Porcupine Meatballs With a Cream Sauce

Juicy and plump meatballs made with beef, pork and rice are baked in a creamy tomato sauce. The carrots, onions and garlic make the sauce even more flavorful and is the perfect gravy to serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.

Porcupine Meatballs - beef and pork meatballs with rice and baked in a creamy tomato and vegetable sauce.

In Russian, these Porcupine Meatballs – Тефтели “Ёжики” are called this way because of the rice that is used in them, that pokes out from the meatballs in little “quills”.  Baked in a scrumptious sauce that’s flavored with carrots, onions and tomato paste and just a bit of cream, it is so comforting and delicious. I have been eating these my entire life, a recipe passed down through the generations.

Thy are wonderful served as a leftover, and in addition to that, they freeze perfectly too. You’ll get twice the benefit from your effort of making them once.

What Meat Can Be Used For Porcupine Meatballs?

I usually use a combination of pork and beef. The best results will be to use ground pork shoulder and ground beef chuck or steak. If you use lean meat with less fat, the meatballs will be more dense and tougher.

You can also use any other ground meat that you like, such as ground chicken, ground turkey, ground venison, etc.

How To Prepare the Meatballs

How to prepare porcupine meatballs with sauce tutorial; pork and beef meatballs with rice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Partially cook the rice. I usually bring the water to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes. Drain and cool slightly. (You can also use leftover rice instead of partially cooked rice.)

Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mix until evenly incorporated.

The additional water will make the meatballs more tender.

Form the meat mixture into meatballs, about 2 Tablespoons each, placing the meatballs into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

How To Prepare the Creamy Tomato Sauce

Baking beef and pork meatballs with rice in a cream sauce

In a large skillet, heat the butter or oil. Sauté the onions, carrots and garlic until tender.

Add the tomato paste and flour and mix until incorporated into the vegetables. Pour in the broth, mixing it in until evenly incorporated. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until it thickens and creates a sauce consistency.

Add the cream and dry herbs at the very end.

Pour the sauce over the meatballs in the baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, until the meatballs are tender. Garnish with fresh herbs.

IMG_0146 (550x367)

Making the Meatballs in Advance

These meatballs can be prepared 1-3 days in advance and then reheated in the oven, on the stovetop or microwave. Store the meatballs in the refrigerator.

IMG_0211 (550x359)

Freezing Porcupine Meatballs

Freeze the cooked meatballs and sauce in an airtight container or freezer ziplock bag for 3-6 months. Thaw and reheat.

You can also freeze the meatballs and sauce uncooked, and then thaw and cook just as you would if you were making them from scratch.

Tender porcupine meatballs with a carrot, onion, tomato cream sauce

Porcupine Meatballs With a Cream Sauce

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5 from 2 reviews

Juicy and plump meatballs made with beef, pork and rice are baked in a creamy tomato sauce. The carrots, onions and garlic make the sauce even more flavorful and is the perfect gravy to serve over mashed potatoes, rice or pasta.

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
  • Yield: 34 meatballs 1x
  • Category: Entree




  • 3/4 lb ground beef (chuck, steak)
  • 3/4 lb ground pork (shoulder)
  • 1/2 cup rice, partially cooked (1 1/2 cups leftover rice)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cream Sauce:

  • 23 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 onions, chopped or sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons  all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth, warm
  • 1/41/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 Tablespoon dry herbs (any spices, herbs, any combination that you like)
  • fresh herbs, chopped, to garnish (parsley, dill, thyme, etc.)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Partially cook the rice. I usually bring the water to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
  3. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Form meatballs into approximately 2 Tablespoons each. Place in a rimmed baking pan, 9 x 13 inches.
  4. You can use a portion scoop to make it easier to form the meatballs, or use your hands. Moisten your hands every once in a while so the meat mixture doesn’t stick to your hands.
  5. For the cream sauce, melt butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the carrots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes, until the carrots soften. Add the tomato paste and flour to the center of the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until it’s completely incorporated into the carrots and onions.
  7. Pour in part of the chicken broth and whisk to combine. Gradually add the rest of the broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the vegetables soften.
  8. Take off the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Season to taste with salt, ground black pepper and dry herbs.
  9. Pour the cream sauce over the meatballs.
  10. Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the meatballs are tender. Garnish with fresh herbs. 

Did you make this recipe?

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The recipe for these Porcupine Meatballs was originally published on February 27, 2013. I have updated the pictures and clarified the instructions to give you the best results.


  • Gen

    This looks delicious, and I feel so much more comfortable trying this out having seen every step of the process making. Love that these are all simple ingredients I actually do have in my kitchen!! I do have one question, I’m a little challenged in the kitchen… how exactly do you cut your carrots like that? Or are they simply grated with the big side of the cheese grater? Thanks! New to your blog, I love your style of explaining the steps, and your tips 🙂

    • olgak7

      Hi Gen,
      Thanks for the kind words! I am really thrilled that the tips and explanations are helpful.
      I like using simple ingredients too. It makes cooking much easier and more approachable:).
      I used a box grater for the carrots.

  • Yana P

    I just want to thank you for your hard work and detailed steps. Even the explanations behind why you add something and what it does. I learn so much through your website! I am excited to try this recipe out!
    Many Blessings!


  • Galina

    Just made them and they were a BIG hit with my 3 picky boy’s. Going to have the left over meatballs over egg noodle pasta tomorrow. Thank you for sharing… 🙂

  • Galina

    Hi Olga, I have been reading your blog for several months now and have made a few things, but this is my first comment. I made these meatballs yesterday and everyone LOVED them. I used 2 lbs pork and 1 lb chicken because that’s what I had, also I didn’t have tomato paste so I used tomato sauce, but everything else I followed exactly. They were perfectly salted and juicy! Here are some of the comments I heard: my 5 year old girl as she is eating them “mom, these meatballs are making me even hungrier!”, 8 year old son “mom, these meatballs are DELICIOUS!”, husband “make sure you give me some of these for lunch tomorrow”, LOL. So I will definitely be making these again 🙂 Thank you

  • Lilia

    Mmm. These look so yummy. Going to the store to restock and get everything I need for this recipe. Can’t wait to try these.

    • Lilia

      Didn’t have time to come back to say how they turned out. My whole family loved them. My 3 year old usually doesn’t like gravy with his mashed potatoes but because of the yummy meatballs he ate it all. I made a double batch for our big family and even had some leftovers for work the next day.

  • elena

    I made this for dinner and it was perfect. My family and i enjoyed it a lot 🙂 thank u for such a great recipe :-)will definitely be making this again 🙂

  • Vadim

    They look so yummy and I love easy to follow instructions :). Great job Olga, I will have to give them a try for sure.

  • Olga St. Pierre

    Thanks for this recipe!

    I always like to compare similar dishes that I make to how others make them. My mom always made ezhiki on the stove top, in the top, instead of the oven. I like your oven idea for the fact that I can put it in and walk away for a while 🙂 Will also try the sauce, never made it with a sauce.

  • Angie

    I made this this sunday morning! It is great recipe! had a lot of flavor and my whole family enjoyed it! Thank you for another great recipe! You are wonderful!

  • Oksana

    Hi Olga, this looks so delicious. I got one question though. I’m planning to make it for Sunday’s lunch and I was wondering can I prepare it the night before and cook it on Sunday or should I cook it on Saturday and just heat it up on Sunday? And thanks once again for all the wonderful recipes your sending my way.

  • Leslie

    There are just two of us. I’d like to freeze half the recipe. Should I put the cream sauce over the raw meatballs in a baking dish and freeze it ready to bake later?

    • olgak7

      You can bake the whole batch and then freeze half of it, Leslie. That’s what I would do.
      You can freeze the raw meatballs also, I think. However, I’ve never done it myself with this particular recipe, but I’ve done it with similar recipes and had great results.

      • natasha

        Hi, I have. I freezed the half of the meat with rice, and than later used it to make kotleti, before frying obvaljat v syxarjax. 🙂 ochen vkysno. Also, I make frikadelki dlja wedding syp out of this farsh, what’s left from this farsh. Cz its too much of tefteli for us 3. 🙂

  • Sharlene

    Hi Olga,
    I made these meatballs for a family get together last week and everyone loved them! They were going back for seconds and thirds! So thanks heaps for the recipe.:)

  • Nina

    Hi, Olechka,
    WOW!!! These meatballs are SOOOO delicious!!!! We loved your recipe much more that I used to cook. I made them today for dinner and was surprised because its take less time, easier and more delicious then mine. Thanks much!!!!
    I love your website and every recipe that I tried on your WEB SOO GOOD!!!!!
    PS. One tip for you. I use “McCormick Brown Gravy mix” instead flour or mixed it with flour. I buy it at “Sam’s club” because it’s cheaper. They have different kind such as chicken, turkey but my favorite is Brown Gravy, it has mushroom flavor and I use it so often in many dishes. Try it!!!
    Thanks again!
    Be blessed!

  • natasha

    Made these meatballs last night for dinner. and it was the first time I actually followed a recipe without skipping any steps and it turned out fantastic! I only had pork meat so it made less meatballs but the family enjoyed it. they tasted awesome. love your step by step and pictures. that always helps when u see what happens next. Looking forward to trying more of your amazing recipes! GOd bless!

  • natalichka

    Hey Olga, is 5 tablespoons of tomato paste too much? On your picture it looks like you used only 2. I put three, and I think its a little too sour, by the way i was making it second time again. Thanks.

    • olgak7

      In the picture, I was making half a batch, so I used only 2.5 Tablespoons. In my opinion, you need the full amount of tomato paste, but adjust it to your taste buds. Everybody likes their food different.

      • kurochkina

        Olga, I have a silly question. I love this recipe of yours, but I would like to cut it in half next time. When you make half of a batch, how do you cut the 1 egg in half?

        • olgak7

          Whisk the egg with a fork in a small bowl and pour half of it in. However, for this recipe, you can just use the whole egg. I would be more precise if I was baking, but not cooking.

  • olga

    Olga hi . This is tge best recipe I have ever had I love the gravy plus my husband really loved it .. he akways wants a really good gravy but I couldn’t find a good recipe he said this is the deal that’s what I like. Thank you for the post…

    • olgak7

      This is such a great thing for me to hear. I know what you mean about finding just the right recipe. I’m always on the lookout to have that perfect combination that I can cook over and over for my family to enjoy.
      Thanks for taking the time to let me know the results of trying out this recipe.

  • alina

    Hello Olga, i recently came across your website and decided to give this recipe a try, and OMG! Its my first time cooking meatballs and they came out SO delicious, my toddler ate only that and not the mashed potatoes! i reduced the amount of rice a little and used 1 onion insead of 2 for the meat, but overall: amazing and SO soft! thank you!!

    • olgak7

      The cream adds lusciousness and creaminess to the sauce. I really like the flavor that it adds to the sauce. Of course, you can omit it, just substitute with more broth. However, if you’re trying to cut calories, I don’t think this is the recipe for you. Gravies in general are not healthy and by omitting the cream, you will still have a lot of calories left in the rest of the sauce. If you’re lactose intolerant, just use more broth.

  • Ksenia

    I made these like 10 times now and they are always the best. I was wondering if I can cook them in the slow-cooker instead of the oven?

    • olgak7

      I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying this recipe, Ksenia. I’ve never tried making these meatballs in the slow cooker. I think they will turn to mush, since you’ll need to place the raw meatballs one on top of the other in the slow cooker. Whenever I’ve made meatballs in the slow cooker before, I’ve always precooked the meatballs and then added the sauce in the slow cooker.

  • Julia

    Hi Olga! I made these for dinner today and they were super delicious, my hubby and 3 kids really enjoyed them 😀 I actually already had a “Tefteli” recipe I got from some Russian food blog a long time ago, but it was a bit bland and didn’t have the “wow factor” so to say; to cut a long story short, I’ll be replacing it with yours. You have great taste! Thanks for all the hard work you put into your blog 😀

  • Ksenia

    A couple of weeks ago I made your buckwheat soup. Today I made these meatballs and WOW! I am impressed!!! This is my FAVORITE meatballs recipe BY FAR!!!!!
    Thanks again! Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

  • Simona

    Hi Olga, this is the recipe that led me to your site for the first time a few months ago. I was googling a recipe for the crockpot because the one I had used condensed soup for the gravy. I love your version so MUCH more! Your site has been a blessing and I love that most of your recipes have ingredients already stocked in my kitchen. I’ve tried many of your recipes and have been impressed by each one so far. Thanks for all that you do! For those wondering about making these in the crockpot you can! I used a 6 quart slow cooker but the meatballs have to be in a single layer so you can only make 24 at a time. Happy cooking everyone.

    • olgak7

      Welcome, Simona! I am so glad you stopped by and also for taking the time to write. I really appreciate it.
      I’m so happy you enjoyed these meatballs. It’s one of our family favorites. Thanks for adding the note about the slow cooker – that’s very helpful.

  • alana

    I have some left pork lion and was thinking to grind the meat and make these beauties for 2maro! do you think it will still taste good w/out the ground beef?

    • olgak7

      Sure, they should taste good without the beef. The only thing I would be concerned with is that there might not be enough fat, since you’re using pork loin, which is very lean. The meatballs might be tough.

  • Brie Carleton

    I’m doing a project on Russian food and I used this recipe for one of the dishes I made. I also have to include the history of each recipe that I made. I was wondering if you knew the history on these little hedgehogs? Anything will help. Thank you!

    • olgak7

      Hi Brie!
      Sorry, I don’t know the history. This is a recipe that we’ve enjoyed in our family for many, many years. It’s a very common household recipe that most Slavic families have a variation of.

  • Ras

    Hi Olga,

    I cooked this last night. I also made your chicken soup and carrot and parsnip combination, plus your beans. Between 6 people we gobbled it all up. Question. Do we use one cup of the partially cooked rice or do we use the whole lot? Can you please add an index to your recipes on your website. Best Regards, Ras

    • olgak7

      Hi Ras! Wow, I’m thrilled that you are enjoying so many recipes.
      You would need to partially cook 1 cup of uncooked rice and use all of it in the meatballs.
      I do have a recipe index. Look under the Recipe Index tab.

  • Luba

    Hi Olga. I have a question. Would you recommend making this , all the steps , and than freezing the whole pan, and when I’m ready to serve it, take it out and bake it? I’m expecting guests this weekend, I would love to make this couple days in advance and freeze it, and than have it ready to bake and fresh for my guests. Have you ever tried that? Please let me know, thanks in advance 🙂 (if you have any other meat recipes you’d like to share that are good for freezing, I would greatly appreciate it)

  • Lucy

    Hello Olechka ,
    My kids loved these babies ,
    I made them Saturday and had some left over , when we woke up for church the next morning my 6 year old boy ask mama I want those kotletki for breakfast, that’s how much they liked it.
    Thank you so much for all your great recipes you are a great cook!!!
    May God bless you hun!

    • olgak7

      That’s wonderful, Lucy. I know how important it is to find foods that kids enjoy. I am so thrilled to hear that your little guy loved the meatballs. This comment just put a huge grin on my face.

  • Jules

    Hi Olga! Thank you for this flavorful recipe! I love the sauce! Just wondering, I did make a lot of both the meatballs and sauce, would it be okay to just freeze the meatballs and refrigerate the sauce? Or can I freeze the sauce too?

  • Olga

    This recipie does make waaaay too many meatballs… I over looked the part where you mentions how many it makes…. I regret not doing half of what the recipie calls for. Not sure what to do with all those cooked meatballs now! My kids did really like them thanks!

      • Olga

        Margot, I will in the future ended up sharing with family 🙂 have you tried freezing the sauce too? Or only tje meatballs? My kids did gobble up a few for dinner last night and again tonight. Very yummy!!!!!

        • Margot C

          I did freeze them in sauce, and then I used a double boiler to reheat them because I didn’t think they would do well being microwaved.

  • Christine

    Dear Olga,
    I just made these! They’re baking right now. I followed your recipe to a T! Well, I ran out of onions for the sauce, so only used carrots, so I guess that’s not entirely true. But they’ll still be great! I love, love all your recipes. I
    My grandparents are from Poland and I love how your recipes are similar but even better! Hehe shhh!

    • olgak7

      I’m so glad you liked these meatballs, Christine:). They are always a huge hit in our family. Polish and Russian food is very similar, so I can see what you mean. I enjoy a lot of Polish dishes too.

  • Oksana

    Dear Olya,

    We love this recipe and make it very often thanks to you for the past few years. I have tried commenting once before but ran in to a little bit of an issue. However, every time we make tifteli and other recipes from your site my mom’s says to thank you for such a tasty meal. I want to congratulate you with new addition to your family, we were all excited to hear of the great news. Also, thank you for all the great recipes which we have grown to love on your site. May God bless you and your family for all your hard work and time you put into sharing these wonderful recipes with everyone:)!

    • olgak7

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write, Oksana. I am so glad you and your family enjoy these meatballs. They are a favorite in my family.
      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • Linda

    Way too labor-intensive. A total of 5 onions to mince and slice! Plus recipe needs to be cut in half or the leftovers will take up all your freezer space. Taste was good, but not great.

  • Anya

    These were soooooo good! Thank you. I used turkey & chicken. And cornstarch and coconut cream for dairy free & gluten free version.
    I froze half of the meatballs, raw, in the meatball shape. Do I have to completely defrost them or can I bake them frozen too? Just longer

  • Lyuba

    Hi Olga!

    Do you think if I omit the tomato paste it will be still be ok? Or should I substitute with something else.? Tomato based sauces give us heartburn so I try to avoid them if I can.

    • olgak7

      You can omit it, Lyuba. I have found that if you use fresh tomatoes, it isn’t as acidic and might not give you heartburn, so you can try that out if you’d like. I think tomatoes help to balance out the flavors of the sauce. You can also add a bit of sour cream to get some acidity.

  • Ana

    Hi olga ive been making your recipe for years and we love It the most. Im updateing my recipe binders and i wanted to print this out but its not printing on my phone or the ipad. Maybe theres a glich?

    • olgak7

      Hi Ana,
      I will try to make a printable version when I get a chance. This is an older recipe and I didn’t have printable versions when I first started blogging and when I was updating the website, I missed a few old ones. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    • olgak7

      I prefer reheating the meatballs in a skillet or a saucepan/pot on the stove, it’s much faster than putting them back in the oven, but you can put them back in the oven too.
      When reheating, you may need to add a small splash of water or broth, since the sauce will soak into the meatballs more and more as it stands and each time you heat it up.

  • Oksana

    This is an awesome way to use up leftover cooked rice. And, yes even if the recipe is so labor intensive, I am so happy I won’t have to stand and cook each individual meatball separately like the Kotleti. I am so happy to have recipes that I can also freeze for later too.

  • Сара

    Оля! Спасибо за рецепт! Have you ever thought of using a meat substitute for тефтели? I was wondering if you thought the fat content would be high enough, or if you have a rec for extra fat to add in? (I was thinking maybe butter but that might be odd.)

  • Silva brown

    Sorry I want to
    Make them but I am confused how much rice. One half cups or one and a half cups – can you get back to me please. I can’t wait to make them. SILVA

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