How many calories are in an average sized meatball?

The number of calories in an average sized meatball depends on several factors, including the size of the meatball, ingredients used, cooking method, and any sauces or sides eaten with it. In general, a medium sized meatball of around 1.5-2 ounces contains 100-150 calories.

Meatball Sizes

Meatballs come in a range of sizes, from small 1 ounce meatballs to jumbo 4 ounce meatballs. The smaller the meatball, the fewer calories it will contain. Here are some typical meatball sizes and their calorie counts:

Meatball Size Calories (per meatball)
Small (1 ounce) 50-70
Medium (1.5-2 ounces) 100-150
Large (3 ounces) 150-200
Jumbo (4 ounces) 200-250

As you can see, the calorie count scales up significantly as the size of the meatball increases. Most meatball recipes call for meatballs to be around 1.5-2 ounces each, which nets out to 100-150 calories per average sized meatball.

Meatball Ingredients

The ingredients used to make a meatball also affect its calorie content. Meatballs are typically made from a combination of ground meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, and seasonings. Here is the calorie count for common meatball ingredients:

Ingredient Calories (per ounce)
Ground beef 100
Ground pork 115
Ground turkey 110
Breadcrumbs 55
Egg 15
Onion, chopped 15
Garlic, minced 5
Parmesan cheese 85
Italian seasoning 5

Meatballs made mostly with lean ground turkey or chicken tend to be lower in calories than meatballs made with higher fat meats like ground beef or pork. Adding breadcrumbs, eggs, vegetables, and seasonings also slightly increases the calorie count compared to meat alone.

Cooking Method

How meatballs are cooked also affects their final calorie content. Meatballs are cooked using methods like pan-frying, baking, or simmering in sauce. Here is a comparison of calorie content based on cooking method:

Cooking Method Calories
Pan-fried Highest
Baked Medium
Simmered or boiled Lowest

Pan-frying adds extra calories because the meatballs are cooking in oil. Baked meatballs are cooked without additional fat, but still retain their full fat content from the meat. Simmering or boiling in sauce allows some of the fat to cook off, resulting in a lower calorie count.

Sauces and Sides

While the meatball itself may contain 100-200 calories, the sauces, dips, and sides served with meatballs can significantly increase the total calorie count of the dish. Here are some common ways meatballs are served and the additional calories:

Serving Style Additional Calories
With marinara sauce 50-100 per 1/2 cup
With brown gravy 60-75 per 1/4 cup
On a sub roll 200 per 6″ roll
With spaghetti 200 per cup
With mashed potatoes 150 per cup

Dipping meatballs in a sauce or pairing them with pasta, bread, rice or potatoes significantly increases the total calorie count of the meal. Be mindful of portion sizes of accompaniments to keep calories in check.

Typical Meatball Meals and Calories

Now that we’ve looked at all the factors that affect meatball calories, here is a summary of some typical meatball dishes and their total estimated calorie counts:

Meal Total Calories
4 oz grilled meatball 200
Meatball sub sandwich (6″ roll with 2 meatballs and marinara) 500-600
Spaghetti and meatballs (1 cup spaghetti, 2 meatballs, 1/2 cup sauce) 600-700
Meatballs with brown gravy (4 meatballs, 1/4 cup gravy) 400-500
Swedish meatballs (6 meatballs, 1/2 cup cream sauce) 500-600

As you can see, meatball dishes commonly range from 400-700 calories depending on serving sizes and accompaniments. Pay attention to portion control for best results when monitoring your calorie intake.

How to Lower Calories in Meatballs

If you’re looking to lighten up your meatballs, here are some tips for reducing calories:

  • Use lean ground turkey or chicken instead of higher fat beef or pork
  • Skip the breadcrumbs to eliminate those extra carbs
  • Cook meatballs by simmering or baking instead of pan frying
  • Portion meatballs into 1-2 ounce sizes instead of larger 3-4 ounce
  • Choose tomato-based sauces instead of cream-based
  • Eat meatballs plain or with a vegetable side instead of on a roll or with pasta
  • Blot grease from cooked meatballs before serving

With some simple substitutions and cooking adjustments, you can shave off calories from meatballs and other meat dishes. Keep portions reasonable, and balance them with plenty of low calorie vegetables and plant foods.

Typical Meatball Nutrition Facts

Now let’s take a look at the full nutrient profile of an average meatball. Here are the nutrition facts for a 2 ounce pan-fried ground beef meatball (about the size of a golf ball):

Nutrition Facts 2 oz meatball % Daily Value*
Calories 140 7%
Total Fat 9 g 14%
Saturated Fat 3.5 g 18%
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 55 mg 18%
Sodium 100 mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 2 g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 13 g

*Based on a 2000 calorie diet

As you can see, a typical meatball is high in protein and also contains a significant amount of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Pay attention to recommended portion sizes to keep the fat and calorie counts under control.

Healthier Meatball Alternatives

In addition to traditional beef and pork meatballs, there are many healthier meatball options you can enjoy while still getting great flavor. Here are some ideas for lighter meatballs:

  • Turkey or chicken meatballs – Use lean ground turkey or chicken for lower fat options
  • Veggie balls – Make meatless balls from legumes, veggies, grains, cheese, and eggs
  • Salmon or fish balls – Use canned salmon or other fish instead of meat
  • Portobello mushrooms – Stuff portobellos with veggie fillings for a meaty texture
  • Quinoa or bean balls – Make totally plant-based balls from quinoa, beans, oats, etc
  • Bison or venison meatballs – Choose lean grass-fed bison or venison

With some creativity, you can give traditional meatballs a healthier makeover without sacrificing taste or texture.

Meatball Recipe Ideas

Here are a few juicy meatball recipe ideas so you can start cooking up some mouthwatering, flavor-packed meatballs at home:

Classic Beef Meatballs

Ingredients: Ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, garlic, parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper

Italian-Style Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients: Ground turkey, panko breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, Italian seasoning

Swedish Meatballs

Ingredients: Beef and pork mix, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, allspice, cream sauce

Asian Pork Meatballs

Ingredients: Ground pork, panko, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, hoisin glaze

Vegetarian Quinoa Balls

Ingredients: Quinoa, chickpeas, onion, egg, cheese, cumin, cilantro

Greek Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients: Ground lamb, feta, mint, oregano, cucumber yogurt sauce

Get creative with different herbs, spices, sauces, and global flavors to give your meatballs an exciting twist. Homemade meatballs are easy to make and fun to customize to your tastes.

Tips for Cooking Meatballs

Follow these tips for making tender, juicy meatballs at home:

  • Use a light touch – Overmixing can make meatballs dense and tough
  • Chill the mix – Let meatball mix chill for at least 30 minutes before shaping
  • Shape gently – Roll mix gently into balls between your palms
  • Brown properly – Pan fry until nicely browned all over
  • Cook through – Finish cooking in oven or sauce until cooked through
  • Check for doneness – Meatballs should reach 160°F internal temperature
  • Let rest – Allow meatballs to rest 5 minutes before serving
  • Store properly – Refrigerate leftover meatballs within 2 hours

With a bit of technique and the right ingredients, you can make restaurant-quality meatballs in your own kitchen.

Meatball History and Culture

Meatballs are an integral part of many global food cultures. Here is some background on their history and cultural traditions:

  • One of the earliest known meatball recipes appears in a Roman cookbook from around 500 AD.
  • In the Middle East, kofta and keftedes have been popular for centuries.
  • Italian meatballs likely originated from Sicily and Southern Italy.
  • Swedish meatballs marry the cuisine with Turkish kebab influence.
  • Meatballs traveled to America with European immigrants in the 1800s.
  • In Asia, Chinese rou wan and Japanese tsukune are common varieties.
  • Kofta in India can be made from lamb, chicken or fish.
  • The meatball sub sandwich became popular in the U.S. after WWII.

However you call them – albondigas, bitok, kofta, or polpettine – meatballs are beloved worldwide! Their versatility makes them a staple in many cultures.

Health Benefits of Meatballs

In moderation, meatballs can have a place in a healthy diet. Here are some of their benefits:

  • High-quality protein – Meatballs provide protein needed for muscle growth and repair.
  • Important nutrients – Meat contains iron, zinc, B vitamins and other nutrients.
  • Versatile ingredient – Meatballs can be adapted to many diets and cuisine styles.
  • Satisfying – The texture and savoriness satisfy comfort food cravings.
  • Convenient – They can be made ahead and reheated for quick meals.

While excessive red meat intake has health risks, reasonable portions of meatballs provide valuable nutrition for many people.

Potential Health Risks of Meatballs

While meatballs can be part of a healthy diet, it’s also important to be mindful of potential health risks:

  • High in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
  • Higher calorie and fat intake can lead to obesity
  • Cancer risks from processed meats
  • Higher environmental impact than plant-based foods

Moderating portion sizes, choosing lean meats, and balancing meat with plant foods can help minimize these risks.


An average sized 2 ounce meatball contains around 140 calories, with 7% of calories from fat. Variables like meat type, cooking method, and portion size all impact the calories and nutrition in meatballs. While meatballs can be part of a healthy diet, be mindful of portion control and balance them with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and plant proteins. Make homemade meatballs a tasty occasional treat, and modify recipes to lighten them up when you can. With some care when preparing and serving meatballs, you can enjoy their delicious flavors and textures while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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