How to Make Meatballs Without Breadcrumbs

How to make meatballs without breadcrumbs

Learning how to make meatballs without breadcrumbs is easier than you might think! There are many different substitutes for breadcrumbs, and they all have benefits and unique flavors.

Whether you are cooking for a large family, your kids, a cookout, or just yourself, meatballs are always the perfect thing. There are so many ways you can prepare them and different sauces you can smother on top.

One of the most common ways to make meatballs is to add some breadcrumbs into the meat mixture and roll them into balls. But did you know you can actually skip the breadcrumbs? Yup, it’s true! In this guide, I’ll share some great methods for making meatballs without breadcrumbs.

This guide is fantastic for anyone who is low-carb or gluten-free or just doesn’t have breadcrumbs in the pantry. No matter your reason, if you want to know how to make meatballs without breadcrumbs, I have a bunch of ideas for you!

Best Type of Meat for Meatballs

The most common type of meatballs are made with ground beef and breadcrumbs. I suggest using a combination of different types of meat in your meatballs.

Ground beef and ground lamb will give you soft and flavorful meatballs that bake perfectly without using breadcrumbs. You could also make ground pork and ground beef meatballs or mix some sausage and ground beef together. When you do, the meatballs will have a lot more flavor.

Just remember to always use at least one type of meat with higher fat content, especially if you aren’t using breadcrumbs. Lean meat like turkey or chicken won’t stick together as well.

Purpose of Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

Breadcrumbs have two purposes in meatballs.

  • They retain moisture. As the meatballs cook, the breadcrumbs will soak up the juices and keep them inside the meatballs.
  • They are also a binding agent. This means that all the ingredients, including the meat and the eggs, hold together better when you add breadcrumbs.

However, there are other binding agents and ingredients to keep your meatballs moist – you don’t have to use breadcrumbs. Keep reading!

How to Make Meatballs without Breadcrumbs

There are so many different ways to make meatballs without breadcrumbs. I’ll highlight my favorite ways for you below. Some of these ideas might surprise you.

Just Use Meat

One of the easiest ways to make meatballs without breadcrumbs is to follow the recipe without any kind of replacement at all. You can leave the breadcrumbs out entirely, and they will still bake in round balls just the same.

You might notice that your meatballs are a tad drier, or they might fall apart easier. If you do, then you might want to try one of the following ideas and use a different type of binding agent.

Crush Pork Rinds

A lot of people on the ketogenic diet like to make meatballs with crushed pork rinds. If you do this, make sure the pork rinds are crushed into really tiny crumbs. You should also only use unflavored or plain pork rinds. Using flavored pork rinds will alter how the meatballs taste (which may or may not be a good thing).

Just adding a 1:1 replacement of pork rinds for breadcrumbs will work perfectly in your favorite meatballs recipe. You could also add a little bit of almond flour to give it even more holding power.

Try Almond Flour

This is another popular choice for anyone that is on a low-carb diet. When using almond flour in meatballs, make sure you use blanched almond flour, not almond meal. Almond meal is made by grinding up whole almonds, including the almond skins. So if you use almond meal, your meatballs will have a grainy texture.

Almond flour will give your meatballs a perfectly juicy flavor and will boost them with a little extra protein and healthy fats. In addition, you’ll need to add a little bit of milk in order to prevent them from drying out.

Use Crackers

Ritz crackers are a fantastic replacement for breadcrumbs in homemade meatballs. They are already seasoned, and they do a fantastic job of keeping everything together and soaking up the juices too.

Some people like to use crackers in their meatloaf, and the idea is the same for meatballs too.

Roll Meatballs In Flour

Instead of adding ingredients to the inside of the meatballs, you can actually coat the outside with all-purpose flour. Mix the meatballs like normal, but then roll them in flour, making sure they are completely covered. Then, place them on your baking sheet and bake them like normal.

This is a wonderful way to prevent meatballs from falling apart. This is also the best option if you plan to pan-fry them.

Grate Parmesan Cheese

You can also use parmesan cheese as a binding agent in place of breadcrumbs. When you mix ground beef, spices, and some freshly grated parmesan cheese, it will make meatballs that stay together and are naturally low-carb.

Make sure you grate the parmesan cheese at home. Don’t buy already grated or shredded parmesan cheese. The pre-shredded parmesan cheese has anti-caking ingredients added to it, and it will affect the quality and flavor of your meatballs.

Use Quick-Cooking Oatmeal

Using quick-cooking oats in meatballs is a gluten-free option that holds the meatballs together really well. If you have a food processor, I suggest chopping up the oatmeal, so it’s really fine. Otherwise, you will have large pieces of oatmeal in your meatballs.

Oatmeal also works really well if you have meatballs that are made out of ground turkey or chicken.

Add Sunflower Seed Meal

Sunflower seed nutritional facts chart.

Sunflower seed meal is another 1:1 replacement for breadcrumbs. It won’t leave your meatballs with any kind of strange taste or texture. Plus, seed flour is a wonderful way to boost the nutrition in your meatballs because sunflower seeds are really high in healthy fats and protein.

How to Serve Homemade Meatballs

Now that you know how to make meatballs without breadcrumbs, what are some recipes you can use them in? Here are some of my all-time favorite dinner recipes that use meatballs.


A close look at a plate of Bolognese pasta garnished with fresh basil leaves.

Everyone loves a good bowl of spaghetti and meatballs! If you have kids, make the meatballs smaller so that they can pick them up with their forks.

This is a classic combination that almost everyone loves. Did you know you can cook spaghetti noodles in the microwave? It’s true! Dinner is just a few minutes away.


Smother your homemade meatballs in your favorite barbecue sauce. Then, place the BBQ meatballs on top of some mashed potatoes or serve them with homemade french fries.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs are covered in a sour-cream-based sauce that tastes incredible on top of mashed potatoes. This is a tangy and creamy dish that kids love.


Homemade meatballs also make the perfect appetizers for a party. All you have to do is let them cool down and then stick a toothpick into each meatball. Set them out on your favorite serving platter and allow the guests to pick up their own meatballs.

You can even add a delicious dipping sauce on the side.


Meatballs are delicious inside a beefy broth or soup. If you are going to add meatballs to soup, I suggest making them half their normal size. This way, they are easy to pick up with a spoon.

How to Store Homemade Meatballs

I suggest storing homemade meatballs separately from the sauce you will cover them in. Doing so will help them last a little longer.

Keep cooked meatballs in an airtight food storage bag or container and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week.

How to Freeze Homemade Meatballs

Meatballs are the perfect thing to freeze and store for a make-ahead meal.

To freeze meatballs:

  • Place the cooked meatballs in a single layer on top of a baking sheet.
  • Put the baking sheet in the freezer for a few hours. This is called “flash freezing.”
  • When the meatballs are completely frozen, place them in an airtight, freezer-safe food storage bag.
  • Remove as much air as you can from the bag.

Frozen meatballs will last about six months in the freezer. When you are ready to reheat them, place the entire bag of meatballs in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Then, reheat them the next day in the oven at 325F for about 15 minutes or until they are completely warmed up.

Frequently Asked Questions about Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

Here are some questions people often ask about making homemade meatballs. If you don’t see your question in this list, please leave it in the comments.

How do you keep meatballs from falling apart without breadcrumbs?

There are quite a few different ways to hold your meatballs together without resorting to adding breadcrumbs to the mixture. First, lightly beat an egg and add it to the meat and spices. The egg will act as the binder and keep everything together.

Use a combination of meats together.

What happens if you don’t add breadcrumbs to meatballs?

Honestly, not much happens if you just leave out the breadcrumbs entirely. The only thing you might notice is that the meatballs are a tad drier or may fall apart easier. That is why if you are going to leave out the breadcrumbs, you should find a way to replace them with another binding agent.

However, plenty of meatballs are made with just ground beef and spices, so you might not need any breadcrumbs of any kind in your meatballs.

What is the secret to good meatballs?

It’s way too difficult to narrow it down to just one secret, so I’ll share all of my favorite tips for making incredible meatballs at home.

  • Combine different types of meat. When you blend together beef and pork, the flavors and textures are incredible.
  • Add fresh garlic and herbs. The fresher the herbs, the stronger the aromas, and the better the meatballs will taste.
  • Add milk for moisture. When you aren’t using breadcrumbs, you will need more ingredients to help everything stick together, and milk does a fantastic job.
  • Brown them before adding them to the sauce. You can definitely cook raw meatballs in the sauce, but I suggest browning them in a skillet first. This locks in the juices and gives you a wonderful and crispy coating on the outside.
  • Add cheese. Grate your cheese at home for the freshest flavors. Either parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese will be best in meatballs.

Is it better to bake or fry meatballs?

This depends on whether you are looking for a fast-cooking method or the method that will give you the best result. Frying meatballs on the stove is the quickest method. If you are in a hurry, this will be the best option.

If you have time, I suggest baking or air-frying your meatballs. Both options take the same amount of time and will give you crispy meatballs without all the extra grease.

Homemade Meatballs without Breadcrumbs: Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a ton of different ways to make meatballs without breadcrumbs. The most important thing to remember is that you will need some sort of binding agent to keep the meat together. Try out all of the ideas in this guide. Once you find a solution that works best for you, keep using it.

When you figure out how to easily make meatballs with whatever you have on hand, you’ll have a delicious dinner (smothered in your favorite sauce) to enjoy any night of the week!

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