Can You Use Ground Beef, Pork, and Veal for Meatballs? A Guide to the Perfect Meatball Blend

Meatballs are a beloved comfort food and integral part of many cuisines. When making meatballs, one of the most important steps is choosing the right meat. Many traditional Italian meatball recipes call for a blend of ground beef, pork, and veal. But can you use this classic mix for meatballs?

The short answer is yes – the combination of beef, pork, and veal makes for tender, flavorful meatballs While ground beef alone can work, incorporating veal and pork contributes important qualities and takes meatballs to the next level

Below is a detailed guide to using a mix of meats for homemade meatballs, including the benefits of each and tips for putting them to use

Why Use a Mix of Meats for Meatballs?

There are a few key reasons why blending two or three meats makes for exceptional meatballs:

  • Texture – Each meat contributes a different texture. Pork is tender, veal is delicate, and beef is hearty. Together they provide the ideal meaty bite.

  • Moisture – The fattier pork and veal keep the meatballs juicy and prevent dryness.

  • Flavor – The unique flavors of the meats balance each other out. Beef gives an iron richness, veal is mild, and pork lends meaty sweetness.

  • Leanness – Ground beef alone can be greasy. Cutting it with leaner meats makes for a healthier overall fat content.

When combined correctly, these meats create meatballs that are tender yet firm, robustly flavored, and wonderfully moist.

The Role Each Meat Plays

To understand why the trio of meats works so well, it helps to look at what each one uniquely brings to the mix:

Beef – Hearty beef is the base of most meatballs. It contributes beefy flavor, chew, and structure. Use 80% lean ground beef for the right balance.

Pork – Pork adds moisture, fat, and meaty sweetness. Ground pork shoulder provides tender texture.

Veal – Delicate veal lends soft texture and mild flavor. It also contains gelatin that helps bind and retain moisture.

Together these three meats perfectly balance and complement each other. For ideal results, use roughly equal amounts of each meat.

Additional Tips for Using the Meat Mix

When blending beef, pork, and veal for homemade meatballs, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use freshly ground meat whenever possible for the best texture and flavor. Ask your butcher to freshly grind your chosen cuts.

  • Ensure the meat is very cold before grinding and mixing. This helps the texture hold.

  • Mix the meats gently by hand until just combined. Don’t overmix to prevent toughness.

  • For convenience, purchase pre-mixed meatloaf blend. This contains the ideal ratios of each meat.

  • Season the mixture well with salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, and spices.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll have tender, flavorful meatballs every time.

Step-by-Step Recipe for Mixed Meat Meatballs

Using a blend of meats takes meatballs from great to spectacular. Here is an easy recipe highlighting the trio:


  • 8 oz ground beef (80% lean)
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 8 oz ground veal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, veal, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper.
  2. Gently mix with your hands until just combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Form into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes until browned and cooked through.
  5. Allow to cool slightly before serving for the perfect tender yet firm texture.

The beauty of this recipe is that the flavor comes from the meats themselves. By using a blend, you get deliciously seasoned meatballs without the need for complex ingredients. Enjoy!

FAQs About Using a Meat Blend for Meatballs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What ratio of meats is best?

Equal amounts of each (1/3 pound beef, pork, and veal) provides ideal balance and flavor.

Can I use just ground beef?

You can, but the texture may be dense and the flavor one-dimensional. Adding pork and veal makes a notable difference.

Is meatloaf mix the same thing?

Yes, meatloaf mix contains a pre-mixed blend of ground beef, pork, and veal in ideal proportions. Very convenient!

What if I can’t find ground veal?

You can omit it, but the meatballs may be a bit drier. Or substitute additional ground pork.

Can I use hot Italian sausage instead of pork?

Absolutely! It will add great flavor. Reduce any salt and spices to account for the seasoned sausage.

The Takeaway on Meatball Meat Blends

Blending ground beef, pork, and veal makes for tender meatballs with complex flavor and ideal moisture. Each meat plays an important role in the overall eating experience. While ground beef alone can work, the trio of meats is worth seeking out for the best results.

With the right mixing techniques and seasonings, these three meats form phenomenally tasty meatballs. So next time your recipe calls for ground beef, consider incorporating pork and veal as well. Your meatballs will thank you!

Italian Meatballs Easy Recipe (ground meat, veal, pork)

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