These slow cooker meatballs are Italian style and made with ground beef, parmesan cheese, herbs and spices. They’re slow simmered to tender perfection in the crock pot and are perfect served over spaghetti or as a hearty appetizer.

Crock pot meatballs are my very favorite type of meatball  – they’re melt in your mouth tender and surprisingly easy to make! Serve your meatballs with a side of garlic knots and broccoli for a complete meal.

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Slow cooker meatballs served over spaghetti, topped with parsley and parmesan cheese.

I am currently in love with my slow cooker all over again. Fall is here, and my crock pot comes in quite handy for quick meals that don’t leave you or your family hanging, like these slow cooker meatballs. A delicious and hearty meal that’s perfect for those cooler nights.


The first step in this recipe is to make your meatball mixture, which is a combination of ground beef, onion, garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. You can shape your meatballs as big or as small as you like, I typically make mine about 1 1/2 inches in size. I use 90% ground beef for my crock pot meatballs as it’s not overly greasy, but has plenty of flavor.

Ground beef, onion, garlic, herbs, cheese and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.

Can you put raw meatballs in a slow cooker?

Technically yes, you can put raw meatballs in the slow cooker. I prefer to broil mine first because it guarantees that your meatballs will hold their shape and they won’t stick together during the slow cooking process. Broiling the meatballs takes just 10 minutes more and is so worth the extra time.

Raw meatballs on a baking sheet.

Tips for Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • Make sure to mince your onion finely for these slow cooker Italian meatballs so they’re adult and kid-friendly.
  • This recipe can easily be doubled to feed a crowd if need be.
  • Use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce to ensure the final dish will be to your liking.
  • You can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef if you prefer.

Broiled meatballs in a slow cooker.


What’s great about meatballs is that they’re so versatile. You can serve them as a hearty appetizer on a toothpick or toss them over some cooked spaghetti and make a dinner out of them. These slow cooker meatballs are also great as a pizza topping, in a baked pasta dish, or in a calzone.

I love these meatballs because they taste like they came from a restaurant. They’re so tender and packed full of flavor from simmering all day in the crock pot.

Slow cooker meatballs with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

I don’t know about you but taking a few minutes to prep dinner in the morning is worth coming home to a finished meal. Long days are a constant with school in session. Having a great recipe like these slow cooker meatballs make it just a little easier.


Slow Cooker Meatballs Video

4.91 from 44 votes

Slow Cooker Meatballs

AuthorSara Welch
Slow cooker meatballs served over spaghetti, topped with parsley and parmesan cheese.
These slow cooker meatballs are Italian style and made with ground beef, parmesan cheese, herbs and spices. They're slow simmered to tender perfection in the crock pot and are perfect served over spaghetti or as a hearty appetizer.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time4 hours 10 minutes
Total Time4 hours 25 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef I use 90% lean
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 28 ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 16 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce


  • Preheat the broiler. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Place the ground beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, onion, egg, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined. If it's hard to get everything to mix together, add a little water, a teaspoon at a time until a smooth mixture forms.
  • Shape the meat into 1 inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Broil the meatballs until browned, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Place the meatballs in the slow cooker. Add the marinara sauce, crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and stir gently to combine.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • Top the meatballs with a sprinkling of parsley and parmesan cheese, then serve.


Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 622mg | Potassium: 1309mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1160IU | Vitamin C: 21.6mg | Calcium: 159mg | Iron: 6.5mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. Can you add spetgetti noodles to the Crock-Pot sauce mixture and if so when would you add them and how long to cook them? Can’t wait to make this sounds delicious

    1. You could but just be aware that noodles cooked in a crock pot tend to be a bit gummy. I’d add them during the last 45 minutes.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve made these a bunch of times, and they freeze beautifully flat in Ziploc freezer bags. I’m a huge fan.

    Over the last year, I’ve made a few modifications that work well for my family that I wanted to share.

    1.) Instead of just ground beef, I try to mix the beef with some ground pork and, if I can get it, some ground veal! The mixture becomes more flavorful.

    2.) For the jarred marinara, I only use Rao’s. In my opinion it is the best. I also add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves to the sauce. Once the meatballs are done broiling, I add all the fat and juices back into the sauce.

    3.) I double the meatball mixture but keep the sauce almost the same – I just 2 jars of Rao’s instead of 1. It fills up the slow cooker nicely and makes about 6 dozen 1-inch meatballs so I have plenty to freeze.

    4.) When I double the meatball mixture, I use 2.5x the salt instead of just doubling the salt. I find it’s needed because I like my meatballs a little more seasoned.

    5.) I add a few other things to the doubled meatball mixture: A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Instead of adding water to the mixture before combining, I add milk or heavy cream if I have it.

    6.) I use a tablespoon to make uniform sized meatballs and cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil before using the cooking spray. Then when they’re done I can lift out the foil and I don’t have to wash the pan.

    7.) If the sauce is too sharp/tart, I add a pinch of sugar.

  3. 5 stars
    Super delicious and easy to prepare! Tastes as if from a good Italian Restaurant. These certainly will be made again and again! Thank you for this comfort food delight!

  4. I don’t have a broiler. Can I sear them in a pan or bake in the oven? I assume they are not “cooked” when placing them in the crock-pot. Sorry, I’m new to cooking.

  5. Can I make the meatballs, cook them then refrigerate overnight ?
    In morning I will put sauce and meatballs in crockpot.

    Is that not too much cooking for meatballs. I don’t wNt them overcooked.

    Thank you

  6. 5 stars
    Hello, thanks for sharing ! Is there a reason we need to add bread crumbs? First Time making
    Meatballs from scratch. I want to follow your
    Recipe to the T but also want to make it GF. (For allergy reasons in the fam)

    1. The breadcrumbs add flavor and help to bind the meatballs so that they don’t fall apart. I would use gluten free breadcrumbs, you can even make your own by toasting some gluten free bread them putting it through the food processor.

    2. I also have to eat GF, so I make this recipe with GF bread crumbs. The GF bread crumbs by Schär are really good! Works perfectly with the recipe.

    3. The breadcrumbs are important! They help to hold its shape, make them more tender and if you use the herb ones it adds flavor. Dont skip the breadcrumbs!!!!!

  7. Hi,

    This recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!

    I’m just wondering if you could clarify what “tomato sauces” is in the recipe? In Australia, tomato sauce might be what North Americans call Ketchup. Our tomato sauce is made of “tomatoes 76% (from paste), sugar, salt, food acid, onion and spice extract.

    We also have other types of tomato based sauces like:
    – tomato purée: tomatoes (99%) (reconstituted, paste), salt.
    – “traditional pasta sauce”: tomatoes (98.8%), salt, onion powder, acidity regulator
    – Passata: Tomatoes (99.5%), Salt, Acidity regulator (330).

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated,
    Thankyou 🙂

    1. Our tomato sauce is tomato puree with a little salt and garlic powder, it typically doesn’t have any sugar added!

  8. 5 stars
    How many meatballs is in a serving? Is it one, for the listed nutrition chart or more? I’m just wondering as I don’t think it was listed!
    By far, best meatball recipe I’ve tried off Pinterest! Love it and so did my husband ! Thankyou!!!

  9. I’ll try this over the weekend.
    Could I mix Italian sausage in with the ground beef if I reduce the beef by the same amount?

    1. 5 stars
      I cooked two batches of these. One following the recipe to the letter, and one substituting half the ground beef with Italian sausage. I liked them both, but my wife says the all beef meat balls tasted just like her Italian grandmother’s used to taste. The batch with the Italian sausage & beef mixture was good, but I agree with my wife. The all “meat” balls tasted more authentic. Broiling them and then cooking them all day in the slow cooker was easy. The flavor, consistency, and texture were perfect.
      I’ve always been intimidated by the thought of cooking meat balls because my wife’s Italian grandmother set the bar so high. This was me first attempt and this recipe made me look like a pro.
      Thanks Again,
      Fort Worth TX

    1. Hi! I made these as directed – broiling first, then putting in the slow cooker – but found they fell apart. What am I doing wrong?

          1. It sounds like they probably cooked for too long, I make this recipe almost every week and they’ve never fallen apart! What temperature did you use and for how long?