Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Juicy, flavorful Italian style meatballs stuffed with melty mozzarella cheese – perfect for dipping in your favorite marinara or alfredo sauce! 

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

If you’re not following me on Instagram, you might not know that I’ve been in Sacramento for the past couple of days learning all of the ins and outs of Diamond of California and how their amazing walnuts go from the tree to my kitchen. My husband will tell you that I’m a bit of a workaholic, and there may be something to that claim. Lately though, I’ve realized life is flying by way to fast so I’ve been trying (key word: trying) to take little breaks, celebrate tiny personal victories, and savor the moment a little more.

When I arrived in Sacramento, I had a few hours to waste before I was scheduled to be anywhere. I hadn’t had lunch and a girl’s gotta eat, so naturally I beelined for the nearest Mexican cuisine I could find. It is California after all, they know their Mexican. But this story isn’t actually about the amazing chicken burrito bowl topped with 4 kinds of salsa I ate and nearly cried over. This story is about a girl and her gelato.

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

After my spi-cay lunch and a good walk around the city I was craving something sweet like it was nobody’s business and found a fancy-pants Italian place right on Capitol Mall called Il Fornaio. Inside this classy restaurant (with a floor-to-ceiling wall devoted to every kind of wine you can imagine) there was a teeny tiny bakery in the corner. As I stood in line, I glanced over the menu and saw mostly sandwiches but I spotted a ginormous chocolate chip cookie in the display case and decided that would definitely satisfy my sweet tooth. But then the lady in front of my walked away with a towering cup of ice cream! What?! That was not on the menu, trust me, I would have noticed. So I asked gal at the counter if they had any gelato. Indeed they did and the flavor of the day was…. Cookies n’ Cream.

It was fate.

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

I really really really love cookies n’ cream ice cream. And gelato?? Well that’s the cream of the crop as far as ice cream goes. Those Italians, they know what they’re doin’. So there I sat in the middle of downtown sacramento with a double scoop of gelato AND a ginormous king-sized soft-baked chocolate chip cookie. And this is where savoring the moment comes in to play. If I had just stayed at the hotel and worked on my computer all afternoon (and I did consider it, heavily) I wouldn’t have found that Italian restaurant with the teeny tiny bakery with the ginormous chocolate chip cookies and the most amazing gelato known to mankind.

If being less of a workaholic means more ice cream in my life, I’m on board. I mean, why didn’t you lead with that. I would have quit my job years ago.

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Now on a less sweet, more savory, but equally delicious Italian note, let’s talk about the meatballs you will every taste, which also happen to be filled with ooey gooey melty mozzarella cheese and are made in a slow cooker. Yes, these are a crockpot wonder my friends. But! If you are short on time or don’t have a slow cooker or whatever, these can also be baked so you have no excuse not to be making, eating, and singing praises for these meatballs. The meatballs alone are wonderfully tasty and seasoned perfectly, but anything filled with cheese is better right?? As a side not, they also freeze very well if you want to make them ahead and bake or slow cook them at a later time!

Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs


4.2 from 9 reviews
Slow Cooker Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Juicy, flavorful Italian style meatballs stuffed with melty mozzarella cheese - perfect for dipping in your favorite marinara or alfredo sauce!
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (panko or regular, Italian seasoned or plain)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3-4 mozzarella cheese sticks (string cheese)
  • marinara or alfredo sauce, for dipping
  1. Chop each cheese stick into half inch pieces (about 6-8 pieces for each cheese stick). Place on a plate and chill in the freezer until ready to use.
  2. Add ground beef, bread crumbs, egg and egg yolk, garlic, onion powder, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to a bowl. Mush the ingredients together with your hands until everything comes together.
  3. Remove cheese from freezer. Scoop out about 4 tablespoons of meat mixture and roll into a ball. Gently push a piece of chilled mozzarella into the middle of the meatball. Roll the ball in your hands to cover the hole where the mozzarella cheese was pushed in. Place inside a greased slow cooker and repeat with remaining meat and cheese.
  4. When all meatballs are in the slow cooker (*see note for alternate cooking method), cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours or on low 3-4 hours until meat it cooked through (no longer pink). The cheese may start melting out of the meatballs, that's okay.
  5. If desired, sprinkle with a bit of fresh chopped parsley or dried Italian seasoning for garnish and serve with your favorite marinara or alfredo sauce for dipping. Enjoy!
*For a quicker method, the meatballs can be baked. Follow directions to make meatballs, but instead of placing in the slow cooker, place meatballs 1 inch apart on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until browned and cheese is melty.
**These can also be made ahead and frozen! Prepare the meatballs as instructed in the recipe but instead of putting them straight into the slow cooker (or the oven if baking), just place them side by side in a zip lock bag ( you may need two), seal and place in the freezer. When ready to cook them, follow recipe instructions and increase cooking time slightly to allow for thawing.
*This recipe makes about a dozen large meatballs. This works great for an appetizer or side dish. If you want to use this for a main dish, I'd recommend doubling the recipe to be safe.

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You never stop to amaze me with your recipes, this is incredible!

    Rebecca you are so sweet and your comments just made my day!!! 🙂 🙂

YUM! I love the idea of gooey, melty cheese nestled inside a yummy meatball. I can’t wait to try these! Also, I love your idea of savoring the moment. I think we forget to do that so often. Life is too short…eat gelato and giant chocolate chip cookies! 🙂

These look so delicious – with a yummy surprise inside! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

That gooey cheese inside?! GIRL! It’s an explosion of delicious Italian goodness.

I love this gelato story even more now that I know it was at Il Fornaio! You’re a girl after my own heart.

    You love cheese? I knew I liked you for a reason 😉 Cheese sistas for life yo.

ooh, that cheese -I need to try these for sure

    Cheese lovers unite – I like you already. 😉

do you just cover the bottom of the crockpot or stack them? Do they keep their shape if you stack them? Sorry–I’m just trying to picture how to put the meatballs into the crockpot and would love some more detail in addition to “place inside.” Thanks!

    Put as many as you can in a single layer on the bottom of the crockpot, then stack them as needed 🙂

Can you cook these with the sauce in the crockpot? Or would that make them fall apart?

    Hi Debie, I haven’t tried to took them with the sauce, it might work but I can’t guarantee it!

    I cooked mine in the sauce and it turned out AMAZING!!!

Can you bake these from frozen? Or do they need to thaw first? I want to make these as an appetizer for a party I am going to, but I have tor travel an hour for the party and I am trying to figure out the best way to cook these. Thanks!

    Hi Jackie, you could probably bake these from frozen, they’ll just need some extra cooking time. Try five extra minutes and then check every couple of minutes after that. 🙂

Hi there!
Came across this on pinterest and it looks AMAZING!
I was curious though, why do you freeze the cheese? Can I skip that and just simply stick the cheese in the meatball as is?

    Freezing the cheese keeps it from leaking out of the meatballs immediately after they start to heat up. I’m sure you could skip this step but they will probably turn out messier!

I made these tonight and I made them gluten free using homemade gluten free breadcrumbs. They were amazing! I used the oven method and they came out great. My fiancé hates pasta but loves meatballs so he was a happy camper. So easy and very good 🙂

The recipe says 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, so do I need one whole egg and an extra yolk? Or just one whole egg?

    One whole egg, plus one yolk.

Isn’t 4 tablespoons of the meat mixture kind of a lot for one meatball?

    There needs to be enough meat to surround the cheese. 4 tablespoons is what I used, feel free to play around with the amount and the size of meatballs but I can’t vouch for anything but what I included in the recipe as that’s what I used. 🙂

can we substitute cubed cheese for string cheese?

    Yep that should work fine!

Hi, I came across this awesome looking recipe and decided to make it for Puppy Bowl XI.
I used two heaping tablespoons of the mixture and ended up with 13 meatballs.
Almost half the cheese is leftover. Did I miss something?

    Hi Allen – I’m completely sure but when you refer to a “heaping tablespoon” that could possibly be the issue. When I use a heaping tablespoon, it simply means that the mixture rises slightly above the top of the tablespoon. The meatballs should have been about the size of a golf ball. Hope that helps!

    Definitely going to try this! However, after reading through the whole recipe, it says it makes about a dozen meatballs. Then why do you need so much cheese??? Would stand to reason that you would then only need 12 pieces of the cubed mozzarella. Rather wasteful………..unless of course you’re snacking on the rest as the meatballs cook!

Is there nutrition info for these?

These were amazing and a hit with the family. Thank you!

Do you put any liquid in the crockpot?

Has anyone tried this with ground turkey? Would the cooking time change in the slow cooker?

I have to tell you… I have tased the magic of the Il Fornaio meatballs….over and over…. thank you for this… now I can be addicted in my own home in Sacramento… It will save a lot of money!!

I doubled this recipe and I am not sure if I did something wrong or what but mine turned out too salty, you could barely taste the cheese and even with two pounds of meat, making them with 4 tablespoon of meat per meatball, it only made 12. I will try it again and hopefully it will turn out better next time.

    Hi Serena – I’m sorry they didn’t turn out how you’d hoped! I am not sure why they tasted so salty, I haven’t had anyone give feedback about that.

This was so freaking good! I doubled the recipe and used the oven baked method and they came out extremely tender. To my own fault, I should have incorporated the bread crumbs better (had a few bites of highly seasoned crust!) but I’ll remember that for next time and there will be a NEXT TIME! My husband and kids loved them over spaghetti and sauce. Big hit and I can see how they will be great for parties. Even with the cheese seeping out, they still held up together.

My cheese did not melt… what so ever. What did I do wrong? Was it possibly because I cooked it for to long?

    Hi Sierra! Wow that’s really strange… so your meatballs were thoroughly cooked through but the cheese stayed in a hard chunk? I’ve never had that issue before when stuffed foods with cheese, it always melts!

      Mine did that too!! I don’t know why!!

        I just finished cooking these in the slow cooker and my cheese didn’t melt either! I’m just bummed I cut in to it and it didn’t run out like in your pictures lol! Weird though, right? Maybe different brands of cheese sticks?

I tripled the recipe (wanted to save some for the freezer for another meal! :)) , and it was absolutely delicious. I did make the balls about 1/2 the size and still had lots of cheese left over. I made it gluten-free by using crushed Rice Chex instead of bread crumbs.

Is there any substitute for the eggs? Thanks!

    You could possibly leave them out, it is just to help hold the meat mixture together. 🙂

    I used to use shredded carrot in meatloaf instead of the eggs. I’m sure it would work with meatballs too.

Made these for dinner tonight with breadcrumbs made from our leftover gluten free bread (hubby is allergic to wheat) and I swear these are the best meatballs I’ve ever had! Thanks for sharing this recipe! Made twelve HUGE meatballs, so with a side of spaghetti, two dinners abd two lunches worth 🙂

These are in the crockpot right now! I did forget the extra egg yolk, but they seemed to hold together pretty well. I got about 20 meatballs out of the recipe, if not more! Excited to try! 😉

Hellooooo Tiffany!! Bon Jour!
Just sayin’ here, that when I make meat-a-balls, I don’t use the salt. Depending on how many I want-a-to-make, I use everything that you do here AND, I get a box of Lipton Beefy-Mushroom soup-a-mix and-a-add that-a-too-a. {Just tryin’ to make-a-that-a- sound-a-like Italiano; LOL-a! 🙂 } And instead of “mushing” it together, I squish it! Again; LOL 🙂 Anyway, always looking for new ideas on what to make for dinner, as my hubby and myself have a somewhat lacking appetite these days.
Have-a-yourself a WONDERFUL time, traveling, cooking, baking and eating! 🙂

4 tablespoons made MASSIVE meatballs. I did 2 tablespoon meatballs and they came out fine. The meatballs also came out a little dry doing the oven metho. Next time I am going to add some ricotta and add less breadcrumbs.

Do you think it’s possible to through some pasta noodles like penne or somethibg in the last 30 minutes or so to go along with this?

    Hi Brianna, I’m not sure how that will work out because noodles need liquid to cook and these meatballs aren’t being cooked in liquid. You could cook them on the stove though and serve them up with the meatballs!

I love this recipe and the whole idea behind it! However, I made it tonight with ground turkey and tried the slow cooker approach for the first time. At one hour on high I checked the meatballs and they were very far from being cooked. Checked them again an hour later and they were just starting to brown on the outside, but raw on the inside. Ended up moving them to the oven to finish them. Still totally delicious, but wondering what might have gone wrong with the slow cooking. Could it have been that it was turkey? Or was my 6 quart crockpot too big? Thoughts?

I love the idea of this but they were in the crock pot on low for 3 hours or so (we have a quick crock pot). The balls were burning and cheese was melting out. When I went to cut them the balls were very firm but they looked pink inside. I then put them in water on the stove and cooked them for at least 10 minutes and they continued to be pink inside. It was really strange. I just don’t see how they still can’t be cooked?

I love using my crockpot when the Texas weather heats up. I never made meatballs from scratch and decided to give this a try. We decided to have meatball hoagies using a marinara sauce and topping with additional cheese. Our son said this was a keeper. Thank you for making the recipes easy to follow!

I did this but instead of bread crumbs i crushed seasoned croutons … i also added Grape jelly to the bottom of the crock pot and “rolled” the meatballs in grape jelly prior to cooking them. soooo good didnt even need sauce!

I can not wait to try everything I have seen & read just now. I habe not at 7:30am seen anything on here that has made me want to try. Everything you have shared Really looks good . Thank you

This looks awesome, I cant wait to try it! Is there a way I could cook it in the crock pot longer than 3-4 hours?

Can you use fresh mozzarella in the middle? JW cuz that’s what I have on hand !

Have you ever tried cooking these in the marinara sauce instead of dipping the meatballs in it after they’ve cooked? I think I might try doing that! This recipe sounds delicious =)

These were a hit at a Traveling Vineyard party I hosted. Only negative comment was tasted like too much italian seasoning. Next time I will lessen the amount. 😊

Nutritional information would be nice.

Would you change the cook time if cooking them in sauce I’m the crockpot?

I swear most of what i look at and save are the 12 tomatoes recipes. Thank you for this. I am just starting use my slow cooker more often. This made me feel more successful as a cook.

I used 2 pounds of ground beef for the original recipe and doubled the remainder of the ingredients. I only managed to get 18 meatballs from the doubled ingredients…is the amount/meatball correct? I had cut enough cheesesticks into pieces and had to discard the remainder because I had touched them with my raw meat contaminated hands.

So I’m not much of a cook and I’m probably about to sound dumb, but just to clarify.. Do I need an egg with the yolk or an egg with the yolk plus another yolk?

I’m obviously just a few years behind this post, but just recently found and saved it (meatballs are in the crockpot right now). Since I am not a “seasoned” cook (see what I did there ;)), are you able to refrigerate leftovers and reheat? Just curious if that had been done or is do-able given the string cheese inside. Thank you in advance!

    Yes, she mention she that you can freeze them (single layer, in a ziplock bag) in one of her responses to the comments.

Hi these look great! Going to try them tonight for my son, so thank you for posting. Do you think I could use quick cooking oats in place of the breadcrumbs as a gluten free alternative? Has anyone tried this yet? Thanks in advance.

I have to say…this recipe did not work for me and did not make sense. The recipe calls for 1 lb of meat and 3 mozz sticks cut into 6 pieces, which is 18 pieces of cheese. But in following the instructions and making each meatball 4 tablespoons, i could only make 10 meatballs! so what were the other 2 mozz sticks for? something is off; maybe it’s my understanding of the recipe, but something is definitely off.

I made this for my chris party on saturday and everyone raved About them and they were gone in a hour! So good im making them for Dinner!!