You'll love my Gluten-Free Meatballs with oats instead of bread crumbs! Make them with ground beef or turkey and drop them into tomato sauce to cook. Enjoy these fork-tender, easy meatballs in sauce without the hassle of browning them!
These Gluten-Free Meatballs are a hit every time I serve them. They're tender, tasty and won't fall apart.
They're easy to cook, too. Just drop 'em in the tomato sauce and simmer!
No more cone-shaped meatballs! These stay nice and round, since they're not browned on the stove first.
I've been making these GF meatballs for more than a decade! But if you're looking for old-school meatballs, don't miss my Italian Beef Meatballs Recipe.
Ground Meat: You can use ground turkey or beef, or a combination of ground beef and pork. I always make gluten-free turkey meatballs, and they make the sauce taste delicious.
If using turkey, dark meat will provide the most flavor (and fat). But you can make healthy turkey meatballs with lean, white meat.
Oats: You must use gluten-free oats (affiliate link) if you need the meatballs to be gluten-free. Regular oats may be cross-contaminated with wheat products.
Oats in meatballs help bind the ingredients, so they're a great substitute for bread crumbs.
Parmesan: Use fresh, finely grated Parmesan cheese for the best flavor and texture. You can buy a triangle of Parmesan, cut it into 1-inch cubes, then use a Vitamix (affiliate link) or other blender to grate them.
How to make gluten-free meatballs in sauce
See the card at the end of this post for the full recipe, but here's an overview.
- Slice the garlic, chop the onion and mash the peeled tomatoes for the sauce.
- Sauté the onions in olive oil until soft.
- Add the tomatoes and seasonings and let the sauce start cooking.
- Mix the meatball ingredients gently with your hands and shape into balls as shown below. Add the raw meatballs to the sauce to cook for about 35 minutes, or until done.
Tips for the best gluten-free meatballs
- For moist meatballs with great texture, soak the oats in water while you're preparing the other ingredients. The meat mixture will feel a bit soggy but will be perfect after cooking in the sauce.
- To ensure tender meatballs, gently shape the meatball mixture into rounds with your hands, without packing them tightly.
Tips for the sauce
- You only need ¼ cup of olive oil in the sauce if using beef, pork or dark ground turkey for the meatballs. The meat will provide plenty of flavor and fat.
- If you use lean, white-meat turkey for the meatballs, you'll need to add an extra 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil to the sauce to give it more flavor, unless you prefer a low-fat option.
- Use at least a 6-quart pot (affiliate link) to fit the sauce and meatballs.
What to serve with them
They also would be great over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. Of course, a meatball sandwich would be nice too!
Frequently asked questions
Refrigerate leftovers, covered in the refrigerator for up to four days. The sauce and meatballs can be in the same container.
You can definitely freeze gluten-free meatballs, either raw or cooked. If freezing them after they're cooked, let them cool off first.
First, flash-freeze the meatballs on a sheet pan for at least an hour. Then transfer them to a freezer bag.
You also can freeze the sauce, separately, in a plastic quart container.
To thaw raw meatballs, place them in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can make the sauce and cook the meatballs in it as directed.
Other recipes to try
Finally, don't miss these 63 Italian Appetizer Recipes!
If you try these Gluten-Free Meatballs, please leave a comment and a rating!
With my Pasta & Sauces collection, even a beginner can cook like an Italian nonna!
Gluten-Free Meatballs in Sauce
- 6 garlic cloves (peeled & sliced thinly)
- 1 large onion (peeled & chopped)
- ¼ cup olive oil (use more for white meat turkey; see notes)
- 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (I like Tuttorosso or Cento San Marzano)
- 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (mashed with a potato masher)
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅓ cup whole grain oats (use gluten-free if needed)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 egg (lightly beaten)
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley (optional)
- 1 large garlic clove (peeled & chopped)
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 lb lean ground meat (Use turkey, beef or a beef/pork combo. See notes.)
- Place the oats in a small bowl and pour ¼ cup water over them. Stir and let soak while you proceed with the recipe.
- Peel and chop a large clove of garlic and set it aside for the meatballs. Peel and slice six cloves of garlic and chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart pot on medium-high. Add the onions and cook until soft (around five minutes), stirring occasionally. During the last two minutes, add the garlic slices to the pan and stir them to combine with the onions.
- After the onions are soft, add the cans of tomatoes to the pot. Mash the peeled tomatoes with a potato masher to break them up. Stir to combine and add the bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- When the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat and loosely cover the pot with a lid, using a wooden spoon resting on the edges of the pan to keep the lid propped open a bit.
- Place a large spoon within reach of the pot so you can use it soon for the meatballs. In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork and add the parsley, chopped garlic, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and the oats/water mixture. Add the meat to the bowl and mix all the ingredients gently with your hands.
- Shape the mixture into meatballs about two inches wide. Use the large spoon to gently place the meatballs into the sauce. Wash your hands well and stir the sauce gently with the wooden spoon, being careful not to break the meatballs. Wash the wooden spoon and rest it again on the rim of the pot, so it props the lid. (Do not taste the sauce until the meatballs are fully cooked.)
- Stir the sauce occasionally to prevent sticking, being sure to gently scrape along the bottom of the pot. After 35 minutes, check to see if the meatballs are done by cutting into the largest one. The interior should not have any pink. If it is cooked through, the sauce can be tasted going forward. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to a serving bowl and cover with foil. Continue cooking the sauce for another 20 minutes.
- Serve the gluten-free meatballs and sauce over pasta (use gluten-free if needed) or spaghetti squash. Store leftover sauce and meatballs in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze separately. (See notes.)
- If you need these meatballs to be gluten-free, you must use gluten-free oats.
- If using ground turkey, dark meat will provide the most flavor (and fat). But you can make healthier meatballs with lean, white meat.
- If you use lean, ground white-meat turkey, you'll need to add an extra 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil to the sauce to give it more flavor, unless you prefer a low-fat option.
- You can freeze these meatballs, either raw or cooked. If freezing them after they're cooked, let them cool off first.
- First, flash-freeze the meatballs on a sheet pan for at least an hour. Then transfer them to a freezer bag.
- You also can freeze the sauce, separately, in a plastic quart container.
- To thaw raw meatballs, place them in the refrigerator overnight. Then you can make the sauce and cook the meatballs in it as directed.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Originally published on July 28, 2014 and updated now with new photos and additional information.)