When I was creating our Dairy-Free Target Guide, I was reminded how certain unsuspecting foods typically contain dairy, like meatballs. Most store-bought brands and recipes contain milk, cheese, and sometimes butter. But dairy isn’t necessary for making this meaty classic. Just whip up this delicious recipe for dairy-free Italian meatballs and you’ll see! They’re even baked in the oven for cleaner, no fuss cooking. And they’re a great budget option that freezes well.
Dairy-Free Italian Meatballs that are Fork Tender and Flavorful
I adapted these dairy-free Italian meatballs from a well-loved recipe by Chef John on Allrecipes.com. Chef John uses milk and parmesan, but I use broth instead, which adds more depth in flavor, while still giving these meatballs great moisture. I’ve made a few other adjustments to his recipe based on our personal tastes and preferred cooking techniques. And, I’ve added more options for the recipe and have some quick ingredient tips.
- Breadcrumbs: I actually use the “butts” of leftover sprouted breakfast bread, and it works out great. Whatever bread you have on hand, simply toast a couple slices, let cool, and grind them in your spice grinder or blender into coarse crumbs.
- Broth: You can use low sodium or regular broth. Obviously, regular adds a bit more flavor, but these are very flavorful meatballs. You can substitute chicken broth, another broth, or even your favorite unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage, if you want to be more traditional.
- Salt: We like this full amount of salt. But if you need lower sodium, you can reduce the added salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons. Just keep in mind that this will affect how flavorful your dairy-free Italian meatballs are. Some people like to substitute sweet Italian sausage for the pork. I haven’t tested this, but if you do, you might want to reduce the added salt. Sausage meat is typically pre-seasoned.
- Crushed Red Pepper: This adds a nice burst of spice, but this amount doesn’t make these dairy-free Italian meatballs spicy overall. That said, if serving to kids or other timid taste buds, feel free to omit the red pepper.
Special Diet Notes: Italian Meatballs
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and soy-free.
For egg-free dairy-free Italian meatballs, see our Egg Substitute Guide. I like aquafaba best for this recipe, and would use about 1/3 cup to substitute both eggs. Or you can make these Instant Pot Meatballs or Meatballs Marinara. Both are made without egg.
- ¾ cup dairy-free breadcrumbs (use gluten-free, if needed)
- ½ cup beef broth
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (1½ to 2 cups)
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten (see post above for egg-free options)
- 1 pound ground beef (I use 85/15)
- 1 pound ground pork
- Place the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl, and stir in the broth to coat. Let sit while you make the onions.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or more. The onion should become quite tender. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed pepper to your soaked bread crumbs, and stir to combine. Add the egg and stir to combine.
- Add the ground beef and ground pork, and stir or work with your hands, until the ingredients are evenly combined. Try not to over work the meat.
- Cover and refrigerate the meatball mix for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
- Preheat your oven to 425 F and line one or two jelly roll pans (or other pans with high sides) with parchment paper.
- Shape the mixture into 1½ inch meatballs (about .9 to .95 ounces each). Place the meatballs on your prepared pans, about 1 to 2 inches apart.
- Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
- You can simmer the meatballs in sauce or serve as is. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for longer storage.
What would you recommend to replace the pound of Beef if you’re allergic?
It’s really up to your preference. You could use all pork, or substitute turkey. If using a white meat, like turkey or chicken, I would look for one that isn’t too lean.