Complete Guide to Pressure Canning Meatballs

meatballs with fresh herbs in a white bowl
Canning meatballs begins by forming the meatballs. Mix ground beef with spices, shape them into 3-inch balls, and cook in a skillet until browned. Ladle meatballs into hot quart or pint jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Process for 75-90 minutes in a pressure canner.

Canning Meatballs in a Pressure Canner

Meatballs are a low-acid food that must be canned in a pressure canner. Follow these steps to safely pressure can meatballs:

  1. Wash your pint or quart jars, lids, and screw bands in hot, soapy water and rinse.
  2. Place clean canning jars in boiling water to keep them hot until ready to fill.
  3. Mix the dried spices for the meatballs together. Use your favorite seasonings or a traditional mix of oregano, black pepper, powdered onions, garlic powder, marjoram, rosemary, and basil.
  4. Add ground beef and mix thoroughly with the spices until well-blended.
  5. Shape the spiced, ground meat into 3-4 inch balls.
  6. In a skillet, add a few teaspoons of cooking oil (adjust the amount depending on the number of meatballs). Brown the balls while turning to ensure even cooking.
  7. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a pot and cover them with a lid to keep them hot.
  8. Fill sterilized pints or quarts loosely with meatballs (3-6 pieces per jar). Add 1 teaspoon of canning salt per pint jar or 2 tablespoons per quart.
  9. Add hot beef broth, tomato juice, beef stock, or boiling water into the jars, leaving 1-inch headspace.
  10. Run a non-metallic utensil or bubble popper inside your jars to release air bubbles.
  11. Wipe the jar rims with a damp paper towel. Place clean lids on the jars. Add the screw bands and tighten until fingertip tight.
  12. Prepare the pressure canner per the manufacturer’s instructions and add 2-3 inches of water. Place the canner on the stove and turn the heat on.
  13. Load the filled jars carefully onto the jar rack inside the pressure canner.
  14. Secure the pressure canner’s lid and let the canner vent steam for 10 minutes.
  15. Adjust the heat under the pressure canner and let the pressure build to the appropriate level based on canner type and elevation:

Pressure and processing time for hot pack beef meatballs in dial-gauge pressure canners:

Altitude (ft)0 – 2,0002,001 – 4,0004,001 – 6,0006,001 – 8,000
Pints (75 mins)11 lbs12 lbs13 lbs14 lbs
Quarts (90 mins)11 lbs12 lbs13 lbs14 lbs

Pressure and processing time for hot pack beef meatballs in weighted-gauge pressure canners:

Altitude (ft)0 – 1,0001,001 +
Pints (75 mins)10 lbs15 lbs
Quarts (90 mins)10 lbs15 lbs
  1. Set a processing time of 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts. Begin timing only when the pressure canner has reached the right pressure.
  2. Once the processing time is over, turn the stove off and let the canner cool down. Do not open the lid until the pressure reaches zero.
  3. Remove the jars from the hot water and place them on a cushioned surface to cool for 12-24 hours.
  4. Remove the screw bands from the jars. Check the seals by pressing the center of each lid with a finger. The lids of vacuum-sealed jars shouldn’t move up or down.
  5. Refrigerate and use the contents of any unsealed jars immediately. Store properly sealed canned food jars at room temperature in a cool, dry place.
Cutting board with several rows of raw meatballs that are between 3 and 4 inches wide
Raw meatballs for canning

Why is Pressure Canning the Best Way to Can Meatballs?

Pressure canning is the best method to process beef meatballs because it provides enough heat to sterilize the food. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, low-acid foods like beef meatballs can only be safely processed within a temperature range of 240-250 degrees Fahrenheit in a pressure canner.

Harmful bacteria, including botulism spores, germinate rapidly in foods with low acidity. Water bath canning only reaches a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit which isn’t high enough to eliminate them.

How Long Do You Cook Meatballs Before Canning Them?

Browning meatballs in a skillet takes 5-10 minutes. Cooking them in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker takes approximately 6 minutes.

Can You Pressure Can Swedish Meatballs?

Yes. It’s safe to pressure can Swedish meatballs using the same processing time of 75-90 minutes. Use boiling water for the canning liquid. The creamy sauce that typically coats Swedish meatballs should be made fresh and not canned with the meat.

Swedish meatballs with brown gravy on a plate
Swedish meatballs

Can You Pressure Can Store Bought Frozen Meatballs?

Yes. It’s possible to process store-bought frozen meatballs in a pressure canner. Avoid buying packages that contain bread crumbs, eggs, or other thickeners, and ensure the meatballs are thawed in the refrigerator before canning. Use the same steps, pressure, and processing time for store-bought meatballs.

How Long Do You Pressure Can Meatballs?

Pressure canning meatballs in pint jars takes 75 minutes, while pressure canning in quart jars takes 90 minutes. If the pressure drops below the recommended pressure at any time during processing, you must start the processing time from the beginning.

What are the Benefits of Canning Meatballs?

  • Convenience: Canned meatballs are great for quick dinners or surprise guests.
  • Flavor: Meatballs retain the flavor of the spices while the canning liquid keeps them moist.
  • Longer shelf life: A jar of canned meatballs lasts over three years on your pantry shelf.
  • Nutrition: Meatballs contain essential nutrients such as zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamins, and amino acids.
  • Saves money: Home-canning meatballs is cheaper than regularly purchasing them at the store.
  • Versatility: Meatballs are used in many types of cuisines worldwide and can be used in many recipes.
Bowl of spaghetti topped with meatballs and marinara sauce surrounded by tomatoes and herbs
Canned meatball spaghetti

Storage and Shelf Life of Canned Meatballs

While canned meatballs can last up to 5 years, the USDA recommends using them within 1-2 years. Store sealed canned meatballs away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. Once opened, refrigerate and use canned meatballs within 3 days.


Growing up as a farm girl, Regie assisted her grandparents in canning sheep meat and helped her mother sell canned carrots. This grew her passion for canning from a young age. As a writer, she uses her canning experience to give creative, practical ideas for preserving different foods to canning enthusiasts.

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