How to Cook Frozen Meatballs: A Quick Explainer

Nicole Austin

You can cook frozen meatballs in a slow cooker, air fryer, oven, and more with our handy how-to guide.

Frozen meatballs are a tremendous time-saver if you know how to cook them. I use them all the time.

I love spaghetti and meatballs for a super quick dinner I can feel good about serving. Adding homemade meatballs makes it all the better. 

A vegetable-rich sauce makes it the perfect all-in-one, last-minute dinner for a busy weeknight after work and sports, or just times I want a bit of a break.

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs Photo

My kids, particularly my sons, love meatball subs.

In fact, as soon as I finish writing this I’m going to add that to my weekly grocery list…

The versatility of a good meatball is pretty much endless — from Greek gyros made of meatballs to the well-loved sweet and sour meatball, there’s so much you can do with such a simple creation!

No matter how you use your meatballs, it’s convenient and straightforward to freeze them for future use. I love reaching into the freezer to pull out a batch, saving myself much time and effort with this easy meal (that my family loves).

It’s just so much easier to make raw meatballs in large batches and then cook those to perfection so you can freeze your leftovers to reheat later. 

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs Picture

I’m all for meal prepping and planning in advance to cut corners in the future- life gets hectic and I want to try to provide my family with as many healthy options as possible. (You can also probably find a frozen bag of meatballs in your local grocery store's frozen food section,)

Plus, making your own meatballs is a great way to use up extra ground beef, turkey, ground pork, a little bit of Parmesan cheese, or other ground meat.

Reheating meatballs can be done in many ways, and we’ve got tips and tricks for ensuring they remain tender and juicy while still cooking all the way through.

Cooking time for frozen meatballs will depend on the method used — for example, a slow cooker will take much longer than an air fryer.

The result will also slightly vary, so it’s best to know what you want for an outcome.

Air fryers are a great option if you want crispy, golden brown meatballs that will hold up perfectly in a meatball sub. Slow cookers are a good idea if you want meatballs that remain more tender and moist, like you’d look for in spaghetti and meatballs.

One of the best things about any meatballs recipe is how adaptable it is, and I love that there are so many different ways to approach the cooking process for premade meatballs! Let's explore several options for your next easy weeknight meal.

Instant Pot Gluten Free Turkey Meatballs Picture

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in a Crockpot

  1. Add sauce and a single layer of meatballs to your slow cooker. (If cooking without sauce, add ½ cup water or broth to the crock pot).
  2. Cover and cook meatballs on low heat for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Check for doneness.
  4. Enjoy!

Yeah really, that's it!

How long to cook frozen meatballs in a crockpot: total time, 4-6 hours on low

Making meatballs in a slow cooker from scratch? We have a great recipe for that!

The slow cooker or crock pot approach will probably give you the best results for this delicious meal — depending on exactly what you're looking for — and while it takes longer, you can basically set it and forget it!

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe Image

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in an Air Fryer

  1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  2. Add several leftover meatballs to the air fryer basket, leaving some room for air to circulate.
  3. Air fry for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn halfway through cooking.
  4. If not yet golden brown, cook another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Serve as is or add to your favorite sauce.

How long to cook frozen meatballs in an air fryer: 10-12 minutes

Be sure to use our guide for what can and cannot go in your air fryer as a dish or a liner.

Also, bet you didn’t know that you can reheat a burrito in the air fryer, too! 

Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe Pic

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs on the Stove Top

Method 1: With red sauce

  1. Pour pasta sauce into a saucepan and place the saucepan on your stove top.
  2. Carefully add in the meatballs and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Watch for splashing.
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
BBQ Meatballs Photo

Method 2: Without red sauce

  1. Heat a few tablespoons of your choice of cooking oil in a skillet on the stovetop and add the meatballs. (We recommend olive oil.)
  2. Heat over medium heat 15-20 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Check that your stovetop meatballs are cooked thoroughly through before serving.

How long to cook frozen meatballs on the stove top: 15-20 minutes

Meatball Tortellini Soup Pic

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in the Oven

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to prevent sticking and for easier cleanup!

3. Bake meatballs for 15-25 minutes, depending on amount and size, or until cooked through.

Homemade Meatball Subs Picture

Be sure to turn the meatballs about every 5-7 minutes during cooking.

To bake meatballs with a sauce of your choice (marinara sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc.), follow the above instructions and then:

  1. Remove the tray from the oven after they are almost done and transfer to an oven-safe baking dish. Cover with sauce.
  2. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until sauce is warmed through.

How long to cook frozen meatballs in the oven: 15-25 minutes without sauce, 25-30 minutes with sauce

Instant Pot Gluten Free Teriyaki Meatballs Photo

How to Cook Frozen Meatballs in the Microwave

  1. Add 2 Tbsp water to a microwave safe dish.
  2. Add meatballs and cover with plastic wrap, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute.
  4. Stir and test for doneness.
  5. Cook in 45-60 second intervals until cooked through.

If cooking with sauce, forego the water and add sauce to the dish. Microwave as directed above until the sauce and meatballs are heated through.

Microwaving frozen meatballs isn’t our top choice, but it’ll do in a pinch. (Like if you really don’t have any time or that’s your only option!)

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Tangy Turkey Meatballs Pic

Let’s explore some frequently asked questions when it comes to cooking frozen meatballs:

Q: How Do You Know When Frozen Meatballs Are Done?

A: Frozen meatballs are ready to eat when they are heated to a central core temperature of 165 degrees. (Use a meat thermometer to check.)

Q: How Do You Heat Up Meatballs Without Drying Them Out?

A: Low and slow cooking is the best way to reheat meatballs without drying them out.

Oven and crockpot reheating are both excellent ways to help the meatball retain moisture while heating it evenly. It does take longer, but it’s worth it!

Q: How Long Does It Take to Thaw Frozen Meatballs?

A: Meatballs will need to be thawed for at least 12 hours in the fridge.

You do not have to thaw your flavorful meatballs in order to prepare them as detailed above.

If you do choose to thaw your meatballs prior to reheating them with any of our best methods, you will need to adjust the cook time to account for the difference in texture and temperature.

Cooking thawed meatballs rather than frozen will require less time. You can keep the temperature the same, and check for doneness as you would with frozen meatballs.

Tex Mex Enchilada Meatballs Picture

Looking to make some baked gluten-free teriyaki meatballs? Ours are a great alternative if you want something a little more unique than Swedish meatballs, or the ever-popular Italian meatballs.

Wondering about pairings? Explore our guide to what to eat with meatballs!

Greek Gyros with Meatballs Photo

Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

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