Yes, it’s possible to prepare tender, juicy dinner meatballs that are gluten free! This well-tested recipe for homemade gluten-free meatballs is made using ground chuck (a type of ground beef with high fat content) and no breadcrumbs or egg! You’ll briefly brown the meatballs in the oven before transferring them to a simmering sauce stovetop, which avoids moisture loss. Yields 5 servings.
gluten-free meatball recipe without breadcrumbs
This long-standing, family recipe for homemade all beef meatballs proves you can enjoy juicy, tender meatballs without adding bread crumbs, oats, or even an egg!
This gluten-free meatball recipe is exactly how my Italian Gramma and Mom make it. It was initially shared in my gluten-free cookbook, which also contains the secret sauce they are cooked in!
Gramma and Mom always made ground beef meatballs without breadcrumbs and are egg-free, instead relying on an unique cooking method for tender results. First they are browned briefly in the oven. They finish cooking low and slow, simmered in sauce, until ultra tender!
My family also uses an easy trick for adding additional flavor to the sauce they are cooked in. After the meatballs partially bake, they are transferred, along with the ground beef drippings to the sauce. Their insistence on using ground chuck meant more drippings for the sauce and tender meatballs because of the high fat content.
Below I share how to make gluten-free all beef meatballs, step-by-step. The process and ingredients are quite simple, easy enough to be rotated frequently into weeknight gluten-free dinner recipes, but impressive enough to be the star of holiday dinners!
are meatballs gluten-free?
Typically homemade, restaurant, or store-bought meatballs are not gluten-free because they add bread crumbs to the meat mixture. Some gluten-free meatballs simply substitute GF breadcrumbs as a binder or even oats, like in this gluten-free ground beef meatloaf recipe.
You may be wondering if Swedish meatballs (made famous by Ikea) are safe for a gluten-free diet? Unfortunately they are not either. The meat mixture contains breadcrumbs or panko, and it is often cooked in a sauce thickened with flour.
Unlike gluten-free ground beef lasagna, which has a lengthier ingredient list, only a few items are required. Serve them over GF spaghetti or this creamy gluten-free risotto and a side of gluten-free focaccia to make a truly authentic Italian meal!
- Ground Beef – Using ground chuck is highly recommended (pretty much required) because it contains enough fat to tenderize the meatballs and yields drippings to flavor the sauce.
- Parmesan cheese – Freshly grated parmesan adds flavor and acts as a binder. I have not tested the recipe with dairy-free cheese.
- Seasonings – Salt, pepper, dried parsley, and a little garlic powder can be grabbed right from your pantry!
- Sauce – Our family cooks the meatballs in Gramma’s signature sauce (recipe found in my published gluten-free recipes cookbook). However, you may also use your own homemade recipe or store-bought. You will need three 24 ounce jarred marinara sauce.
how to make gluten-free meatballs
Making the best ground beef meatballs does require simmering a long time on the stove, but luckily the method is easy and hands-off! Since they take several hours, we often make them ahead of time and freeze. Scroll down for make-ahead and freezing tips .
(Below shows step-by-step photos and modified instructions. For the complete recipe, along with ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card.)
- To brown the meatballs spread a little olive oil on a baking sheet and place it in the oven to preheat along with the oven.
- Meanwhile mix together the meatball mixture. In a large bowl place ground beef, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together with hands. Portion out in 1 ½ – 2-inch sized balls, slightly larger than golf balls.
- Transfer the meatballs to the hot, greased baking pan in a single layer. Bake meatballs till browned, but not cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- Place the spaghetti sauce a large saucepan. Add the meatballs, with pan drippings, to the sauce. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, lower heat to a gentle simmer, and cook partially covered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Serve over cooked gluten-free pasta or in a meatball sub. Top with additional grated parmesan.
expert tips for perfectly cooked meatballs
Not only do these gluten-free Italian meatballs taste amazing, but they are moist and tender thanks to a few simple tips!
- Don’t overpack the meat mixture. When shaping the balls, avoid squeezing it into a tight, compact sphere. Instead gently shape into a large ball with your hands.
- Using ground chuck is key because of the quality and fat content. I don’t recommend using leaner options such as sirloin, ground chicken or ground turkey. These will a yield tough and dry meatball without the addition of bread crumbs or milk. However, adding a little Italian sausage or ground pork would be fine.
- Oven baked meatballs don’t require as long to make, but you also risk drier results. Instead, briefly brown them in oven and transfer them to a simmering sauce which avoids moisture loss.
make-ahead and freezing Tips
Since these take several hours to prepare, I recommend making them ahead of time, especially if preparing for a large family meal or the holidays.
First, make sure the sauce and meatballs have completely cooled. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs, transferring them to a gallon ziplock freezer bag in a single layer. Freeze the sauce separately.
Lay bags flat and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and rewarm together in a large saucepan.
This gluten-free meatball recipe may also be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container.
Serving tips and sides
We toss the cooked pasta in a little spaghetti sauce and offer family-dinner style with the meatballs and sauce in separate serving bowls. Then guests don’t have to fish the meatballs out of the sauce and can add their preferred amount of “gravy.”
I recommend Barilla gluten-free spaghetti for pasta and Schar ciabatta bread for meatball subs. If you would like to serve with a bread side, consider these easy homemade gluten-free breadsticks, which are perfect for sopping up sauce. Also any of these lasagna sides would pair great!
Since this recipe contains no gluten-free bread crumbs or gluten-free oats, they are also low carb. For an entirely low carb dinner, serve over almond flour pasta, zucchini noodles, or simply enjoy as is!
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No-Breadcrumb All-Beef Meatballs (Gluten-Free)
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- To brown the meatballs spread the olive oil on a baking sheet. Place it in the oven and preheat to 350°F. Meanwhile, mix together the meatball mixture.1 tablespoon olive oil
- In a large bowl, place the ground beef, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Mix together with you hands. Portion out in 1 ½ – 2-inch sized balls (slightly larger than golf balls).2 pounds ground chuck,½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese,2 teaspoons dried parsley,1 teaspoon salt,¼ teaspoon pepper,⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- Transfer meatballs to the hot, greased baking pan in a single layer. Bake meatballs till browned, but not cooked through, about 15 minutes.
- While the meatballs are cooking, warm the sauce in a large saucepan. Add the meatballs, along with some of the pan drippings, to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, lower heat to a gentle simmer, and cook partially covered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.3 – 24 ounce jars meatless spaghetti sauce or marinara
- Serve over cooked pasta, as is for a low carb dinner, or on gluten-free ciabatta for a meatball sub.
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Make-Ahead and Freezing TipsFirst, make sure the sauce and meatballs have completely cooled. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs, transferring them to a gallon ziplock freezer bag in a single layer. Freeze the sauce separately. Lay bags flat and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and rewarm together in a large saucepan. This recipe may also be prepared up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container.
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