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Gluten Free Slow Cooker Meatballs

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Meatballs

Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it’s also the easiest, most convenient meal you’ll make all week!

Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it's also the easiest, most convenient meal you'll make all week!

Falling in love again

Something like 80% of Americans own a slow cooker. Until a few years ago, I was not among them (for shame!). But since upwards of 250 million people can’t be dead wrong, I finally went for it.

I cooked and cooked from it when I first got it, to give it a fair shake. Soups, chilis, stews, oatmeal and unforgiving cuts of meat. My kids thought that I had fallen in love with my slow cooker, and looking back that was probably a reasonable assumption at the time.

But I think that was the problem—I was trying to fall in love with it. And as anyone who has ever been in love with anything or anyone before knows, forcing the issue is not necessarily a good plan.

Love needs an easy touch. So I decided to relax a bit. And then … I finally hit the slow cooker jackpot: gluten free slow cooker meatballs. Ridiculously easy in both preparation and cleanup, and quite possibly the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Love really does happen when you least expect it!

Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it's also the easiest, most convenient meal you'll make all week!

What’s the deal with the crock?

Slow cooker cooking really is different than conventional cooking, isn’t it? You probably knew that already (you well-schooled 80%), but I didn’t!

You really do need recipes that are at least reformulated, if not originally created, specifically for a slow cooker. You want to use dried herbs, not fresh ones for sure for sure. And go a bit easy on the salt, as the crock tends to intensify the flavor of salt.

Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it's also the easiest, most convenient meal you'll make all week!

So what makes these slow cooker meatballs better than conventional meatballs? Well it’s the flavor, but (believe it or not) it’s also the texture!

The meat slowly absorbs all of the flavor not only of the ingredients you add to the meatballs themselves, but of the simple tomato sauce they are nestled into for all those hours. And since they do sit in the sauce for all that time while it very gently bubbles away, they don’t need a lot of moisture themselves so they stay together beautifully—but are still moist and tender when you serve them.

If you’re a slow cooker lover but you’ve taken the plunge and decided to experiment with an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker, try cooking GF spaghetti and meatballs in the Instant Pot. That post has tons of tips on getting started with that appliance. I learned the hard way, so you don’t have to! ☺️

Notes on Cooking Times

I’ve made these meatballs on both the high setting (for 4 hours), and the low setting (for 8). I’ve served them right after they’re done cooking, and after they’ve sat on “warm” for an hour and a half. After sitting on warm, they definitely absorb more of the sauce and

After sitting on warm, they definitely absorb more of the sauce and look like they might taste dry, but they’re still moist and tender.

And although you might think of slow cookers are only for wintertime, consider this: They do not heat up your kitchen at all. So stay cool in the summertime with these perfect slow cooker meatballs. And buy another crock and make some slow cooker mac and cheese. Let them make dinner for you tonight!

So what’s your favorite way to use your slow cooker? Are you in love with yours, or just sort of “meh”? Click play ▶️ to see one of mine in action:

 

Dried herbs in the crock are the secret to the rich flavor and perfect texture of these slow cooker meatballs. And it's also the easiest, most convenient meal you'll make all week!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 12 to 14 large meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs
1 1/2 cups coarse gluten free bread crumbs

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) red table wine (or an equal amount of beef stock + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar)*

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 egg (any size, really), beaten

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed to release oils

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (or 1 ounce nutritional yeast flakes for a dairy-free version)

Tomato Sauce
1 28-ounce can tomato puree (or 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed with their juices until smooth)

3 ounces (1/2 6-ounce can) tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed to release oils

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

*A note about wine: Be sure to use a wine that you would like to drink with red meat, and make sure but that it doesn’t have an overly fruity taste. Cooking with wine, particularly in a slow cooker, tends to intensify its flavor and you don’t want it to overpower the dish.

Directions

  • First, begin the meatballs. In a small bowl, place the breadcrumbs and red wine (or stock mixture), and mix to combine. Allow the breadcrumbs to sit in the wine (or stock mixture) while you prepare the tomato sauce.

  • Prepare the sauce. In the liner of a 6-quart slow cooker, place all of the tomato sauce ingredients and whisk to combine well. Set the liner aside and return your attention to the meatballs.

  • Form the meatballs. In a large bowl, place the ground pork and ground beef, and break up the meat gently with your fingers. Add the remaining meatball ingredients in the order listed, mixing gently to combine with your fingers. Do not overwork the meat or the meatballs will be tough. Add the breadcrumb mixture, and again mix until just combined with your fingers. Divide the meatball mixture into 12 to 14 pieces and roll each gently into a ball.

  • Cook the meatballs. Nestle each meatball into the tomato sauce in the slow cooker liner. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours or until the meatballs are cooked through. The cooked meatballs can remain on your slow cooker’s “warm” setting for up to 1 1/2 hours. Turn the cooked meatballs over in the sauce to coat completely before serving.

  • Adapted from Fine Cooking. Originally published on the blog in 2015. Video and some photos new, text modified slightly.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • Marcy Minnick
    June 28, 2017 at 7:55 AM

    Just wondering what fat % of ground beef you prefer for this recipe? 75/25, 80/20, 90/10, or 93/7?? Thanks so much for all of the recipes. You’ve been a lifesaver for our family!

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 28, 2017 at 10:37 AM

      I’m so happy my recipes have been helpful, Marcy! I generally like 85% lean ground beef for this recipe, but I’ve successfully used 80% lean as well. Lower than 15% fat and the meatballs are much more likely to dry out.

  • Maureen
    June 27, 2017 at 8:05 PM

    The recipe calls for “coarse” bread crumbs and you reiterated this point in the comments section. Do have any recommendations? I use Aleia’s but they are definitely not coarse. Thanks!

  • Jan
    June 26, 2017 at 2:50 PM

    oh my goodness these look AMAZING! Can’t wait to make them!

  • Ellen
    June 25, 2017 at 8:48 PM

    Speaking of white marks, does anyone know what causes them in the slow cooker?

  • Suzanne A
    June 25, 2017 at 7:33 PM

    I’d like to use ground turkey instead of pork and beef. Would the dried herbs be the same?

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 26, 2017 at 8:25 AM

      Hi, Suzanne,
      The herbs would be the same, yes, but be sure to use ground turkey with some fat in it, or the meatballs will end up dry.

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