Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs

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Porcupine meatballs are a classic retro dinner, made easier and quicker in the Instant Pot! Ground beef and rice meatballs are served in a simple tomato sauce. (No porcupines!) This is an easy 30 minute dinner.

Photography Credit: Coco Morante

Don’t worry – these meatballs aren’t actually made out of porcupines! The name refers to the grains of rice that get mixed in with the meatballs and poke out as they simmer, resembling spines on a porcupine.

With rice and meat all in one dish, you just need a vegetable side to complete the meal.

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What are Porcupine Meatballs?

This recipe is an update on a classic 1970s Betty Crocker dish, Oven Porcupines. The original version is baked in the oven for an hour, but my recipe is made in an Instant Pot (I’ve included stovetop instructions, too).

These pressure cooker meatballs are done in about half the time of the original, making it perfect for a midweek meal.

Pressure Cooker Porcupine Meatballs

What to Serve with Instant Pot Meat Balls

My favorite way to serve these porcupine meatballs is with mixed steamed vegetables on the side. You know that classic frozen mix of carrots, corn, peas, green beans and lima beans? I microwave a big bowl of them while the meatballs are cooking, so everything is done at the same time.

I also like to serve these meatballs on top of spiralized zucchini noodles, or with riced cauliflower. For a retro dinner a la Betty Crocker, serve them with iceberg wedge salads and steamed green beans.

Pressure Cooker Porcupine Meatballs

New to Pressure Cooking?

If you’re new to pressure cooking, an electric, programmable model is a great place to start. There are a few well-rated brands on the market. I use the 6-quart Instant Pot IP-DUO60 most of the time, which is a good size if you’re serving 4 to 6 people. We’re a household of two and we like having leftovers, so this size works out well for us.

From the editors of Simply Recipes

How to Store and Freeze Porcupine Meatballs

These meatballs keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can be reheated gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.

They also freeze well! Once the meatballs are completely cooled, divide them into portion sized freezer containers and freeze for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stovetop over low heat.

Love Meatballs? Try These Recipes!


Updated September 6, 2020 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle. No changes to the original recipe.

Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 (makes about 1 dozen meatballs)

Stovetop Instructions: Sauté half of the onions and garlic in oil in a thick-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce, water, and Worcestershire sauce, increasing the water to one full cup. While the sauce is coming up to a simmer, make the meatballs. Drop the meatballs into the simmering sauce, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 45 minutes.


  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (reserve half)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (reserve half)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • 1/2 cup long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Special equipment:


1 Sauté the onion and garlic: Select the “Sauté” program on your pressure cooker and add the oil to the pot. (If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat.) Add half of the chopped onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions are softened and translucent, about five minutes.

Onions sauteeing in an instant pot to make pressure cooker meatballs.

2 Make the tomato sauce: Stir in the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and water. Let this warm until it comes to a simmer.

Sauce for meatballs instant pot mixed in the pot.

3 Make the meatballs: While tomato sauce is coming up to a simmer, make the meatballs. In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, rice, salt, pepper, and the rest of the chopped onions and garlic. Roll into ping-pong ball-sized meatballs (1 1/2 inches or so).

Instant pot meat balls raw and in a bowl.

4 Cook the meatballs: Gently place the meatballs in to the pot a single layer. Spoon a little bit of sauce over the top of each one.

Place the lid on the pressure cooker. Make sure the pressure regulator is set to the “Sealing” position. Select the “Manual” program, then set the time to 15 minutes at high pressure. (For stovetop pressure cookers, cook at high pressure for 12 minutes.)

It will take about 10 minutes for your pressure cooker to come up to pressure, and then the actual cooking will begin. Total time from the time you seal the pressure cooker to the finished dish is about 25 minutes.

Porcupine meatballs in the pot with tomato sauce. Meatballs with rice in a pressure cooker. A person setting an Instant Pot for porcupine balls. Overhead view of the release valve on an Instant Pot for instant pot meat balls.

5 To serve: You can either perform a quick pressure release by moving the vent from “Sealing” to “Venting,” or you can let the pot depressurize naturally (this takes about 20 minutes), then open it when you’re ready to serve the meatballs. (For stovetop pressure cookers, perform a quick pressure release.)

Porcupine balls in an instant pot.

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Coco Morante

Author of The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook and The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook. A self-taught cook and classically-trained soprano, Coco Morante writes and sings in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her husband and their beagle. For more recipes, visit her blog, Lefty Spoon.

More from Coco

94 Comments / Reviews

No ImageInstant Pot Porcupine Meatballs

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Harold Scott

    What do you serve with these. They do sound very good and simple.

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Rachel

    How do you make this recipe without getting a burn notice? I got it even after scraping the pot and adding more liquid so I gave up and finished cooking it in the oven.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Joan

    If you double the recipe, do you need to change the cooking time?

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Michael

    For those getting the Burn message: Did you turn off the “Saute” function before pressurizing?

  5. Carlene

    I remember eating this in elementary school lunch.

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Meatballs with rice in a white dish.Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs