7 Highest Quality And 5 Lowest Quality Frozen Meatballs

cast iron skillet filled with meatballs
cast iron skillet filled with meatballs - 4kodiak/Getty Images

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Homemade meatballs may be delicious, but they can be time-intensive. Consequently, a bag of frozen meatballs provides an easy alternative on those busy weekday nights -- if it's a quality product. A bad batch or brand of frozen meatballs can ruin your entire meal, after all, and the last thing you want is a bland or dry meatball when making spaghetti and marinara (or any other recipe). Since you shouldn't have to sacrifice quality and nutrition for convenience on those nights when you need a quick dinner, we scanned the freezer aisle to determine which frozen meatballs are worth purchasing and which brands you should avoid.

We took several factors into account when determining whether a frozen meatball was among the highest or lowest quality brands, including the ingredients used, taste, and online consumer reviews. We weren't just interested in delicious-tasting frozen meatballs, but those made with simple ingredients, too, and prioritized less-processed frozen meatballs that are low on fillers and high on meat. Read on to see which frozen meatballs are the highest quality and which are the lowest quality.

Read more: The Best And Worst Grocery Store Fried Chicken

High Quality: Rao's Frozen Meatballs And Sauce

close up of Rao's Meatballs and Sauce
close up of Rao's Meatballs and Sauce - raoshomemade/Instagram

Rao's may be best known for its jarred marinara sauce, which is pricier than other sauces on the market. But that premium price appears to translate to quality, as the brand's sauce is consistently lauded for its taste (even celebrity chef Ina Garten is a fan). Of course, we're more interested in a different question: do Rao's frozen meatballs measure up to the reputation of its high-quality sauces? And the answer is yes.

First, let's look at ingredients. Rao's keeps it simple with its frozen meatballs. They contain pork and beef with breadcrumbs, romano cheese, egg, seasonings, and Italian tomatoes -- which are pretty typical of a standard meatball recipe. They're packaged with Rao's famous marinara sauce, as well, and many have praised the flavor, texture, and seasoning of these frozen meatballs.

Some complaints appear to exist regarding the average price of these frozen meatballs. But the overall cost remains lower than ordering takeout, and we'll gladly take a bag of Rao's Frozen Meatballs over many other brands on the market.

Low Quality: Great Value Homestyle Meatballs

Bag of Great Value Homestyle Meatballs
Bag of Great Value Homestyle Meatballs - Walmart

Most (if not all) of the attributes found in the highest quality frozen meatballs are lacking among the lower quality brands. Walmart's Great Value Homestyle Meatballs is a prime example of this, as these frozen meatballs contain questionable ingredients and have earned lackluster reviews from customers.

Looking at the ingredients list, the addition of sodium phosphate raises some alarms. Although the ingredient is generally considered safe to ingest, particularly at low levels, it may be problematic for individuals with certain health concerns or issues, such as kidney or heart disease.

Aside from concerns related to ingredients, many consumers feel the overall taste and texture of Great Value Homestyle Meatballs is rather poor. This isn't entirely surprising, of course, considering Walmart's Great Value brand was rated the worst private store label in a 2021 Mashed survey. Although some customers appear to have no issues with Great Value frozen meatballs, others find this Walmart brand less than desirable -- and we'd have to agree with the latter more than the former.

High Quality: Pineland Farms Italian Style Beef Meatballs

Bag of Pineland Farms Italian Style Beef Meatballs
Bag of Pineland Farms Italian Style Beef Meatballs - Whole Foods Market

Pineland Farms products are only available for purchase in grocery stores along the East Coast as of 2024. Located in New Gloucester, Maine, Pineland Farms is a working farm offering fresh produce, meat products, and dairy. Since the meat produced at Pineland Farms is free of antibiotics and growth hormones, that bodes well for its frozen meatballs.

The ingredients in the brand's Italian Style Beef Meatballs include beef, eggs, rice flour, romano cheese, and seasonings. Unlike many other frozen meatballs on the market, Pineland Farms' product is gluten-free and uses rice flour rather than breadcrumbs as a filler. Additionally, these meatballs don't seem to shy away from their cheese component, and that flavor profile is present in these traditional Italian-style meatballs.

The overall taste and texture of these frozen meatballs have been praised by reviewers, as well, and the consensus is they aren't too dense or heavy. Several customers have noted Pineland Farms frozen meatballs are ideal for adding to a pot of tomato sauce or when eaten as an appetizer on their own. They may be a bit too small for meatball subs in the eyes of some, but these frozen meatballs remain one of the highest quality on the market.

Low Quality: Fast Fixin' Italian Style Meatballs

Bag of Fast Fixin' Italian Style Meatballs
Bag of Fast Fixin' Italian Style Meatballs - Fast Fixin'

Oftentimes, if a food item has a long list of ingredients, that's a sign that it's heavily processed. Unfortunately, Fast Fixin' Italian Style Meatballs has a bounty of listed ingredients -- some of which sound like chemicals most people aren't apt to recognize. For example, these frozen meatballs contain ingredients such as (but not limited to): textured vegetable protein product, copper gluconate, malic acid, and pyridoxine hydrochloride. These ingredients may not be unhealthy, per se, but they aren't indicators of a minimally processed, relatively natural product, either.

These meatballs also contain the ingredient caramel color. An artificial coloring often added to soft drinks to give them their trademark brown color, this ingredient is also added to products like Fast Fixin' meatballs to give them a more browned, homemade appearance. In reality, the Fast Fixin' meatballs wouldn't likely have the appealing appearance of a classic oven-baked meatball without this ingredient. Given its excessive number of food additives and ingredients beyond the basics, we're inclined to categorize this brand among the lowest quality frozen meatballs.

High Quality: Good & Gather All Natural Grassfed Beef Meatballs

Bag of Good & Gather All Natural Grass fed Beef Meatballs
Bag of Good & Gather All Natural Grass fed Beef Meatballs - Target

Target's brand, Good & Gather, is the company's number-one-selling food and beverage brand. Customers tend to like Good & Gather products, which include one of the highest quality frozen meatballs on the market: the All Natural Grassfed Beef Meatballs. The meatballs are made from hormone-free and antibiotic-free grass-fed beef. Other ingredients in these frozen meatballs include eggs, romano cheese, rice flour, sugar, and salt.

We can see the ingredients of Good & Gather's beef meatballs are high quality, but how about the texture and taste? Well, seeing how the product has earned 4.4 out of 5 stars from Target reviewers as of May 2024, it appears people like the taste and seasoning (though some customers recommend adding salt and pepper to taste). Consumers looking for a gluten-free frozen meatball option also appreciate that these are made with rice flour. Since the cost of Good & Gather frozen meatballs is among the most reasonable on this list (depending on where you buy it), you can easily make a hearty family meal for a low price.

Low Quality: Armour Italian Style Meatballs

Back of Armour Italian Style Meatballs made with pork and chicken
Back of Armour Italian Style Meatballs made with pork and chicken - Armour

Armour offers a variety of processed meats, including pepperoni, salami, deli meats, and meatballs. The Armour Italian Style Meatballs are made with chicken and pork. However, it doesn't use whole chicken breasts or any other familiar parts of the chicken -- these frozen meatballs are made with mechanically separated chicken.

Mechanically separated meat is made when the remaining meat on animal bones is separated from them in a high-pressure machine, creating a paste-like substance. Given the unappealing nature of its production process, this ingredient is controversial among many consumers. Beyond this item, Armour Meatballs also contain the vague ingredient "flavorings." This likely refers to flavors added artificially to enhance the taste and smell of food -- though what it actually contains is often kept secret by the company.

As for taste, these frozen meatballs appear to be among the least enjoyable on the market. Without a top-notch flavor profile to compensate for its use of certain ingredients, Armour's frozen meatballs are amount the lowest quality out there.

High Quality: Aidells All Natural Italian Style Chicken Meatballs With Mozzarella Cheese

Aidells Italian Style with Mozzarella Cheese Chicken Meatballs
Aidells Italian Style with Mozzarella Cheese Chicken Meatballs - Aidells

Aidells sells smoked sausages, breakfast sausages, and fully-cooked meatballs. One of the highest-ranked popular sausage brands, Aidells is ideal for those seeking an alternative to beef, and the company offers its All Natural Italian Style Chicken Meatballs with Mozzarella Cheese for those consumers. The gluten-free meatballs are made with chicken raised without antibiotics and contain no artificial ingredients, nitrites or nitrates, preservatives, or MSG. The ingredients list is rather simple, too, with chicken, mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and spices.

Numerous reviews of these frozen meatballs state they're flavorful with a juicy texture -- though they appear to be hard to find in certain grocery stores. Customers were impressed with the overall quality of these frozen meatballs, as well as how quickly they cooked. Furthermore, if you're looking for a twist on the average frozen meatball, Aidells also sells a Teriyaki & Pineapple Chicken Meatballs which offers another frozen avenue to a quick and tasty meal.

Low Quality: Johnsonville Three Cheese Italian Style Meatballs

Bag of Johnsonville Fully Cooked 3 Cheese Italian Style Meatballs
Bag of Johnsonville Fully Cooked 3 Cheese Italian Style Meatballs - Johnsonville

Johnsonville is mainly known for its sausage products. But the company also offers a line of frozen meatballs including Homestyle, Italian-style, and Three Cheese Italian Style. With a very high fat content and a long list of processed ingredients, the Three Cheese Italian Style Meatballs are among the lowest quality frozen meatballs out there.

A single serving (of a mere three meatballs) will give you 26 grams of fat. More concerning, though, is the 9 grams of saturated fat (or 45% of the recommended daily value) -- which is hardly ideal for anyone concerned about h.eart health. As for ingredients, these meatballs have a lot of them, including substances such as sodium phosphates, dextrose, and natural flavors. They also contain BHA and BHT, which are controversial food preservatives. F

The genuine health concerns surrounding these frozen meatballs are largely responsible for their placement among the lowest quality products. The fact that some customers have noted the taste is underwhelming, too, only sealed the deal for these Johnsonville frozen meatballs.

High Quality: Trader Joe's Italian Style Meatballs

Two bowls of Trader Joe's spaghettti & meatballs
Two bowls of Trader Joe's spaghettti & meatballs - Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's has numerous frozen foods available and is known for its low-cost, convenient, ready-made meals. The store inspires passion from its shoppers, who have created fan pages across social media sites including Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram. Unsurprisingly, those same fans have weighed in on Trader Joe's Italian Style Meatballs, and the majority of comments are positive when it comes to this frozen product.

Consumers noted these meatballs were surprisingly delicious for a frozen item, with some believing they work well when used to make a meatball sub. More than that, when we look at the ingredients of these frozen meatballs, we see the first ingredient is beef, followed by various seasonings, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and spices -- meaning there's little to complain about on that front.

Now, anyone with soy allergies should keep in mind these meatballs contain soy flour and soy protein concentrate, so they'll want to pass on this brand. For all other consumers, though? These frozen meatballs are a high-quality item worth buying.

High Quality: Cooked Perfect Organic Homestyle Beef Meatballs

casserole dish full of Cooked Perfect Meatballs
casserole dish full of Cooked Perfect Meatballs - cooked perfect/Instagram

Cooked Perfect offers fully cooked, frozen meatballs in a variety of flavors such as Italian-style, Swedish-style, and homestyle. Although the company has multiple meatball options, we've chosen to highlight the organic version on this list of high-quality frozen options. The Cooked Perfect Organic Homestyle Beef Meatballs are made with grass-fed beef raised without antibiotics or added hormones. Aside from beef, other ingredients include soy flour, rice flour, roasted garlic powder, dehydrated onion, and dehydrated rosemary extract -- all organic, of course.

These frozen meatballs have been praised by customers across the board, with some reviewers indicating the flavor is so superb that they can be eaten sans sauce. The taste and texture have earned high marks, as well, with some going so far as to state the Cooked Perfect Organic Homestyle Beef Meatballs are the absolute best frozen meatballs available. With so many fans and positive aspects, these are easily among the highest quality frozen meatballs.

Low Quality: Ball Park Fully-Cooked Flame Grilled Beef & Bacon Meatballs

Bag of Ball Park Meatballs Beef & Bacon
Bag of Ball Park Meatballs Beef & Bacon - Walmart

Ball Park is a brand that's much more well-known for its hot dogs than its meatballs. Ball Park Franks are an American favorite and often rank among the best-selling hot dog brands in the U.S. However, Ball Park Flame Grilled Meatballs provide less nostalgia for American consumers -- and it shows in the product.

For starters, the brand's frozen meatballs are full of highly processed ingredients such as sodium phosphate, smoke flavor, xantham gum, and grill flavor. Understandably, the inclusion of such ingredients may be concerning to a consumer who prioritizes the purchase of all-natural food items.

As for consumer sentiment, these meatballs have an average-at-best rating on Amazon, with one reviewer succinctly stating: "these are chewy and have gristle in them, plus they simply taste like disgusting day old bacon." Perhaps the appeal of the Ball Park brand has enticed some customers to grab these frozen meatballs. Unfortunately, these frozen meatballs are among the lowest quality and should be skipped.

High Quality: Nature's Rancher Fully Cooked Angus Beef Meatballs

close up of fully cooked Nature's Rancher Angus Beef Meatballs
close up of fully cooked Nature's Rancher Angus Beef Meatballs - naturesrancher/Instagram

Nature's Rancher produces beef, pork, and poultry products that can be found at Whole Foods Markets. The company is known for selling frozen hamburgers that are almost as good as fresh patties, so it's no surprise that Nature's Rancher Fully Cooked Angus Beef Meatballs are a top-notch frozen meatball, as well.

The quality starts with the beef, which contains no hormones or antibiotics. The cattle are vegetarian-fed, and the company also has a Global Animal Partnership Step 4 certification, which sets animal welfare standards in the beef industry. Checking out the ingredients, we can see these meatballs contain simple items such as seasoning, bread crumbs, and romano and ricotta cheeses (in addition to beef).

We know the beef going into Nature's Rancher Fully Cooked Angus Beef Meatballs is high quality, so the more important question is: how do they taste? Quite delicious, in fact, with some reviewers rating these frozen meatballs as the very best they've tasted. As a highly-rated product among consumers, there's no denying this frozen meatball brand is one of the highest quality items available.


Meatballs cooking in a pot of red sauce
Meatballs cooking in a pot of red sauce - Gmvozd/Getty Images

We carefully selected the highest quality and lowest quality frozen meatballs on the market mainly by examining the ingredients on the product packaging. After all, the more processed a product is, the more ingredients you're likely to see on the back of the package. Another sign of a highly processed food is when the ingredients sound like chemicals or include names or items you don't recognize. Consequently, the products with the simplest ingredients were more highly rated and were often ranked as the better quality frozen meatballs.

In addition to ingredients, we took into account both customer and professional reviews regarding the taste and texture of these meatballs, and considered the nutrition information, as well.

Read the original article on Mashed