Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs

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Few things are more delicious and comforting than meatballs simmered low and slow in tomato sauce with hints of Parmesan, parsley, and sausage studded throughout

244 CAL 16g CARBS 9g FAT 25g PROTEIN

True Italian meatballs normally combine pork, beef, and veal to create rich deep flavors. These lightened-up slow cooker meatballs use lighter turkey sausage to deepen the flavor without all the added calories and fat. They are cooked in a rich tomato sauce in the slow cooker to create delicious and moist meatballs. Try them over pasta, spaghetti squash, or stuffed in crusty rolls to make meatball sandwiches.

Key Ingredients

  • Ground Beef: If you want to keep these meatballs on the lighter side, then make sure to use a lean ground beef that's at least 90% lean. If you aren't worried about that, any ground beef will work. You can also swap in ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork.
  • Ground Italian Sausage: This is the secret ingredient in this recipe, it adds so much flavor. You could swap in extra ground beef, but you will need to add some extra spices since you won't get all the flavor in the sausage.
  • Crushed and diced tomatoes: These are for making the sauce. San Marzano tomatoes will give you the best flavor, but any canned tomatoes will work. Using both the crushed and diced provides a nice texture of the sauce. You could also use some whole tomatoes, just break them up with a wooden spoon.
  • Garlic and herbs: In order to get a rich flavor in the meatballs and in the sauce, you want to add lots of garlic, parsley, and dried herbs. If you love garlic, you can add extra. Italian seasoning is a great way to add lots of flavor with just one seasoning mix or you can add your own combination of dried basil, parsley, and oregano.
  • Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese serves a dual purpose in these meatballs as both a flavor agent and binder. Parmesan, romano, pecorino, or any combination of these classic Italian cheeses will work.


Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to all the most common questions about cooking meatballs in the slow cooker.

For a quicker way to make Italian meatballs in the slow cooker, you can swap in a bag of frozen meatballs. Just make the sauce as directed and add the frozen meatballs and sauce to the slow cooker. Cook for 3-6 hours on low, depending on whether the meatballs are raw or precooked.

It is difficult to overcook meatballs on the stove or in the slow cooker, as long as the meatballs are cooked on low. Many people mistake tough meatballs for overcooked meatballs. Tough meatballs are usually caused by the meat being overmixed or overly compressed. 

This recipe doesn't require the meatballs to be browned beforehand, but taking a few minutes to brown them first will add even more flavor. The meatballs can be browned in a hot skillet or browned in the oven at 400 degrees. This can also help the meatballs to stay together if you have found your meatballs fall apart in the crockpot.

These meatballs can be reheated in the slow cooker or on the stovetop. Just reheat them until warmed through and keep the slow cooker set to warm. 

The Recipe
Slow cooker Italian meatballs served with pasta, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs

244 CAL 16g CARBS 9g FAT 25g PROTEIN
COOK TIME: 6 Hours
TOTAL TIME: 6 Hours, 20 Min
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  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (leave out for low carb)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb 95% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey sausage
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf

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Whisk together the egg and egg white in a bowl. Stir in the bread crumbs, 1/4 of the onion, parsley, cheese, and half of the minced garlic cloves.


Gently mix in the beef and sausage until just combined. Roll out your meatballs to about 1 inch in diameter. You should get around 24. Add them to the crockpot.


In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Stir for 30 seconds and add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaf. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook on low for 6 hours.


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Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 3 meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 244
Calories from Fat 58
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 84mg
Sodium 910mg
Total Carbohydrate 16g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 6g
Protein 25g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
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January 11, 2022 - 12:40
We just love these meatballs! It’s important not to stir the slow cooker for at least 2 hours so the meatballs stay whole. I also add 1Tbs sugar to take the acidic edge off the canned tomato. My husband eats them with pasta but I just eat them straight!
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March 17, 2023 - 22:57
Thanks for this. I had to do another batch because the sauce was a little acidic. Second batch + some sugar = perfectly tasty.
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March 7, 2016 - 16:13
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These were delicious! I did make a few alterations to the recipe: 1) I baked the meatballs in the oven at 375 F for 20 minutes before adding them to the sauce, and 2) cooked them on HIGH for 6 hours, partially removing the lid for the last hour to help thicken the sauce (it is quite thin). I also used regular diced tomatoes since I didn't have the Italian version, but increasing the Italian Seasoning, and adding some cumin and other spices took care of that. I'm not a fan of the red pepper flakes, but have to say they really kicked this up from good- to great-tasting for me. I will be making this again!
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