Classic Instant Pot Meatball Recipe

This Instant Pot meatball recipe is the best and easiest way to make meatballs. No browning, no baking, and no sauce if you prefer them plain. Just tender, juicy meatballs made from ground beef and sausage, cooked to perfection in the Instant Pot. Freezer-friendly and perfect for quick family meals or an easy party appetizer!

Allow me to introduce you to the best and easiest homemade meatballs you’ll ever make. No browning, no baking, no sauce. Just juicy, tender meatballs cooked to perfection in the Instant Pot.

Made from just a handful of simple ingredients and minimally seasoned to maximize versatility, they are quite possibly the only meatball I will ever make again.

The fact that these pressure cooker meatballs cook without sauce makes them incredibly versatile. Once cooked, bathe them in two or three of your favorite sauces, and boom, meatball heaven. 

My favorite thing about these Instant Pot meatballs is that they cook by themselves, no simmering in sauce required — which means you can literally eat them with anything and bathe them in any sauce you like.

These no-sauce meatballs are also great for meal prep. Make a big batch over the weekend to eat throughout the week, or freeze them for future meals or an easy party appetizer. 

We’re big sauce-lovers over here so, naturally, I made several different versions, including: 

Before we get into all the different kinds of meatballs and the zillion ways you can eat them, here’s an overview of the basic meatball ingredients and some general serving ideas for this classic Instant Pot recipe.

Ingredients you’ll need for this Instant Pot Meatball recipe

These juicy meatballs are made with just a handful of simple ingredients and are minimally seasoned to maximize versatility. To make these meatballs you’ll need: 

  • Ground beef
  • Ground Italian sausage (pork)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Eggs
  • Onion
  • Parmesan cheese 
  • Salt & pepper

Instant Pot meatball ingredient substitutions

  • For dairy-free meatballs: Omit or substitute an equal amount of nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese.
  • For egg-free meatballs: Substitute ½ cup ricotta cheese (¼ cup per egg). Note: If you don’t have an egg allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance, 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise can also be used (1 tablespoon per egg).

What to serve with Instant Pot meatballs

My favorite thing about these Instant Pot meatballs is that they cook by themselves, no simmering in sauce required — which means you can literally eat them with anything and bathe them in any sauce you like.

These no-sauce meatballs are also great for meal prep. Make a big batch over the weekend to eat throughout the week, or freeze them for future meals or a last-minute appetizer. 

These Instant Pot meatballs are so easy and versatile. Sauce ‘em up and serve them in a bowl at your next gathering, or add some noodles, rice, or veggies to make it a meal! Here are some creative ways to enjoy them.

  • Cover plain meatballs in pesto (we love this healthy kale pesto and easy pea pesto) and serve over pasta, zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash.
  • Make a simple tzatziki sauce, wrap a few meatballs up in a big piece of pita bread, and top with baby greens and red onions.
  • Bathe them in bbq sauce and serve in a bun topped with coleslaw.

How to store leftover meatballs

Leftover meatballs should be refrigerated or frozen once cool.

  • To refrigerate leftover meatballs: Transfer leftover meatballs to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  • To freeze leftover meatballs: Place meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until very firm. Then, transfer the meatballs to a freezer bag, press out any extra air and return to the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months and reheat from frozen.

How to freeze meatballs (uncooked and cooked)

  • For plain meatballs: Place plain meatballs (uncooked, or cooked but cool) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 2-3 hours, or until very firm. Transfer the meatballs to a freezer bag, press out any extra air and return them to the freezer. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • For cooked meatballs in sauce: Transfer both meatballs and sauce to a freezer bag and press out any extra air in the bag. To save space, lay the bag flat in the freezer so it can be stacked when frozen.

How to cook frozen meatballs in the Instant Pot

How long does it take to cook frozen meatballs in the Instant Pot?

It will take longer for the Instant Pot to come to pressure using frozen meatballs, but cook time is the same whether fresh or frozen, and will depend on the size.

  • Cocktail-sized meatballs (1 ounce each or 1-inch in diameter): 7 minutes at high pressure with a 5-minute natural release
  • Medium-sized meatballs (1 ½ounces or 1 ¾-inch in diameter): 8 minutes at high pressure with 5-minute natural release
  • Large meatballs (3 ounces each): 10-11 minutes at high pressure with a 7-minute natural release

Simple sauce recipes for Instant Pot meatballs

Italian Meatballs with Sauce | Sweet & Sour | Korean | Swedish

Instant Pot Meatballs in Pasta Sauce

overhead photo of italian instant pot meatballs in marinara sauce in a cast iron skillet

You can’t go wrong with classic meatballs in marinara sauce. My favorite way to eat these is bathed in a hearty sauce, right out of the bowl. No pasta or bread needed — that’s how good they are! 

I recommend about 3-4 cups of chunky pasta sauce for a whole batch of meatballs — maybe a little more if you like a lot of sauce and will be eating them over pasta, and maybe a little less if you plan to serve them as an appetizer.

If you’re going the traditional spaghetti and meatball route, you can heat the sauce on a stove while the meatballs cook or combine everything, reheat, and serve them right out of the Instant Pot.

Sauce Options

  • Pop open a jar of your favorite store-bought marinara. I personally love Rao’s which I recently discovered at Costco!
  • Alternatively, you can make your own easy marinara sauce using crushed tomatoes and a few other pantry staples while the meatballs cook.

Serving Suggestions

  • Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and/or basil and Parmesan cheese and serve with toothpicks for an easy appetizer
  • Put over pasta, top with fresh Parmesan cheese and serve with a side salad
  • Serve over spaghetti squash with sauteed veggies (mushrooms, bell pepper, and onions) 

Sweet & Sour (Grape Jelly) Sauce Recipe

closeup photo of sweet and sour grape jelly instant pot meatballs in a cast iron dish

What might be considered the classic cocktail meatball, these sweet and sour meatballs made with grape jelly are a popular party appetizer and always a hit with guests. Put your spin on it with your choice of ketchup, chili sauce, or bbq sauce.

Makes: 2 cups of sauce 

Note: This recipe generally makes enough sauce to serve over rice or rice noodles. If serving as an appetizer you may want to make less sauce or freeze the extra.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketchup, chili sauce, or bbq sauce
  • 1 cup grape jelly (use ¾ cup for a slightly less sweet sauce)
  • Fresh chopped parsley for topping (optional)

Instructions

Combine ketchup, chili sauce or bbq sauce, and grape jelly in a medium bowl and stir well.

Korean Meatball Sauce Recipe

closeup photo instant pot korean meatballs in cast iron skillet

If you want to kick things up a notch, these Korean Instant Pot Meatballs are the way to go.

The sauce is sticky, sweet, and has a little heat thanks to gochujang (Korean chili paste) and red pepper flakes. They might actually be my favorite of the bunch!

Makes: 2 cups of sauce 

Note: This recipe generally makes enough sauce to serve over rice or rice noodles; if serving as an appetizer you may want to make less sauce or freeze the extra.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ⅔ cup water
  • 1 ½ cups cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste, available in most grocery stores)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • ½  teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-2 tablespoons water
  • Sesame seeds and/or sliced green onion for garnish (optional)

Instructions

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring soy sauce, water, brown sugar, gochujang, ground ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes to a boil. Whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water together in a separate small bowl until well combined; stir into boiling sauce and simmer for 1-2 minutes to activate the starch. Reduce heat to medium; simmer and stir frequently for 8-10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened and reduced slightly. Remove from heat and serve over meatballs.

Serving Suggestions

  • Top with sliced green onions and sesame seeds and serve solo as an appetizer
  • Serve over rice or rice noodles along with some roasted or stir-fried veggies. I love them with roasted Brussels sprouts and broccolini, or stir-fried carrots, snow peas, bell pepper, and broccoli.

Instant Pot Swedish Meatball Sauce Recipe

You really can’t go wrong with these classic Swedish meatballs. Bathed in a simple creamy sauce, it’s comfort food at its finest. They’re a great party app all on their own, or you can make it a balanced meal by tossing in some sauteed vegetables and a little linguine.

Swedish Meatball Sauce

Makes: 2 cups of sauce

Note: I recommend increasing sauce ingredients by half if serving a full batch of meatballs over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Melt butter in a large saucepan or deep skillet over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Gradually add beef broth and whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Add milk, half-and-half or heavy cream, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Transfer cooked meatballs from the Instant Pot to the saucepan or skillet, coat with sauce, and serve.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make this Instant Pot meatballs recipe healthier?

You can make meatballs healthier by using leaner meat, such as lean ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken. Look for ground meat that contains 10% fat or less (90/10). You can also add finely grated zucchini (pressed) and carrots to the meat mixture for some extra veggies.

More Instant Pot recipes you might like

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Recipe

Instant Pot Meatball Recipe

Instant Pot Meatballs 5 different ways: no sauce, with sauce, sweet & sour grape jelly, Korean, and Swedish style!

  • Prep Time:
    25 minutes
  • Total Time:
    45 minutes
  • Makes:
    30 meatballs 1x
  • Prep Time:
    25 minutes
  • Total Time:
    45 minutes
  • Makes:
    30 meatballs 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 pound Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed
    • 2 eggs
    • ⅔ cup Panko bread crumbs
    • ¾ cup grated onion (about 1 medium) 
    • ¼ cup fresh Parmesan cheese
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Instructions

    Make your meatballs, then head to the recipe below for the sauce. 

    1. Prepare a baking sheet (if freezing). Line a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer with parchment paper and set aside.
    2. Make the meatball mixture. Combine ground beef, sausage and eggs in a large bowl. With clean hands, mix together until incorporated. Do not over mix or you will have tough meatballs. Add the breadcrumbs, onion, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper; mix again.  
    3. Measure and roll your meatballs. For medium-sized meatballs, measure 1 ½ ounces of meat mixture (about 2 ½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball. For smaller cocktail-sized meatballs, measure 1 ounce of meat per meatball. Repeat with the remaining mixture, placing uncooked meatballs on a plate or prepared baking sheet.
    4. To freeze the meatballs: Place the baking sheet into the freezer and freeze until firm, about 2-3 hours. Transfer frozen meatballs to a freezer bag. As you seal the bag, press out any remaining air. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
    5. To cook the meatballs (frozen or unfrozen): Place a trivet into the inner pot of the Instant Pot and add 1 cup of water or beef broth (or 1 ½ cups for 8-quart pot). Carefully place the meatballs you’d like to cook onto the trivet, stacking meatballs between one another into 2-3 layers if needed. Secure the lid, making sure the valve is set to SEALING. Set Instant Pot to Pressure Cook — HIGH for 8 minutes, or 7 minutes for smaller cocktail-sized meatballs. Let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes; carefully release remaining pressure manually. When done, transfer cooked meatballs to a clean plate. 
    6. Make your sauce. While the meatballs cook, make or warm your sauce on the stove. If you’d like to make your sauce in the Instant Pot, you can do it either before or after cooking the meatballs using the SAUTE function. If the latter, remove the meatballs and trivet from the Instant Pot and drain the cooking liquid prior to making the sauce.

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Prep

    • Grate the onion and refrigerate until you make the meat mixture
    • Roll the meatballs and store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before cooking
    • Make sauces up to 2 days in advance

    Ingredient Notes

    • For dairy-free Instant Pot meatballs: Omit or substitute an equal amount of nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese
    • For egg-free Instant Pot meatballs: Substitute ½ cup ricotta cheese (¼ cup per egg). If you don’t have an egg allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance, 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise can also be used (1 tablespoon per egg).
    • For gluten-free meatballs (meatballs only): Substitute gluten-free Panko for traditional Panko breadcrumbs 
    • Gochujang (Korean Meatballs): Gochujang is a Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans and is available in most large supermarkets and Asian markets.

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Measure and add meatball ingredients to the bowl, as well as help mixing and rolling meatballs; stack in the Instant Pot
    • Little Kids: All of the above plus help grate the onion (closely supervised) and roll the meatballs; 
    • Big Kids: Give them the recipe and see how much they can do on their own!

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information calculated for 3, 1.5-ounce meatballs (no sauce) using 85% lean ground beef and Sweet Italian pork sausage.

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 3 (1 ¾-inch) meatballs
    • Calories: 219
    • Sugar: 1 g
    • Sodium: 689 mg
    • Fat: 12 g
    • Saturated Fat: 5 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 7 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 8 g
    • Fiber: 0 g
    • Protein: 18 g
    • Cholesterol: 83 mg

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    overhead photo of instant pot meatballs in cast iron skillets in four different sauces: sweet and sour with grape jelly, swedish meatball gravy, korean bbq sauce, and meatballs in marinara sauce with title text overlay

    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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    Recipe rating

    • These are incredible! Juicy, tender, and so easy. I was nervous stacking them on the steamer but they keep their shape. Plus who can tell once you put a little sauce on them. Will definitely make again!

      • Hi Kate! So glad you enjoyed them. Thanks for taking the time to leave a review! – Elle

      • Hi Bella! I’ve never made these in the slow cooker so I’m not totally sure they’d turn out but, it it were me, I’d check them after 3 hours on low or 1 1/2 hours on high just to make sure they don’t get overcooked. Would love to know your results if you try! ☺️