Marinara meatballs in a bowl ready to eat.

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in the Crockpot

Last Updated on November 4, 2022

Frozen meatballs are a great freezer staple to add to any weeknight dinner. If you know how to cook frozen meatballs in the crockpot, then you can put dinner on the table with little effort.

Meatballs go with so many recipes. Pair them with spaghetti and marinara, or douse the meatballs in a tangy barbecue sauce—either way, you’ve got a deliciously meaty meal that’ll please a crowd.

We love meatballs for their simplicity, and today, we’d like to introduce a make-ahead option that makes them even easier. With this guide, we’ll teach you how to prepare and freeze meatballs ahead of time, then dump them in the crockpot the next time you need a low-effort meal.

Frozen Meatball Crockpot / Slow Cooker Cooking Guide

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • How to cook frozen meatballs in the crockpot
  • How to freeze fully-cooked meatballs
  • 3 tips for preparing meatballs for future cooking in the crockpot
  • 5 meatball recipes you can try in your own kitchen

We hope this guide inspires you to include meatballs in your next meal prep plan. They’re so good.

Cooking frozen meatballs in a cast iron skillet.

Cooking frozen meatballs is quick and easy!

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in the Crockpot

The method for cooking frozen meatballs in the slow cooker is very simple. You’ll need two things: frozen, fully cooked meatballs and your preferred sauce. You can use homemade fully cooked meatballs that you freeze yourself, or you can even use store-bought frozen, fully cooked meatballs for a super easy meal.

As for sauces, there are many options: marinara sauce, barbecue sauce, Swedish meatball sauce, gravy, curry—the list goes on.

  1. Add your frozen, fully cooked meatballs to the slow cooker. Pour in your preferred sauce and give it a stir to coat the meatballs. Use enough sauce to just cover the meatballs.
  2. Cook on low for four to six hours. Ensure your meatballs have reached an internal temperature of 165°F.

How to Freeze Meatballs for the Crockpot

  1. Prepare your meatballs according to the recipe (keep reading for more tips on how to prepare them PLUS some great meatball recipes to try in your own kitchen).
  2. Allow your meatballs to cool completely.
  3. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on a baking tray and place them in the freezer until frozen solid.
  4. Transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container and label the container with the contents and date. That’s it!

3 Tips for Preparing and Freezing Meatballs for Future Slow Cooking

Tip #1 – Cook the meatballs before freezing.

We know you’re wondering, why would I cook food I plan to freeze and cook later? Well, if you’re planning to use the slow cooker to heat frozen meatballs, it’s safest to work with fully cooked and frozen meatballs. That’s because you want to keep food at adequately hot temperatures to avoid the “danger zone,” or the temperature range of 40°F to 140°F where bacteria grow most rapidly.

If you use raw, frozen meat in a slow cooker, you open yourself up to an extended stay in that danger zone. For that reason, it’s better to use the slow cooker more as a gentle reheating method for fully cooked, frozen meatballs.

Now, if you plan to thaw your frozen meatballs first, or cook them in higher heat environments like the oven or stove, go ahead and freeze them raw.

Tip #2 – Keep the meatballs on the smaller side.

The best meatballs for freezing and reheating are small to medium morsels that will stay moist when immersed in sauce. Save the giant, showstopper meatballs for making and eating fresh.

Tip #3 – Use moisture-rich binders.

Since we’ll be cooking and reheating these meatballs, it’s always a good idea to imbue moisture in whatever way we can. Some great moisture-rich ingredients (that also work as binders) include eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and even shredded vegetables like zucchini.

5 Meatball Recipes to Get You Started

These delectable meatball recipes are perfect whether you use a slow cooker or not. If you do decide to use the slow cooker, follow our method detailed above when it comes time to cook the meatballs.

Marinara meatballs in a bowl ready to eat.

Marinara meatballs are the perfect Italian-inspired protein.

Herbed Turkey Zucchini Meatballs

These light and vibrant turkey meatballs get an added dose of moisture from shredded zucchini. Paired with bright herbs like mint, cilantro, and dill, the flavor of these juicy little morsels can’t be beat. We’d serve them in a pita with some chopped romaine, cucumber, and feta. They’d also make a hearty protein option to top a salad.

Pork and Beef Meatballs

Have you ever combined pork and beef in your meatballs? Sometimes combining the two yields even more succulent results than either meat on its own. That’s what we’ve found with these meatballs, which are classically flavored with just a touch of salt and pepper. Eggs, milk, and panko breadcrumbs make excellent binders. That’s all you’ll need for these unctuous meatballs.

Easy Meatballs

If you’re looking for a straightforward method, these easy meatballs can’t be beat. While simple, they boast the perfect balance of flavors, with ingredients like ground beef, Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic paste. We’d serve these in a classic spaghetti and red sauce set up.

Turkey meatballs and lettuce in a bowl with cucumbers.

Meatballs are a great way to sneak in extra veggies.

Mediterranean Meatballs

With zingy feta and fresh mint, these Mediterranean meatballs are a great recipe when you’re looking for something different. We also love the additions of fresh oregano, aromatic garlic, and savory onion. We use ground beef at the base here, but you could adapt these meatballs to any ground meat you have on hand. Ground chicken would be delicious!

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatballs

Here’s an appetizer-worthy meatball you can prepare in the slow cooker to make gatherings easier. Made with ground beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, ketchup, and panko breadcrumbs, these meatballs have all the bits of a burger covered. They really drive home the burger flavor once you add a homemade special sauce, complete with mayonnaise, ketchup, and minced dill pickles.

With these great recipes and all the tips and tricks laid out above, you’re ready to freeze some meatballs and pop them in the crockpot for an easy meal. Yum!

Courtney Hamilton is a writer and editor with over seven years' experience in journalism, blogging, communications, and other media. She has written for publications like PaleoHacks, PaleoPlan, The Center for American Progress, OC Weekly, and more. 
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