Homemade meatballs show up at our house several times a week. This versatile dish can be used in soups, sauces, and as a stand alone dish such a Swedish Meatballs. What I especially like about making meatballs for dinner is that it is so easy to modify by changing spices or even the type of ground meat being used.
One ingredient that all meatballs require is some kind of grain product such as bread crumbs to keep the meatball moist. Breadcrumbs absorb the meat fat which prevents the meatballs from drying out and taking on a spongy texture. So what happens if you don’t have a container of bread crumbs on hand? You can make your own by tearing a fresh piece of bread into several pieces and then chopping it in your blender (1 slice fresh bread = 1/3 cup crumbs). Panko crumbs can be made by simply removing the breadcrust before tossing the bread in the blender.
While bread crumbs are the most common bread product to add to a meatball recipe it’s not the only one. If you are out of bread and need a quick substitute, here are a few bread crumb substitutes that I’ve used successfully in the past.
Saltine, rye or Ritz crackers
To make cracker crumbs, toss some crackers in a bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Because of the added salt found in these type of crackers, I make sure not to add any salt to my meatball recipes.
Unsweetened cereals such as cornflakes, cheerios, shredded wheat, bran flakes and grape nuts will also work as a bread crumb substitute. I prepare these cereals the same way as I do cracker crumbs by tossing them in a bag before crushing them.
Rolled or quick oats (not instant!) will also work as a nice substitute for bread crumbs. These do not have to be crushed nor cooked before using.
If you have seasoned croutons on hand, a box of StoveTop stuffing mix, or even dried artisan bread, these too can be crushed for a bread crumb substitute. These flavorful bread products will add a nice, rich flavor to meatballs.
For people with a gluten intolerance, rice is a fantastic substitute for meatballs that are served as a stand alone dish. I use cooked, cooled rice though if you prefer Minute Rice, you can add the dried product directly to the meat mixture. Rice is the grain used in making “porcupine meatballs” which is often served with a tomato based sauce.
More by this contributor:
Cheap Pork dinners to make in the Crock Pot
How to make Boston Brown Bread in a Crock Pot
Finding free wild foods