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These baby meatballs are made with just 5 simple ingredients and are egg free and dairy free. Tender and flavorful, these are perfect for baby led weaning, toddlers, and the whole family.

Six meatballs on a wooden board with toddler grabbing one.
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This post is a collaboration with Beef Loving Texans. Thank you for supporting brands that I believe in and keeps this space running. As always, all opinions are my own!

Baby Meatballs

Research is clear! Nutrition in the first 1000 days (the period beginning at conception to two years of life) has a profound impact on a child’s brain development, lifelong health, and eating habits.

This is why The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Women Infants and Children’s Program and now for the first time ever, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend introducing solid foods, like beef, to infants and toddlers to make every bite count during this critical time of rapid growth and development.

Beef is a wonderful first complementary food for many reasons, one being it’s a source of many essential nutrients that babies need to grow optimally, such as high quality protein, iron, zinc, and choline.

Here’s a great resource for learning more about beef as a complementary food for babies as well as baby-friendly recipes for the whole family.

And now, let me introduce you to these healthy meatballs!

As a fellow busy, tired parent, here’s my gift to you ;). They’re super EASY to make, nutritious, and safe for babies!  Made with ground beef, butternut squash, and peanut butter, it’s a simple way to again, make every bite count! I can’t emphasize this enough.

Baby Meatball Ingredients

All the ingredients laid out on a white background.

Ground beef – this is such a convenient and versatile ingredient! Most definitely a freezer staple for us. Nutrients in beef, like iron and zinc, are critical for optimal development as babies grow. You can use lean ground beef, but for moist and flavorful meatballs, I wouldn’t go leaner than 85% meat and 15% fat.

Butternut squash – In addition to it being a good source of vitamins A, C (helps enhance the absorption of iron), and fiber, it provides moisture to these meatballs.

It also helps hold them together without the use of eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, tofu (commonly used in Asian cooking), etc.

How to cook butternut squash perfectly!

Peanut butter – I know this may sound really strange. But give it a try! I like coming up with unique ways to incorporate this ingredient as research shows that introducing peanuts to your baby early and often can help prevent them from developing a peanut allergy later on.

It’s also delicious in this peanut butter chicken!

To learn more – peanuts, nuts, and seeds for babies

Step-by-step Instructions

A collage showing cooked butternut squash before and after mashed.

Mash cooked butternut squash with a fork. I like to roast this incredibly flavorful and versatile vegetable ahead of time so it’s one less thing to do on the day of.

You can also purchase frozen squash for a quick prep option.

A two image collage showing peanut butter and butternut squash on left and combined with meat on the right.

Combine mashed butternut squash with smooth peanut butter.

In a large bowl, combine the mixture with ground beef. Add garlic powder (can also use fresh garlic) and ginger. Mix using your hands, taking care not to overwork the meat! Shape into 1 1/2 inch sized balls.

A small oven shaped dish filled with water placed in the middle of sheet pan with meatballs.

Place in single layer on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or mat for easy clean up. In a small oven-safe dish, add some water and place in the pan alongside the meatballs.

Bake!

Tips for making the best homemade meatballs

A close up shot of 6 baked meatballs.
  • Combine the butternut squash and peanut butter before adding to the ground beef. This will allow you to gently mix in the meat.
  • Don’t overwork the meat mixture. Your hands are seriously the best tools for mixing meatballs. You just want to mix until everything is combined. Otherwise, the meatballs will turn out tough.
  • When shaping the balls, work with slightly wet hands to prevent them from sticking to your hands. Otherwise, you may accidentally overwork them. 
  • Flip halfway through to prevent the bottoms from browning.
  • Don’t forget to add the oven-safe dish filled with water. this helps create steam resulting in tender meatballs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will this recipe work with ground turkey?

Absolutely! You can also use ground chicken, bison, pork…any ground meat will work.

You should also try these moist turkey meatballs with rice! It’s one of the most beloved recipes on my blog.

What can I substitute peanut butter with?

The peanut butter imparts a nutty flavor and creamy texture to these meatballs. If you don’t want these elements, then you can substitute with 1 egg.

If there’s a peanut allergy or the daycare/school has a nut-free policy, swap with a seed butter (e.g. sunflower, pumpkin) or tahini.

What is a good substitute for butternut squash?

You can substitute with pumpkin or sweet potato. 

Can I make these meatballs on the stovetop?

You can, although it will be more time-consuming and messy. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook on all sides for about 10-12 minutes.

Easy Meatballs for Babies

A two image collage showing how to serve meatballs to babies depending on age.

For babies 6-8 months, you can serve these baby meatballs whole or halved so they can grab easily using their palmer grasp. Once they start developing the pincer grasp (around 8-9 months and will continue to get refined), you can start cutting into bite-sized pieces.

P.S this plate is AMAZING! It’s so spacious, allowing plenty of room for small hands to explore, and the suction is so powerful! My baby has not once been able to remove from the table.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy as is or with your favorite sauce, like veggie-loaded tomato sauce, marinara sauce, sweet potato sauce, or Thai coconut sauce.

For a well-balanced meal, serve them alongside vegetables, fruit, avocado, pasta, yogurt, toast, oatmeal….all easy, nutritious accompaniments.

If you’ve been spoon-feeding purees and are feeling anxious about transitioning to more textured foods (acknowledge that and go at your comfort level), I suggest serving the meatballs alongside thicker purees or mashes. You can also mash the meatball and mix it into purees/mashes.

Try preloading the spoon (we absolutely LOVE these!) and hand it to your baby or place on the table/plate. I know it can feel scary and overwhelming but I highly encourage you to start giving your baby opportunities to self-feed.

Storage Suggestions

  • Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. I personally flash freeze all my baked goods.

To reheat, place in a skillet with a splash of liquid (e.g. water, broth, sauce, etc.). Cover and heat over medium-low heat until warm,  2-3 minutes or so. This is to ensure meatballs don’t get dried out.

More ground beef recipes

Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!

5 from 36 votes

Healthy Baby Meatballs

These baby meatballs are made with just 5 simple ingredients and are egg free and dairy free. Tender and flavorful, these are perfect for baby led weaning, toddlers, and the whole family.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 18 meatballs
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) mashed cooked butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons (60g) smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  • Combine mashed butternut squash with peanut butter.
  • In a large bowl, combine the mixture with ground beef and the seasonings. Mix gently using hands, taking care not to overwork the meat. Shape into 1 1/2 inch balls.
  • Place on baking sheet. In a small oven-safe dish(es), add some water and place in the pan alongside the meatballs.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Inserted thermometer should read 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. I personally flash freeze all my baked goods.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 61kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 3g
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

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Recipe Rating




36 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe! I made it with jarred baby food that I have leftover and it works perfect! My baby loves it!

  2. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness! This recipe is AMAZING! It is so easy as well! Today, I made it with Turkey, sweet potato, and an egg! It is so soft and moist. I had to restrain myself from eating all of my nine-month old’s meatballs.

    1. I don’t own one so not sure, but I’ve heard a lot of people finding success with using an air fryer to make meatballs so worth a try!

  3. 5 stars
    My 10 month old absolutely loves these!! They are a great texture for easy eating and incredibly flavourful. I love that they are packed with nutrients by including both the squash and PB. Thank you for this recipe! It is now a freezer staple for us