Meatballs are one of those traditional dishes that almost every family has a recipe for, so it can be tough to consider changing the recipe and making meatballs without eggs.
It might seem impossible, but the reality is that you can make eggless meatballs that are still soft and nicely bound together.
Whether you are craving some spaghetti with meatballs or a Mexican albondigas soup, you can use these tips to create delicious meatballs without a single egg.
What Are Meatballs Traditionally Made From?
At its most basic level, a meatball is simply a small lump of ground meat rolled into a ball and cooked.
Meatballs can be made of any type of meat, though the most common options are ground pork, ground lamb, or ground beef.
They are a traditional part of many cultures, and according to The Atlantic, recipes for meatballs date back as late as 400 AD.(1)
Depending on where they are made, meatballs might be served with a vegetable sauce, a gravy, a broth, or plain.
The main difference between all of these types is typically just the seasoning.
For example, Italian meatballs are flavored with Romano cheese and garlic, while in Sweden meatballs are flavored with nutmeg and lingonberry.
Almost every meatball recipe contains ground meat as a base, eggs as a binder, and bread or grains as a bulking ingredient.
Though eggs are one of the three traditional ingredients in a meatball, they are not as necessary as you might think they are.
Why Should You Make Meatballs Without Eggs?
There are several good reasons to consider making an eggless meatball.
Obviously, the simplest reason is just that you do not currently have eggs at home.
Meatballs are often made when people have little food in the kitchen because they are a quick and easy meal with only a few ingredients. Fortunately, they are so easy to create that you should not feel like you have to go all the way to the store just to get an egg.
Another reason is to accommodate those with allergies.
A 2011 study published in the Pediatric Clinics of North America Journal found that egg allergies are the second most common allergy among children!(2)
People who are allergic to eggs may have gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing, rashes, or anaphylactic shock, so it is especially important to make egg free meatballs if someone eating the meatballs is allergic.
For some people, ethics and animal treatment can also play into a desire to avoid eggs.
Of course, meatballs will not be vegan because they contain meat, but some people do feel that the egg industry can be problematic due to its treatment of male chicks that cannot lay eggs.
People who have access to free-range, cruelty-free meat without having access to more kindly produced eggs can definitely benefit from an egg free meatball recipe.
What Are Some Good Egg Substitutes?
Before you start making your egg free meatball, it is important to understand the role of eggs.
The most important thing that an egg does is bind ingredients together.
The proteins in eggs ensure that all of the various components of the meatball do not fall apart. Eggs are also helpful because they provide moisture that keeps meatballs from drying out.
Finally, eggs have a minor role in creating the light texture associated with some types of meatballs.
Eggs help to create creamy, airy, fluffy meatball because they trap air in the meatballs, and then this air expands when heated. When searching for an egg substitute in a meatball, you need something that fulfills all of these rolls.
It can be tricky to find an egg substitute that is moist, binding, and aerating, so most egg substitutes will consist of a combination of the following options.
One option is simply to salt the ground meat hours before you make the meatballs.
The salt acts as a sort of tenderizing agent, so it makes it easier for each bit of the ground meat to stick to each other while the meatballs are formed.
If you choose this method, all you need to do is sprinkle the normal amount of salt over the meat at least three hours before cooking them.
Make sure you do not try substituting equal parts salt for equal parts egg, or you will end up with a salty and inedible mess!
2) Ground Flaxseeds
Flax seeds are one of the most popular egg alternatives.
To use them, all you have to do is grind up flax into a powder, whisk it with water, and let it sit until it takes on the texture of an egg.
As The Kitchn explains, flax seeds are an excellent binder because they have a gum coating that turns gelatinous and thick when mixed with water.(3)
For most meatball recipes, you can substitute one tablespoon of flax seeds and three tablespoons of water for each egg.
3) Milk Soaked Grains
This strange sounding mixture is actually already an incredibly common meatball ingredient.
Most people use bread crumbs soaked in milk, but ground oatmeal, cooked rice, or other grains are also an option.
This substitute works because the grains release starches that provide binding agents while the milk ensures that the meatballs remain soft and moist. Those who want a fluffy meatball will particularly benefit from the inclusion of airy bread crumbs.
Adding a soft cheese to your meatballs makes sure they have extra moistness and flavor.
Great options include ricotta or grated mozzarella. The cheese also acts as a binding agent because it melts and then sticks to the ground meat and other meatball ingredients.
You can substitute an egg sized amount of cheese for each egg if desired, or you can use a smaller amount of roughly one grated tablespoon per egg in a recipe.
Mayonnaise can be an excellent way to add some flavor and moisture to your meatballs.
Its texture ensures that your meatballs will not fall apart easily. Due to the oils in this condiment, meatballs made with mayonnaise will have a nicely crispy brown exterior.
It is important to bear in mind that this is only an acceptable replacement for the individuals who are out of fresh eggs and wish to make meatballs.
Mayonnaise is produced from eggs and oil, so it is not suitable for those who want to avoid eggs altogether.
You can substitute one tablespoon of mayonnaise for every egg in a recipe.
How Do You Make Meatballs Without Eggs?
The above substitutes will make it easier to cook meatballs without including eggs, but you should keep in mind that ingredients are not the only thing to consider when making your meatballs.
The method you use to form and cook the meatballs will greatly affect your end product.
To ensure that your meatballs do not crumble away into tiny bits, use a very firm rolling technique. The ideal size for eggless meatballs is typically one to two inches across.
After you form the meatballs, it is a good idea to let them rest in the fridge for at least a half hour.
This lets all the liquid in the meatballs soak into the bread or grains, making a more uniform meatball. Many people find that roasting keeps meatballs more intact than frying.
Baking or roasting your meatballs in an oven works better when making egg free meatballs because it reduces the amount of time spent flipping the balls.
The Perfect and Easy Recipe
As you can see, it is perfectly possible to alter any existing recipe into a recipe without an egg.
However, you do not always need to bother with creating your own version of a recipe.
All you need to do is follow this easy recipe to create the perfect eggless meatballs.
When you are done, you can enjoy your homemade meatballs with pasta, on a sub, or as a main course.
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup breadcrumbs or 3 slices bread finely ground
- ½ cup milk
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- At least three hours before you plan to make the meatballs, mix together the two ground meats and sprinkle them lightly with salt.
- Preheat olive oil in nonstick pan over medium high heat.
- While pan is heating, let your breadcrumbs soak in the milk.
- Lightly saute the onion until translucent and fragrant.
- Let the onion cool lightly so it does not cook your meat, and then combine all remaining ingredients.
- Use your clean hands to gently mix together all ingredients into a cohesive mixture has formed.
- Roll meatballs into balls that are roughly 1 ½ inches wide and place them on a flat surface.
- Refrigerate meatballs for half an hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes until they are firm and not pink in the middle.
This recipe creates roughly four servings of meatballs, and a single serving will contain 350 calories.
It will require four hours of cook time.
However, only about 20 minutes of this cooking time will require active work because most of the time is inactive prep work.
Now that you know all the basics, feel free to experiment!
There are plenty of great egg substitute options that will keep your meatballs from crumbling or drying out.
Next time you want to make meatballs but you don’t have eggs at home, all you need to do is follow these steps:
- Pick your meatball recipe.
- Decide on your substitute.
- Figure out how much of your egg substitute to include.
- Choose between baking, braising, and frying.
1.Not Your Grandmother’s Meatball by MARISSA LANDRIGAN MAR 24, 2016
2.Caubet J-C, Wang J. Current understanding of egg allergy. Pediatric clinics of North America. 2011;58(2):427-443. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2011.02.014.
3.Egg Substitutes in Baking? Try Flax Seed! by Emma Christensen Sep 9, 2009