While we don’t know the original source, it may have been invented even earlier by resourceful US homemakers during the Great Depression to stretch a small amount of ground beef by adding rice as a filler. (Perhaps influenced by the traditional stuffed cabbage recipes of their forebears?)
The name “porcupine,” of course comes from the appearance of the meatballs, which resemble wee porcupines with the rice grains sticking out.
Creative dinner: Rice and beef porcupine meatballs — a tender and tempting dish
The Herald-Palladium (Saint Joseph, Michigan) December 16, 1953
Here is an exciting way to make a rice and beef main dish which is new and different!
Your children will think it is great fun to eat these savory “little fellows” made of economical rice and beef. Dad, too, will enjoy this way to serve the meat favorite — beef — and will be mightly pleased when a platter of porcupine meatballs is placed before him to serve.
Uncooked rice and beef are mixed together, and during the baking, the grains of rice absorb moisture and pop through the surface to make white “quills.”
So make these beef and rice balls often, and keep your family pleased and satisfied.
Rice and beef porcupine meatballs recipe (1948)
Fun to make — fun to eat!
Now here’s a recipe that shows you the delicious things you can make with Hunt’s tomato sauce… When you take these “porcupines” from the saucepan, notice how the rice has puffed up — light and oh, so tasty!
Rice and beef porcupines recipe (1953)
Made with Hunt’s Tomato sauce — A spectacular recipe for a modest little price!
Good? They’re simply wonderful! Just look how those grains of rice swell up luscious and tender, thanks to nice-and-spicy Hunt’s Tomato Sauce…