Our Pros Found the Best Frozen Meatballs You Can Buy
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For this blind taste test, we searched high and low for the best frozen meatballs you can find at the grocery store. Don't worry—we won't tell Nonna.
Claire Krieger/Taste of Home
When it comes to the best meatballs around, I think we can all agree that our grandmothers, aunties and moms tend to have the best recipes (though our Test Kitchen might have found a promising recipe, too!).
But let’s be honest: We don’t always have time to make meatballs from scratch. That’s why a bag of meatballs from the frozen section is so appealing. Just heat them up, add them to your recipe and before you know it, dinner is served. But how do you find the best meatballs for your next dinner? Enter our Test Kitchen crew, who tested seven brands to pick the best.
How We Found the Best Frozen Meatballs
When it comes to a good meatball—be it frozen or homemade—we’re looking for the same things: a great savory flavor paired with on-point seasoning (no bland meatballs accepted) plus a stellar texture—not too dry or spongy. With this in mind, our Test Kitchen panel tested a handful of meatball brands in a blind test and judged them according to these qualities:
- Flavor: What are the flavors like in the meatball? Are they well seasoned? What kinds of herbs, spices and other flavors are present? Do these flavors lend themselves to any particular type of cuisine?
- Texture: What’s the texture of the meatball like? Tender? Firm?
- Appearance: How do the meatballs look? Are they uniform? Do they look homemade?
Our Test Kitchen-Preferred Frozen Meatball Brands
In the end, we found a few good brands worthy of stocking our freezers with. After all, having a bag of meatballs on hand allows us to make easy, satisfying appetizers like these beautiful meatballs with chimichurri sauce, barbecue beer meatballs or sweet and sour appetizer meatballs. Oh, and of course we can’t forget the classics like meatballs marinara. A new sauce made with some fresh ingredients makes it easy to transform these freezer favorites. Now, see what brands are worth shopping for.
Best Italian-Style Meatball: Nature’s Rancher Angus Beef Meatballs
When many of us shop for frozen meatballs, what we’re really looking for is a shortcut to the sort of meatballs that Nonna would make. In that case, reach for Nature’s Rancher Angus Beef Metaballs next time you’re at Whole Foods.
These homestyle meatballs had a great texture that was fork tender. Our culinary team appreciated the slightly charred flavor mixed in—it made us think of meatballs being lovingly made over the stove. These Nature’s Rancher meatballs also had a nice blend of herbs inside including parsley and garlic, as well as some nice cheese flavors (the mix contains ricotta and Romano).
Because of the Italian flavors in these meatballs, we think they pair best with Italian recipes. Snag a jar of our Test Kitchen’s favorite marinara sauce and a box of pasta and you’ve got a great shortcut dinner.
Best Meatball for Appetizers: Bremer Italian Style Meatballs
Many of our favorite appetizer recipes start with a bag of premade meatballs. If that’s your preferred way to prepare this ingredient, we suggest Bremer Italian Style Meatballs, exclusively from Aldi.
While these are called “Italian style,” our Test Kitchen didn’t pick up on any particularly strong Italian flavors. That being said, our testers picked up on the taste of a savory, tender frozen meatball. This option from Bremer had a great blend of black pepper, onion and paprika—a great combination for all sorts of dishes, but particularly wonderful for a recipe like these cranberry appetizer meatballs.
Best Almost-Homemade Meatball: Trader Joe’s Italian Style Meatballs
Courtesy Trader Joe's
Let’s be honest: Sometimes you want storebought to seem homemade. That’s OK! Even experienced home cooks like to take a little break. For the best homestyle meatball, our Test Kitchen recommends Trader Joe’s Italian Style Meatballs. No surprise here since Trader Joe’s is known for their tasty yet affordable products.
These meatballs got high marks for their homemade appearance and the right balance of flavor. Testers picked up on a pitch-perfect mix of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for a bit of zip. Because these meatballs don’t have a lot of obvious Italian flavors, they’d be a great option when making these easy Swedish meatballs—always a favorite. No one needs to know this homey dish started with a shortcut.
What to Make with Frozen Meatballs
Taste of Home
When it comes to frozen meatballs, the sky is the limit. You can use a package to whip up a quick Italian meal on a busy weeknight, grab your slow cooker and turn them into a slow cooker appetizer or even turn them into sammies with this recipe for meatball sliders. Whatever you’ve got a taste for, you can find a way to use up a bag of frozen meatballs. Just check out all these mouthwatering recipes: