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Help with meatballs

I am looking for a new good meatball recipe, but all I can find are recipes with either dairy or pork, so they won't work in our house.

I think I can just substitute beef for the pork and water for the milk, but was wondering if anyone has tried this with good results.

Alternatively, if anyone has a good dairy and pork free meatball recipe, I'd love to have it.


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  1. I make meatballs with ground chicken almost exclusively now. I don't add any milk or water to the mix. Only chopped onion, parsley, a little rice, an egg, and a small can of tomato sauce.

    Oddly enough, the ground chicken more closely approximates the flavor of the pork meatballs we had in Romania that my Mother-in-law makes.

    1. beef & ground turkey are both perfectly acceptable substitutes for the pork.

      as far as the milk goes, some recipes call for it as part of a panade, or bread paste, to help bind the ingredients and keep the meatballs moist. if you want to use a recipe that calls for a panade, use soy, rice or almond milk instead of dairy.

      otherwise you can just use some beaten egg (a whole egg plus one or two egg whites usually works well) to help moisten & bind.

      1. I almost always make my meatballs with beef, not pork, and I use low sodium tomato juice or v-8 juice for the liquid (a carry-over from my favorite meatloaf recipe). You can also add some turkey or chicken italian sausage meat to the mix.

        1. I use Marcella Hazan's incredible meatball recipe (just made a batch last night), which calls for lean beef as the meat. She does call for bread soaked in milk, but I'd follow GHG's lead and use soy pr almond milk instead. If you're subbing beef (or chicken, buffalo, turkey) in a recipe calling for pork just remember that they're leaner meats than pork is, so you might want to add a touch of olive oil to compensate (Marcella specifically calls for it in hers).

          1. Substitute finely shredded cabbage for the milk.

            Beef is fine. If you want, add some lamb for that nice fatty mouthfeel, but not necessary.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              Cabbage & Lamb? That's a new one on me. Is the cabbage cooked? And ground lamb is not always readily available.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Got the link, but I don't see any mention of using it in meatballs??

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    It is in the permalinked post on that thread (I mentioned it on other meatloaf/meatball threads, too - people who tried it posted back favorably). I learned it from my mother, who put cabbage in her fricadellen (alternate spelling frikadellen) and serendipitously used coleslaw when I mistakenly thought I had a wedge of cabbage in the crisper. The slaw added a little tang and I now usually have a little frozen leftover coleslaw in the freezer for meaking leatloaf or meatballs.

            2. Hi! I'm a big meatball/meatloaf lover. Though I usually make mine with meatloaf mix (a blend of veal, pork and beef), I've also made them with ground beef and even ground turkey. So, don't worry about including pork. Pick your favorite ground meat and give this recipe a whirl:


              2 Replies
              1. re: kattyeyes

                Your recipes sound good, but I am guessing that the OP might be kosher and therefore cannot use cheese either with the meat.

                Not exactly italian style meatballs, but I make these Cranberry Cocktail Meatballs in big batches and freeze them in small portions. My kids love these and I can pull out a small portion for them to eat during the week. Very retro, but what can I say, my kids love them (and so do my in-laws!).


                1. re: valerie

                  Oh, you're right--sorry about that. I completely overlooked the pecorino romano because I don't always include it.. The recipe loses absolutely nothing without that added little bit of cheese. In fact, more often than not, I skip it. And, OP, obviously you'd skip my "stuffed" suggestions altogether, but the base recipe could still work for you if you're interested.

              2. This is my go-to recipe (with beef). You can omit the grated cheese.


                1. Use veal with the beef to soften it up, if you do veal that is. Otherwise, I've read here that people (jfood specifically) use lots of water with the meat, I think that would work fine for you. Here's the recipe, just leave out the pork and leave out the cheese (I usually serve the cheese on the side anyway). (But keep the cannolis, ha ha just kidding)

                  Jfood adaption of Frankie’s Meatballs (Rao’s)

                  This recipe is Jfood's adaption of Rao’s meatball recipe. After many attempts to improve an already great recipe, this is his favorite variation. The meat is sometimes found in the grocers as “Meatloaf Mix.” It is so good and easy, Jfood normally makes a double batch and freezes in 2-meatball packages in a sandwich bag and then in a freezer bag. To defrost Jfood places in the Microwave (on a plate without the plastic) for 5 minutes at 40%. Then into some sauce if desired.

                  • 1 pound lean ground beef
                  • 1/2 pound ground veal
                  • 1/2 pound ground pork
                  • 2 large eggs
                  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
                  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
                  • 1/2 to 1 small garlic clove, minced
                  • Pinch of red pepper
                  • Salt and pepper to taste
                  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
                  • 1.5 -2 cups water

                  1. Place the beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl.
                  2. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste and blend the ingredients together.
                  3. Add the bread crumbs 1 cup at a time and blend into the meat mixture.
                  4. Slowly add the water, ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is moist.
                  5. Shape the meat mixture into 1½ - 2 -inch balls.
                  6. Place the meatballs on a rack placed over a rimmed baking sheet.
                  7. Place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

                  1. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions! Time to get cooking!!