Mini Porcupine Meatballs

Who else remembers Porcupine Meatballs, the meatballs with "quills" of rice sticking out? I mixed up a quick batch recently for the first time in years, decades probably, and was surprised how delicious they tasted with a just a few contemporary updates. Let's make it a retro revival ...

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

Real Food, Fresh & Fast. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. High Protein.

  • "Delicious!" ~ Kirsten

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 knocked me over with grownup 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!

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


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 1-1/4 hours
Makes 24 small meatballs, about 6 servings
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced poblano pepper
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce, homemade or from a jar

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

With your hands, combine ground beef, rice, salt, pepper, onion and poblano, working gently so not to compress the meat. Form meatballs and arrange in a single layer in an oven-safe baking dish. (To bake later, stop here, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, preferably the same day.)

Cover with spaghetti sauce. Cover with foil and bake for an hour.

Reheats beautifully.

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 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?

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. 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.
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 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.
Easy Skillet Stroganoff (Beef or Chicken), more weeknight comfort food ♥ Budget Friendly. High Protein.
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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 via 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, 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)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

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


  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 :)

  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.

  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!!

  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.

  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!

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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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!


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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