Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe (Paleo)

Try my Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs recipe for a Southern twist on classic Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce! A simple comfort food classic dinner that is gluten-free & paleo! Serve as is or over zoodles, cauliflower rice or rice.

overhead shot of Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs served in tomato sauce

This Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs recipe is one of my favorite “cheat-recipes”.

So one of my latest favorite things to watch has been series about “real Italian food”. What I’ve gathered from all this programming and my own adventures, is that their cuisine generally falls into two camps: the ludicrously simple, and the way-too-involved. Somehow, it seems like most of the classics we’re all most familiar with – lasagna, spaghetti bolognese, and meatballs for example – all fall into the who-on-earth-has-time-for-this?! category.

side view of healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs served with Marinara Sauce

Whenever tomato sauce is involved, you’re expected to have 6-8 hours to dedicate to getting it “juuuust like-ah the mamma used to do!”, but seriously – my momma’s tomato sauce came out of a can… There are, of course, reasons for all these things, but can’t we just find a happy medium somewhere?

overhead shot of a serving of healthy slow cooker beef meatballs served with tomato sauce

Yes, we can! With this Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs recipe, we’re going to pack in as much flavor as we can with the least amount of fuss possible. And we’re going to do it by embracing that other most famous of Italian traditions – we’re going to cheat!

healthy bbq slow cooker meatballs served in a white bowl sprinkled with cilantro

By using the broiler to sear and seal our meatballs, we mimic the char from a good old barbecue; then by dropping it all into the slow cooker and stepping away, we give it all the chance to reduce and simmer in ideal conditions, while allowing for freedom of movement that Granny could only dream of!

There’s no fiddling about with the barbecue, and instead of slaving over a simmering pot for half a day just like Nonna used to – you essentially just drop these wee little devils off at the sitter’s, then pick ’em back up once they’re ready to present to guests! I’d call that a win!

Guys this healthy Slow Cooker Meatballs recipe is IDEAL for cooking beginners and perfect for an easy healthy family dinner!

How to make this Slow Cooker Meatballs recipe:

ingredients for healthy beef meatballs being mixed in a bowl for slow cooker meatballs recipe

Step 1 – In a small bowl, stir together the almond flour, 1/2 tsp of salt,  garlic powder, oregano, coriander – and cinnamon, if using.

Step 2 & 3 – In a big bowl, add the ground beef and sprinkle the meat evenly with the remaining salt. Add the egg, mustard, and spiced almond flour mix and combine with your hands until the mixture binds together and the almond flour, egg, and dijon are evenly distributed. Try not to work the meat too much or your meatballs might be on the tough side.

picture collage demonstrating how to bake slow cooker beef meatballs on a baking sheet

Step 4 & 5 – Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and preheat your broiler. Form the meat mixture into 18-20 meatballs (about 1.5 oz / 45-50 g each) and arrange them on the baking sheet making sure they don’t touch.

Step 6 – Broil them for 3 – 4 minutes just to lightly brown the tops. This also helps to render some of the fat (this avoids an overly greasy sauce). Remove from the oven.

EASY VERSION: 

 Step 7 & 8 – Stir together all Italian sauce ingredients and pour into the slow cooker.  Top with the beef meatballs – slightly press them into the sauce, being careful not to break the meatballs!

picture collage demonstrating how to make bbq beef meatballs in a slow cooker

Step 9 – Cover and cook on low for 3,5 to 4  hours, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve when ready to eat and garnish with your favorite fresh herbs.

Advanced version – For Instant Pot & slow cookers with searing option: 

  1. Melt 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and saute onion for 4 minutes. Add garlic, saute until fragrant. Add spices and herbs, saute for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and saute for a minute before adding tomato puree and all the other sauce ingredients.
  2. Add meatballs and proceed with the recipe as described in the recipe above.

Tips:

  • Leftover meatballs can be stored in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for a month.
  • Try to roll the meatballs into circular rounds of even size, as much as possible. For reference, mine weighed between 45 and 50 grams (1.5 to 1.8 oz). Just in case you want to know how large to make them, place one on a scale and use it as a reference. The larger they are, the longer they’ll take to cook.
  • You can make these meatballs with pork, chicken or ground turkey.
  • Coconut aminos can be substituted with light soy sauce.
5 from 3 votes
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Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs

Make these Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs  for a Southern twist on classic Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce! A simple comfort food classic that is gluten-free & paleo! Serve as is or over zoodles or cauliflower rice. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword bbq slow cooker meatballs, healthy bbq meatballs, meat balls slow cooker
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 50 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 505 kcal

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 3/4 pounds lean beef 800 g
  • ¼ cup almond flour 25 g
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp coriander optional
  • tsp cinnamon optional but recommended!
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard

Sauce

  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder or ancho chili powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander optional
  • 2 cans tomato sauce 28 fl oz each
  • 3/4 tsp salt more to taste
  • 2 - 3 tbsps maple syrup
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke

Instructions

  1. In a medium sized small bowl, stir together your almond flour with 1/2 tsp of salt,  garlic powder, oregano, coriander - and cinnamon, if using.

  2. In a big bowl, add the lean ground beef (or turkey or chicken) and sprinkle evenly with the remaining salt. Now, add in the egg, Dijon mustard, and your spiced almond flour mix and combine the meat mix with your hands until the mixture just binds together and the almond flour, egg, and dijon are evenly distributed. Try not to work the meat too much or your meatballs might be on the tough side.

  3. Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and preheat your broiler.

  4. Form the meat mixture into 18-20 meatballs (about 1.5 oz / 45-50 g each) and arrange them on the baking sheet making sure they don't touch.
  5. Broil them for 3 - 4 minutes just to lightly brown the tops. This also helps to render some of the fat (this avoids an overly greasy sauce). Remove from the oven.

Easy Version:

  1. Stir together all sauce ingredients and pour into the slow cooker.  Top with the meatballs - slightly press them into the sauce, being careful not to break the meatballs!
  2. Cover and cook on low for 3,5 to 4  hours, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Serve when ready to eat and garnish with your favorite fresh herbs.

Advanced version - If your slow cooker has a searing option:

  1. Melt 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat and saute onion for 4 minutes. Add garlic, saute until fragrant. Add spices and herbs, saute for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and saute for a minute before adding tomato puree and all the other sauce ingredients.
  2. Add meatballs and proceed with the recipe as described in the recipe above.

Recipe Notes

  • Leftover meatballs can be stored in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for a month.
  • Try to roll the meatballs into circular rounds of even size, as much as possible. For reference, mine weighed between 45 and 50 grams (1.5 to 1.8 oz). Just in case you want to know how large to make them, place one on a scale and use it as a reference. The larger they are, the longer they’ll take to cook
  • This recipe makes about 20 meatballs. Serving size: About 3 meatballs with sauce
Nutrition Facts
Healthy BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 505 Calories from Fat 270
% Daily Value*
Fat 30g46%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Cholesterol 121mg40%
Sodium 2254mg98%
Potassium 1364mg39%
Carbohydrates 31g10%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 22g24%
Protein 29g58%
Vitamin A 1920IU38%
Vitamin C 20mg24%
Calcium 110mg11%
Iron 6mg33%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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posted in
All Seasons Recipes Beef Clean Eating Dairy Free Gluten free Main Dishes Meal Prep Paleo Paleo/Primal Recipes Refined Sugar Free
4 Comments
  1. I could eat meatballs all day everyday! I love the southern twist on these. What’s even better is they are healthier and I can let the slow cooker do most of the work. Win win for me.

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