Crockpot Meatball Subs effortlessly come together in the slow cooker for flavorful, saucy, cheesy sandwiches that the whole family will love! With just a few simple ingredients, this meatball sub recipe is homemade, easy, and delicious!
Between back-to-school and birthday season, September is a hectic month around our house. I don't always find myself with a lot of time to devote to making dinners, but that doesn't mean I want to fall back on take-out. So many nights, it's my trusty slow cooker to the rescue! And these yummy Crockpot Meatball Subs are a longtime favorite.
This meatball sub recipe is always a hit with every member of my family, from small to tall. After all, who doesn't love a good meatball sub? And this slow cooker version is truly effortless.
If you already happen to have a bag of meatballs in the freezer, they can make a great shortcut ingredient to substitute in this meal. That being said, it's hard to beat homemade meatball subs, and whipping up your own crock pot meatball recipe takes just a few simple ingredients.
- Ground beef. I prefer using extra lean ground beef in this recipe (ideally 96/4, but no lower than 90/10), since there's no way to drain the grease as the meatballs cook in the crockpot.
- Egg. A necessary binder in this crock pot meatball recipe.
- Italian breadcrumbs. Either store-bought or homemade Italian breadcrumbs will work. And if you only have plain breadcrumbs on hand, you can always just toss in some herbs and seasonings to make them Italian, such as basil, oregano, and parsley. Or use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this recipe GF.
- Garlic powder, salt, and pepper. For seasoning.
- Marinara or pasta sauce. Again, use your favorite jarred sauce, or if you already have some homemade marinara in the fridge or freezer, feel free to use that instead.
- Sandwich rolls. Submarine, hoagie, or Italian rolls will all work beautifully to make a mighty fine meatball sub. I look for rolls that are about 6 inches long, which will generally hold three meatballs. Toasting the rolls is optional but recommended.
- Shredded mozzarella + grated Parmesan. To melt over your meatball subs once they're assembled.
If you do decide to substitute frozen meatballs for homemade, they should take a comparable amount of time to cook. (No shame here...sometimes you're short on time or sometimes you're just tired!) Just check the instructions on the meatball package to make sure they reach a safe internal temperature.
How to Make Meatball Subs
(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)
Crockpot Meatball Subs take about 15 minutes to get started in the morning before you can forget about them for the rest of the day.
- Add your ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, and seasonings to a medium bowl. Mix everything with your hands or a large spoon until all of the ingredients are well combined.
- Form the mixture into 12 meatballs, being careful not to pack them together too tightly. If possible, space out the meatballs in the bottom of your slow cooker so the sauce can get between.
- Pour the marinara over the crockpot meatballs, ensuring that each one is covered completely.
- Cook on LOW until the meatballs are cooked through. This generally takes about six hours.
- To serve, halve each roll lengthwise and toast, if desired. Place 3 meatballs inside each roll and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
- The hot meatballs should cause the cheese to melt, but if not, you may place your sandwiches under the oven broiler for a minute to melt the cheese completely. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and ENJOY!
Evenly Dividing the Meatball Sub Mixture
After I mix up my ground beef (or turkey) mixture, I gently press it in the bowl and smooth out the top. Then I use a butter knife to cut it like a pie into even slices.
It's rather difficult to slice the meat mixture into 12 skinny pieces, as would be necessary for a dozen crock pot meatballs. But it's doable to cut it into six pieces and then scoop out each piece and divide in half for two meatballs...because 6 x 2 = 12.
(See! Even English majors can do simple kitchen math. 😉 )
Doubling the Recipe
This meatball sub recipe may be doubled…just make sure you're using a large slow cooker.
- Arrange half (12) of the meatballs in the bottom of your crockpot.
- Cover with a jar of sauce (or 3 cups homemade).
- Pile the remaining (12) meatballs on top.
- Pour in a second jar of sauce (or 3 more cups homemade) and make sure all of the meatballs are submerged.
If you're home, you can gently stir the meatballs halfway through the cooking time. But they'll still turn out fine if you don't!
A Word About Cooking Time
When making these Crockpot Meatball Subs, keep in mind that some slow cookers run hotter than others. If your slow cooker runs hot and cooks fast, you'll want to check on your meatballs sooner than the six hour mark.
It's also normal for the sauce to darken a bit around the edges of the crockpot, particularly if your slow cooker runs hot. If you happen to be home, you can stir your meatballs a few times over the course of the day. Just wait until they've been cooking for a couple of hours before stirring for the first time, and don't take off the lid for longer than necessary. However, occasional stirring should keep the sauce from sticking to the sides and/or burning.
Meatball Sub Sides
When it's time for dinner, you can look forward to juicy meatballs and savory sauce to pile on rolls and top with gooey, melted cheese. But what are some potential sides for these meatball subs?
- A simple side salad dressed with Homemade Ranch or Italian Dressing
- Caesar Salad
- Baked Asparagus Fries
- Scalloped Corn or Cream Cheese Corn Casserole
- Roasted Broccoli, Asparagus, or Brussels Sprouts
- Broccoli Cheese Casserole
- Caprese Orzo Salad
- Baked Parmesan Zucchini or Yellow Squash
- Zucchini Marinara
- Marinated or Roasted Tomatoes
- Tortellini Pasta Salad
As you can see, when Crockpot Meatball Subs are on the menu, the side dish possibilities are endless!
It's doesn't get any easier -- or tastier -- than this meatball sub recipe, folks. It's the epitome of effortless, hearty, delicious comfort food.
I hope these Crockpot Meatball Subs becomes a regular, popular part of your dinner rotation during your own busy weeks!
More Easy Sandwiches for Supper
- Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwich Au Jus
- The BEST Sloppy Joes
- Slow Cooker Honey Balsamic Shredded Beef Sandwiches
- Sonoma Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Easy + DELICIOUS Crockpot Meatball Subs
- 1 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef
- 1 egg
- ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs, store-bought or homemade
- teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups marinara or pasta sauce, homemade or a 24-oz. jar
- 4 submarine/hoagie/Italian rolls (about 6-inches long, each), toasted (if desired)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
- In a medium bowl, combine ground beef with egg, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix with hands or a large spoon until all ingredients are well incorporated.
- Form mixture into 12 meatballs, taking care not to make them too compact. Place meatballs in the bottom of slow cooker. Pour pasta sauce over meatballs, making sure that each one is completely covered.
- Cook on LOW for 6 hours or until the meatballs are cooked through. (Check sooner if your slow cooker runs hot, in which case the meatballs may cook faster and the sauce may start to darken around the edges.)
- To serve, halve each roll lengthwise, toast if desired, and place three meatballs inside. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. The hot meatballs should cause the cheese to melt, but if not, you may place sandwiches under the oven broiler for a minute to melt cheese completely. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using, and serve hot.
- When making Crockpot Meatball Subs, be sure to use lean (90/10) or ideally extra-lean (96/4) ground beef, in order to avoid excess grease in your sauce.
- To save on prep time, frozen meatballs may be substituted for homemade. They should still take around six hours to cook. You can check the instructions on the package for the recommended internal temperature that they need to reach.
- This meatball sub recipe may be doubled...just make sure you're using a large enough slow cooker. Put half of the meatballs in the crockpot, cover with a jar of sauce (or 3 cups homemade sauce), then pile in the remaining meatballs and top with the second jar of sauce (or 3 more cups homemade). You can gently stir halfway through the cooking time if you're around, but it's fine if you're not.
- If your slow cooker runs hot, carefully stirring (so as not to break the meatballs) every few hours will help prevent the edges of the sauce from darkening, particularly towards the end of the cooking time.
Post originally published on September 16, 2013, and updated on May 15, 2020, and September 14, 2023. Adapted from Rival Crock Pot: 3 Books in 1.