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Who doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs? This Italian-American classic has been a staple in households across the world for generations.
For ketogenic enthusiasts, the problem with traditional meatball recipes has always been ingredients like breadcrumbs and milk that, we’re told, are required to “bind” the meatballs and keep them moist and intact.
While there may be some truth to this, the good news is that these ingredients are not actually necessary after all.
This keto meatball recipe uses egg, a little bit of elbow grease and a quick chill in the freezer to create tender, juicy meatballs that hold together nicely whether you decide to bake them, fry them or pop them directly into sauce to simmer away.
These low-carb meatballs use neutral flavors that lend themselves to a variety of cuisines—which means they can be paired with more than just Italian recipes.
These versatile meatballs can be used with more than just marinara sauce. Give them a try (rolled as large or as small as you like) with Vietnamese pho (or store-bought bone broth), Indian curry or even Chinese hot pot!
Low-carb, keto meatballs without breadcrumbs (perfect for italian recipes and much more).
Low-carb Keto Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)
- 1 pound ground pork (fattier the better)
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta (a 15oz container works fine also)
- 1 large egg
- 2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan (3 cups if grated with a Microplane)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand) or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For shallow frying (optional):
- enough lard or other frying oil to shallow fry the meatballs
- Whisk together the ricotta, egg, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the beef and pork then knead/mix thoroughly until completely combined (about 5 minutes).
- Wet your hands with cold water then roll the meat mixture into 18-20 meatballs (each a little larger than a golf ball), arrange on a non-stick or parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 1.5-2 hours.
- If shallow frying (optional): heat lard or other frying oil in a high-sided pot to 375°F, then shallow fry the frozen meatballs (working in batches if you need to) for 5-6 minutes—flipping halfway through (you can also bake them at 450°F for 20-30 minutes).
- Finish cooking the meatballs (or cook them directly from the freezer) by simmering them in a sauce (see notes) of your choice for at least 45 minutes (or 1.5-2 hours if you’re cooking them from frozen). You can lightly simmer them on the stovetop or braise them (covered) in the oven at 300°F for 2-3 hours (my preferred method).
Net carbs: 2.6g for 3 meatballs
These meatballs are neutral and versatile enough to be used with more than just classic marinara. You can also simmer them in your favorite broth or just about any other sauce.
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Simmering
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: keto meatballs recipe, low-carb cooking, ketogenic diet
How to Make Juicy & Tender Keto Meatballs (Without Breadcrumbs)
The conventional wisdom is that you need to use bread or breadcrumbs in a meatball recipe to hold them together and prevent them from drying out as they cook.
While that might be partially true, you don’t actually need bread, breadcrumbs or even milk to create juicy, fully intact meatballs.
This recipe uses whole milk ricotta, an egg and well-marbled ground beef and pork (at least 80% lean, 20% fat) to create tender, mouthwatering meatballs that hold together when cooked.
As added insurance against meatball catastrophe, I highly recommend freezing the meatballs for at least 1.5-2 hours before baking, frying or simmering them directly in your favorite sauce.
You don’t need breadcrumbs to hold your meatballs together—just use egg, thoroughly knead the mixture and freeze them for at least 1.5-2 hours before cooking.
Fry, bake or simmer?
Most recipes call for baking or shallow frying the meatballs before simmering them in sauce.
This added step gives the meatballs a chance to “set” and develop a golden brown crust that adds another layer of richness to the final dish.
If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend shallow frying your meatballs in lard (rendered pork fat) or any other oil of your choice after giving them a chance to set in the freezer for a few hours.
If you’re in a hurry (or you’re just feeling a little lazy like me), you can just pop the frozen meatballs directly into the simmering sauce to slowly poach for 1.5-2 hours on the stovetop or braise them (covered) in a 300°F oven for 2-3 hours (just make sure the sauce is already simmering before transferring the pot to the oven).
For easy, no-mess meatball preparation, freeze for 1.5-2 hours then pop them straight into a large pot of simmering sauce (enough to almost cover) and braise in a 300°F oven (covered) for 2-3 hours.
Keto Meatballs on Pizza (You Know You Want to Try It)
Leftover meatballs make the best pizza topping! Just slice them into coins (about 1/4 inch thick) or crumble them into pieces and layer them on top of your favorite keto-friendly sauce and pizza crust!
Hey there—I’m Nate! I’m passionate about developing delicious, healthy recipes and exploring better living through low-carb, wholesome cooking! Welcome! I'm glad you're here!