Low Carb Meatballs alla Parmigiana (Gluten Free)

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[pinterest text=”Low Carb and Gluten Free Recipe for Meatballs alla Parmigiana – from ibreatheimhungry.com Join our community of keto losers!” layout=”horizontal” image=”http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meatballs3small.jpg”]
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[pinterest text=”Low Carb and Gluten Free Recipe for Meatballs alla Parmigiana – from ibreatheimhungry.com Join our community of keto losers!” layout=”horizontal” image=”http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meatballs5small.jpg”]
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[pinterest text=”Low Carb and Gluten Free Recipe for Meatballs alla Parmigiana – from ibreatheimhungry.com Join our community of keto losers!” layout=”horizontal” image=”http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meatballssmall.jpg”]
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[pinterest text=”Low Carb and Gluten Free Recipe for Meatballs alla Parmigiana – from ibreatheimhungry.com Join our community of keto losers!” layout=”horizontal” image=”http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meatballs7small.jpg”]

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!


  • 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


  • 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.


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

[pinterest text=”Low Carb and Gluten Free Recipe for Meatballs alla Parmigiana – from ibreatheimhungry.com Join our community of keto losers!” layout=”horizontal” image=”http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/meatballssmall.jpg”]
If you love meatballs as much as I do, try these buffalo chicken meatballs – they make a great party appetizer!!

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In other news, for a limited time I’m bundling my Amazon best-selling e-book The Gluten Free Low Carber with my first two issues of the IBIH ezine for only $9.99 – that’s a discount of over 50%!


You’ll get over 75 original recipes that can’t be found here on the blog for less than 15 cents each! And it’s some of my best work yet if I do say so! Bored with the same old low carb recipes? Looking for some new and delicious ways to keto on? I’VE GOT YOU COVERED!

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A giveaway by Mellissa Sevigny of I Breathe Im Hungry


  1. Melanie says

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

    • says

      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 says

        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 says

      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;)

      • says

        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…

    • Judy says

      You could use finely crushed “regular” flavor pork rinds instead of the almond flour. Even if you don’t like pork rinds, you can’t tell they are in there.

    • says

      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!

  2. Brad says

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

    • says

      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 says

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

      • Asilem says

        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!

  3. Vivian says

    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.

  4. Karla says

    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!

    • says

      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!

  5. Cathy says

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

  6. April says

    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?

  7. Suzanne M says

    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.

  8. Jemma says

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

  9. melanie says

    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!

    • says

      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.

  10. tamatha says

    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.

    • says

      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! :)

  11. says

    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!

  12. Alyssa says

    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.

    • says

      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! :)

  13. Jennifer says

    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! :)

  14. says

    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?

  15. Karyn says

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

  16. Rachel says

    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!

  17. says

    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.

  18. Lisa says

    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 :)

    • says

      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!

  19. Tammy Howell says

    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.

  20. Melanie says

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

  21. Sheila says

    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!

  22. tamatha says

    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!

  23. Susan says

    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.

    • says

      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.

  24. Renee Patrick says

    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.

  25. Jennifer says

    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?

    • says

      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!

  26. Luana says

    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!

  27. Haleigh says

    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!

  28. Katharine says

    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!

    • katharine says

      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.

  29. Sandy says

    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!

    • says

      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!

  30. Emily says

    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 :)

  31. says

    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!!!

  32. vanessa says

    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 says

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

      • says

        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!

  33. Jenn says

    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.

  34. Suzie says

    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 :)

  35. Laura says

    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!

  36. Meli says

    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.

  37. kristin says

    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??

  38. kristin says

    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!

    • says

      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! :)

  39. Vanessa says

    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!

  40. Jessica says

    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!

  41. Bunnie says

    I made these for dinner tonight. Delicious! I was reading through some of the comments. I thought I would leave a recommendation for a marinara sauce that I love. My favorite is by Bertolli Organic traditional Tomato and Basil

  42. Lindsey says

    I made these last night for dinner and they were great! This was the first of your recipes that I’ve tried and now I’m excited for more. I have JUST started this low carb way of eating and I felt so confident last night because of this recipe. I know I can do this thanks in part to wonderful sites like yours. Thank you!

  43. Saralyn says

    I made these for the first time the other night and they were so good! Best meatball recipe I’ve ever tried, low carb or not. My family had no idea they were low carb. They just gobbled them up! This will be my go-to meatball recipe from now on. Thanks!

  44. Laura says

    Just wanted to say thank you so much for all of the great recipes and info! I really appreciate it. I made the meatballs tonight and they were wonderful, even my kids loved them. Thanks again!

  45. Misty says

    I made these for dinner as I am trying to prepare healthier meals for my BF and I… I made my own almond flour and all other dry ingredients I pulsed together in my blender.. I added some red pepper flakes and smoked paprika.. They were delicious.. My BF said I am making them every night now haha..

  46. Becky says

    I have now made these 2 times this week. My family loves them! They ate them as meatball subs. I used pork rind flour (ground up pork rinds) instead of the almond flour. These are so good! Thank you!!!

      • Tracy says

        I have made other meatball recipes with crushed pork rinds, and they come out really nice and tender. Pork rinds get kind of spongy when they are wet, so it makes for a really nice texture in meatballs. I prefer them over almond flour, because I feel like they get too bulky and kind of tough and chewy (also another recipe). Maybe the water would make a difference? I’m not sure.

  47. Ali says

    Hi! I am thinking of substituting nutritional yeast for the parmesan cheese, but have never done that before so I wondered if you had any insight. If not, do you have any other suggestions for making the meatballs dairy free? Thank you!

  48. Kelly says

    I love these meatballs! I have made these at least 3 times since discovering this recipe. They remind me of an Italian dinner my aunt made years ago for my mom’s birthday. My aunt’s late mother-in law was an Italian grandmother! I feel a sense of accomplishment that I now can make delicious meatballs. Thanks – Kelly

  49. Melanie says

    These were Awesome!! My boys couldn’t get enough of them ! I also have to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all of the time and effort you have put into the recipes, with nutritional information attached and the weekly menus you have posted for anyone to use FREE !!! Seriously you are a life saver and I cannot imagine the dedication it took to make this website , I truly appreciate everything you have done.


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