How many meatballs do I need for 12 people?

Planning to host a dinner party or large gathering and wondering how many meatballs you’ll need to make? When cooking for a crowd, it can be tricky to figure out the right quantities. The number of meatballs needed depends on several factors, including how many guests you’re serving, how big you make the meatballs, and how many you expect each person to eat.

Quick Answer

For 12 people, you’ll need around 120-180 meatballs, assuming standard 2-3 inch sized meatballs and 4-6 per person. To be safe, make at least 150 meatballs.

How Many Meatballs Per Person?

A general guideline is to plan for 4-6 meatballs per person if the meatballs are an appetizer or part of a larger meal. Here are some typical meatball serving sizes:

  • Appetizer Course: 3-4 meatballs
  • Main Course: 4-6 meatballs
  • For Big Eaters: 6-8 meatballs

If you’re only serving meatballs without much else, you may want to go larger, around 8-10 meatballs per person. The number will also depend on the size of your meatballs. If you make them on the smaller side, you’ll need more per serving than if they’re extra large.

Standard Meatball Size

The typical meatball size is around 1-3 inches in diameter. Here are some common meatball sizes:

  • Bite-sized: 1 inch
  • Small: 1.5 inches
  • Standard: 2 inches
  • Large: 2.5-3 inches
  • Extra Large: 3-4 inches

A 2-3 inch meatball is considered standard and will give you around 1-2 ounces of meat per meatball. When calculating how many to make, plan for around 2 inch meatballs unless you intend to make them larger or smaller.

How Many Meatballs for 12 People?

If you’re serving 12 people, plan for the following number of standard sized meatballs:

  • 4 meatballs per person = 48 meatballs
  • 5 meatballs per person = 60 meatballs
  • 6 meatballs per person = 72 meatballs

To have plenty, make at least 6 meatballs per person, or 72 total. Making extra is usually better than not having enough. For a crowd of 12, consider making between 120-180 meatballs to ensure there are leftovers.

Meatball Calculator

Use this simple calculator to determine how many meatballs you need:

  • Number of people: 12
  • Meatballs per person: 6
  • Total meatballs needed: 72

Try changing the guest count and servings per person to fit your specific needs.

How Much Meat Do You Need?

Once you’ve decided on the number of meatballs, it’s time to calculate how much raw meat you’ll require. Here are some estimates based on 2-inch meatballs:

  • Beef: Around 2 ounces raw meat per meatball
  • Pork: Around 1.5 ounces raw meat per meatball
  • Turkey: Around 1 ounce raw meat per meatball
  • Lamb: Around 1.5 ounces raw meat per meatball
  • Veal: Around 1.5 ounces raw meat per meatball

For a crowd of 12 and 72 2-inch beef meatballs, you will need approximately 144 ounces of raw ground beef, which equals 9 pounds.

Meatball Cooking Times

Meatballs can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Here are estimated cooking times for various methods:

Cooking Method Cooking Time
Baked (350°F oven) 20-25 minutes
Fried or pan-seared 8-12 minutes
Broiled 10-15 minutes
Slow cooker 3-4 hours (low) or 1-2 hours (high)
Grilled 8-12 minutes, flipping once
Air fryer (370°F) 10-15 minutes, tossing halfway

Always cook meatballs to an internal temperature of 160°F for food safety. The cooking time will depend on the size of your meatballs and your preferred doneness.

Meatball Serving Ideas

Once cooked, there are endless possibilities for how to serve meatballs to your 12 guests. Here are some popular ideas:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Meatball subs
  • Meatball skewers
  • Swedish meatballs with egg noodles or mashed potatoes
  • Meatballs in tomato or gravy sauce
  • Meatball appetizers with dipping sauces
  • Meatball sliders

Get creative with unique meatball recipes and sauces to give your guests something they’ll remember!

Meatball Tips

Follow these tips for tender, juicy meatballs:

  • Don’t overmix the meat when forming meatballs. This can make them dense and tough.
  • Chill the meat mixture before rolling into balls for easier shaping.
  • Use a light touch when rolling. Overhandling can toughen meat.
  • Brown meatballs first for better texture.
  • Use a combination of meats like beef, pork, and veal for more flavor.
  • Add breadcrumbs or milk to help keep meatballs moist.
  • Season well with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices.

Meatball Recipes

Try out these delicious and highly rated meatball recipes for your next gathering:

Classic Italian Meatballs


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix until just combined then fold in Parmesan.
  2. Form mixture into 2-inch balls and arrange on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes until browned and cooked through.
  4. Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


  1. In a large bowl, mix together beef, pork, breadcrumbs, cream, egg, salt, allspice, pepper and nutmeg until just combined.
  2. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender.
  4. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in broth and simmer until thickened to make the sauce.
  6. Add meatballs to skillet and simmer for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.
  8. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Baked BBQ Meatballs


  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, milk, eggs, garlic, Worcestershire, salt, paprika and pepper.
  3. Mix gently and form into 1 1/2 inch balls.
  4. Arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, then drain fat from pan.
  6. Brush meatballs liberally with barbecue sauce.
  7. Bake for 10 more minutes until cooked through.
  8. Serve warm with extra barbecue sauce for dipping if desired.

Meatball Storage

To store leftover meatballs:

  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze cooked meatballs in freezer bags or airtight containers for 2-3 months.
  • Freeze raw meatballs in a single layer on a sheet tray then transfer to bags once frozen.
  • Reheat meatballs in the oven or microwave until heated through.


Planning meatballs for a party is easy with these guidelines! For a group of 12 people, make 120-180 2-inch meatballs. Bake, fry, or simmer the meatballs using your favorite recipes. Serve the meatballs over pasta, on buns, or with dipping sauces. Now you have all the information you need to make the perfect party meatballs.

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