Creamy Meatball Soup in the Slow Cooker is a cozy comfort food that fills and warms you up – a complete meal in one bowl! Meatball soups are a favorite dish in many geographic cuisines, and this recipe is a delicious twist with flavorfully seasoned mini meatballs, a rich, creamy base, and a pasta or rice option. Make your next main meal absolutely scrumptious with this hearty soup.
What’s To Love About Creamy Meatball Soup
Whether or not you consider yourself a “soup person,” you will love this creamy meatball soup as a super-filling, complete meal! I’m the type of person who could eat soup year-round, but a steaming bowl of comforting soup in the cold-weather months especially gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. This recipe is a unique slow cooker soup because of the flavorful mini-meatball elements and yummy pasta or rice additions at the end.
Truly the best combination of ingredients in an easy-to-prep recipe for the slow cooker!
Organize the ingredients into two sets – one half for the meatballs and the other half for when you add dry rice or pasta near the end.
For the meatballs:
- Ground beef – I used 96% lean to keep the soup low on added grease. You can also replace the ground beef with ground turkey or another lean ground meat option to ensure the soup doesn’t get greasy.
- Panko bread crumbs – I used a gluten-free variety for my meatballs, but regular panko bread crumbs will work too. Panko is also sold in flakes, but the bread crumbs work best for the texture of the meatballs.
- Milk – Whole milk or 2% milk works well, but you can also swap with regular or unsweetened and unflavored dairy-free milk.
- Egg – This holds the meatball mixture together.
- Easy Homemade Italian Dressing Mix – Divide this into portions for both the meatballs and the broth. As always, if you’re mixing up this tasty seasoning for the first time, I recommend making a double or triple batch as a healthy option for your spice cabinet. And, save a step now for future recipes!
- Chicken broth – The broth adds tasty flavor to the creamy base of the soup.
For the rice or pasta and creamy base:
- Banza Rice or dried orzo pasta – Banza rice is actually rice made from chickpeas and is a great substitute for regular rice because of the reduced carbs and added protein. This would be the best option if you need a gluten-free soup. Orzo pasta is another unique option that works well in soups since it will cook relatively quickly and not get too mushy!
- Butter and heavy cream – These will add incredible richness and decadence to the broth!
- Parmesan cheese – Regular grated parmesan is a great option because it will mix and melt smoothly into the base.
- Salt – A little extra for seasoning at the end!
How To Make Meatball Soup In The Slow Cooker
- Begin with your meatball prep. Mix ground beef, panko bread crumbs, milk, egg, and 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mix. Form the mixture into small meatballs (slightly smaller than a golf ball) and place them in the slow cooker.
- Add the chicken broth and the remaining seasoning. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-9 hours.
- As you reach the full cooking time, add rice or pasta, butter, cream, and parmesan cheese into the slow cooker. Cook for 15 – 30 minutes on high until rice or pasta is tender. Check the meatball temperature with a thermometer to ensure doneness at 160 degrees ℉.
- Finally, add salt to taste and stir the soup gently before serving.
- Swap out the ground beef with ground turkey for a generally more economical option. Or, use ground chicken for a different flavor as well!
- Add a little spice to your Italian seasoning flavors by adding a few crushed red pepper flakes into the meat mixture.
- For a shortcut in prepping this recipe, you can use frozen homestyle meatballs or Italian meatballs.
- Add in some extra nutrition with a bag of frozen mixed veggies or a handful of fresh baby spinach when you add in the rice or pasta.
Storing and Reheating
This is one of those soups that tastes just as delicious when stored and reheated the next day! A great option for a filling packable lunch at school or the office.
Be sure to completely cool the leftover soup before storing it. Place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in single servings in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
This won’t be a great option for freezing since the consistency of the soup will turn mushy once defrosted. However, you can mix up and form your meatballs ahead of time and store them in a sealed container in the freezer. They will defrost in a couple of hours in the fridge and be ready to pop in the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients for quick soup prep!
Best Sides To Serve With Meatball Soup
One of the best things about meatball soup is that you don’t need much else to serve a complete meal! If you like, you can serve a colorful veggie or fresh salad on the side. A tasty addition to the soup would be crusty bread or roll to dip in the creamy broth.
Crumbly biscuits would also be delicious with the almost gravy-like broth of the meatball soup. Try making Easy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits during the final hour that the soup is cooking!
Tips For The Best Meatball Soup
- This tip is the MOST essential! You may be tempted to stir the soup during cooking, however, resist the urge until at least a few hours in! If you stir too soon or too frequently, the meatballs will fall apart and the soup will change its texture.
- Be sure that you don’t add the cream, parmesan cheese, and pasta or rice until the very end of cooking (the last 15-30 minutes). Turn to warm once the pasta or rice has cooked to prevent the ingredients from overcooking!
- Use a cookie scoop to make small and evenly sized meatballs or an ice cream scoop if you prefer larger meatballs.
- Sprinkle a bit of chopped fresh parsley when serving for garnish and flavor!
Creamy Meatball Soup In The Slow Cooker
- Slow Cooker
- 1 pound ground beef 96% lean
- ¼ cup gluten-free panko bread crumbs Can use regular or gluten-free panko
- ¼ cup milk Can use regular or unsweetened and unflavored dairy-free milk
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons Easy Homemade Italian Dressing Mix divided
- 3 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup dried orzo pasta or Banza Rice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Mix ground beef, panko, milk, egg, and 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mix and form into small meatballs and place in slow cooker
- Add broth and remaining seasoning, cover, and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-9 hours
- Add rice or pasta, butter, cream, and cheese and cook for 15 – 30 minutes on high until rice or pasta is tender
- Add salt to taste and stir before serving
- Cool leftover soup before storing. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat in single servings in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.
- Soup should not be frozen due to texture changes, but you can prepare the meatballs ahead of time to freeze until assembling the soup. Be sure to defrost the meatballs in the fridge a few hours before cooking.
- Do NOT stir the soup until it has cooked for at least a few hours.
- Turn the slow cooker off or on warm when the rice or pasta has finished cooking.