This cheese stuffed meatballs recipe is one of my favorite appetizers. The cheesy center creates the perfect instagram-worthy cheese pull.
4.50 from 2 votes

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smoked cheese stuffed meatballs on a plate.

What are cheesy meatballs?

Cheese-stuffed meatballs are the perfect appetizer, because they’re meaty and full of ooey gooey cheese.

This is by far my favorite meatball recipe. I’ve smoked up a small batch for friends, and I’ve made a big batch by the hundreds to serve a crowd.

woman stretching meatball to reveal cheese.

Ingredients

  • Panko Breadcrumbs: With all of my meatball recipes, I start with a combination of panko breadcrumbs and milk. This provides moisture and acts as a binder.
  • Milk: Use whole milk for the best flavor, or low-fat milk if you want to reduce calories.
  • Meat: This base recipe uses a combination of ground pork and ground beef. For extra flavorful meatballs, use meat that is either 70% lean and 30% fat or 80/20. You can experiment with other meats like chorizo, chicken or Italian sausage.
  • Herbs and Garlic: Fresh parsley and fresh garlic cloves add natural brightness.
  • Seasonings: My pork rub is a perfect blend for these meatballs. You can play around with the flavor profile and use other blends like taco seasoning or Italian seasoning or simple salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
  • Sauce: Choose your favorite BBQ sauce or glaze.
bottles of BBQ rubs on black background
hands pulling meatball apart to reveal cheese.

How to make cheese stuffed meatballs

I like smoking these on a charcoal grill setup with Cowboy Charcoal Apple Hardwood Briquets and 2-4 chunks of cherry wood. The cherry wood gives them a beautiful mahogany color.

You can also smoke these on a pellet grill with apple or cherry wood pellets. Or, cook them over indirect heat on a gas grill with cherry wood chips in a foil pouch.

You’ll need a mixing bowl, a sheet pan, tongs a small bowl for the sauce and a basting brush.

cookin with cowboy logo

Disclosure: I am a paid ambassador for Cowboy Charcoal.

  1. STEP ONE: In a large mixing bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs and milk. Let it soak for five minutes until the breadcrumbs soak up the liquid.
  1. STEP TWO: Open the Oaxaca cheese from the packaging and cut it into 24 1/2-inch pieces. These will be stuffed inside the meatballs.
  1. STEP THREE: In the bowl with the breadcrumbs, add in the ground meat, parsley, garlic and seasonings. Mix it all together. It works best if you use your hands.
meatball mix in large bowl.
  1. STEP FOUR: Once everything is mixed together, pinch off a couple tablespoons of meat and roll it into a ball. Use your thumb to create an indention in the center of each meatball. Add in a piece of cheese. And re-roll the meatball, covering all of the cheese.

This recipe will make about 24 meatballs. Refrigerate the meatballs while you heat up your grill.

PRO TIP: You can make the meatballs in advance up to this point and keep them in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. You can also freeze the raw meatballs at this point. Then, let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight before smoking.

  1. STEP FIVE: Heat your grill or smoker to 300F degrees. Add a couple chunks of cherry wood or use cherry pellets or wood chips for added flavor. Be sure to set the grill up with an indirect heat zone.
wood chunks catching fire in grill.
  1. STEP SIX: Add the meatballs to the smoker over indirect heat, and sprinkle on a little more pork rub. Smoke for 15 minutes. Flip. Add more rub, and smoke for 15 more minutes.
meatballs smoking on grill.

Adding rub creates layers of flavor inside the meat and on the crust as it forms.

PRO TIP: While the meatballs are smoking, some may start to ooze cheese. If this happens, just rotate the meatballs so the cheese is on top.

cheese oozing out of meatballs while they smoke.
  1. STEP SEVEN: Flip the meatballs one more time, and brush with your favorite barbecue sauce. Cook for 10-15 more minutes, until the sauce sets and becomes tacky.
brushing barbecue sauce on meatballs on grill.

How to serve smoked cheese stuffed meatballs

Remove the meatballs from the grill to a serving plate. Garnish with a little chopped fresh parsley for color. Serve with toothpicks and extra barbecue sauce.

If you’re serving these cheesy, juicy meatballs as a main course, plan on 4 per person, depending on how many sides you have. If you’re serving them as an appetizer, plan on two per person.

You can also pile them into a hoagie roll for a meatball sub.

woman holding a platter of meatballs.

Variations of cheese stuffed meatballs

There are several ways you can make this recipe with just a few tweaks to change the flavor profile. Here are some of my favorite combinations.

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Use ground beef and ground sausage. Substitute the pork rub for 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Instead of Oaxaca cheese, use mozzarella cheese. Skip the BBQ sauce and serve with marinara sauce. For the garnish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.

Mexican Meatballs

Use ground beef and ground chorizo. Substitute the pork rub with taco seasoning. Instead of fresh parsley, add in cilantro or roasted green chiles or poblano peppers. Use the same cheese. Instead of barbecue sauce, brush with raspberry chipotle sauce.

Thai Meatballs

Use ground beef and pork, but add in 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and use cilantro instead of parsley. Instead of the pork rub, use a combination of kosher salt, black pepper, turmeric and lime zest. Replace the barbecue sauce with sweet chili sauce.

Storage

Cooked meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can then reheat them in the microwave.

You can also freeze cooked meatballs for up to six months in a freezer bag. To reheat them, let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then warm them in a microwave or oven. Keep an eye on them though, because the cheese may ooze out, so you may need to rotate them as they’re heating.

GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Use ground meat with a higher fat ratio for juicier meatballs
  • Cheeses that melt well, like Oaxaca or Mozzarella, work best for this recipe
  • Be sure to fully cover the cheese when rolling the meatball
  • Layer the seasoning inside the meatball mixture and on the outside
  • Cook over indirect heat to avoid flareups

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the secret to good meatballs?

There are a few secrets. First, start with ground meat that has a higher fat ratio, like 70/30 or 80/20. Then, combine it with breadcrumbs and milk for added moisture. Finally, be sure to season the meat mixture and the outside of the meatball.

How do you make cheese stuffed meatballs in the oven?

Follow the same recipe. Then, place the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake at 350F degrees for 10 minutes. Give them a flip. Bake 10 more minutes. Give them a flip. Sauce and bake for 5-10 more minutes. It’s important to flip them to help the cheese stay inside.

How do I prevent meatballs from falling apart?

This recipe uses a combination of breadcrumbs and milk, which work as a binder to help the meatball retain its shape.

What cheese is best for cheese stuffed meatballs?

Personally, I love using Oaxaca cheese. It’s a Mexican cheese that is mild and super meltable. It comes in a round package and is rolled up. Simply unroll it and cut it into cubes. Mozzarella cheese is also an excellent choice. You can also use string cheese and cut it into cubes.

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smoked cheese stuffed meatballs on a plate.

Cheese Stuffed Meatballs

This cheese stuffed meatballs recipe is one of my favorite appetizers. The cheesy center creates the perfect instagram-worthy cheese pull.
4.50 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 24

Ingredients
 

  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 10 oz Oaxaca cheese cubed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp Christie Vanover's Pork Rub
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions
 

  • Soak: Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir and let soak for 5 minutes. While that's soaking, cut the Oaxaca cheese into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Mix: Add the beef, pork, parsley, garlic and seasonings to the bowl. Mix until well combined.
  • Shape: Pinch off a couple tablespoons of the meatball mixture. Shape it into a ball. Then, flatten it, add in a piece of Oaxaca cheese and roll it back into a ball. Repeat with all of the meat and cheese to make 24 balls. Refrigerate while you light the smoker.
  • Heat Smoker: Heat your smoker to 300F degrees with an indirect heat zone. Cherry wood is great for this recipe.
  • Smoke: Place the meatballs on the smoker. Sprinkle with a little pork rub. Smoke for 15 minutes. Flip. Sprinkle with a little more rub. Smoke for 15 more minutes.
  • Sauce: Flip one more time and brush with sauce. Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve: Remove to a platter and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with toothpicks and extra BBQ sauce for dipping.

Video

Notes

If you want to make Italian stuffed meatballs, can use mozzarella cheese instead of Oaxaca and mix in 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon black pepper, instead of the pork rub. 
It’s important to completely cover the cheese with the meat as you roll the balls to prevent the cheese from oozing out as they smoke. You still may lose a little cheese, but you can prevent that by flipping the meatballs to place any oozes on top. 

Nutrition

Calories: 162kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 9gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 303mgPotassium: 136mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 82IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 27mgIron: 1mg

This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator

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