Porcupine meatballs: An old-fashioned recipe from the 50s that’s still popular today

Rice and beef porcupine meatballs recipe (1940s-1950s)

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This classic recipe for porcupine meatballs was popular for dinners back in the 1940s & 1950s.

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 porcupines recipe 1948

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!

MORE: Anthony’s mouthwatering meatball recipe (1997)

Rice and beef porcupines recipe (1953)

Rice and beef meatball porcupines recipe (1940s-1950s)

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…

ALSO TRY: Mangia! 10 magnificent classic meatball recipes (1970s)

Rice and beef porcupine meatballs recipe (1940s-1950s)

Rice & beef porcupine meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup raw rice, well washed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fat
  • 2 cans Hunt's tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water


  1. Mix together ground beef, raw rice, chopped onion, pepper, poultry seasoning, and salt.
  2. Form mixture into 10 or 12 small balls.
  3. Brown them lightly in an uncovered saucepan in the fat.
  4. Drain off excess fat and add Hunt's tomato sauce and water.
  5. Cover tightly.
  6. Simmer 45 to 50 minutes, or till rice is tender.
  7. Serve with the flavory pan gravy.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 1440mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 28g

Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

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