Best Gluten-Free Italian Meatball Recipe

best Italian meatballs gluten free with brown rice spaghetti
Gluten-free Italian meatballs recipe with pesto g-free pasta.

Craving meatballs but shun evil gluten? 

Have I got a meatball recipe for you. And it's so good you won't even have to apologize to your Aunt Carmella. I promise. She won't ever suspect you pulled a switcheroo on the old family recipe and made it gluten-free.

Mum's the word (or is it Mama mia?).

Let's face it. When it comes to making meatballs every family boasts an ultra-special top secret meatball recipe, right? There's a loyalty to meatball mojo as fierce and tooth baring as the die hard belief that Mom's meatloaf can cure all ills, mend bruised hearts, and restore order to chaos theory.

So why am I putting myself on the line here? How do I even dare to post a gluten-free meatball recipe? The wrong ingredient or technique might actually lead to fisticuffs. Or bristling. You might turn away from Gluten-Free Goddess in utter, sheer contempt.

I'm putting my reputation on the line here, and I know it.

So why risk it? Why torture myself with the inevitable backlash? Reason one-  an obvious plea. My meatballs are gluten-free and casein-free, in other words, GFCF. My audience. My people.

These meatballs also happen to be egg-free (yes, I hear the snorts of derision- may you wake tomorrow with a blooming albumen rash and come crawling back to peruse my egg-free recipes).

Reason number two? My spaghetti and meatballs? Killer. I'm serious.

Meatball bliss.

Best Gluten-Free Italian Meatball Recipe with Basil Pesto Pasta

When I first went gluten-free I tried the bread crumb alternatives celiac folks touted on gluten-free forums. You know, crushed corn flakes. Cooked rice.  Ouch. The problem? The meatballs tasted like breakfast cereal. Or gummy leftover rice.

My solution? I keep all my odd bits and pieces of gluten-free bread (this is my current favorite gluten-free bread recipe) and I process them into Italian breadcrumbs by adding Italian herbs and garlic powder; then I bag and freeze them.

I also keep a loaf of the plainest, driest tapioca-based gluten-free bread on hand- just in case. Then whenever I feel an urge to make meatballs, I either reach for my bag of home made gluten-free breadcrumbs, or toss slices of store bought tapioca bread into the Cuisinart and zap them into bread crumbs, as needed. In savory dishes I add in plenty of dried Italian style herbs as I process. In a pinch, you could also toast up some plain gluten-free waffles and turn them into crumbs, adding herbs and a pinch of garlic powder.

As for pasta, my favorite spaghetti at the moment is Tinkyada- it is smooth and creamy and keeps it an authentic al dente texture if you don't overcook it.


1 small to medium sweet onion
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled, cut in half
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into several pieces
1 pound of organic grass fed ground beef or buffalo- either works
1 pound of organic ground pork
1/2 cup Annie's Naturals or Muir Glen Organic Ketchup
1 tablespoon organic molasses (this helps bind the mixture)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 to 1/2 cup gluten-free herbed bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (my secret ingredient)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Dash of red pepper flakes, for heat, if desired
Olive oil, as needed


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the onion, garlic and carrot pieces into a food processor and pulse until the texture is very finely diced. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, briefly stir together the ground beef and pork. Add in the processed onion, garlic and carrot mixture, ketchup, molasses, balsamic vinegar, parsley, gluten-free bread crumbs, sea salt and pepper flakes. Mix gently to combine. Try not to over-mix (over-mixing makes a dense meatball).

Rub a little olive oil on your hands and form the meatball mixture into balls (roughly the size of golf balls). Place them on the lined baking sheet. You should end up with about 20-24 balls.

Bake the meatballs in the center of the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes until done (no longer pink in the center). Note: Smaller meatballs cook faster, so if your meatballs are smaller, check them at 20 minutes. If you make ginormous balls, Darling, they'll take longer to cook through. Adjust baking times accordingly.

You could also fry the meatballs in a large skillet, using olive oil, I suppose, but this method makes an oilier meatball.

Makes about six servings.

Serve these tasty little numbers in a variety of ways:

Classic spaghetti and meatballs- serve the meatballs with pasta topped with red sauce, or basil pesto, as pictured. I love meatballs with pesto spaghetti.
Here's two pesto recipes- Basil Pesto and Vegan Cilantro Pesto.
Add them to simmering marinara sauce, and serve them on a bed of cooked gluten-free polenta.
Add them to my Baked Brown Rice Risotto.
Serve them with my Balsamic Roasted Vegetable Smothered Baked Potato
Add them to a shallow bowl of Roasted Tomato Soup or vegetable ragout.
Serve them with grilled slices of these Gluten-Free Baguettes schmeared with pesto.

Recipe Source:

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tina said...

Your recipe does sound "killer"... And I'll bet it is!!
Our family favorite is actually a "ginormous" meatball that I serve alongside brown rice pasta with sauce. I figured out that meatballs were one of the best places to sneak in extra veggies for my 4 year old. So, I'll add in things like zucchini, red bell pepper, onion and garlic. I put a layer of spaghetti sauce on each 2 inch meatball before I pop it in the oven. They turn out very moist and yummy.
As always, thanks for the inspiration! I love your site!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I add leftover mashed potatoes, instead of gluten free bread crumbs to my meatballs. Its a trick I learned at a get together many years ago. It does make very light meatballs, but you do need tp add the herbs, as you said, Karina. Your recipe sounds have the best recipe postings! Thanks....

milhan said...

Yum...I haven't made/eaten meatballs or meatloaf in awhile - but now I will! I even have some ground bison in the freezer waiting to be discovered, this sounds like a tasty way to try it for the first time :)

I love Tinkyada good...

Kalyn said...

Mmmm, your meatballs do sound fabulous. I just love any type of meatballs.

Paper said...

I often make meatballs without daity, bread or eggs, just adding fresh herbs and spices. if you keep them small they keep together beautifully! Yours are far more sophisticated though, they look mouthwatering, I can almost smell them!xx

Torrey :) said...

After perusing your meatball recipe, I hit my local Whole Foods store and found some salt-free pretzels from Glutino (they come in a green bag, as opposed to the typical red bag). I ended up buying a you think those would work as a breadcrumb-like substitute if they were crushed up fine? Just curious...they piqued my interest and I figured it was worth a shot! :)

R said...

My son is allergic to gluten/egg/dairy (he's 15 months old) and your site has been a godsend.

i have made gf/df/ef meatballs for him and had good results using egg replacer and puffed corn or puffed rice blasted in the food processor. the puffed rice makes it kinda like panko bread crumbs.

Simply...Gluten-free said...

mmmm, definatley sounds killer to me!

Kimi Harris said...

Hmmm, you have inspired me. I don't have to eat gluten free now, but I can't tomato so I will have to play around with recipes to find one that works for me. I like a lot of what you add to yours (herbs and vinegar. Thank you for the inspiration, your picture made my mouth water!

Kimi @

Paula said...

This looks great! I am new to the world of gluten free (littlest offspring can't have wheat), and found your blog via Kalyn's Kitchen. I'm so glad I you posted this, and I actually have all the ingredients on hand including the tapioca bread. This will be on the menu tomorrow night!

Paula said...

The meatballs were a hit. I made an extra large batch and I've just got a couple left. You were spot-on about the tapioca bread crumbs and herbs. They worked beautifully. Thanks for this recipe and I'll be visiting this blog often for more dinner pleasin' ideas.

Laura said...

What a terrific recipe, and a lifesaver too! My 7-year old son has been GFCF, egg/soy free for about a month now. He's a really good sport about it, but he does love meatballs and was definitely missing them. I made your recipe tonight, and he asked me to write and tell you that they were "5 stars out of 5 stars." Thanks again. Great site!

Ann said...

I love how you list all the possibilities for something you have created. It takes a while to do many things gluten free and as a working mom it is great to do a big batch of meatballs on a saturday and know that I can have them for several different upcoming meals that other people have tried and loved.

Dana said...

I think I'm overdosing on your site a little bit... this afternoon I made the pear polenta muffins, and I have the eggplant tapenade (for a lunch party tomorrow) and these meatballs (for dinner tonight) in the oven right now.

My grandmother makes meatballs with spinach and puts them in minestrone... I haven't had that since my gluten- and egg- eating days so I'm hoping to try it next time I make these!

Anonymous said...

I tried the recipe for your meatballs last night, and it was a hit! It was delicious! All the ingredients are put together so well, and it had a great subtle kick to it. Thank you so much!

cg said...

Ever since going Gluten/Dairy free I've been craving a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs, and these were fantastic! I actually baked them for about 15 minutes and then put them in a crockpot with tomato sauce for a couple hours. They stayed together (which often is where my meatballs fail) and were delicious.

dpg said...

A couple months ago I saw another TV recipe for meatballs. It used a panade rather than bread crumbs. I used a couple slices of GF bread in the panade. They were terrific. Excellent texture

The Head Family said...

We just tried this recipe last week and it was so delicious! They were the best meatballs we have EVER eaten. Both of my children are not big meat eaters and they couldn't get enough! We're making these meatballs this weekend for a bunch of friends coming over :)

alison - said...

My daughter has been asking me if I can make meatballs sometime but I haven't attempted it because of her egg allergy -- now I can! Thank you Karina!

dynagrrl said...


Too strange! I just made my first gf meatballs and I used cinnamon, as well! It just seemed to fit when I was putting it all together. It cracked me up to read your recipe today!

Anika Nordic Love said...

These are the best meatballs I've ever tasted. I was about to give them up entirely because they're all so bland...not these tastey devils. Thanks!

Julie said...

I made these meatballs tonite and the whole family liked them. I never thought to use crumbs from the gluten free waffles! Looking forward to making these again. Thank you!

Sherazada said...

i just made these... AMAZING!!!

Julie said...

I LOVE meatloaf and meatballs and have not had either in a very long time because of my allergy to tomatoes. My husband and I are both gluten-free and I would very much like to try this recipe. Do you have any recommendations of what I could use to replace the ketchup? I am also honey-free, maple syrup-free, molasses-free and it seems like everything else in the world-free at times ;-) Is there something I could replace the molasses with? Or will it work without molasses?

I was thinking maybe apple butter could work in place of the ketchup, but I'm not sure if that would make it too sweet.

I love your blog and am grateful to you for sharing all you do with us, your readers. Thanks!

Karina Allrich said...

Julie, I'm not sure apple butter is a good choice. I might try a little broth instead, then. Can you do beef or chicken broth? I use a Better Than Bouillon organic beef broth that has very few ingredients- no additives. There are several kinds- read labels for the shortest ingredient list. Start with a little bit of broth and add up to 1/4 cup. If you can do egg, add a beaten organic free-range egg.

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks to all the meatball lovers out there! Glad you liked these. xox

Julie said...


I just wanted to let you know that I replaced the ketchup with broth, as you suggested. I used vegetable broth (sans tomato) and added some tapioca starch to thicken it a bit (and add a touch of sweetness to it-I find tapioca starch to be sweet), and I also added a splash of apple cider vinegar to the broth to give it that hint of vinegar ketchup tends to have. It ended up tasting very much like ketchup and with a similar thickness. I also used flax meal mixed with water to replace the molasses since I can't do eggs or molasses.

The end result was fantastic and my husband said they were the best meatballs he's ever had (and he loves meatballs). He's been asking for leftovers since I made them, and he's not usually a fan of leftovers.

Thanks so much for your help!
~Julie :-)

Anonymous said...

ok, i love your site and you have yet to lead me wrong until this one. IT sounded good, but I have to say I was sad I invested the time, energy and ingredients for this one, I think meatballs should be savory, not sweet, this was my least favorite meatball ever, even tossed all the leftover ones. Just did not like them at all. Sorry, not a big hit at my house.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is 2 years old and a super picky eater. She loved your meatballs and it was a great way to get her to eat some vegetables.

The_Wagner's2003 said...

DO you think you can make these with all beef? My son is not allergic to pork as well.

Karina Allrich said...

Yes, all beef is fine. Karina

Rebecca :O) said...

I may have made meatballs one other time. I just wasn't really convinced that it was worth the extra effort, but my 7-year old son requested meatballs last week, with my hubby seconding the motion. So, I decided to try out your recipe last night. It was a HIT!!! They all LOVED them... me too! I wasn't sure if I would care for the hint of sweetness in them, but they were SO tasty!! I am so excited to have leftovers. I put them in the freezer right away, so we can have them for another fun, special, quick-n-easy meal night. Hubby said, "You can make those meatballs again anytime. They were delicious!" And, if you knew my husband, you would know just how big of a compliment that is! Thank-you for yet another woooooonderful recipe!! :)

Cindi Taylor said...

Yeah, I could make this tonight. I already have some Udi dried out bread,noodles in Mother Hubbard's cupboard,so away I go!

She Said said...

We just discovered our 5 year old is allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, and bananas. In other words, the only things my picky little eater would eat. *sigh* But all the trouble has been SO worth it. She is a different girl!

I'm excited to try these meatballs today! Thanks for posting.

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