Homemade Meatballs are perfect to make ahead and freeze for busy nights. They are so versatile with the type of meats and different flavors you can use. Learn how to make and freeze meatballs and thaw them when you need it.
Table of Contents
Why Freeze Meatballs
Having something quick and easy to make for dinner is a must for most people. Whether you have a demanding job, demanding family, or both, everyone needs to eat and we can’t live on take-out all the time. That’s why having easy freezer meals is so helpful.
One of the top questions I always get about recipes is whether they can be prepared ahead of time and/or frozen. That is why I always include freezing instructions when appropriate. Meatballs are one of those recipes that is just PERFECT for freezing! And when you’re ready, you can make some quick grape jelly meatballs as an appetizer or Italian meatballs dinner in a flash.
It is actually my FAVORITE food to freeze because they can be used in such wide variety of meals. You can use chicken, turkey, beef and pork, lamb, or veal as your meat of choice. There is a variety of flavors you can add as well, from different herbs and seasoning, to cheeses and veggies.
Meatballs can be frozen with or without sauce too. I prefer to freeze them without sauce because that will give me much more flexibility to make a sauce that I will be in the mood for later.
How To Freeze Cooked Meatballs
PRO TIP: freezing cooked meatballs is my personal preferred method because they are easier to work with to thaw.
1: Prepare the meat mixture and use a cookie scoop to scoop out the meat mixture into even-sized meatballs (1). You can choose a size of the cookie scoop according to the meatball size you prefer.
2: Lay out the meatballs in a baking pan, side by side, but leave some space in between each meatball (2).
3: Bake the meatballs at 400° for 18-22 minutes, depending on the size.
4: Cover a large cutting board with parchment paper and lay cooked meatballs out on the paper to cool to room temperature.
5: Once the meatballs are at room temperature, place the cutting board with meatballs in the freezer for about 2 hours. SET A TIMER!
6: Once the meatballs are frozen, divide them among the freezer bags, close them tight, label and place back in the freezer. Freeze for 2-3 months.
PRO TIP: You can freeze meatballs with sauce or without. I do NOT recommend freezing meatballs with cream sauce. Many dairy products tends to separate when frozen so if you want to freeze meatballs in sauce, use tomato based or non-cream sauces.
PRO TIP 2: Note that flour thickened sauces, like gravy, DO NOT freeze well either. It is recommended to use tapioca starch when making thickened sauced/gravy for freezing.
How To Thaw Meatballs
To THAW meatballs, pull the bag with meatballs out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator. This can take a few hours or overnight, depending on size of meatballs and how many are in the bag.
You can prepare sauce and cook the meatballs in the sauce for a few minutes before serving.
If you’ve frozen meatballs with sauce already, you will just have to reheat the meatballs in sauce in the oven or in the pan on stove-top. To reheat them, bring meatballs in sauce to simmer over medium heat and cook for a few minutes to heat through. Or, place them in a baking dish and reheat at 350° until hot throughout.
How to Freeze Uncooked Meatballs
PRO TIP: while you can definitely freeze meatballs uncooked, it is not ideal when it comes to thawing and if you used previously frozen meat. Don’t thaw uncooked meatballs in the bag you froze them in. You will need to separate them before thawing in the refrigerator.
1: Prepare the meatballs mixture and mix it very well. Use a cookie scoop to scoop out the meatball mixture (1) and quickly roll them.
2: Place rolled meatballs on parchment paper covered cutting board. Make sure to leave some space in between each meatball (2).
3: Place the cutting board with the meatballs into the freezer for about 2 hours. SET THE TIMER!
4: Once the meatballs are frozen, transfer them into a freezer friendly zip-top bag. Label the bag and freeze for up to 2 months.
To Thaw Raw Meatballs:
Raw or cooked, meatballs need to be thawed slowly, in the refrigerator. Line a rimmed baking sheet (or baking pan) with parchment paper. Take the bag of frozen meatballs out of the freezer and separate them on a parchment paper.
Cover the baking sheet air-tight and place into the refrigerator for the meatballs to thaw.
Ingredients To Make Basic Meatballs
Meat – for the beef meatballs, use a combination of equal parts of 1 lb. ground beef and 1 lb. ground pork for juicy and tender meatballs. You can also use 2 lbs. of ground chicken to make chicken meatballs, or 2 lbs. ground turkey to make turkey meatballs.
Onion – minced yellow onion is a must addition for juicy and flavorful meatballs.
Garlic – it’s best to use fresh garlic and press it.
Soaked bead – use a thick slice of bread and soak it in some milk. You will squeeze the milk out and discard it before adding the bread to meatball mixture. (Allergy note: Use gluten free bread if needed and use milk alternatives or lactose free milk if needed!)
Seasoning – for the basic meatballs, all you need is salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
To variate the flavor and compliment the sauce that you know you will want to use, you can add different herbs, seasoning, and cheeses.
Italian meatballs – add grated parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning to the meatball mixture. You can also cook and freeze these meatballs with marinara sauce.
Swedish meatballs – if you know that you will be using the meatballs to make Swedish meatballs, add 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and 1/2 tsp ground allspice to the meatball mixture. Don’t freeze these meatballs with sauce.
Thai chili meatballs – if you will be making meatballs with Thai chili sauce, you can add either a fresh chili pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to the meatballs mixture. Also, you can add some cilantro and chives.
There are many different complimentary flavors you can add to meatballs, so feel free to play around with herbs and seasonings.
Personally, I prefer to freeze cooked meatballs.
Uncooked meatballs are not as easy to thaw. You will have to make sure to separate frozen uncooked meatballs before thawing them or you are likely to end up with meatballs all stuck together.
It is also best to cook meatballs first because you likely used previously frozen ground meat to make the meatball mixture. If you know for sure you used fresh meat that was not previously frozen, that is okay to freeze it uncooked. If you know you used previously frozen ground meat to make your meatballs mixture, it’s best to cook them before freezing.
Depending on the sauce, you can freeze the meatballs either with or without it.
Sauces not good for freezing – it’s best not freeze some creamy, emulsified, and flour-thickened sauces. There is a good chance that those sauce will separate and not thaw well. These sauce are best to add after thawing.
Sauces good for freezing – tomato sauces, clear sauces, sweet Thai chili sauce, teriyaki, and many others without cream.
Some More Meatballs Recipes To Try
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? PLEASE leave a 🌟 star rating! Let me know how you liked it by leaving the 📝 comment below or share and tag me on social media @willcookforsmiles. DON’T FORGET to subscribe to my newsletter!
Basic Meatballs Recipe And Freezing Instructions
Basic Meatball Recipe:
- 1 lb ground beef 85/15
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 thick slice of bread
- 1/4 cup milk whole, reduced far, or milk alternative
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 garlic cloves pressed
- 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp coarse salt more or less to taste
- 1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper more or less to teste
- Combining all of the ingredients, except for soaked bread, in the mixing bowl. Squeeze out the milk from the soaked bread slice and crumble the bread into the mixing bowl. Discard squeezed milk. Mix well the meatball mixture until all evenly incorporated.
- Grease your hands with some cooking spray. To get even meatballs, use a cookie scoop. (I use #40 scoop but you can use a slightly larger one.) Try to keep the meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. (You can make meatballs a little bigger or smaller according to your own preference. Just remember to adjust cooking time if making bigger or smaller meatballs.)
- Lay out the meatballs on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet, side by side but leave a little space in between.
- Preheat the oven to 400° and bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs.
Freezing Cooked Meatballs:
- Cover a large cutting board with parchment paper and lay cooked meatballs out on the paper to cool to room temperature.
- Once the meatballs are at room temperature, place the cutting board with meatballs in the freezer for about 2 hours. SET A TIMER!
- Once the meatballs are frozen, divide them among the freezer bags, close air-tight, label, and place back in the freezer. Freeze for 2-3 months.
To Thaw Cooked Meatballs:
- Pull the bag with meatballs out of the freezer and place in the refrigerator to thaw. This can take a few hours or overnight, depending on size of meatballs and how many are in the bag.
To Freeze Raw Meatballs:
- Prepare the meatballs mixture and mix it very well. Use a cookie scoop to scoop out the meatball mixture and quickly roll them.
- Place rolled meatballs on parchment paper covered cutting board and make sure to leave some space in between each meatball.
- Place the cutting board with the meatballs into the freezer for about 2 hours. SET THE TIMER! Once the meatballs are frozen, transfer them into a freezer friendly zip-top bag, label, and freeze for up to 2 months.
To Thaw Raw Frozen Meatballs:
- Raw or cooked, meatballs need to be thawed slowly, in the refrigerator. Line a rimmed baking sheet (or baking pan) with parchment paper. Take the bag of frozen meatballs out of the freezer and separate them on a parchment paper.
- Cover the baking sheet air-tight and place into the refrigerator for the meatballs to thaw slowly. Bake them or cook them on stove-top according to the recipe.