These smoked meatballs are absolutely overflowing with flavor. Juicy, homemade meatballs are coated in a spicy tomato sauce, then the entire thing is smoked to deliver a huge burst of flavor that always satisfies.
I’m a big fan of meatballs. I make them in all kinds of varieties and use them for everything from dinner to potlucks. My husband is a big fan of smoking literally anything. So we thought we’d combine those two loves, and we’re so glad we did!
This was inspired by my perfect meatballs recipe on this site, and pairs well with this delicious bread recipe. Honestly, everything pairs well with that bread recipe. Put these meatballs together with the bread and some cheese of course, and you’ve got yourself one killer meatball sandwich!
The ingredient list for this recipe isn’t long, but it’s not short, either. It’s a middling amount of ingredients, but they’re all readily available at your local grocery store. You probably have several of the ingredients in your kitchen right now, as well!
For the Meatballs
- Square saltine crackers
- 85% lean ground beef
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Garlic powder
- Oregano, basil or Italian seasoning
For the Sauce
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves, minced
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Crushed tomatoes
- Chopped fresh oregano or basil
See the recipe card at the end of the post for amounts and cooking times.
Making these delicious smoked meatballs is a straightforward affair. If you can make meatballs and you can make the sauce, then you can make this recipe. Both the meatballs and the sauce are easy to make, so the entire thing is pure simplicity.
Step 1: Prepare the Smoker
Step 2: Prepare the Crackers
Place the Saltine crackers in a large resealable bag and use a rolling fin to crush them into a fine grit. Combine the crushed crackers with the milk and let them sit until they’re soft. Mash the crackers with a fork until smooth paste forms.
Step 3: Create the Meatball Mixture
Add the beef, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper to the mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.
Step 4: Form the Meatballs
Divide the meat into 24 portions. Wet your hands and roll the portions between them to form balls.
Step 5: Smoking Meatballs
Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and smoke them in the smoker for 90 minutes. Rotate the meatballs and smoke for an additional 30 minutes.
Step 6: Make the Sauce
Add oil and garlic to a large pot and cook over low heat until the garlic is soft and golden. Add the pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, then add the crushed tomatoes and salt. Simmer until done.
Step 7: Combine the Meatballs and Sauce
After the meatballs are smoked and the sauce is done, add the meatballs to the sauce. Enjoy!
Hint: You can use a #16 portion scoop to form the meatballs more easily.
Don’t have the correct ingredients on hand? Or want to change something up? Here are some helpful tips for smoking meatballs when you don’t have exactly what you need.
- Any Ground Beef – I prefer 85% lean, but if you like, you can use a fattier or leaner mix.
- Italian Sausage – Try using Italian sausage instead of ground beef for a different flavor.
- Ground Pork – On its own or with ground turkey or chicken
- Turkey or Chicken – You can use ground turkey or chicken in place of ground beef.
- Tomato Sauce – If you don’t have crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce will work in a pinch.
- Garlic Powder or Minced Garlic – If you don’t have fresh garlic, add garlic powder or minced garlic to your mix.
- Water – If you don’t have milk, water will do. You just need to get the crackers soft!
Want to personalize this smoke meatballs recipe? Here are some of my tried and true tips for changing up this recipe.
- Turn Down the Heat – If you don’t like spicy food, simply leave out the red pepper flakes.
- Turn Up the Heat – If you LOVE spicy food, add some diced jalapenos.
- Make it Tex-Mex – Try adding chili powder, Mexican oregano, and cumin to give the sauce a Tex-Mex vibe.
- Make the Meatballs on the Stovetop – Simply place the meatballs in the sauce and simmer until they’re cooked through.
- Bake the Meatballs – Place the meatballs in the oven and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until cooked.
If you love meatball recipes like this, you may also enjoy these slow cooker sweet and sour meatballs. I’ve used these smoked meatballs in that recipe on more than one occasion and enjoyed every bite.
You will too!
It only takes a few pieces of equipment to make this recipe. You don’t need much at all.
- #16 portion scoop (optional)
You can store these meatballs in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, you can freeze the meatballs for up to 2 months.
I have a few quick tips to make this already easy recipe even easier. These are simple, but they can make a big difference, so don’t skip them.
- Use a #16 portion scoop to easily make the correct size meatballs
- When forming the meatballs, wet your hands so the meat doesn’t stick to them.
More Meatball Recipes
Do you like meatballs? Here are some recipes you may also like to try
Do you have questions about smoking meatballs? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about smoked meatballs.
You can use any variety of pellets you like. It all depends on how smoky you want your meatballs.
Use a name-brand smoking pellet if possible. Generic pellets tend to have fillers and less flavor.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can cook the meatballs in the sauce on the stovetop or bake them in the oven.
These meatballs will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Pour your leftover meatballs and sauce into an air-tight, freezer-safe container or large, heavy-duty freezer bag and freeze the entire thing.
To reheat the meatballs, place the entire frozen portion in a Dutch oven or pot and heat over medium-low heat until it’s hot.
Ready to get cooking? Remember that you can print this recipe if you would like.
- 1 cup saltine crackers around 23
- 1 cup milk
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (85 % is ideal
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil or Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 10 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes more or less to taste
- 2 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup fresh oregano or basil chopped or a tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning
- Get out and measure your ingredients.
- Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees.
- Place saltine crackers in a large resealable bag and crush with a kitchen hammer, mallet or rolling pin. You will need a total of 1 cup or about 23 crackers.
- Place crackers and milk in a large bowl and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to moisten crumbs. Using a fork or equivalent, mix ad create a smooth paste of sorts out of the crackers and milk.
- Add beef, or whichever meat you're using, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, basil or Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper to cracker mixture.
- Combine with hands until blended.
- Divide meat mixture into approximately 24 meatballs and roll each using wet hands until all balls are made and round.
- Place meatballs on platter and cover in your fridge until ready to cook. You can make these meatballs up to 24 hours in advance.
- When ready to smoke meatballs, add them to foil pan and place inside your smoker for 90 minutes.
- After 90 minutes, adjust meatballs and smoke for another 30 minutes.
- Remove from smoker and once able, place cooked meatballs in serving dish.
Easy Tomato Sauce
- Heat oil in a large pot. Add garlic and cook, stirring regularly over low heat, until garlic is soft and browned on all sides, at least 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and fresh oregano or basil.
- Simmer on low heat for one hour and meatballs are still smoking.
- Once meatballs are finished smoking, add to sauce.
- Or serve with sauce on top of cooked pasta of your choice.
- Serve with pasta and sauce, if desired.
- Enjoy every bite!