Easy + DELICIOUS Crockpot Meatball Subs

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!

Crockpot Meatball Subs with text overlay.


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If you enjoy meatballs, you'll also want to try Porcupine Meatballs, Chicken Parmesan Meatballs, or Swedish Meatballs!

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.

Meatball subs recipe on buns from crockpot.


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.

Labeled ingredients to make Crockpot Meatball Subs.
  • 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.

Meatball subs in crockpot on hoagie rolls.

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.

  1. 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.
Ground beef mixture for meatball subs in crockpot.
Meatball sub mixture in bowl.
  1. 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. 
Crockpot meatball recipe in slow cooker.
  1. Pour the marinara over the crockpot meatballs, ensuring that each one is covered completely.
How to make meatball subs.
  1. Cook on LOW until the meatballs are cooked through. This generally takes about six hours.
Crockpot meatballs for meatball sub recipe.
  1. To serve, halve each roll lengthwise and toast, if desired. Place 3 meatballs inside each roll and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Meatball subs with cheese ready to melt.
  1. 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!
Cheese melted over meatball subs recipe.

Evenly Dividing the Meatball Sub Mixture

Any time I make meatballs or Mini Meatloaf Muffins, I have a little trick for making them the same size.

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. 😉 )

Meatloaf mixture divided into six equal pieces.

Doubling the Recipe

This meatball sub recipe may be doubled…just make sure you're using a large slow cooker.

  1. Arrange half (12) of the meatballs in the bottom of your crockpot.
  2. Cover with a jar of sauce (or 3 cups homemade).
  3. Pile the remaining (12) meatballs on top.
  4. 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!

Crockpot Meatball Subs on plate.

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 recipe as two sandwiches on plate.

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?

As you can see, when Crockpot Meatball Subs are on the menu, the side dish possibilities are endless!

Meatball sub recipe from slow cooker.

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

Crockpot Meatball Subs on plate.

Easy + DELICIOUS Crockpot Meatball Subs

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!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 530kcal
Print Pin Rate


  • 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.


Calories: 530kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 133mg | Sodium: 1921mg | Potassium: 1009mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 1073IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 217mg | Iron: 16mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

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.

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5 from 23 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    These were a hit! I let the kids assemble their own meatball subs and they had so much fun. They loved adding extra cheese. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    These turned out great and perfectly cooked. I have never tried meatballs in the crockpot before but I definitely will again!

  3. Hi Samantha! Recipe looks great! What do you think about adding a bit of red wine to the recipe? Would that work at all? I have a lot to use up (not much of a drinker!) Cheers!

    1. Hi Jody! I haven't tried adding red wine myself, but adding a little bit to the sauce probably wouldn't hurt anything (as long as you like the flavor of red wine). I just wouldn't add too much or it may thin it out too much. Enjoy! 🙂

  4. I have a question! I am making these tomorrow but I am needing about 4x the recipe. My crock pot is big enough to hold this much, but I am scared that they will stick together. Should I do anything differently then just add quadruple the amount of ingredients?

    1. Hi Stacey Ann! I apologize that I didn't see your question sooner...I hope that multiplying this recipe worked out! I've never tried quadrupling it, but I have doubled it, and the meatballs turned out great and didn't stick together. If attempting 4 times this recipe, I'd probably try to make sure that I poured some sauce in between the meatball layers, and I'd watch the cooking time to make sure all of the meatballs got cooked through. I might even stir it once or twice throughout the cooking time, if I was home to do so. That being said, I'm curious to hear how this turned out for you!

    2. Hi! I am Doubling this recipe and wondering if the raw meatballs will change shape or stick at all since they will be stacked in the crockpot? And can I trust that they will cook all the way through if they have six hours in the pot? Thanks!!

      1. I just make sure there's a bit of sauce between any layers and the meatballs have been fine. If I'm home, I also try to gently stir halfway through the cooking time, though it's okay if you don't. As for the cooking time, newer model slow cookers typically run hotter than old ones, so that can affect the ultimate cooking time. But if you're not sure, you can always use a meat thermometer to test the internal temp of a meatball to make sure they're cooked through. Hope that helps! 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I've had this on the list to make for ages - and I finally did it! I made a few modifications based on what I had (a blogger's worst nightmare, I know!) I used ground pork, added a shredded zucchini, an extra 1/4 cup bread crumbs (for that added moisture) and used some homemade sauce I had in the freezer. My husband RAVED about it! The 1 year old loved it too!!! It also made about 2 dozen balls for me - I was able to freeze the ones that didn't fit in my crockpot. Win-win!

    1. Ha ha, Whitney...you made me laugh with "a blogger's worst nightmare." 😉 The only time a bunch of substitutions are a blogger's worst nightmare is when the commenter then complains that the recipe turned out terrible -- ha! Your adaptation sounds great, though, and I'm so glad that it was a hit. I might just have to try your modifications sometime... 😉

  6. 5 stars
    HI there-

    Just made these tonight. They came out great for the most part, but a bit of my sauce burned. I cooked them on low for 7 hours... Any thoughts on how to avoid burning? My husband ate them up, but would like to have had a little more sauce for the rolls.


    1. Hi, Audrey! I'm glad y'all enjoyed these meatballs, but I'm sorry to hear that your sauce burned a bit around the edges. I think it's probably a matter of how hot your crock pot runs. I have two crock pots, and one of them runs much hotter than the other when they're both set at the same low setting. So if I make this recipe in one crock pot, it turns out fine...but in the other, the sauce does turn a bit dark around the edges like you're describing. When this has happened, I just scooped the sauce out of the center of the pot to avoid the burned edges. And you can always add more sauce to begin with if you like a saucier sandwich (and to compensate for possibly losing a bit around the edges). I wonder if it could also be a factor of how much sugar your spaghetti sauce contains, since sugar is more prone to burning? If you happen to be home, you can also stir your meatballs a couple of times over the course of the day. Wait until it's been cooking for a couple of hours, and you don't want to take off the lid for longer than necessary, but occasional stirring should keep the sauce from sticking to the sides and burning.

      I hope this helps at least a little! I've never had a major problem with the sauce burning in this recipe, but I can see how it would be possible. I hope you're able to avoid it or remedy it if you try these meatballs again!

      Thanks so much for the question...hope you have a great weekend!

  7. If I made the meatballs from stracch do I need to freeze them add them into the crock pot after I've already cooked them in the oven? Or do I put them in the crock pot uncooked??Thanks!

    1. Hi Maureen! This recipe calls for putting the meatballs into the crock pot raw, after which they cook in the pasta sauce over the course of the day. If your meatballs are already precooked, there's no need to fully cook them in the crock pot again...you could just heat them with the sauce until they reach the recommended safe temperature (165*F...use a thermometer to check). Hope that helps!

  8. These look good. I've tried to do meatballs in the crock pot before...but they turn into Sloppy Joe's! How do you keep them in meatball shape or has that not been a problem?

    1. I've actually never had a problem with these falling apart. They are perfectly firm meatballs when they're all done. I'm not sure what ingredients you've included in your meatballs before, but I think that egg and bread crumbs help bind everything together in these. I form the meat mixture into meatballs, packing them tight enough to hold together but not so tight that they become too dense. Then I lay them in the crock pot, pour the sauce on top, and don't mess with them. If I decide to carefully stir them at some point, it's towards the end of the cooking time when they're already cooked and they hold together fine. I hope this helps and I hope that these work for you if you end up trying them! Thanks so much for your question... 🙂

  9. 5 stars
    oh my goodness, my kids LOVED these meatball subs. I had no idea you could make them in a slow cooker...what a great idea!

  10. 5 stars
    These were delicious! I never thought to make meatball sandwiches, and I have no idea why? 🙂 But they were so simple and everybody loved them.