Making your own meatballs is so easy and, with your air fryer, they are cooked in 10 minutes! I couldn't believe it myself. Perfect meatballs in 10 minutes? Sign me up!
I never used to make meatballs; it seemed like too much work. I bought them frozen when I wanted to make something with meatballs, but, honestly, they just aren't as good.
So, I had some leftover marinara sauce the other day and wanted to make something with meatballs. I didn't have any, so I mixed a few ingredients together and air fried them up. They were amazing and so easy!
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As always, I tested the recipe several times... oh darn, we had to eat more meatballs! This time I also tested the recipe in 3 different appliances, so I could give you exact cooking directions for various cooking methods.
You can also adapt this recipe to whatever air fryer you have if it isn't one of the three I tested. Before I go over the various intructions, let's talk about the Air Fryer Meatballs themselves.
What size Meatballs should I Make?
This is completely up to you. You can make them as big or as small as you like. The cooking time and temperature may need to be adjusted based on size.
I would also recommend that you decrease the temperature a bit when making large meatballs so the outside doesn't get over-browned before the inside cooks.
More important than the size you make, is that they are pretty uniform in size so they cook evenly.
I like to use the scoops from Pampered Chef to make meatballs because they are all uniformly formed. The scoops come in three sizes and I usually choose the size based on what I'm making with the meatballs.
If I'm adding the meatballs to spaghetti, I use the medium scoop which is about 2 Tbsp. This makes a nice size meatball.
If I'm making a meatball sub and want bigger meatballs, I'll use the large scoop which is about 3 Tbsp.
The small scoop is about 1 Tbsp and is perfect for smaller meatballs that you might use in a soup.
Keep in mind that the meatballs do shrink during the cooking process.
What type of Ground Meat is Best to use for Air Fryer Meatballs?
You can use any type of ground meat you like to make meatballs. I find that using ground beef 80/20 makes the meatballs very moist and delicious, but you can use a leaner meat.
If you want to use a leaner meat, I would decrease the bread crumbs a bit so they aren't too dry. For 90/10 or leaner, I would decrease the bread crumbs to about 1/2 cup.
For ground turkey or chicken, I would also decrease the bread crumbs or even make them without the bread crumbs. It also helps, when using ground chicken or turkey, to form the meatballs and let them sit in the fridge for about an hour or so before cooking.
You can even use ground pork or a combination of different ground meats and really customize your meatballs to what you have on hand and what meat you like the best.
Can I Change the Seasonings in Air Fryer Meatballs?
Of course! You can make the meatball mix any way you like! I kept this recipe basic, yet delicious. It's flavorful without being overpowering.
You can add fresh onion, fresh garlic, use all fresh herbs. Omit seasonings you don't like or don't have. Add seasonings that you like. Anything goes when making meatballs, or meatloaf for that matter.
You make it the way you like it. The only thing that might change the way they cook is if you add too much moisture. So, if you like adding ketchup or other liquids to your meatball mix, you might want to let them sit in the fridge for about an hour or so before Air Frying. This helps them setup and hold their shape. I always do this with turkey burgers and it works great.
One tip for making sure your mixture tastes the way you want it is to pinch off a small amount and air fry it for a few minutes. I usually make a little patty about the size of a dime and it cooks in just a few minutes. Then you can adjust your seasonings accordingly before you air fry your meatballs.
Can I Make the Meatballs and Freeze them?
Yes, absolutely! You can do this a couple of ways. You can make them up, cook them and freeze them or make them and freeze them uncooked.
Here are my suggestions for both ways.
Freezing Meatballs Uncooked
Once you make up the mixture and form your meatballs in the size(s) you want, line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the uncooked meatballs on the parchment and freeze for several hours or overnight. When they are completely frozen, place the meatballs in a freezer bag or other storage container and keep frozen until you need them.
Freezing Meatballs that have been Cooked
Once the meatballs are cooked, allow them to cool completely. It is important that they are not hot when you freeze them or steam will form and you will end up with ice crystals on your meat balls.
Place the cold meatballs into freezer bags or any sealable freezer container until you are ready to use them.
If frozen correctly, they should last in the freezer a good 3-6 months.
How to Air Fry Meatballs or Reheat from Frozen
These are only suggestions because, honestly, the meatballs didn't last long enough to freeze!
I do plan to make a few more batches for the freezer, so I can update these suggestions if I find a better way to air fry them from frozen.
If you froze them uncooked, my suggestion would be to lower the heat by 25° and cook 10-15 minutes or until the internal temp reaches 165℉/74℃
If you froze them cooked, then you simply need to rewarm them and I think the best way to do that is either put them in the sauce, if that is how you are serving them OR use the steam function on the Ninja Foodi.
Steaming to reheat food is a great way to keep foods moist. Simply place the meatballs in a covered pan on the rack and add 2 cups of water. Turn the valve to vent and steam for about 15 minutes or until they are warmed through.
Ideas for What to Make with Air Fryer Meatballs
These meatballs have just the right seasoning to be used in a variety of ways.
Spaghetti is the first thing that comes to mind! If you want to add these meatballs to Ninja Foodi Spaghetti, simply cook them and add them in (frozen or thawed) on top of the noodles and continue on with the recipe.
These meatballs would be great to use in a Swedish Meatball recipe and I'm going to get working on that, for sure!
Meatball subs are super easy to make and can be made right in the Ninja Foodi PC & AC, Ninja Foodi Indoor Grill, or Ninja Foodi Oven! I like to use my Homemade Marinara Sauce and cover with provolone cheese and Air Crisp until hot.
In the YouTube video, I made a really quick and easy spaghetti with zoodles and used the air fryer meatballs and the marinara sauce. It was absolutely delicious!
You can also use these these meatballs to make Sweet 'N Sour meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce. I would use the slow cooker function on the Ninja Foodi to heat everything through. YUM!
How to Make Air Fryer Meatballs in the Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven
I found the best way to make meatballs in the Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven is on the non-stick tray that comes with the oven.
I also preheated the oven with the tray inside for 10 minutes. This means, I set the temperature at 350℉/176℃ and the time for 20 minutes and let the oven run for 10 minutes before adding in the meatballs.
While this is probably not 100% necessary, I felt like it would help with more even cooking and prevent the outside of the meatballs from getting too brown.
I cooked the meatballs on 350℉/176℃ instead of 375℉ in the oven and found this worked great. Always keep an eye on your food and make adjustments as needed. After the first 5 minutes, if they aren't browning like you like them, increase the heat for the last 3-5 minutes.
The time was about the same. I cooked the medium size meatballs for 5 minutes, then flipped and cooked another 3 minutes. My meatballs were done in 8 minutes, but remember that yours might be smaller or larger, so adjust your time accordingly.
How to make Air Fryer Meatballs in the Ninja Foodi Grill
In the Ninja Foodi Indoor Grill, I used the crisping basket and that worked great. It allowed the fat to render out of the meatballs and browned them up nicely.
I preheated the Indoor Grill on Air Fry at 350℉/176℃ until it prompted me to add food.
I put the meatballs in a single layer in the basket and air fried for 5 minutes. Then I flipped the meatballs and air fried another 3-5 minutes. I made larger meatballs as shown in the picture, so I went the whole 10 minutes, but your timing will depend on the size of your meatballs.
How to Make Air Fryer Meatballs in the Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper
This process is so easy, I'll bet you'll never buy the frozen kind again!
Start by preheating the Ninja Foodi on broil for 10 minutes with the basket inside. Also preheat the rack if you are using it to make a double layer.
Mix the ground beef with the other ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl. I used the Mix 'N Chop to mix up the mixture, but clean hands work great, too!
Once the ground beef and seasonings are well mixed, I like to test a little piece for seasonings. I form a dime size patty and throw it in the Ninja Foodi basket while it's preheating and broil for 2-3 minutes. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Form your meatballs into the size you want. I find the scoops from pampered chef work great or you can use a scale to weigh each one to ensure they are the same size and will cook evenly.
I like to form them all and line them up on a clean surface.
When the Ninja Foodi has preheated, add in the meatballs in a single layer. I used a 7.9" canning rack to create a double layer and was able to cook all the meatballs at once.
You can see how I did that in this short video below.
If you don't have a rack, no worries! Just fit as many as you can in a single layer and air fry the meatballs in two batches.
Switch to the Air Crisp function and set the temperature for 375℉/190℃. Close the lid and Air Crisp for 5 minutes. Try not to open the lid for the first 5 minutes to allow the meatballs to set and release easily from the basket.
If you are using a leaner cut of meat, you might want to spritz the basket with oil.
After 5 minutes, flip the meatballs. If they are sticking, leave them alone and AC another minute or two, then flip the meatballs.
If you are using a double rack, you can move the meatballs from the top to the basket now that they have shrunk and all of them should fit.
Continue to air fry the meatballs for 3-5 minutes, depending on size. If you have a probe thermometer like this one from Pampered Chef, you can insert the probe and monitor the temp. You want your meatballs to be between 160 and 165℉.
Dual Purpose Thermometer: Instant Read & Probe Thermometer from Pampered Chef
Remove the meatballs and serve!
Air Fryer Meatballs in the Ninja Foodi
- Ninja Foodi Digital Air Fry Oven
- Ninja Foodi Indoor Grill
- Preheat the Ninja Foodi with the basket in on broil for 10 minutes.
- Combine the ground beef, seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, egg, and bread crumbs in a medium size mixing bowl. Mix well.
- Form meatballs using about 2 Tbsps of mixture per meatball.
- When the Ninja Foodi has preheated, spritz the basket with oil and place a single layer of meatballs on the bottom of the basket. *see post for how I used a rack to make two layers.
- Air Crisp on 375°F/190°C for 5 minutes. Do not open the lid during this time. After 5 minutes, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes or until the internal temp is 165°F/75°C
- Remove and Serve!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.