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29 Substitutes for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

Let’s face it: even if you’ve never made meatballs before, you know they’re a delicious staple of the Italian-American diet.

Of course, you also know that meatballs are made with bread crumbs—but maybe you can’t have those anymore due to gluten sensitivity, or simply don’t have any lying around.

Luckily, there are lots of other things you can use to bind your meatballs together, and each one adds its own unique flavor or texture.

Substitute for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

So, what’s the best substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

The best substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs is ground-up crackers. Breadcrumbs are used to give meatballs more texture and bulk, and that’s what crackers do, too. They also absorb moisture so the interior of the meatball is moist but not watery, and they add a bit of flavor.

Still looking for options?

Then keep scrolling!

29 Substitutes for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

So, you’ve decided to make meatballs!

It’s a great time to be you.

Don’t have breadcrumbs?

No problem.

Here are 25 substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs:

1. Ground-up crackers

Ground-up crackers

My personal favorite is ground-up crackers.

They taste great and add just the right amount of crunchy texture to your meatball mixture.

And if you use crackers with some fun flavors, like sea salt, cheddar cheese, or nacho, the flavor of your meatballs will be taken to a whole new level.

Plus, if you use crackers instead of breadcrumbs, you can feel good about what you’re putting in your body—you won’t be eating any mysterious ingredients or food additives.

It’s just simple food with real ingredients (and lots of yummy flavor).

Here’s a simple way to use this alternative:

  1. Open the bag of crackers and pour it out into a bowl
  2. Use a fork to smash the crackers into small pieces
  3. Use the back of a spoon to thoroughly mash them into a powder-like consistency
  4. Add the ground-up crackers to your favorite meatball recipe in place of breadcrumbs

2. Panko


Panko is another great substitute for breadcrumbs because it has a similar texture and can be used to bind ingredients together in recipes like meatballs or fishcakes.

However, it does not contain any gluten so it won’t cause problems with people who have an allergy or intolerance to wheat products.

If you would rather use Panko, here’s how to do it:

  1. First, pull out your recipe to see how much breadcrumbs are called for. Usually, this will be around 1/2 a cup.
  2. Next, open up a container of Panko. You’ll see that it’s mostly uniform—the pieces of bread are all about the same size. Now, take out your measuring cup again and measure out the same amount of Panko that you would’ve used if you were using breadcrumbs. This way, you’ll know you’re keeping your recipe consistent in terms of volume.
  3. Now that you have your Panko measured out, take your hand and crush the pieces in between your fingers until they become a fine powder. If you don’t do this step, the Panko won’t stick to the meatballs as easily as regular breadcrumbs would!
  4. Once your Panko is powdered up, use it just like regular breadcrumbs when making your meatballs!

3. Grated parmesan cheese

Grated parmesan cheese

Grated parmesan cheese has 26% of your daily value of calcium, 14% of your daily value of sodium(source), and it will last in the fridge for up to two months (if you don’t eat it all first).

It’s also really delicious.

Just remember that while parmesan cheese is a great substitute, it’s not exactly the same thing as breadcrumbs.

For example, 100 grams of parmesan cheese contains 431 calories (compared to 372 calories in 100 grams of breadcrumbs).

So if you’re thinking about making a swap, be sure to do some research so you know what to expect!

Want to try this?

Here’s how:

  1. In a food processor, combine 4 cups of grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, and 2 garlic cloves. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to the meatball mixture in place of the breadcrumbs. Increase the amount of liquid called for by up to 1/4 cup if necessary for the mixture to stick together.
  3. Form the meatballs as usual, then roll them in the Parmesan crumbs from step one instead of regular breadcrumbs. Bake or fry them according to your recipe’s directions.

4. Crushed Corn flakes

Corn flakes

Crushed cornflakes are another great choice because they have an almost identical texture to breadcrumbs, and they’re even easier to find than oats!

Just grab a bag of cornflakes from your cupboard, put them in a Ziploc bag, and crush with a rolling pin—then add them to your recipe as if they were breadcrumbs!

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Get your favorite recipe for meatballs and make sure that the ingredients include breadcrumbs.
  2. Combine all of the meatball ingredients except for the breadcrumbs, then set them aside while you crush your corn flakes.
  3. Spread cornflakes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until they turn golden brown. Let them cool before moving on to the next step.
  4. Place crushed cornflakes into a bowl or bag and crush them into crumbs with a rolling pin or by pulsing in a food processor.
  5. Replace breadcrumbs with an equal amount of crushed corn flakes in your meatball mix and combine well with the rest of the ingredients before forming into meatballs and cooking as usual!

5. Crushed tortilla chips

Crushed tortilla chips

If you’re looking for something that will give your meatballs a little kick, corn tortilla chips have you covered.

They’ll add some crunch and spice to your meatballs and make them taste like tacos on taco Tuesday.

  1. Crumble tortilla chips in a small bowl.
  2. Add the meat to the bowl and use your hand to mix and combine.
  3. Form the meatballs.
  4. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.

6. Potato flakes

Potato flakes

If you want to add a little more of a mashed potato vibe, swap the breadcrumbs for potato flakes.

This will give your meatballs a heartier, slightly stickier texture and make them taste like dinner on a cold night in front of the fire.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Step away from the breadcrumbs.
  2. Pick up the potato flakes.
  3. Mix 2 parts potato flakes to 1 part water in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes or until the potatoes have fully absorbed all the water.
  4. Combine your mix, fresh or dried herbs, and seasonings. Add the meat mixture and mix together with your hands until well combined. If the mixture seems too wet, add more potato flakes to absorb excess moisture. If it seems too dry, add more water as needed.

7. Oatmeal


Oatmeal makes a great substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs, and it’s loaded with fiber, which is great for keeping you full and energized.

If you’ve got a gluten sensitivity but aren’t allergic to gluten, oatmeal is an incredible, healthy alternative to regular breadcrumbs.

Just follow these steps:

  1. Throw all the other ingredients into a bowl except for the breadcrumbs.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of oatmeal for every 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs you are trying to replace. If your recipe doesn’t call for breadcrumbs, just add them until it looks right.
  3. Incorporate the oatmeal into the larger mixture with a spoon or spatula until it’s evenly distributed.
  4. Form meatballs as usual and cook them according to the recipe!

8. Cauliflower


Cauliflower that you process into small granules with your food processor, blender, or grater—don’t overdo it, though, or your meatballs will end up mushy and gummy!

You want the cauliflower to be small but still kind of chunky (think: like coarsely ground black pepper).

You can also use fine-diced raw cauliflower florets as an ingredient in your meatballs, but this is more for texture than binding.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cauliflower florets
  • Food processor
  • Meatballs (of course!)

And here’s how to go about it:

  1. Chop the cauliflower florets into smaller pieces, and then add them to your food processor. Process on high until the cauliflower has been reduced to small granules. Depending on your processor and how much cauliflower you use, this could take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
  2. Add the granules to your meatball recipe, and use them in place of breadcrumbs! You can follow the rest of your favorite meatball recipe as normal.

9. Shredded zucchini

Shredded zucchini

If you’re looking for a healthy substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs, shredded zucchini is the perfect alternative.

For one thing, it’s got just 17 calories per 100 grams.

This means that you can add more of it to your meatballs without having to worry about adding extra calories.

It’s also got plenty of Potassium and Vitamin C, so you can be sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs(source).

Zucchini is also super healthy for you—and not just because of its low calorie count and high nutrient content.

Here’s the quickest, easiest way to sub shredded zucchini for breadcrumbs in any recipe:

  1. Wash your zucchini.
  2. Cut the ends off.
  3. Use a box grater or food processor to shred the zucchini.
  4. Place the shredded zucchini on a clean dish towel and wring out as much moisture as you can. You can also place it on paper towels and pat dry with another paper towel, but I like using a dishtowel because it tends to absorb more water.
  5. Substitute an equal amount of shredded zucchini for your breadcrumbs!

10. Wheat germ

Wheat germ

Wheat germ is a good substitute for breadcrumbs because it has a similar consistency when mixed into ground meat.

In addition, it offers many advantages over breadcrumbs, including higher levels of vitamins and minerals.

The following are some of the reasons why:

  • vitamin E
  • folate (folic acid)
  • phosphorus
  • thiamin
  • Vitamin C
  • high in protein

You can read more about the benefits of Wheat germ here.

Here’s how to make the substitution: For every 1 cup of breadcrumbs in your recipe, replace with 1/2 a cup of wheat germ.

Other than that, there’s no need to change anything—just follow the recipe as normal and enjoy!

11. Quinoa

Quinoa flakes

One of the best substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs is quinoa.

Quinoa is rich in protein, dietary fiber, and B vitamins, and only has 222 calories per 1 cup(source).

The glycemic index of quinoa is just 53.

You can also use quinoa as an alternative to rice.

You can find quinoa online or at your local grocery store.

If you are buying it online, be sure that it is packaged securely so that there isn’t moisture loss during shipping.

The moisture loss will cause the grains to become brittle and tasteless. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add quinoa to your recipe.
  2. Once the meatballs have received their first bake, remove them from the oven and then set them aside.
  3. Add ¼ cup of water to a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Once the water has heated up, add in your quinoa and stir it together with a spoon.
  4. Once the quinoa has been incorporated into the water, cover the saucepan with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Let the quinoa simmer for 10 minutes on low heat before removing it from the stove top and fluffing it together with a fork.
  5. Let your cooked quinoa cool for about 10 minutes before adding it to your meatball mixture in place of breadcrumbs or panko crumbs in equal parts (for example, if you need ½ cup of breadcrumbs, you will add ½ cup of cooked quinoa instead).

12. Crushed chips


Using chips as the base for your coating is a genius way to add flavor and texture.

Preferably something salty and crunchy, like potato chips with ridges.

They’re also a great choice because they won’t go soggy when you fry them up in the pan.

Just crush them using the bottom of a mug (or any other flat surface that isn’t sharp) and use it just like breadcrumbs.

Here’s how:

  1. Crush your chips by placing them in a plastic bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin.
  2. Put your ground meat into a mixing bowl and add your egg, salt, pepper, and crushed chips. Mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are well-incorporated.
  3. Roll the meat into balls about an inch in diameter each and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (you can also use aluminum foil). Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until golden brown.

13. Ground flaxseeds

Ground flaxseeds

When it comes to binding ingredients, the best substitute for breadcrumbs is ground flaxseeds.

Flaxseeds make a great alternative for those who are allergic to grains or trying to eat healthier.

They are also very high in fiber, which makes them a good choice if you’re trying to increase your daily intake of fiber.

Here’s how to use this substitute:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the meat and other ingredients.
  2. Add in the ground flaxseed and stir well until it is evenly combined with the meat mixture.
  3. Shape into 1½ inch meatballs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until well browned.

14. Ground nuts

Ground nuts

Nuts like almonds and cashews can be ground into meal and used as breadcrumbs in meatballs.

To make this work, you’ll probably want to grind up some parmesan cheese along with the nuts—the saltiness will give the dish a similar flavor profile to what you’d achieve with breadcrumbs.

If you’re not a vegetarian, try adding in some dried or cured meat like bacon or prosciutto to round out this option even more!

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you substitute breadcrumbs with ground nuts in your meatball recipe:

  1. Identify the type of nut you want to use. Here are a few popular ones: pecans, pistachios, or almonds.
  2. Remove the shells and toast the nuts on medium heat for 30 seconds. Be sure the oil in the pan is hot before you add them.
  3. Grind the nuts into a fine powder using a food processor or mortar and pestle.
  4. Substitute this ground powder for breadcrumbs in your favorite meatball recipe! You’re ready to enjoy your delicious, healthy meal!

15. Almond flour

Almond flour

Almond flour is another great alternative for people who have Celiac disease or are allergic to gluten.

It can be harder to find than some other substitutes, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for something healthy and delicious!

Just make sure that the almond flour you buy is produced in a facility that doesn’t process wheat products.

Want to make your meatballs gluten free?

Here’s how to use almond flour as a substitute for breadcrumbs:

  1. Combine the ingredients. Mix all of the ingredients except the almond flour. For every 1 cup of breadcrumbs, you will need to use 1 ½ cups of almond flour.
  2. Add the almond flour slowly. Add in the almond flour slowly, just one tablespoon at a time, into the mix. It is important to add it slowly so that you can achieve the right consistency that you want for your meatballs.
  3. Roll into balls and bake or fry as usual.

16. Starch

Potato Starch

Another option is to use starch, such as cornstarch or tapioca starch.

These starches act similarly to wheat starch in helping your meatballs hold their shape and retain moisture; they also add a nice texture to the final product.

You’ll want to use about 1/3 cup of starch per 1 pound of ground beef/pork/turkey/etc., plus an additional egg or egg white for binding purposes.

To substitute breadcrumbs for starch, follow these steps:

  1. Mix together the meat and any other ingredients (like herbs or spices) first.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of starch with 1 cup of warm water.
  3. Add the starch mixture to the meat.
  4. Stir until everything is well-combined and the meat has no streaks of white or grey remaining—just brown.
  5. Shape into balls and bake!

17. Crushed pretzels

Crushed pretzels

Crushed pretzels are an excellent substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs because they have a similar texture and flavor, but add a little something extra that you don’t get from breadcrumbs.

See Also: 47 Dips for Pretzels I Can’t Resist

Plus, since they’re already cooked, they don’t need to be roasted before being mixed into the meatball mixture, saving you time and effort!

Here’s how I like to do it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients except for the crushed pretzels in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.
  3. Once mixed, carefully fold in the crushed pretzel pieces.
  4. Gently roll into small balls (approximately 1 inch) and place on a baking sheet.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are fully cooked through.
  6. Pretzel crumbs will add a unique crunchy texture while also adding great flavor that’s slightly sweet with a hint of saltiness.
  7. The pretzel crumbs will soak up all of the flavors from whatever sauce you choose, making this recipe perfect for any meal!

18. Cooked rice

Cooked rice

You can use this to replace the breadcrumbs because it is a chewy and absorbent substance that will still help hold the meatball together.

This is great if you’re gluten-free or if you just happen to be out of breadcrumbs!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Prepare the cooked rice: If you want to use cooked rice as a substitute for breadcrumbs, you must first prepare the cooked rice using your favorite recipe. Cooked rice should be fluffy and tender, but not soggy.
  2. Mix the meatball ingredients and add the cooked rice: Prepare the meatball recipe as directed in the original recipe, but add 1/2 cup of cooked rice to the ground beef or ground turkey before you mix all of the ingredients together.
  3. Cook the meatballs as directed in your recipe: After mixing the ground beef mixture with the rest of your ingredients, cook or bake your meatballs as directed in your original recipe.

19. Crushed saltines or graham crackers

Crushed saltines or graham crackers

These are great substitutes because they are pretty subtle-tasting on their own, so they won’t interfere with the other flavors in your meatballs, and they’ll just do their jobs and act as binders and adders of texture without mucking things up too much!

Here’s how to do it in just six steps:

  1. Crush saltines or graham crackers into crumbs
  2. Combine with other ingredients, such as seasonings and meats
  3. Roll into balls
  4. Bake/fry as needed for your recipe
  5. Serve, enjoy!

20. Crushed cereal

Rice Chex cereal

I know, it sounds strange—but your favorite cereal can add a surprising amount of crunch and flavor to your meatballs.

Just make sure it’s not a sweet cereal!

Here’s how I like to do it:

  1. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the crushed cereal and mix well.
  3. Add the crushed cereal to the bowl and mix it gently with your hands until it is uniform consistency (there should be no dry pockets).
  4. Form meatballs in your hands, making sure that each one is about the same size (for evenly-cooked meatballs).
  5. Place meatballs on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, making sure they’re not touching.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. You can check doneness by slicing one of them in half after about 20 minutes; if there are any pink sections inside, cook them for another five minutes and then check again.

21. Lentils


Lentils have lots of fiber, which can help you feel full longer.

When used as a replacement for breadcrumbs in meatballs, lentils also add extra protein to your diet.

This makes lentils an ideal substitute for anyone trying to cut down on carbs or looking for ways to improve their diet.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils (or one 15-ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. First, combine the cooked lentils with cheese, parsley, basil and salt in a food processor.
  2. Then pulse until the mixture is smooth but still has some texture.
  3. Next, remove the mixture from the processor and place it in a mixing bowl.
  4. Finally, add it to your existing meatball recipe as you would with breadcrumbs.

22. Chia seeds

chia seeds

Chia seeds are a great substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs for three reasons:

  1. They’re gluten-free, which makes them a healthier alternative to breadcrumbs
  2. They have the same neutral flavor as breadcrumbs, so they won’t change the taste of your meatballs
  3. They’re high in fiber, which will keep you full longer than meatballs made with breadcrumbs

Here’s how to use this alternative:

  1. Add Chia seeds to the ground meat when you first start mixing it up.
  2. Mix in all of your seasonings, as well as some eggs.
  3. Form your meatballs.
  4. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350°F (177°C).
  5. Enjoy!

23. Cornmeal


With cornmeal, you get the same grainy feel as breadcrumbs, but with the added bonus of a sweet, subtle corn flavor.

It’s not at all difficult to find in any grocery store, it’s fairly inexpensive, and it’s even more shelf-stable than breadcrumbs.

All in all, cornmeal makes for a pretty easy substitute!

How to substitute:

  1. The first step is to mix your ingredients thoroughly.
  2. This includes the cornmeal, the meat mixture, egg, onion, cheese and spices.
  3. The cornmeal should be added after some of the liquid has been drained from the meat mixture so that it doesn’t stick together.
  4. If you’re making meatballs from scratch then this is when you’ll want to add in any extra ingredients like garlic powder or herbs before combining everything together into one big ball of deliciousness!
  5. After this step it’s time for cooking!
  6. Fry them up until they’re browned on all sides then serve hot with your favorite sauce or dip!

24. Iota seeds

Iota seeds

Iota seeds are a good alternative because they provide a similar texture, are easy to work with, are accessible at many grocery stores, and don’t require any extra time or effort to prepare.

They also add an additional layer of flavor to the dish that is more nuanced than breadcrumbs.

However, the drawbacks are that you have to store them differently and they are a little bit more expensive than standard breadcrumbs.

Here’s how to substitute breadcrumbs with Iota seeds in your meatball recipe:

  1. Place your meatballs in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of Iota seeds into a Ziploc bag.
  3. Seal the bag and crush the seeds until they are about as coarse as breadcrumbs.
  4. Sprinkle the crushed Iota seeds over the meatballs, being sure to coat evenly on all sides.

25. Finely chopped vegetables

Finely chopped vegetables

Finely chopped vegetables like onions and peppers work great as substitutes for breadcrumbs.

They add texture and depth of flavor, which is exactly what you’re looking for from a substitute.

This option is cheap and easy to find, although it can take some time to chop up those veggies.

If you have extra about, though, you can always store the chopped veggies in your freezer for later use.

This is a simple substitution that only requires you to make a couple of changes to your recipe:

  1. Prepare the meatball mixture as usual, but do not add any kind of breadcrumbs or flour-based fillers.
  2. When it’s time to start rolling the meatballs, carefully cut and dice fresh carrots and celery into tiny pieces. If you don’t have fresh veggies on hand, frozen ones are fine too—just be sure to thaw them first!
  3. Mix in the finely chopped carrots and celery with your hands until everything is evenly distributed throughout the meatball mixture, then roll the meatballs as normal!

26. Ground oats


Ground oats are another great substitute if you’re gluten-free, or if you’re just looking for a way to make your meatballs a little bit healthier.

Ground oats work well in this instance because they are a grain, which means they will absorb the moisture from the meat and help keep everything together.

Plus, they offer an added boost of fiber!

You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • food processor or blender

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Measure out 1/2 cup of rolled oats.
  2. Put the rolled oats in a food processor or blender and grind them into a coarse powder. They should look like wet sand when you’re done with this step.
  3. Use the ground oats in place of the breadcrumbs in your favorite meatball recipe!

27. Rice cakes

Rice cakes

Rice cakes are crunchy and subtly sweet, which makes them a natural substitute for breadcrumbs.

They can be ground into a powder for a more traditional breadcrumbs-like experience.

They’re light, packed with carbs, and also gluten-free!

Here’s how to substitute rice cakes for breadcrumbs in your favorite meatball recipe:

  1. First, crush your rice cakes into crumbs by putting them in a plastic bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin. This is the perfect step to get out some of your aggression!
  2. Then, mix your meat and seasonings as usual (but without the breadcrumbs).
  3. Finally, add in half of a cup of crushed rice cake crumbs for every cup of breadcrumbs that the recipe calls for.

28. Flaxseed meal

Flaxseed meal

Bread crumbs are often used to help meatballs form a nice shape.

Flaxseed meal can help with that too, and it also adds some extra fiber and protein to your meatballs.

It’s also very low-carb, which can be a bonus if you’re watching your carb intake.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Mix the ground meat with all the ingredients (except for the flaxseed meal and oil) in a large bowl and set aside for 30 minutes so that the flavors can combine.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the ground Flaxseed meal and olive oil.
  3. Roll the meat mixture into balls and coat each ball in the flaxseed mixture.

29. Pecans


Pecans might be slightly harder to find than breadcrumbs or cornmeal—which are usually found in aisles—but they’re easy enough to find if you know where to look.

They’re also very easy to grind up into a powder-like consistency for your meatball mix (all you need is a food processor!) and won’t affect the overall flavor of your dish too much.

However, pecans tend to be expensive, so if that’s an issue for you, you’ll want to consider another option.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup of pecans

Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Toast the pecans in a skillet over medium heat until they’re fragrant and browned, then let them cool completely.
  2. Place the pecans in a food processor and pulse until they turn into a coarse meal. If you don’t have a food processor, use an electric mixer or mortar and pestle to grind the nuts by hand.
  3. When your recipe calls for breadcrumbs, measure out one cup of ground pecans instead.

7 Benefits of Substituting for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs


Many meatball recipes call for breadcrumbs, which are basically just dried-up bread.

But you can substitute for that with other ingredients for a variety of benefits.

Here are they:


One benefit is to make your meatballs healthier.

For example, if you have a gluten allergy, breadcrumbs won’t work for you at all, so you’ll need to find another way to keep your meatballs together.

In this case, you can substitute with something like almond flour (just grind up some almonds in a food processor or blender).


Another benefit is to make your meatballs lower in carbs.

For example, maybe you’re trying to follow the keto diet and breadcrumbs aren’t allowed.

In this case, you could try using ground-up pork rinds instead—pork rinds are zero carbs! (And they add a great flavor to the meatballs.)

You’ll save money

Breadcrumbs are a great way to add texture and flavor to meatballs, but they’re not exactly cheap—especially if you’re making meatballs in bulk!

If you’re on a budget but still want your meatballs to be just as juicy and delicious as ever, try using potato chips instead of breadcrumbs.

The saltiness will still give you the same taste, and the crunchy texture will add that satisfying mouthfeel.

They make your meatballs less soggy

Breadcrumbs absorb moisture from the ground beef so well that sometimes it can make them damp and even mushy.

When you use another ingredient, your meatballs will retain their shape better and taste juicier instead of soggy.

They’re easier to find

Let’s face it—breadcrumbs are kind of hard to come by sometimes, especially if you need gluten-free or whole grain varieties.

Many people keep oats and nuts in their pantry at all times, though, which can really be a lifesaver when you’re craving a juicy meatball!

You’ll get more protein

Protein is an important part of any diet, and if you’re trying to make a healthy meatball recipe, you might find yourself in need of more.

Look no further than crushed-up nuts or seeds for your main ingredient!

Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds… all of these pack some serious protein punch, and they’ll add just the right amount of heartiness to your finished product.

You’ll avoid potential gluten allergies

It’s not just in wheat-based products like bread where gluten hides—it can be lurking in your spices, your sauces, and even your meatballs!

By swapping out breadcrumbs for this easy substitute, you won’t have to worry about gluten at all while still getting a mouth-watering result.

3 Tips for Substituting Breadcrumbs in A Meatball Recipe


Maybe you’ve got some gluten issues.

Maybe you’re trying to eat a little cleaner. Or maybe it’s just not your grocery day, and you’re looking at an empty bread box and trying not to panic.

Whatever the reason for running out of breadcrumbs, don’t worry!

There are plenty of other things you can use instead—and here are the three things you should consider when picking a substitute:

Change in flavor

When you’re substituting something for breadcrumbs, one thing you’ll want to consider is how much it’s going to change the flavor of your meatballs.

If you use nuts or coconut flakes, you’ll be adding a lot more flavor than you would with breadcrumbs, so make sure that’s something that works for your recipe.

If you’re making a classic Italian meatball recipe and don’t think nuts will pair well with the spices, using pork rinds instead might be a better option.

The consistency of the meatballs

If you’re making a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs and you want to substitute cracker crumbs or something else instead, remember that these substitutes might not hold up quite as well as the original ingredient would.

Breadcrumbs will tend to make the final product firmer, while crackers will soften it up a bit.


Meatballs are meant to be tender, yet still hold their shape during cooking.

Breadcrumbs soaked in milk or broth do a great job of holding the meatballs together while imparting moisture and richness.

If you choose to substitute breadcrumbs with another type of starch, like oatmeal or rice, make sure that you add a liquid and let them soak until they are fully hydrated.


Can you substitute oatmeal for breadcrumbs in meatballs?


Oatmeal is an extremely versatile ingredient, and it makes a great substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs.

I use it all the time—I don’t keep breadcrumbs in my cupboard because they’re not healthy.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re using oatmeal as a substitute:

  1. Oatmeal is slightly less absorbent than breadcrumbs, so be careful not to add too much liquid, or you’ll end up with mushy meatballs. I like to add a little extra oatmeal to make up for the difference.
  2. Oats are a great source of fiber, but they can also be pretty heavy if you do it wrong. Try using steel cut oats so they give your meatballs some crunch!
  3. If you’re using quick oats or rolled oats, make sure you grind them up first with a food processor before adding them to your mixture. This will help the oats bond with the other ingredients better.

What’s the best paleo substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

One of the best paleo substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs is almond flour.

It tastes great, and it’s easy to find in your local grocery store.

Make sure to get finely-ground almond flour, as the texture will be more like breadcrumbs.

If you’re using a coarser-ground product, it might make your meatballs a bit grainy, but it’ll still work.

A word of warning: if you’re allergic to almonds or sensitive to almond products, this is not going to be a good solution for you.

Something like flaxseed meal might be a better option.

You could also use coconut flakes ground up into a powder; however, remember that coconut flakes are incredibly sweet, so you’ll have to make some adjustments elsewhere in the recipe if you decide to go this route.

I’d recommend reducing or cutting out any sugar or honey that’s called for and perhaps replacing it with something savory like crushed garlic cloves or chopped fresh basil leaves.

What’s the best low-carb substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

If you’re looking for a low-carb substitute, your best bet is almond flour.

It has the right texture and it won’t add too many carbs to your meatball recipe.

Almond flour also adds a nutty flavor to your meatballs that complements the beefy flavor well.

I’ve used almond flour in place of breadcrumbs plenty of times in my meatball recipes and I’ve never had any complaints about how it turned out.

If you want to get really creative, I would recommend using ground chicken instead of ground beef—the chicken will soak up the flavors from the almond flour better than the beef will.

But if you’re more into traditional flavors and textures, stick with ground beef and add some parmesan cheese to give it that extra-meaty taste.

What are some healthy substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Whether or not you have a food allergy, breadcrumbs can be full of unhealthy, processed ingredients.

Luckily there are plenty of great substitutes that will satisfy your taste buds and keep you healthy too.

So, what are some healthy substitutes for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Here are some healthy suggestions:

  1. Groundnuts: The flavor and texture of groundnuts can make an excellent substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs. They are also high in healthy fats, which help the balls hold together without bread. Just be sure to grind them fine before using them as replacements.
  2. Oats: Oats absorb moisture really well and have a light, almost nutty flavor and chewy texture when used in meatballs–similar to breadcrumbs! You can use whole oats or run them through the food processor for finer pieces.
  3. Almond meal: This is another great option for those avoiding gluten, because it’s already made from ground almonds (no food processor required). It’s also a good source of protein and fiber, making it healthier than breadcrumbs too!
  4. Seeds: Chia seeds and flax seeds work well when ground up or soaked overnight with water until they become gelatinous and sticky, like glue. This is great for holding meatballs together without breadcrumbs!

Can you substitute panko for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Panko will definitely work as a substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs! I’ve done it myself, and it made for a wonderful meatball.

The taste was great, and the crispiness helped to keep the outside from getting too soggy.

Here are some things you’ll want to consider:

  • If you’re trying to make your meatballs gluten-free, be sure that you don’t use regular panko, but rather gluten-free panko.
  • Also, try not to use too much of the stuff—it’s a lot denser than breadcrumbs, so you’ll want to use less than you would of breadcrumbs. If you’re using a recipe that calls for one cup of breadcrumbs, use about half a cup of panko instead.

Can you substitute rice for breadcrumbs in meatballs?

Absolutely! You can totally use rice to substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs, as long as the rice is cooked and it has the right texture.

For example, you could cook your rice with a bit of olive oil, add some spices like garlic powder and onion powder, and then let it cool down before using it in your meatballs.

This will help make sure that the rice has a slightly denser texture that will hold together better than if you used uncooked rice.

You can also try using other cooked grains like quinoa or barley instead of rice.

I’ve even heard that some people have had good results using crumbled crackers instead of breadcrumbs!


29 Substitutes for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs

It's a great idea to substitute breadcrumbs for something else in meatballs because it adds texture, benefits your health, and offers a unique taste experience.
Breadcrumbs are traditionally used in meatballs to add texture and help bind the ingredients together. But if you're looking to make the recipe a little healthier, you can swap the breadcrumbs out for oats or flaxseed meal.
Both of these substitutes will add texture without all the carbs (and they'll also give you some extra fiber).
If you're looking to make your meatballs as healthy as possible, using oat flour instead of breadcrumbs is another great option.
Oat flour is gluten-free, meaning that it won't negatively affect your digestion (or those with gluten sensitivities). It will still add that slightly chewy texture that breadcrumbs provide, but without the carbs or gluten!
Flaxseed meal is another excellent option for adding texture to meatballs without all the carbs—and it also offers some additional health benefits, including omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that are essential for good heart health.
Flaxseed meal also contains fiber which helps with digestion and weight control.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 215 kcal


  • Ground-up crackers
  • Panko
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Crushed Corn flakes
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Potato flakes
  • Oatmeal
  • Cauliflower
  • Shredded zucchini
  • Wheat germ
  • Quinoa
  • Crushed chips
  • Ground flaxseeds
  • Ground nuts
  • Almond flour
  • Starch
  • Crushed pretzels
  • Cooked rice
  • Crushed saltines or graham crackers
  • Crushed cereal
  • Lentils
  • Chia seeds
  • Cornmeal
  • Iota seeds
  • Finely chopped vegetables
  • Ground oats
  • Rice cakes
  • Flaxseed meal
  • Pecans


  • Pick one of the substitutes from this list to use instead of breadcrumbs.
  • Prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  • Be ready to munch in no time!
Keyword Substitute for Breadcrumbs in Meatballs
CEO at Happy Muncher | | Website | + posts

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.