Easy keto meatballs are a real crowd pleaser and family favourite! This ketogenic meatball recipe shows how to make Italian-style slow cooker meatballs in a hearty low carb marinara sauce, perfect for the crockpot or Instant Pot. Included are also alternate cooking instructions for a quick pan-fried version so you can have delicious low carb meatballs on the table in less than 30-minutes. Keto meatballs without carbs are a yum appetizer and a healthy keto dinner with a tasty meatballs sauce and zucchini noodles.
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Keto meatballs – An easy keto recipe for the slow cooker and crockpot
Gluten-free, low carb keto meatballs are one of the best and easiest keto recipes you’ll ever make. The meatballs taste tender, juicy and full of flavour. Cheese, garlic, sea salt, pepper, and a selection of Italian herbs are used to season the meatballs. The slow cooker meatballs are then cooked in a tasty tomato sauce – the ultimate meatballs comfort food!
Pin these yum low crab slow cooker keto meatballs for later!
You might be wondering: Why make a low carb meatball recipe? Where do carbs in meatballs come from anyway? Old school Italian meatball recipes use breadcrumbs, which isn’t suitable for a low carb or keto diet and for those who need a gluten-free meatball recipe.
So, what can you use instead of breadcrumbs in meatballs? I used two types of cheese in this easy slow cooker recipe, mozzarella and parmesan. The cheese makes the meatballs extra juicy and aromatic. To be honest, you probably won’t be able to tell that this is a keto-friendly meatball recipe without breadcrumbs.
And if you prepare the meatballs in a slow cooker or crockpot some of the cheese will ooze into the sauce, resulting in a rich and creamy marinara sauce that just bursts of flavour. All good reasons to make super easy keto meatballs with cheese!
What ingredients do I need to make low carb slow cooker keto meatballs?
We already talked about a substitute for breadcrumbs, now let’s see what other ingredients for meatballs we need to make this delicious easy keto meal.
The best part of this gluten free keto meatball recipe is that you can make it your own. As long as you maintain the same ratios, you can customise and experiment with the ingredients. Prefer only beef over a beef and pork mixture? Make the meatballs with that! Have a favourite seasoning? Use it!
What kind of meat you buy is entirely up to you. For really moist and juice keto beef meatballs, buy a fattier ground beef such as ground chuck. Meat with a fat content between 15% to 20% is best. Leaner beef, for example, ground sirloin, is okay, too, but the meatballs might be less tender. You can also use a blend of various kinds of ground beef, for example, a mix of beef, pork, and veal or just a combination of beef and pork.
Keto meatballs with mozzarella cheese and parmesan
Shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan make these keto meatballs juicy and succulent. The cheese also adds lightness to the meatballs and acts as a substitute for breadcrumbs. Other types of cheese, such as cheddar and Pecorino Romano can be used instead of mozzarella and parmesan if desired.
An egg binds the meat and cheese together. Because these keto meatballs are made without breadcrumbs, one egg is enough for the entire recipe.
Adding garlic to the meatballs is optional. While garlic makes this crockpot keto meatball recipe extra flavourful, not everyone likes garlic, and it’s okay to skip. You can also adjust how much garlic you use. 2 fresh garlic gloves or 1 teaspoon garlic powder are enough to season these gluten-free meatballs.
I made the recipe many times and found that it isn’t necessary to always use all of the herbs. So you can easily customize the recipe and use whatever herbs you prefer or have at hand.
During the summer months, I pick a handful of fresh herbs from the garden to make the meatballs and marinara sauce. Dried herbs work fine too, and I have listed the amounts for fresh and dried herbs in the recipe card below. A ready-made Italian seasoning can also be used as meatball seasoning as well.
Sea salt and pepper
A bit of salt and black pepper add to the savoury flavour. I used finely ground sea salt, of course, kosher salt or table salt are fine as well. I recommend tasting the cheese before adding the salt. If the cheese you’re using is very salty, use slightly less salt.
What ingredients do I need for the low carb marinara sauce?
There are many sauces for meatball recipes out there. This easy marinara sauce is a great low carb meatball sauce and perfect to make keto meatballs with sauce. I used 2 cans of chunky tomatoes as the base for the keto meatballs sauce. You can also use tomato sauce or tomato passata instead. Other than that, I also add the little tomato paste, half an onion, and a bay leaf to give the sauce more depth.
Marinara sauce is often prepared with garlic and additional herbs. Since the meatballs are made with these ingredients already, I didn’t also add them to the tomato sauce. Slow cooking the (almost) no carb meatballs is all we need to flavour the marinara sauce.
What do I need to make zoodles or zucchini spaghetti?
Zucchini noodles, aka zoodles, are a delicious, low carb alternative for regular pasta. Zucchini pasta is ideal for keto, paleo, Whole 30, low carb and gluten-free diets. I also think that the slightly sweet taste of the zucchini complements this low carb recipe with meatballs well.
Making zucchini spaghetti is super easy: I used a spiralizer to cut zucchini noodles within minutes. A vegetable peeler can be used as well and will make slightly thicker noodles. The noodles were then sautéed in a saucepan with a little olive oil until they begin to soften, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and the zoodles are ready to be served. Calculate 1 zucchini per person.
How to make the best slow cooker meatballs from scratch?
Making meatballs in the slow cooker creates tender, juicy meatballs and a luscious, savoury sauce. While I used my keto meatballs, you can prepare slow cooker meatballs with other recipes, too. This cooking method is perfect for any slow cooker or the crockpot. And just in case, you weren’t aware the Instant Pot also has a slow cooker function. So you can totally make slow cooker Instant Pot meatballs.
Before you start
For super tender meatballs keep the ingredients cold to avoid the fat in the meat melting and breaking down before cooking the meatballs. Put the mixing bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes before you start making the meatball mixture.
Make the meatball mixture
Crumble the ground meat into the mixing bowl and fluff it apart with your hands. Then add the remaining ingredients and gently combine the mixture but don’t over-mix. Overmixing makes the meatballs tougher and also releases some of the fat from the meat prematurely. It’s perfectly fine if little specks of ground meat remain.
Form the meatballs
Lightly sprinkle your hands with cold water or oil to prevent sticking. Take a small amount of mixture and roll with cupped hands into approximately 1.5 in / 4 cm balls. If you prefer smaller or larger meatballs, feel free to shape them according to your personal preference. Optionally, use a cookie scoop to size the meatballs evenly.
Brown the meatballs
Browning the meatballs isn’t absolutely necessary, but pan frying creates a rich, roasted flavour, so I never skip this step. Simply heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet. The oil is ready when you see bubbles rising around a cooking spoon stuck in the oil.
Only add a few meatballs at a time and fry them in batches for 2 to 3 minutes until the meatballs are nice and brown on all sides. Thongs make it easy to turn the meatballs in the pan and lift them into the slow cooker. And don’t forget to pour the oil and browned bits from the skillet into the slow cooker after you’re done roasting.
Make the marinara sauce
The sauce gets most of its flavour from gently simmering with the meatballs. Therefore, I didn’t use all of the ingredients you’d typically find in a classic marinara sauce. I simple poured the tomato chunks over the meatballs in the slow cooker and tossed the other ingredients on top.
How to make keto meatballs in the slow cooker – the comfort food approach to meatballs
Put the meatballs in the slow cooker, top with the sauce and give everything a good stir. The meat-balls should be submerged in sauce. If the meatballs aren’t fully covered, spoon a little sauce over the top.
Now, pop on the lid and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. Cooking them longer makes the meatballs a little denser and chewier. The meatballs are done when the meat in the middle is no longer pink.
It’s also normal that the oil separates from the sauce and rises to the top. Just stir to combine again.
Pan-fried meatballs – the quick way to make keto meatballs
In the beginning, I promised a short-cut to have the meatballs ready in 30 minutes or less. Pan-frying is the best method to make meatballs on the stove. The process is similar to browning the meatballs as described above, but we simply roast them longer.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy, deep skillet over medium heat until it simmers. Working in batches, add a few meatballs to the oil, leaving space around them. Roast until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes total.
Place on a plate lined with a paper towel and fry the remaining meatballs. Then put all meatballs back in the skillet and cover with sauce and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Easy, quick, delicious. Enjoy!
Tips for storing and freezing keto meatballs
Form the meatballs in advance
It’s possible to shape the meatballs a day ahead. Prepare the meatball mixture, roll into balls and place the balls on a baking sheet lined with wax/greaseproof paper. Cover with plastic wrap/cling film and store in the fridge until the next day.
How long can I store keto friendly meatballs?
Cooked meatballs store well and are perfect food for meal prep or cooking ahead. Put them into an airtight food container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How to freeze meatballs
To freeze meatballs, place them (without the sauce) in a single layer on a lined baking sheet/tray and freeze until solid. Then transfer the frozen meatballs into a freezer-safe container (add the sauce now) or zip lock bag and store in the freezer for up to a month. If using a zip lock bag, it’s best to freeze the marinara sauce in a separate container.
To reheat, transfer the meatballs and sauce into a skillet. Stir occasionally and cook over medium heat until heated throughout.
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