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These gluten-free low carb meatballs were originally inspired by Wholesome Yum readers, who were asking for a great recipe for super easy keto meatballs without breadcrumbs. That was back in 2017, and I’ve made them about a gajillion times since then. They’re a favorite now for everyone in my family, including my kids – and I hope this Italian keto meatball recipe makes its way into your family’s favorite list, too.
These are not quite no carb meatballs, but they are pretty close… and they taste just like the real thing!
This low carb meatball recipe with marinara sauce and cheese was originally published on April 12, 2017, and the post was republished in January 2020 to add useful tips and step-by-step directions.
Over the years, this recipe has undergone several minor variations. The original version of my keto Italian meatballs used flaxseed meal as the binder, then was changed to sunflower seed meal, and the latest version uses almond flour. The results are very similar with all 3, but I settled on almond flour because it’s more commonly available, it’s lower in carbs, and I personally prefer the texture best. However, any of these 3 binders will work in the same amount, and you can read more about binder options in the FAQs below.
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How To Make Keto Meatballs
This simple keto meatball recipe comes together start-to-finish in just 30 minutes! Here’s how to make keto meatballs without breadcrumbs:
- Stir dry ingredients. Stir together grated parmesan cheese, almond flour, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Add wet ingredients. Whisk in almond milk, grated onion, egg, minced garlic, and fresh parsley. Let the mixture sit to soak a bit (see tips below on why!).
- Add meat. Add ground beef and mix until just incorporated.
FYI: Adding the ground beef last helps prevent over-mixing.
- Shape. Form the mixture into 1 inch balls and place on baking sheet.
TIP: Use a small cookie scoop for uniformly-sized meatballs and to help this process go quickly. This also reduces handling, making them more tender!
- Bake. Bake meatballs until barely done.
- Top & serve. Top with marinara sauce and return to oven and bake another few minutes. Serve keto meatballs with cheese (parmesan or mozzarella are great!) and fresh parsley.
Tips for The Best Keto Meatballs
The best keto meatballs are tender and juicy and taste just like real ones! Use these tips to get just that.
1. Soak the dry ingredients in (some kind of) milk.
To make your keto friendly meatballs tender and juicy, soak the dry ingredients in your keto milk of choice. Use coconut milk beverage for nut-free or unsweetened almond milk otherwise. Heavy cream also works fine.
Letting everything soak for a few minutes before adding the meat goes a long way in improving the texture of your meatballs, so don’t skip that step! Not only does it let the flavors develop, it also lets the moisture soak into the dry ingredients more thoroughly.
Adding the meat last prevents overworking it by avoiding repeated mixing, which is also helpful in improving tenderness.
2. Don’t over-mix the meat.
If you do, you’ll end up with tough meatballs. Add the meat last and mix only until combined.
3. Form the keto meatballs gently.
You don’t want to pack the meat too much, or your low carb meatballs will be dense. A small cookie scoop is great for this.
If you use your hands instead of a scoop, make sure they are cold and lightly covered in oil. This prevents sticking and ensures that the fats in the meat don’t break down prior to cooking.
4. Broil or pan fry for a golden top.
If you want your meatballs browned, you can lightly pan fry them or place them under the broiler. Take this into account ahead of time, taking them out of the oven a little early if you plan to broil or pan fry, so that you don’t overcook them at the end.
FAQs About Low Carb Meatballs
Are meatballs keto friendly?
Most meatballs are made with breadcrumbs, so they would not be keto friendly. This keto meatball recipe uses a different binder that is both low carb and nut-free, but there are more options below.
What other binders can I use for low carb meatballs?
Keto meatballs are actually not so different from regular ones. You just need meat, binders, seasonings, and moisture – just like in a meatloaf.
The latest version of these keto Italian meatballs is made with almond flour, but you have other options. Here are the basic binder options that could be used in a low carb meatball recipe:
- Almond flour – my personal favorite
- Coconut flour – be careful with this one, it can lead to dry meatballs, so use 1/4 the amount
- Flax seed meal (regular or golden) – pretty good, but can be slimy if you use too much
- Crushed pork rinds – these are salty, so reduce the salt if you use them as a binder
- Grated Parmesan cheese – not ideal on its own, but great mixed with other binders
- Ground sunflower seeds – a 1:1 almond flour replacement in these meatballs, if needed
- Other ground nuts or nut meal
I originally had this recipe made with golden flax seed meal, but now don’t recommend it. It can lead to a slightly slimy texture that can be off-putting for some people.
Instead, I recommend using a combination of parmesan cheese and either almond flour or sunflower seed meal. The taste is identical with both, so it’s up to you. Almond flour might be a little easier to find, whereas sunflower seed meal is nut-free.
What keto sauce for meatballs can I use?
These low carb Italian meatballs are made with marinara sauce. I used store bought – just make sure there is no sugar added in the ingredients.
How To Store Low Carb Meatballs
Can you make these ahead?
Yes, this keto meatball recipe is perfect for meal prep or making ahead, because they store very well. Store them in the fridge for up to a week.
Can you make keto meatballs to freeze?
Yes! To freeze these (almost) no carb meatballs, arrange them in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (without sauce) and freeze until solid. After that, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. To serve, they can go into the oven straight from the freezer.
How to reheat meatballs:
Reheat this low carb meatball recipe in the microwave or a 350 degree F oven, until heated through.
What To Serve With Keto Meatballs
Looking for what to serve with keto meatballs? Here are a few ideas:
- Noodles – Low carb noodle recipes like zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or even zucchini roll ups all pair well with this keto meatball recipe.
- Salads – Keto antipasto salad, avocado caprese salad, or chopped Mediterranean salad are all great veggie sides to the meatballs.
- Keto Breads – Low carb bread recipes like keto garlic bread, cauliflower breadsticks, or garlic parmesan chaffles are a great side to meatballs, or can be used to make a meatball sub.
- Serve As An Appetizer – Skewer them with little appetizer forks
- Casseroles – Include them as part of a meatball casserole
Tools To Make Keto Italian Meatballs
Tap the links below to see the items used to make this recipe.
- Glass bowls – This set is perfect for keto meatballs… and a million other things. I love that it has so many sizes in one set.
- Small cookie scoop – Makes it quick and easy to form the low carb meatballs, and more importantly, makes them extra tender, thanks to less handling.
- Baking sheet – This one has a silicone non-stick surface, so you can even skip the parchment paper or foil if you want to.
Easy Keto Meatballs Recipe
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Easy Low Carb Keto Meatballs Recipe (30 Min!)
Learn how to make keto meatballs juicy and flavorful, every time! This easy Italian low carb meatball recipe takes just 30 minutes, with simple ingredients.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a large bowl, stir together the grated Parmesan cheese, almond flour, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper.
Whisk in the milk, grated onion, egg, garlic, and fresh parsley. Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes.
- Mix in the ground beef using your hands, until just incorporated. (Don't over-mix to avoid tough meatballs.)
Form the mixture into 1 in (2.5 cm) balls and place on the lined baking sheet. (A small cookie scoop this size works well for this. If using your hands, use a gentle touch and don't pack the meatballs too tightly.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the meatballs are barely done. (If you want them more golden, you can place them under the broiler for a couple of minutes.)
Top each meatball with marinara sauce. Return to the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce is hot and meatballs are cooked through. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.
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Serving size: 6 1" meatballs
Nutrition info is based on using 85/15 ground beef, and may vary slightly depending on marinara sauce brand.
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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