old pressure cooker recipe....well, not like yours but traditional porcupine meatballs. We have them about twice a month and no one tires of them.
    Gonna give yours a try too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The kid in me (and my two boys) would get a big kick out of these. I appreciate any updates that involve adding poblano peppers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous6/10/2012

    I've never stopped making porcupine balls. I remember them as a child, fed them to my children and now as a grandmother, I continue to serve them. I learned to use pressure cookers from my mother and continue to use the appliance. It takes minutes to cook these once you've built up the pressure. Thanks for your version of the recipe. Mine called for tomatoe soup. I'll try the spaghetti sauce. Much more flavorful, I am sure.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I made them tonight for New Year's Eve--skipped the poblano because I was wanting something more sweet 'n sour. My daughter was making molten chocolate lava cakes for our dessert, so I used her leftover egg whites instead of a whole egg. I also used Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment plus some pizza sauce thinned with pineapple juice from the chunks as the sauce, and added pineapple chunks to the pan. Delicious!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna