Recipe: Mexican Meatball Subs

updated May 1, 2019
Mexican Meatball Subs
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Meatball sandwiches are one of those hearty meals that I don’t mind eating as a filling lunch or for dinner — whenever the craving hits for some comfort food. Marinara sauce and mozzarella are a classic combination, but with the help of some enchilada sauce and Monterey Jack cheese, these meatballs can go in a spicy Mexican direction instead.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

I use a combination of ground pork and beef for a tender and juicy meatball, and everything’s held together with some panko breadcrumbs and an egg. Instead of browning the meatballs first, I just gently place them in simmering enchilada sauce and they hold their shapes nicely. These are truly easy meatballs.

As for the sauce, you can go with a homemade version or just use your favorite canned brand instead. I’m partial to a red enchilada sauce, but I’m thinking a tangy green one would also be a delicious choice. The other key part of a meatball sub is lots of melted cheese, so don’t skimp on the Monterey Jack.

The frozen meatballs will freeze nicely right in the sauce, and once you have those stowed away, a tasty sub won’t take long at all to put together. I’m thinking these meatballs would also be fun on little slider rolls to snack on while watching sports, or as a heavy appetizer at your next party.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Mexican Meatball Subs

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the meatballs:

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion, very finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    finely chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1

    large egg, lightly beaten

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    fine salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 8 ounces

    ground pork

  • 8 ounces

    ground beef

To finish:

  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups

    green or red enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought

  • 4

    submarine sandwich rolls, split

  • 2 cups

    shredded Monterey Jack cheese

  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


For the meatballs:

  1. Mix the onion, panko, cilantro, egg, salt, and spices together in a large bowl to form a paste. Add the ground meats and mix gently with your hands until just combined (do not overmix or the meatballs will be tough). Form the mixture into 20 meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches wide) and place on a large plate or baking sheet; set aside.

To finish:

  1. Heat the enchilada sauce in a Dutch oven or wide-bottomed pot until boiling. Add the meatballs, making sure not to break them. Gently stir or shake the pot so the meatballs settle into the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered, gently stirring the meatballs occasionally so they cook evenly, until the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Open the rolls and place cut-side up on a baking sheet. Divide the cheese over the rolls.

  3. When the meatballs are ready, bake the rolls until toasted and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Fill each roll with 4 to 5 meatballs and spoon some of the sauce over the meatballs, if desired. Top with cilantro, close the rolls, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Keep them submerged in the sauce and heat the whole thing over low heat before assembling the sandwiches. You can also freeze the meatballs in the sauce for up to 2 months.