Home Canned Meatballs in Sauce
May 9, 2020
Home Canned Meatballs

I recently canned meatballs in homemade sauce as an experiment, but wasn’t sure what to expect. I canned in quarts, which means 90 minutes in the canner, so I was afraid they would be very soft and fall apart. I waited a week before opening – I almost held my breath as I waited for the moment of truth. I poured the jar into the bowl – it looked great. But what about texture?

I cut into a meatball, and it was firm, — an even better texture than my slow cooker version. I can’t describe my joy, because now if I want homemade meatballs and sauce for subs or over pasta, I can just pop open a jar. I know, you can buy frozen meatballs and use a jar of pre-made sauce, but it doesn’t taste the same as homemade, and is healthier. The trick is, with homemade it’s a bit of work, I won’t lie. But this recipe is 5 quarts quarts, which can be 5 dinners depending on the size of your family. (For our family of four including two teenagers, we would eat 1 1/2 quarts for dinner and have leftovers). I also canned pasta sauce with meat, which is the same processing time, giving me 5 quarts of meatballs and sauce, and 2 quarts of meat sauce. I’m excited to try different varieties of sauces, and not sure why I didn’t think of this before.

Ok, disclaimer, not everyone agrees on the safety of adding breadcrumbs or eggs to anything for canning. After consulting with other experienced canners who have been doing this for years and doing my own research, I decided it’s safe. However, you must make that decision for yourself. Now, let’s can meatballs.

I’m using a 6 pound, 6 oz industrial can of crushed tomatoes. I get mine at Costco for $2.99, but you can also get them at restaurant supply shops, or just buy a bunch of smaller cans. With the meatballs in the jars, this large can makes enough for 5 quarts. Canning with a full load of 7 quarts is ideal, so you can either do the five quarts of meatballs and sauce and place two quarts of water with used lids, or put something else in the canner. I like to experiment with different flavored beans for instance, so I might put two quarts of experiments in there. Just make sure the jars also have a 90 minute canning time.

Home Canned Meatballs and Sauce


6 pounds ground beef
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 beaten eggs
6 fresh minced garlic cloves
1/3 cup fresh TBSP minced onion
3 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 TBSP dried oregano (or to taste)
2 TBSP dried basil (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients.

Mix, then roll meatballs and bake until just browned and you see grease expelling.

Do not cook all the way through. Add meatballs to jars, and a sprig of basil if desired.


Red Sauce

6 pound, 6 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 small cans of tomato paste
1 medium, whole minced onion
1 minced bulb of garlic (not a clove, an entire bulb)
2 TBSP dried oregano
2 TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP olive oil
1 fresh basil leave per jar, if desired

In a large pot, add olive oil and warm. Add onions and garlic to pot, and saute just until softened. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir and warm until the tomato paste is incorporated.  Ladle sauce over meatballs in jars leaving 1 inch headspace.


Warm lids and rings in hot water. Clean the rims of the jars, and screw on the lids. Pressure can for 90 minutes at 10 pounds if canning 1,000 feet beneath sea level. If you live above 1,000 feet above sea level, please consult government guidelines for canning quarts of meat. Please follow your canner’s instructions for adding water to canner, and vent steaming.









  1. Jana Chaloupecka

    Is it ok to use equal parts of beef and pork? I usually do that with my meatballs but I’ve never PC’d them. Will they hold firm or will the pork make them fall apart? Also… can I use grated onion and FRESH herbs? The recipes I’m seeing only uses dry herbs.

  2. Jana Chaloupecka

    Is it ok to use equal parts of beef and pork? I usually do that with my meatballs but I’ve never PC’d them. Will they hold firm or will the pork make them fall apart?

  3. Caroline Cynova

    Thank you SO much for this recipe!!! It was a lifesaver! We had just done our monthly grocery shopping for our family of 8, filled up our freezer, and realized the next day that our 40-year-old chest freezer had given up the ghost. Well, I had just bought a 6-lb bag of GF beef meatballs at Sam’s and had industrial-size cans of tomatoes on hand — this recipe was perfect! And delicious! The jars of meatball sauce are heating in the oven right now so I can safely put them in the hot pressure canner. I’m so excited! This will streamline several meals; of course, I’ll need 2 jars per meal most of the time. Thanks again!

    • Laura Macklem

      Thank you for telling me that – – yay! I love canned meatballs and sauce, it’s so handy and saves freezer space.

  4. Marshall White

    Are you worried about the eggs and bread crumbs in the meatball recipe since USDA does not recommend them when canning?

    • Laura Macklem

      No, not at all but everyone should for sure do their own research and decide for themselves.

  5. Kathy Blickenstaff

    Also, should all ingredients be heated/hot when canning meatballs with tomato sauce?

    • Laura

      The only important thing is the ingredients and the water in the canner should be about the same temp.

  6. Kathy Blickenstaff

    Very new…..actually brand new and have a question. As long as I add the appropriate amount of lemon juice to the canning jars, can I use my favorite recipe for; tomato sauce with meat, tomato sauce without meat, meatballs with tomato sauce….using the pressure canning method? Thank you so much.

    • Laura

      How exciting you just started canning! If you pressure can, you don’t need to add more acid. And yes, use whichever recipe for sauce you want when pressure canning.

  7. Dale Hardy

    Can you use the hot bath method to can meatballs and sauce?

    • Laura

      Some will say yes, probably three hour processing time, but I haven’t done water bath canning low-acid foods, and will not try it myself. I only personally recommend pressure canning meats and other low-acid foods.

      • Suzanne

        I have been canning pumpkin for over 20 years. I do process the jars for 3 hours. I’ve never had one go bad. I was wondering if I could do the same with sauce. I cook the meatballs in it. But I will still have sauce left over. So I want to can just the sauce. But it will have meat juice in it from the meatballs. Do you think that will be ok?

  8. Kristine Warner

    Cute stickers. I don’t know if I missed this but how long will this last?

    • Laura

      Properly canned foods that stay sealed will last indefinitely, but quality will decline over time. I’m going on three years on some of my canned meatballs.


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