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Porcupine Meatballs ~ with Quinoa or Rice

Reminiscent of little porcupines, these meatballs are studded with quinoa or rice and cooked in a slightly sweet tomato sauce. This new twist on a retro classic is not only kid-approved, but it’s also quick to get on the table!

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comThose of you who visit Five Heart Home with any regularity have probably figured out by now that quick and easy is the name of the game around here. A typical evening necessitates that dinner be ready in 30 minutes or less, and whatever I’m cooking must be appealing to a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 1-year old. Well, I’m happy to share another recipe today that fits all of the above criteria!

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comHave y’all had Porcupine Meatballs before? Basically, raw rice is added to ground beef, formed into meatballs, and and then cooked in a tomato-based sauce. The resulting meatballs have pointy little pieces of rice sticking out in all directions, hence the “porcupine” moniker.

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comThis dish has been around for decades. It was popular when I was growing up in the 80s, and I recently came across a recipe for it in an old family cookbook I inherited that dates back to the 60s. However, a bit of online research taught me that Porcupine Meatballs originated all the way back in the Great Depression, when they were invented as a way to stretch a little bit of meat into a larger meal by using more widely available rice.

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comPorcupine Meatballs make for a quick, tasty meal even today, and they are quite popular at our house. I’ve been making them for years with white rice (I learned the hard way that brown rice — with its longer required cooking time — will result in crunchy meatballs, which I can promise you are not so good). But it recently occurred to me that this recipe might also work using super healthy quinoa in lieu of rice. So, utilizing my family as guinea pigs, I embarked on creating a 2014 version of porcupines. And guess what? It worked!

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comI will confess that it’s probably not entirely accurate to call these “porcupine” meatballs when using quinoa, since quinoa is round and doesn’t give the same spiky effect that rice does. However, using quinoa as your chosen grain to bulk up these meatballs does give them added texture, plus all of the wholesome benefits of quinoa. You can certainly still stick with the traditional white rice to make this recipe, but I am pleased to inform you that should you care to try it, quinoa will work just as well!

Porcupine Meatballs {Stuffed with Quinoa or Rice} ~ this classic, quick and easy meal is a hit with kids and adults alike | FiveHeartHome.comSo the next time you need a fast-fix supper that the whole family will enjoy, I encourage you to put these porcupine meatballs on your menu! Combine the ingenuity of Depression-era cooks with the health benefits of today’s hottest super food, and you’ve got a winning recipe.

Porcupine Meatballs ~ with Quinoa or Rice

Yield: 4 servings

Porcupine Meatballs ~ with Quinoa or Rice

Reminiscent of little porcupines, these meatballs are studded with quinoa or rice and cooked in a slightly sweet and tangy tomato sauce. This new twist on a retro classic is not only kid-approved, but it's also quick to get on the table!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed (OR white rice)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, quinoa, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Form mixture into 12 meatballs.
  2. In a medium pot set over medium heat, stir together tomato sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, garlic powder, and chili powder. Bring to a simmer and carefully place meatballs in one layer, spooning a little sauce over each one to cover the top. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover pot. Cook for 15 minutes, flip each meatball, and then cook for 15 more minutes or until meatballs are no longer pink in center.

Notes

To form 12 meatballs of the same size, I first pat the meat mixture evenly into the bottom of the bowl, and then score the meat vertically through the center and then again horizontally through the center, so that I have four equal sections. I then divide each section into three equal pieces and form each piece into a meatball.

Be sure to thoroughly rinse the quinoa before using it, to get rid of its bitter, naturally-occuring coating.

If using white rice, it's not necessary to use instant, since regular white rice will cook in 20 minutes. If you want to use brown rice, instant may be a good idea, since regular brown rice takes at least 40 minutes to cook and it will still be crunchy in these meatballs after 30 minutes of cooking time.

My family doesn't find this sauce to be overly sweet, but feel free to reduce or eliminate the brown sugar if you prefer.

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http://www.fivehearthome.com/2014/02/08/porcupine-meatballs-with-quinoa-or-rice/

Adapted from AllRecipes.com.

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Comments

  1. Debbie Caraballo says:

    Love love love this recipe! I have some quinoa I need to use and had no idea what to do with it. And I adore porcupine meatballs – my piano teacher posted a recipe for them in a 1964 PTA cookbook in my little hometown of Centerville, Tx. The brown sugar sounds perfect to me. I have to have a little “sweet” in anything tomato-ey. Thanks again…gonna pin this one right now.
    Be well, have a great Sunday!
    Deb

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      I’m so glad that you’re excited to try this recipe, Deb! I have always liked porcupine meatballs as well, and it was fun to give them a new twist with the quinoa. Thanks for sharing your story…enjoy! Hope you’re having a great weekend. 🙂

  2. Do you think I could replace the sugar for honey? And how much would you use if so? Thanks for posting! I’m going to try these for the kids!

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Hi Lara! You can totally use honey instead of brown sugar in this sauce…in fact, that’s a really good idea! I’d start with 1 tablespoons, taste it, and add another tablespoon if you prefer it sweeter. Hope your kids love these! Thanks for the great question. 🙂

  3. Loving this!!! My kids are not fans of piles of quinoa, but throw some sauce on it and they eat anything! Thanks for Monday night dinner! Lol

  4. These look yummy and I was planning on doing regular meatballs this week. I think we might try this instead. Do you think this would work in the crockpot?

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Hi Kristin! I think this recipe would totally work in the crock pot…in fact, that’s a really good idea! It’s possible that the tomato sauce might darken a bit around the edges of the crock pot (particularly because of the brown sugar), but otherwise, I don’t see why cooking these in the slow cooker wouldn’t work. Let me know how it turns out if you try it!

  5. Hi there! I had never heard of porcupine meatballs before meeting my husband. It is a childhood favourite of his. I will definitely be trying them with quinoa! We’ve cut back on red meat, so I’ll see how it goes with ground turkey or chicken. I can’t wait to try this! Thank you!

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Hi Andrea! I bet these would be great with ground turkey or chicken! I hope y’all enjoy these and that they bring back fond childhood memories for your husband. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  6. This sounds delish, Samantha. I haven’t made meatballs in ages but always have the ingredients handy. Thank you for sharing. Visiting from the Best of the Weekend party.

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Happy to have you stop by, Jelli! I tend to forget about meatballs, too, but my family is always so enthusiastic when I make them. 🙂 Hope you enjoy this spin on them, and hope you’re having a great weekend!

  7. Loved seeing the title of the recipe!!! My family has called them “porcupine balls” for years and when I talk about them, people are often clueless….one of my favorite meals!!

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      How fun, Jennifer…thanks for sharing that! I love it when recipes hold sentimental meaning. 🙂

  8. MaryAnne says:

    Would you believe that I made porcupine meatballs yesterday? They’ve been a regular favourite in my family as long as I can remember (that’s nearly 60 years, alas). Here in Australia, we use condensed tomato soup rather than cans of tomato sauce (whatever they are), and I’ve been looking for a way to cut the acidity. The sugar should do the trick next time. I’ve made them in the electric pressure cooker with huge success. I must try them with quinoa (thanks for the idea). I used extra garlic this time and will continue to do so. Real comfort food as we head into autumn.

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Thanks so much for sharing that, MaryAnne! I hope you enjoy this version with the quinoa! I think lots of people in the US make porcupine meatballs with condensed tomato soup as well. I always find that a bit of sugar in anything tomato sauce-based really helps mellow out the acidity. And I’m going to have to try cooking them in a pressure cooker sometime…what a smart idea! Thanks again for stopping by and I hope you have a great weekend!

  9. Wow! Want to make these tonite w/quinoa ! How long in pressure cooker? Many years ago mom made them in pressure cooker…guessing that timing would be ok????
    Thanks

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      Hi Lynda! I apologize for my delayed response. I don’t actually have any experience using a pressure cooker, so I’m not sure how to advise you adapt these meatballs. If your mom pressure cooked a similar recipe in the past, I bet the timing would be similar. Hope it worked out if you tried it, and I hope you’re having a great weekend! 🙂

  10. This sounds awesome! My mom used to make porcupine meatballs all the time growing up, and I have wanted to make them. I wanted something healthier than white rice, and quinoa sounds perfect. I have some homemade marinara that my uncle made. Instead of adding sugar, he grates some carrot into his sauce to make it sweeter. You can also add a pinch of baking soda to cur the acidity.

    • Samantha at Five Heart Home Samantha at Five Heart Home says:

      I hope you enjoy these, Emily! And thanks so much for sharing your tips on how to add a little sweetness/cut the acidity of marinara sauce without adding sugar…brilliant! I will have to try those ideas next time. 🙂 Hope your week is off to a great start!

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