Low Carb Meatballs alla Parmigiana (Gluten Free)

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low carb recipe for meatballsJuicy, tender, and full of flavor, a good italian meatball is a beautiful thing.  Unfortunately, finding a decent gluten free and low carb recipe for meatballs isn’t easy.

You see, it’s the bread crumbs that usually make meatballs tender – without them you can end up with a dense, chewy mouthful that more resembles a rubber hockey puck than an authentic italian meatball.  I know because I’ve tried.  So what’s a meatball loving low carber to do????

I’m very happy to report that I finally figured out a recipe that results in a meatball that anyone’s Italian grandmother (I’m totally guessing here, mine is French Canadian) would be satisfied with!  They “meat” (heh heh, see what I did there?) all of the requirements of a good meatball, and won’t bust your carb budget for the day!

In fact they are so good that you won’t even miss the pasta and garlic bread.  Ok that might be pushing it (read: a total lie), but they are really good, I promise!  Especially when you bathe them in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese!!!  Oh yeah.  Totally nom-worthy! low carb meatball recipe

 
 
The nice thing is, they are delicious plain as well, so they make a great finger-friendly lunch on the go.  I like to make a bunch and freeze them in bags of 3 – 5 meatballs.  If I know I’m going to be out, I can grab a bag out of the freezer and toss it into my purse or cooler bag.  A couple of hours later they are thawed, and I can just reach in and eat them, even if I’m driving in my car.  It’s a great alternative to the drive thru, and minimizes your chances of grabbing something that will wreak havoc on your diet or digestive system simply because you’re starving and desperate. low carb meatball parmigiana

 
 
Still, my favorite way to eat them is to bake them in any low carb marinara sauce with a gooey topping of mozzarella cheese on top.  It’s hearty and satisfying and perfectly low carb.  Since even homemade or sugar free jarred marinara sauce does have some carbs though, I spoon about a tablespoon over each meatball, which makes it easier to keep track of my nutrition stats.  Any more than that gets wasted in the bottom of the pan anyway.

Same goes with the cheese – you can shred it and dump it on, but most of it will melt into a puddle anyway, so I just slice it and put a piece on top of each meatball.  Then I bake it until bubbly.  You can also microwave it if you’re short on time, you just won’t get the nice brown color on the cheese.  But doesn’t it look purty??? meatballs8small

 
 
The secret to the tenderness of these meatballs is parmesan cheese, almond flour and water added to the mix.  The almond flour bulks up the meatball, the cheese adds flavor and more fat, and the water creates steam when heated, which puffs them up and keeps them tender and juicy.

But don’t take my word for it, give them a try and see for yourself!  And do be sure to let me know how they come out – especially if you are someone’s Italian grandmother!!  ;) gluten free meatball recipe

 
 

Low Carb Meatballs alla Parmigiana

Yield: 15 two-inch meatballs

Serving Size: 3 meatballs

Low Carb Meatballs alla Parmigiana

Finally! A delicious gluten free and low carb meatball recipe!

Ingredients

  • For the meatballs
  • 1.5lbs ground beef (80/20)
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • For the Parmigiana
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Form into fifteen 2″ meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 20 minutes OR fry in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked through. Pro-tip – try frying in bacon grease if you have any – it adds another level of flavor. Frying produces the golden brown color shown in the photos above.
  • For the Parmigiana
  • Place the cooked meatballs in an oven safe dish. Spoon approximately 1 Tbl sauce over each meatball. Cover with approximately 1/4 oz of mozzarella cheese each. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 20 minutes (40 minutes if meatballs are frozen) or until heated through and the cheese is golden. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Notes

Approx nutrition info per “naked” meatball: 121 cals, 8g fat, .7g net carbs, 11g protein

Approx nutrition info per meatball parmigiana: 151 cals, 9g fat, 1.7g net carbs, 12g protein


 

Final gratuitous meatball shot! low carb meatballs parmigiana

 
 
If you love meatballs as much as I do, try these buffalo chicken meatballs – they make a great party appetizer!!

By the way, if you’re new to IBIH and like what you see, please subscribe to our newsletter, and/or like us on Facebook and you’ll be notified whenever I post something new!

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  1. Melanie
    Melanie03-06-2013

    I would love to try this recipe but I’m allergic almonds and other nuts. Do you think coconut flour could work, instead?

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-07-2013

      You could try it – I would only use 1/3 of a cup though so it doesn’t dry it out too much – or add a little more water to the mix. Let us know how they come out if you try it!

      • karma
        karma04-02-2013

        I’ve actually replaced the almond flour with golden flax meal and had pretty awesome results…they’re definitely a little denser, but the friend I was cooking for had a nut allergy and I didn’t want her to miss out.

    • sharon
      sharon03-31-2013

      This recipe sounds very similar to my own. With exception that I use crushed Rice Crispy Cereal in it. I also use the crushed Rice Crispies in my meatloaf recipe as well:P It holds them together and keeps them so moist and tender. Everyone thinks I have some secret ingrediant in my recipes but its just that crushed Rice Crispies;)

      • Mellissa Sevigny
        Mellissa Sevigny04-01-2013

        Rice krispies – cool idea! I’ve used instant potato flakes in my gluten free meatballs before I went low carb, but never even thought of rice krispies! I bet there are lots of other uses for them too…

  2. E.
    E.03-06-2013

    Mmm, these look so good! Ever tried making them with pork, turkey or chicken?

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-07-2013

      I will turn almost any protein into a meatball at some point! Any of those will work – but if you use really lean ground turkey or chicken they won’t be quite as tender from a lack of fat. Still good though! Enjoy!

  3. Brad
    Brad03-06-2013

    This looks fantastic, thank you. Your photography is amazing. Is there a packaged marinara that you recommend, or should I make it myself?

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-07-2013

      Thanks so much Brad! I usually make my own, but there are some jarred brands that are not bad carbwise. Unfortunately for your wallet, it’s usually the more expensive brands like Rao’s that have the lowest carbs. The cheaper brands usually contain high fructose corn syrup or sugars to make up for the poor quality.

      • Laura
        Laura05-16-2013

        I use Classico brand sauce from walmart. Its a really simple sauce, and doesn’t have sugars or soy anything either!

      • Asilem
        Asilem03-01-2014

        Just thought I would mention that Mezzetta Napa Valley Bistro Marinara sauce has 4 net carbs per 1/2 cup. It costs about 4 bucks and is really good! It’s gluten free and has an amazing ingredient list! This is right off the back; Imported Plum Tomatoes From Italys San Marzano Region, Locally Grown Fresh Basil, Fresh Garlic, Fresh Onions, Imported Italian Olive Oil, Sea Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper.
        I can find this at Albertsons, Walmart and our local IGA. Its $4 less than Rao’s and only 1 more carb!

  4. Vivian
    Vivian03-07-2013

    This is so timely…I have been trying to achieve a juicy soft meatball in a non-grain way (ie. no wheat/oat crumbs)…I tried adding cooked quinoa to the mix but it turned out rock-hard and very dry. I will try this next. Thanks so much for your experimenting on our behalf.

  5. Karla
    Karla03-07-2013

    Thanks for this recipe, I am eager to try it. I’ve done a meatball mixture (for stuffing in cabbage leaves) using riced cauliflower. It added a lot of tenderness and was pretty darn good!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-07-2013

      We grew up on stuffed cabbage leaves and I’ve been wanting to experiment with cauliflower in place of the rice! Good to know that it works – thanks for sharing! Hope you like the meatballs!

  6. Cathy
    Cathy03-07-2013

    How about using bison? I have been experimenting with ground bison to lower fat in my diet. So far just using it for “hamburgers”.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-07-2013

      I don’t see why not, they may be less tender but should have great flavor – let us know if you try it!

  7. April
    April03-07-2013

    I second the request for a recipe that doesn’t use almond flour! I worry coconut flour would dry them out too much- maybe crushed pork rinds?

  8. Suzanne M
    Suzanne M03-07-2013

    I make a meatball recipe very similar to this but without the almond flour. (Only because I never thought of it.) I just add a bit more parmesan cheese and a little less water. Sorry, I never measure anything. They are very tender and taste great. But I think I will try the almond flour next time just to compare.

  9. Jemma
    Jemma03-07-2013

    I made these for my tea tonight and they were delicious! They’ll be on my regular meal list from now on :) thank you!

  10. Dina
    Dina03-07-2013

    almond flour–great idea!

  11. Nicole (FoodBlogLife)
    Nicole (FoodBlogLife)03-08-2013

    These look fantastic….what a great idea to use almond flour! :)

  12. Kim Beaulieu
    Kim Beaulieu03-08-2013

    Oh my gosh Mellissa these are amazeballs. I cannot get over how tempting they look. I need to try these asap.

  13. melanie
    melanie03-11-2013

    I am new to the low carb lifestyle and wonder if I can use flax meal? I have never used it and am not sure when I should or should not use it. Thanks!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-11-2013

      You could, but flax meal has a very strong flavor that some people have a hard time with. I would say experiment and find what works for you. If you don’t mind the flavor and the texture works, then flax is zero net carbs so always a great alternative to almond meal in a recipe like this.

  14. tamatha
    tamatha03-11-2013

    Well, these were wonderful. I am no ones Gramma, yet. But I am Italian, so my family is very used to my big elaborate dinners. These meatballs were really great. Perfect taste. First time working with almond flour. (Not the last). I served them with some dreamfields spaghetti for the kids, (I did not partake) and a nice big salad with oil, to go with my meatballs.
    We are 2 for 2 here. Cant wait to taste what we’re going to make next!
    Thanks Mellissa, I’m really glad I found your site and thanks for sharing.
    -Tamatha

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-12-2013

      Thanks for the feedback Tamatha, and I’m so glad they were a hit with the whole family!!! I’m glad you found IBIH too and I hope you enjoy the rest of the recipes just a much! :)

  15. Katy
    Katy03-12-2013

    I love meat balls! Thank you for your recipe. What a great idea to put the cheese on top. I usually put it inside the meat ball. I will be making these tonight!

  16. Alyssa
    Alyssa03-13-2013

    I’m going to make these tonight. I’ve made meatballs before, but I’m really excited to have a gluten free version now. I just wanted to clarify that the nutrition info is per meatball and not per serving. Just double checking because 11 grams of protein seems high for just one meatball. If it is correct, that is awesome. I always need more ways to get protein in my diet.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-13-2013

      Hi Alyssa – hope you like them! 11g of protein per meatball is correct (I had to go back and check just to be sure!) The reason it’s so high is that the meatball is made of not just the beef, but also the almond flour, parmesan and egg which are all great sources of protein as well! Enjoy! :)

  17. Jennifer
    Jennifer03-13-2013

    These are fantastic. I used a pound of ground beef and a pound of season pork sausage – changed up the seasonings (just a bit!) and these are definitely the best l/c meatballs we’ve made – just as good (better?) than the conventional ones we used to make with bread. We pan-fried them in a bit of leftover sausage fat, along with a good bit of bacon fat… then added jarred marinara (Costco’s brand is a good one) and spiral-cut zucchini. Absolutely wonderful! :)

  18. Lisa @ The CookingBride
    Lisa @ The CookingBride03-14-2013

    Whoa! These look fantastic. Definitely going to make these.

  19. Sinea Pies
    Sinea Pies03-17-2013

    This looks sooo good. Almost carb free? Even better.
    Found you on pinterest. Repinning and featuring your post, as well, on my blog hop this week. Come on over for Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop, OK?

  20. Karyn
    Karyn03-20-2013

    Made these tonight and they were great! The kids ate them up- an added bonus. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  21. The Busy Bee's
    The Busy Bee's03-21-2013

    These look delish!! My family loves meatballs.
    We would like to invite you to share this at our party. It is live now: http://thebusybhive.blogspot.com/
    Happy Spring!
    The Busy Bee’s,
    Myrna and Joye.

  22. Rachel
    Rachel03-24-2013

    Made these today, used flaxseed meal because i didnt have almond flower. They are delicious, even my picky boyfriend liked them. The only problem is that i ate way too many!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-25-2013

      Glad everybody liked them Rachel! Not eating too many is a challenge for me too! :)

  23. jennypenny
    jennypenny03-25-2013

    I finally made these last night…delicious! Perfect comfort food for a snowy night.

  24. Gretchen @gfedge
    Gretchen @gfedge03-26-2013

    I made these with ground turkey, used extra garlic and oregano, and because I’m lazy and the meat was pretty lean I added a tablespoon of nitrate-free bacon grease to the mixture and then baked them in the oven. I loved them and my husband declared this recipe a keeper – quite a tribute as he has always been proud of the ones that he makes. Thanks for sharing your great recipes.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny03-28-2013

      Thanks Gretchen! I love your idea of adding the bacon grease right to the mixture – yummy!!

  25. Tracy
    Tracy04-01-2013

    I always blitz oopsies in the prosessor to make bread crumbs

  26. Lisa
    Lisa04-01-2013

    HI Mellissa – just made these. WOW – how delicious??? One question: i baked the meatballs and the parmesan sort of leached out of them forming little cheesy pools around each meatball. They are still very moist and tasty, but I wondered if this was normal for the baking option…? If so i might fry next time so i dont lose the cheese :)

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny04-01-2013

      Hey Lisa, yeah it’s too bad that baking causes the cheese to leak out! I think the high heat of frying sears the outside and keeps the cheese in which is nice. Baking works if you don’t have the time to stand over a pan frying them but I do prefer frying honestly! Glad you still enjoyed them though!

  27. Tammy Howell
    Tammy Howell04-07-2013

    Love these! I have a lap band and I really appreciate this recipe b/c of the great protein and low carb aspect. Also, because I can package them individually for a great snack when I need a bit of “real food.” I used your exact recipe except I didn’t have fresh parsley. I used a bit of dried instead.

  28. Melanie
    Melanie04-21-2013

    Would you share your recipe for marinara sauce? I have still not found one from a jar that I like. Thanks!

  29. Sheila
    Sheila04-21-2013

    Tried these tonight using the meatloaf meat mix. (beef, veal, pork) Had to add just a little ground flax seed to firm it up a little as my meat mix was very loose. They were awesome! So flavorful and tender! Thank you. I just wish I had made more!

  30. tamatha
    tamatha04-22-2013

    I have one for easy marinara no one else chimes in, preheat oven to 350 cut little cherry tomatoes in half (or don’t cut) drizzle with 1/4 or so cup of olive oil. Season with garlic, oregeno and salt, bake for 30 min. Then puree in the blender.. yummy yummy. And Easy!

  31. Susan
    Susan04-22-2013

    I was wondering about the nutrition info. The serving size is listed as 3 meatballs but the info says per meatball. If it is per meatball that is going to increase all the amounts by 3.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny04-22-2013

      Sorry for the confusion, but since some people will just eat one, or 4 or 5, it’s easier to list the content per meatball so people don’t have to divide by three and then multiply by however many they are actually eating.

  32. Renee Patrick
    Renee Patrick05-18-2013

    Thanks for the great recipe. I made them without the almond flour and water and they were perfect. Thanks again. I’m really into meatballs.

  33. Jennifer
    Jennifer05-20-2013

    I just wanted to clarify before I make these tomorrow night – you bake the meatballs for 20 minutes…..then add the Mariana and cheese and bake for an additional 20 minutes, correct?

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny05-20-2013

      Give or take – it’s mostly important that the meatballs are cooked through and that the cheese has melted. If you are baking them, taking them out hot and putting the sauce and cheese on and then putting them straight back into the oven, it may only take 10 to 15 minutes to get the sauce hot and the cheese melted. Enjoy!

  34. Luana
    Luana06-03-2013

    Melissa, you are a girl after my own heart: I love meatballs, too. I discovered years ago on Atkins that meatballs and meatloaf without breadcrumbs just taste like a hunk of meat. Yuk.

    I put almond flour in meatballs, also about 1/2 of a small zucchini (grated), and about 1/4 cup grated Parm or Romano. They come out with a nice soft mouth-feel, just like a meatball made with breadcrumbs, and I do the same with meatloaf.

    I am loving what I’m seeing so far with your meatball recipes and everything else here. So glad I found your site!

  35. Geni
    Geni06-09-2013

    These were very good! I recommend baking them on a rack over a parchment lined baking sheet.

  36. Haleigh
    Haleigh06-11-2013

    These were so delicious! I served the meatballs with leftover homemade marinara sauce and zucchini pasta and they were a real hit with the whole family. The only thing I tweaked was adding some chopped yellow onion. I will definitely be making them again. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny06-13-2013

      Sounds delicious Haleigh – I love adding onions to pretty much everything, so I’m sure it was great! :)

  37. Amy
    Amy06-27-2013

    I save the end from loaves of Udi’s to make breadcrumbs for meatballs. This recipe looks great.

  38. Katharine
    Katharine07-14-2013

    These were amazing!! Kids loved them too. I had them with spaghetti squash….kids & hubby had gf spaghetti. I made them in the oven and they did leak, but that seems to happen with every meatball I bake. Didn’t detract from the flavor! So excited for leftovers tomorrow. :) next time I’ll do a double batch so I can have lots of leftovers!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny07-14-2013

      Thanks for the feedback Katharine! So glad the whole family enjoyed them!

    • katharine
      katharine08-07-2013

      Had to add another comment….I made them again but without any dairy – I left out the parmesan cheese and didn’t top with cheese either. I had to add a smidge more almond flour and a little less water but the flavor was still fantastic!!! I cooked for 20 minutes at 350… flipped them over and topped with marinara. Then 10 more minutes in the oven. Yummy! Kids loved them too.

  39. Sandy
    Sandy08-13-2013

    I am planning on making these tonight! They look awesome! I am not the best at frying though- how long did you fry them for? and did you use pam to coat the pan? Thanks! I’ll let you know how they turn out!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny08-13-2013

      This is one of my favorites Sandy! I would fry them in a nonstick pan in a bit of olive oil – if they are sticking, just add a little more oil to the pan. Depending on how large you make them, it’s about 3 – 4 minutes per side of frying, then they should cook the rest of the way through in the oven! Hope you like them!

  40. Emily
    Emily08-18-2013

    Hi, I was wondering about using egg whites instead of whole eggs? Would that bring the calories down some? Thanks! I’m excited to make these :)

  41. sp
    sp11-10-2013

    Love these! I was so eager to make them I found out I forgot the eggs and the water and they are still delicious! Can’t wait to try them with ALL the ingredients!! Thanks!!!

  42. Tracy
    Tracy12-14-2013

    The meatballs in this recipe were fabulous! Highly recommended! The meatballs freeze good too.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny12-14-2013

      Thanks so much Tracy, glad you liked these! Of all the many meatball monday recipes I’ve done, this is still one of my all time favorites to make and eat here at home!

  43. vanessa
    vanessa01-07-2014

    These were kind of disappointment for me. I’m not sure why, but I fried them in olive oil in a dutch oven pan, and they would not brown, they stuck to the pan horribly, and essentially fell apart in the pan. ;(

    Do you use a nonstick pan for frying?

    • vanessa
      vanessa01-07-2014

      Whoops – just saw your earlier comment about using a nonstick pan. Wish I read that before I started cooking…!

      • Mellissa Sevigny
        Mellissa Sevigny01-07-2014

        SO sorry Vanessa! What a bummer! :( I hope that you’ll try again so that you can have them at their best! You can also bake them which is easier, but you don’t get the yummy crust on them – still great though!

  44. Jenn
    Jenn01-23-2014

    What a great recipe! My only slight mishap was that for some reason my brain refused to acknowledge the one and the decimal in front of the five where the recipe calls for 1.5 lbs of ground beef, so I mistakenly thought it was asking for FIVE POUNDS! I thought this was a bit strange but kept re-checking and I just did not see the 1. in front of that 5 until after I’d already put them in the oven! Fortunately I caught this soon enough to pull them out and adjust, but it’s a good thing these meatballs taste great, because I am going to be eating them for a while.

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny01-29-2014

      Oh dear! You can freeze them Jenn and they reheat really well! 5lbs of meatballs is definitely A LOT! You’re comment cracked me up – so sorry though! :)

  45. Suzie
    Suzie02-02-2014

    Thanks you so much for sharing this recipe! I made them for our annual super bowl party and they were a HUGE hit! So delicious tender and moist! I will be making these on a regular basis as my husband are eating low carb and wheat free! Thanks again :)

  46. Laura
    Laura05-04-2014

    Just made these and they’re excellent! Had them over some zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and Rao’s vodka sauce. Definitely created a great “spaghetti and meatballs” experience! Thanks!

  47. Meli
    Meli05-30-2014

    Just gone done making and eating these. Delicious. I think I even forgot to add the water, but it didn’t matter. They came out soft and perfect. This is the first time I’ve ever made meatballs of any type. I had done meatloaf before with parmesan cheese, but not almond flour. Very good combination. I baked mine on parchment paper; the side against the paper turned out golden brown and crispy like it had been fried. I bet if I’d had the patience to flip them about ten minutes in, both sides would have been.

    I also threw in some chia seeds. Don’t know if they helped, but they didn’t hurt.

    I’m gonna try the almond flour and parmesan trick for sausage balls here one of these days. I’ve never quite gotten my homemade ones to taste as good as frozen ones, but I bet they would that way.

    Thanks for this recipe and all the others. I’ve visited this site a ton since I got back on low carb.

  48. kristin
    kristin06-18-2014

    These look delicious and im going to make these tonight; however, I am wondering how each meatball is roughly less than 1g carb when the almond flour alone is 12g carb per 1/2 cup. Am I thinking this the wrong way??

  49. kristin
    kristin06-18-2014

    Oh boy, I just realized my mistake in my last post. forgive me haha! these are meatballs so the flour is dispersed between them all…duh!

    • Mellissa Sevigny
      Mellissa Sevigny06-18-2014

      Sorry I didn’t get to this sooner, but yes, the almond flour is one of the few sources of carbs in the meatballs and it’s dispersed throughout the recipe! Enjoy, this is still one of my faves! :)

  50. Vanessa
    Vanessa07-10-2014

    My husband and I made these last night and oh my gosh, were they ever amazing. We used regular all-purpose flour instead of the almond flour, but they still turned out amazing. The parmesan cheese definitely makes a huge different in taste, and all those spices took it over the top.

    We served with a large salad and (of course) garlic bread.

    This one’s definitely being added to my recipe book!

  51. Jessica
    Jessica07-31-2014

    Thank u for the recipe!!! I actually didnt have any almond flour left so i used 1/4c coconut flour and reduced the water to 1/4c and they came out peeerfect!!! Sooo delicious! Thanks again!

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