Tender and juicy on the inside and perfectly seared on the outside, these versatile and easy air fryer meatballs are a great alternative to frying and are cooked in just 12 minutes! Enjoy them on toothpicks, on pasta, or as a main dish with your favorite sides!
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Quick, Easy and Juicy!
Air fryer meatballs are a great way to still enjoy one of my favorite comfort foods while still being a tasty and healthier alternative to traditional fried meatballs. Cooking them in the air fryer results in a crispy exterior and juicy interior without the excess oil.
My easy homemade meatball recipe already comes together easily, but it became even easier when I started to make meatballs in the air fryer.
I use either lean ground beef or a combination of pork and beef for extra flavor, and without the need for turning on the oven, or searing them in a skillet, the air fryer does all the work.
They are perfectly brown and seared on the outside, beautifully seasoned and juicy on the inside, and in under 30 minutes they’re ready to be eaten. Serve them on a toothpick, in meatball subs, simmered in a marinara sauce, or as a plate of spaghetti and meatballs!
Why This Recipe Works
- They cook quickly. With just 12 minutes of cooking time, this is a great weeknight meal idea. No slow cooking, no simmering, and no searing required!
- Perfectly seared. The air fryer is known for its ability to create a beautifully seared crust on the outside of the meat. These easy air fryer meatballs always turn out perfectly brown on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside.
- Easy clean up. No excess grease or grease splatter is always a win. On the stove and in the oven! The air fryer basket is dishwasher safe too.
- They freeze well. Make as many batches of easy air fryer meatballs as you need and freeze what you’re not using. This way you’ll always have homemade meatballs on hand.
Find the full printable recipe with specific measurements below.
- Large egg, beaten: Adding an egg to the meat mixture will help to bind it but also help keep it moist.
- Milk: When combined with the breadcrumbs, milk helps to moisten the crumbs which in turn also helps to keep the meatballs moist. Use whatever kind of milk you have on hand.
- Panko breadcrumbs: I prefer the texture of Panko breadcrumbs over regular breadcrumbs in meatballs, but you can use what you’ve got.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan adds amazing flavor. You can omit if you want to make these dairy-free.
- Seasoning: Salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. You can replace the onion powder with 1/4 cup chopped onion and garlic powder with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic cloves if you prefer.
- Finely chopped parsley: Alternatively, you can replace the fresh parsley with 1/2 teaspoon of dried.
- Ground beef: You can use just the ground beef or use 1/2 ground pork and 1/2 ground beef. Stick with 80% lean. You don’t want it extra lean otherwise it won’t provide the needed fat to keep it moist.
- To make these easy air fryer meatballs a bit leaner and to cut back on fat, you can use 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground turkey.
- You can also use ground Italian sausage if you prefer.
- If using regular breadcrumbs, feel free to use Italian breadcrumbs for added seasoning.
- To make these gluten-free, use oats in place of breadcrumbs or a gluten-free bread crumb. You can also use a food processor to pulse your oats to a smaller crumb.
- Like spicy meatballs? Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to the meat mixture.
- Use this method to make air fryer turkey meatballs, chicken meatballs, and Swedish meatballs too.
How to Cook Air Fryer Meatballs
- Add all ingredients to the bowl. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and seasoning. Then add in the ground beef.
- Mix to combine. Use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix everything until just combined. Do not overmix!
- Form ball-shaped portions. Scoop the mixture using a medium cookie scoop or Tablespoon and use the palms of your hands to form them into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. As you make one, place it into the air fryer basket. Do this with the remaining portions and assemble the balls in a single layer, leaving enough room between each one. Work in batches if necessary.
- Air fry. Reduce the temperature to 380°F and cook for 12 minutes until browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside.
Make Them Saucy!
Simmer your air fryer meatballs in marinara sauce for 10 minutes (don’t worry, they won’t overcook!). Enjoy a bowl of saucy meatballs on their own, or serve them over pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs like basil or parsley.
- Don’t skip the preheat. It’s not always called for in every air fryer recipe, but it definitely helps with making air fryer meatballs. Starting with high heat helps to brown the outside first, locking in the moisture, then reducing the heat allows the inside to cook a bit slower without drying out.
- Avoid overmixing. I recommend using your hands for this, that way you can make sure not to overwork the meat. Doing so can cause your ground beef to become too tough which can dry out your air fryer meatballs.
- Work in batches. Do not overcrowd the basket. You want the heat to circulate evenly around every one.
- Use a digital thermometer. This is the best way to determine when they are done. Once they’ve reached 165°F, they’re ready.
You don’t! Ground beef (and ground pork) provides enough of its own grease to create a natural nonstick surface.
In some air fryer recipes, you’ll notice it calls for a cooking spray to help brown the outside of whatever you’re cooking, but this isn’t one of those times.
Air fryers, much like slow cookers, and conventional ovens, are not all the same. Use this recipe as a general guideline. Preheat, lower the heat, then check on them at 10 minutes. As long as the internal temperature is what it should be (165°F) then they’re ready.
It’s not necessary, but by all means, you can. Especially if you want them extra crispy. You can also pause the air fryer halfway and give the basket a little shake.
What to Serve with Air Fryer Meatballs
Air fryer Italian meatballs are so versatile! You can serve them as appetizers for game day, family gatherings, and potlucks, or as an after-school snack!
Use them in your Italian wedding soup too!
If I’m serving them as a main meal that’s not pasta, we’ll have mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables or Italian salad on the side. However, when I do serve meatballs with pasta, I am sure to have easy breadsticks or cheesy garlic bread so everyone can wipe their plates clean!
Store any leftover air fryer meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight. Reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat to warm through.
More Meatball Recipes
Air Fryer Meatballs
- 1 large egg , beaten
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- ¼ cup Panko, Italian or gluten-free breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese , can omit if needed
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder , or 1/4 cup chopped onion
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder , or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley , or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- 1 pound 80% lean ground beef (or use 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound ground beef)
Optional way to serve: 2 cups marinara sauce, Cooked noodles, Grated parmesan cheese, Basil, or Parsley
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, breadcrumbs, cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and parsley. Using your hands, mix in the ground beef until just combined.
- Using a medium cookie scoop or Tablespoon, portion the mixture and form into 1 1/2-inch balls.
- In the basket of the air fryer, place the meatballs in a single layer. Reduce air fryer temperature to 380°F. Cook 12 minutes, or until browned and the center reaches 165°F on a digital thermometer. You can flip half way if you prefer them a little crispier.
Optional Way to Serve
- Simmer meatballs in marinara sauce for 10 minutes. Serve meatballs on their own or over spaghetti noodles. Top with parmesan cheese and fresh herb.
- If I have pork on hand, I like to use 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. It creates juicier meatballs. You can also do half ground beef and half ground turkey to cut back on fat.
- To make these gluten free, you can use oats in place of breadcrumbs.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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