Say hello to your new favorite 30-minute-meal! This easy one-pot dish is great for nights when you forget about dinner until everyone is starving. The meatballs make it nice and hearty. Use store bought meatballs to speed things up even more! Originally published October 11, 2016.

beef meatballs with rice and peas on a big metal spoon.
Table of Contents
  1. You’ll love this Meatball and Rice Recipe
  2. Meatball with Rice Recipe Ingredients
  3. How to make Meatballs and Rice
  4. Meatballs with Rice and Peas: Substitutions and Variations
  5. How to serve Rice and Meatballs
  6. Storing Meatballs with Rice
  7. Meatballs and Rice Recipe FAQs
  8. Meatballs and Rice Recipe

Today after Charlotte’s dance class, a little girl walked up to me, her wide eyes on my 8-month-pregnant belly. She said wisely, “I see you have an EGG in there!” Ha! Well  something like that, kid.

Later I was in the grocery store getting stuff to make dinner, when it was already past dinnertime. My kids were definitely letting me know that I had made a bad parenting choice: maniacal laughing, “fall-down hugs,” running up and down the aisles, randomly grabbing merchandise. Crazy hyper children is always preferable to the alternative (crazy tantrum children), but still enough to drive any mom insane. Especially one who waddles as much as I do.

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meatballs with rice and peas in a white bowl.

We were in the meat department and I was walking fast while they lagged, hoping that passers-by wouldn’t know the screaming-laughing kids were with me. A lady with an indulgent smile said to me as I passed, “They just have the BEST laughs!” And I said, “You know what you’re right, but right now I still want to strangle them. You basically just saved both of their lives, congratulations.” Thank you, indulgent smile lady. My children owe you one.

You’ll love this Meatball and Rice Recipe

Who’s ready for some meatballs?? This recipe is adapted from a recipe in my friend Mary’s cookbook. Mary has a fabulous blog over at Barefeet in the Kitchen, and she just released her first cookbook The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook. I did a review for the book here, and shared her recipe for Chinese Beef and Broccoli Soup, which was absolutely fabulous I must say.

homemade meatballs with rice and peas garnished with fresh parsley in a white bowl.

She has a recipe for Kielbasa with rice and peas. It looks really delicious, but I haven’t tried it as written yet. The only prepped meat I had in the freezer on the night I needed to make a quick dinner was meatballs, so I changed up the recipe to work with meatballs. It worked out great! Someday I will try the kielbasa version. Maybe. These are good meatballs.

Meatball with Rice Recipe Ingredients

I made this twice, once with frozen Costco meatballs, and once with my Homemade Easy Baked Meatballs. I liked it both ways but of course fresh homemade meatballs are always going to be better than the frozen ones. But sometimes you just have to git er done, and frozen store bought meatballs totally got it done.

Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

  • Rice (medium grain or jasmine) 
  • Garlic powder
  • Frozen peas
  • Green onions
  • Parsley (optional, to garnish)

My kids loved this. Are your kids as obsessed with rice as mine are? This meal is basically perfect for them.

mixing rice, meatballs, and peas in a big metal skillet.

How to make Meatballs and Rice

Here’s a quick overview of how to make this recipe. Scroll down to the recipe card below for complete instructions before you get started!

  1. Thaw the meatballs if they are frozen (not necessary if you made homemade meatballs).
  2. Heat oil and saute the garlic for one minute.
  3. Add the meatballs and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the beef broth, rice, garlic powder, pepper and salt; stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. 
  6. Remove from the heat and season to taste.
  7. Stir in the peas, then add the green onions and parsley. Cover until the peas are warm, just a few minutes.
mixing rice, beef broth, seasonings, and meatballs in a skillet.

Meatballs with Rice and Peas: Substitutions and Variations

One of the best things about a last-minute, clean-out-the-fridge recipe like this one is that you can easily substitute what you have on hand. Here are some ideas!

  • Instead of meatballs, use 14 oz. of kielbasa or smoked sausage. 
  • Grab a rotisserie chicken at the store, cut it up into bite size pieces, and add it in place of the meatballs. Or use leftover grilled chicken from the fridge! 
  • If you have a bag of frozen peas and carrots, use those instead of frozen peas alone.
  • Only have chicken broth, or veggie broth? They’re perfectly fine to use if you don’t have beef broth.
  • Want extra greens? Add in a couple generous handfuls of spinach in step 7 when you turn the rice and meatballs down to a simmer. 

How to serve Rice and Meatballs

This Meatballs and Rice recipe is kind of a meal all by itself. It’s perfect for when you kinda forgot dinner was a thing (I do this all the time). It’s even got peas so you can check the “I served a veggie today” box. If you do want to add something more, a simple green salad or some steamed broccoli are great, or for bonus points you can make some fast bread. My favorite is this easy, no-fail One Hour French Bread

Storing Meatballs with Rice

This Meatballs and Rice dish can be stored in a tupperware in the fridge for 3-4 days. When you reheat it, I recommend sprinkling just a tiny bit of water (like 1-2 teaspoons) on the rice to make sure it stays nice and moist as you reheat it. 

You can also freeze this dish! It will all defrost and reheat wonderfully later, so feel free to make a double batch and treat Future You to a worry-free evening. It’s also a great meal to take to someone who’s been sick or had a new baby. The only thing you’ll want to omit is the green onions, since they’re best fresh. 

Meatballs and Rice Recipe FAQs

What is the trick to keeping meatballs together?

Add eggs! Eggs act as a binder to keep the meat, breadcrumbs, and any other ingredients together. Since these meatballs are baked, they also stay together a little more easily than pan-fried ones, since you’re not messing with them by turning them. 

What is the secret to good meatballs?

The best meatballs are NOT just made of meat. They’re combined with moist, tender ingredients like breadcrumbs, milk, and eggs. In this recipe, you can use either panko bread crumbs or quick oats. Don’t skip these! They’re essential to the perfect meatball texture. I also add onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper for flavor. 

What should meatballs be cooked to?

Meatballs should be cooked to 160 degrees. You can use an instant read thermometer pushed into the center of a meatball to check.

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Meatballs and Rice

4.82 from 11 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 5 Servings
Say hello to your new favorite 30-minute-meal! This easy one-pot dish is great for nights when you forget about dinner until everyone is starving. The meatballs make it nice and hearty. Use store bought meatballs to speed things up even more! 


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 pound homemade meatballs, or store-bought meatballs
  • 3 cups beef broth*
  • 1 & 1/2 cups uncooked rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 & 1/2 cups frozen peas, or however much looks good to you
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, fresh, chopped (optional)


  • Thaw the meatballs if they are frozen. I just stuck them in the microwave for a couple minutes. They don’t have to be completely thaw, just enough that they will finish thawing and warm up while cooking the rice.
  • Heat a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil.
  • When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and saute 1 minute, until fragrant.
  • Add the meatballs and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the beef broth, rice, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Scrape up any browned bits.
  • Stir and bring the heat up to high so that it comes to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cover with a lid.
  • Continue to simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Stir at 15 minutes to make sure it isn’t sticking.
  • When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and season to taste, adding more salt and pepper if you want.
  • Stir in the peas. Add as much as looks good to you.
  • Add the green onions and parsley, if using. Cover until the peas are warm, just a few minutes.
  • This is great with a big green salad. I actually ate mine right on top of a bed of spinach. If you wanted you could stir fresh spinach into the meal and let it wilt while it’s still on the stove.


*As always, I used water and 3 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon.
Source: adapted from Mary Younkin’s book The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 509kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 828mg | Potassium: 564mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 692IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Calories: 509
Keyword: Beef, meatballs, peas, rice
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. The beef meatballs with rice and peas was a huge hit at our house!  I have big teenage eaters, so I doubled the recipe, we might have enough for one plate of leftovers. This was delicious!  My son has declared it’s his new favorite meal. Thanks for the recipe!  I loved the ease of it as well! 

    1. That’s awesome Michele! You know it’s a winner when there’s hardly any left :) Thank you for leaving a comment!!

  2. We love this dinner. Getting my oldest to eat it is difficult but he’s just picky. We really like it and make it every week! It’s quick, easy and delicious! 

    1. That is awesome Adrienne! It’s always so nice when you find a meal even the picky eaters like. Thanks for the comment!

  3. How did I miss this recipe when you made it? I LOVE the swap for meatballs. I need to try that next time myself. Thanks for the idea!

    1. Hey Sara! I’ve never made this with brown rice, and yes I do think there would need to be alterations but I’m not sure what they would be. I would have to do some testing. Brown rice takes much longer to cook than white rice. Let me know what you try out!

  4. 2nd time making this and it’s a hit with my kids :) thanks I sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over top as well

    1. Very weird question: love the sound of this recipe (especially adding the peas at the very end) but not a fan of rice, pasta, nor any of the other “normal” things you would add. I do like potatoes somewhat and love a lot of other veggies. Any ideas? Thanks.

      1. Hi Jacqueline! You could certainly try a version of this recipe with potatoes, but your method would have to be quite different! I would look up a recipe for stovetop potatoes and meatballs instead of working with this one.

    1. I’m not sure Michelle! I’ve actually never made minute rice. I bet you could make it work but don’t have any suggestions for you. Let me know how it goes if you try it out!

  5. Karen, Oh yes, rice is my soul food. LOL. I keep several different varieties on hand so will make this recipe with long grain rice. Thanks so much!

  6. Asian, Caucasian, or Hawaiian we all love rice! This looks and sounds so good and so easy to make! Did you use medium grain or long grain rice? I think it looks like medium in the photos but not sure.

    1. It’s true, rice is like it’s own love language, right June? :) I’m pretty sure I used long grain. It’s usually the only kind I buy. This would be extra delicious with Jasmine rice, which I usually also have on hand. (I’m pretty sure these are photos of some off-brand “extra fancy long rice” or something similar.)

    1. As a white person, I totally love this too! I seriously can’t tell if this is a spam comment or not, and I don’t care because it made me laugh so hard.

  7. Lol!! I feel your pain!!! I hate grocery shopping but I despise grocery shopping with my littlest ones!! Sometimes, it’s just too much!! I can’t believe you are that far along already, how exciting!! Love this recipe and that it is all made in one pot, those are my saving grace right now, lol!

    1. I remember when I had Charlotte and she was just a few days (weeks?) old, I took her on our first solo outing, just me and her to the grocery store. I walked in. She cried. I walked out and drove home. haha!! Speaking of one pot…I have to go check out your one pot bacon alfredo!!!!

  8. That sounds like a stressful trip to the grocery store! :) What a yummy, hearty meal!

    1. Ha, oh it could have been worse. When Charlotte was little she once dropped a box of cherry tomatoes and they spilled in every possible direction. haha!!

  9. What is it with kids and the grocery store? They just go nuts, LOL! Love the looks of this recipe, one pot to wash up = happy Denise :)

  10. That kielbasa dish was going to be the one I reviewed, but at the last minute I went with the meatloaf. I love that you subbed in meatballs >> considering I make up a batch of 80 each month and freeze them. For dishes like this!

    1. Oh MAN I need to make that meatloaf. It looks so good! Do you seriously make 80 meatballs every month!! You are amazing.

  11. Oh, my kids would love this and they are so picky. I love a quick weeknight dish! And just for the record, I avoid taking my kids to the grocery store at all costs. Hope you are feeling great!

    1. I bet they will love it Karen! Kids love rice. At least mine are obsessed. Good to know I’m not the only one who goes crazy at the grocery store!!

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