Tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel particles are a key component of next generation nuclear fuels. Using x-ray computed tomography (CT) to characterize TRISO particles is challenging because of the strong attenuation of the x-ray beam by the uranium core, leading to severe photon starvation in a substantial fraction of the measurements. Furthermore, the overall acquisition time for a high-resolution CT scan can be very long when using conventional laboratory-based x-ray systems and reconstruction algorithms. Specifically, when analytic methods such as the Feldkamp–Davis–Kress (FDK) algorithm are used for reconstruction, it results in severe streak artifacts and noise in the corresponding 3D volume, which makes subsequent analysis of the particles challenging. In this paper, we develop and apply model-based image reconstruction (MBIR) algorithms to improve the quality of CT reconstructions for TRISO particles to facilitate better characterization. We demonstrate that the proposed MBIR algorithms can significantly suppress artifacts with minimal pre-processing compared to conventional approaches. We also demonstrate that the proposed MBIR approach can obtain high-quality reconstruction compared to the FDK approach even when using a fraction of the typically acquired measurements, thereby enabling dramatically faster measurement times for TRISO particles.