Simple Porcupine Meatballs

In the back country of Washington DC suburbs, we’d catch and eat pocupines when they went after our chickens. Why, the meatballs we made from them still had the pricklers in ’em.

At least, that’s what my dad might’ve told me. I’m pretty sure he once had me convinced that porcupine meatballs were so called because of the animal the meat came from. The fact we didn’t have chickens, let alone whether porcupines would even bother them, never occurred to me. Seeing my mother take her normal ground beef, and add rice to it is what finally disproved my father’s story, in my mind.

These meatballs, were however from a time, when meat was scare or expensive. The rice and vegetables (if you add any) add bulk to the meatballs. It’s a similar concept to meatloaf where you add oatmeal, or rice, or breadcrumbs to stretch out the meat.

As a child I had a love hate relationship with this dinner. Sometimes, I loved them, sometimes, I hated them. So, for those with kids, it’ll be a hit or miss.

One day, I ‘ll post a more traditional recipe: with rice, and minced onion and pepper and carrot. This one is simple, ingredient wise, and if you have a pressure cooker even simpler.

All you need is about a pound of ground meat, a box of Spanish Rice, a can of tomato soup (or tomato sauce), and salsa is optional. I used a mixture of ground beef and ground turkey, which is what I’ve gotten in the habit of doing for our family.

In a bowl mix together the rice (and seasoning packet if separate) and ground meat. It’s kinda gross if you don’t like touching raw meat. I take my rings off for this and dig in with my hands. After mixing it together and forming into meatballs I scrub my hands and under my fingernails until I get any trace of raw meat off. Blech.

In a skillet (or pressure cooker, or 9X13 oven dish), stir together a can of tomato soup and a can of water. I used just a can of tomato sauce, but forgot to add any extra water. If you’re going to be doing this on the stove top, I encourage being a bit generous with the water. Because I didn’t add extra water the sauce ended up burning some, and I didn’t have enough moisture for the rice to cook fully. Alas. Learn from my mistakes.

I also add some salsa, and no I didn’t measure it. My mom suggests about 1/4 cup. It adds a bit of a kick. For some reason though, this time around it didn’t quite do it for me. I might instead add some pepper jack cheese into the meatballs  themselves.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook.  Vague, but here are some more details:

10 minutes in a pressure cooker

30-45 minutes on a stove top, tightly covered. Stir half way through.

45 minutes- 1 hour in the oven at 350F, covered for the first 3/4 of cook time.

It’s done when the rice inside the meatballs is no longer crunchy, and it the meat looks cooked through.

Here is what they look like fully cooked. . . well in my case, sauce slightly burned (so not as saucy as it should be) and the rice  wasn’t fully cooked in some of the meatballs. Delicious either way.

Porcupine Meatballs


  • 1 lb- 1 1/2 lb of ground meat
  • 1 box of Spanish Rice
  • 1 can of tomato soup or tomato sauce
  • 1/4 salsa (optional, can add more or less)


  1. Mix together meat and Spanish Rice.
  2. Form into meatballs.
  3. In skillet or pot mix together tomato soup/sauce and 1 can of water.
  4. Add the meatballs.
  5. Cover tightly and simmer for 30-45 minutes, turning halfway through.
  6. Meatballs are done when rice inside is done (not crunchy).

Alternative Cooking Methods

  • Bake at 350F covered for 45 minutes- 1 hour.
  • Cook in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes.



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