We may never know the name of the first brave soul to combine grape jelly and meatballs, but what we do know now, is this kooky, classic combo really works. As crazy as it sounds, grape jelly and meatballs can indeed co-exist beautifully in the same crockpot, and these Crockpot BBQ Meatballs are proof.
This retro appetizer is getting a made-from-scratch upgrade, and instead of combining ketchup and jelly and calling it quits, we're bringing in the flavor big-guns. With just a few extra ingredients, you can easily take your BBQ Meatball Sauce from tasty to unforgettably irresistible.
And, while pre-cooked, frozen meatballs are perfectly acceptable for this recipe, you'll be amazed at the flavor these homemade, savory-spiced meatballs can put out. These Grape Jelly Meatballs may no longer be a dump-and-go recipe, but with only 20 minutes of prep time required, you can rest assured -- the payoff is worth it. Sweet, savory, and just the right amount of spicy, these cocktail meatballs are perfect for any and every party occasion!
Need more party meatballs in your life? Of course you do. Bookmark these Crockpot Swedish Meatballs for next time!
HOMEMADE BBQ MEATBALLS IN THE CROCKPOT
Frozen meatballs are great for easy entertaining, especially when you don't have a lot to give in the way of time. However, if you want your Crockpot BBQ Meatballs to be a grade above the rest, consider knocking your guest's socks off with homemade meatballs instead.
The flavor will be bigger, better, and exponentially more delicious! Plus, we're going to skip out on all that stovetop busywork and take these meatballs straight to the oven. That's right: There's no need to stand around, rolling meat around in hot grease. Roasting them will brown them up beautifully and save you a good deal of time in the way of prep work!
Below, you'll find instructions for making Jelly Meatballs both from scratch and with ready-made, frozen meatballs.
ABOUT THE SAUCE
The meatballs aren't the only ingredient getting an upgrade. Many recipes out here call for combining 1 part grape jelly with 2 parts of any of the three following ingredients: ketchup, chili sauce, and/or BBQ sauce. So, for example, if you wanted to use ketchup, you would add 1 cup of grape jelly and 2 cups of ketchup to the slow cooker.
Luck for our tastebuds, the BBQ-jelly sauce we'll be making here today is not that kind of sauce.
This sauce is positively loaded with flavor. It's sweet, savory, tangy, and it carries just the right amount of kick. It comes together directly in your crockpot with a simple stir of savory spices, adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo), and apple cider vinegar.
It may not be as easy as adding 3 ingredients to a crockpot and calling it a day, but it is well worth your time and guaranteed to be the best batch of Crockpot BBQ Meatballs you and your guests have ever tasted.
HOW TO MAKE CROCKPOT MEATBALLS WITH JELLY SAUCE
- Make the Meatball Mixture - Combine the breadcrumbs, spices, milk, and egg. Use a fork to combine these ingredients and then add in the beef. It’s easiest to work the beef in with your hands, but if you’d like, you can use a fork for this task too.
- Roll the Meatballs -Remember, Crockpot BBQ Meatballs are supposed to be a party bite, so you'll want to roll them on the smaller side. Just about a scant tablespoon is exactly what you need! Dampen your palms slightly, and roll the meat mixture with cupped hands to create a perfectly round ball!
- Bake - Transfer the meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 425°F.
- Make the Sauce - To make the sauce, add the ketchup, grape jelly, adobo sauce, apple cider vinegar, and spices to the crockpot and stir.
- Add To the Crockpot - Add the meatballs to the crockpot and gently stir to coat with the BBQ-jelly sauce. Cover and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours on high or 3 to 4 hours on low!
If this is sounding like your kind of recipe, you'll definitely want to check out our chicken meatballs next!
HOW TO MAKE GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS WITH FROZEN MEATBALLS
Adapting this Crockpot BBQ Meatballs recipe to work with frozen meatballs rather than homemade meatballs couldn't get a whole lot easier! You'll just nix making and baking the meatballs from scratch and move straight on to the sauce.
Mix the sauce ingredients in the slow cooker as directed, then, add in 1 (2-pound) bag of frozen, fully-cooked meatballs, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 hours on low!
CAN YOU MAKE BBQ GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS IN THE OVEN?
If you're looking to get the show on the road sooner than later, you can leave out the crockpot, turn on the oven, and bring in a casserole dish.
Instead of mixing your sauce in the slow cooker, add all of the sauce ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Then, add your cooked meatballs (homemade or frozen) to the bowl and stir until they're nicely coated.
Transfer the mix to a casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F. Bake homemade meatballs for about 30 minutes and frozen meatballs for 45 minutes to an hour.
Once the meatballs are warmed through and the sauce is bubbly, it's time to serve!
If you're digging the oven option, be sure to try our baked turkey meatballs as well!
HOW TO SERVE CROCKPOT BBQ MEATBALLS
The beauty of Crockpot BBQ Meatballs is you can serve them directly out of their cooking vessel! Once the cook time is up, just set a few small plates off to the side along with some toothpicks or appetizer skewers and let your guests serve themselves. This is the perfect recipe for easy entertaining!
We love a good meatball recipe around here. If you're a fellow meatball lover, check out our Baked Meatballs next!
CAN I MAKE THIS AHEAD?
You can make Grape Jelly BBQ Meatballs up to 2 days in advance and keep them in the refrigerator until the day you are ready to serve!
There are multiple ways you can do this:
- You make just the meatballs and refrigerate them in an airtight container.
- You can also stir the sauce together in a bowl and store it in the refrigerator as well.
- Or, you can combine the two in your slow cooker insert (no need to do any slow cooking just yet), and take it straight to the fridge! But, be sure to cover tightly with plastic wrap to keep everything fresh in there!
To heat up cold Jelly Meatballs up, transfer the sauce and meatballs to the crockpot and allow them to cook for about 2 hours on high or 3 ½ to 4 hours on low!
FREEZING TIP: You can also prepare the meatballs and the sauce for this recipe up to two months in advance, allow them to cool, and freeze them in an airtight container. Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then the day you plan to serve them, reheat in the crockpot as directed above.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CROCKPOT GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS
More than likely, if you're whipping up a batch of Jelly Meatballs, you're doing it for entertaining purposes! If you'd like to add to your party spread, any one of the following recipes would make for an extremely well-rounded menu!
If you're making Crockpot BBQ Meatballs to serve as a family-friendly dinner, you could serve them inside a toasty hoagie as a tasty meatball sub, over mashed potatoes, or go the Asian route and place a bed of sticky rice directly beneath them. Yum!
5 MORE APPETIZERS YOU’LL LOVE
- Buffalo Wings
- Baked Brie with Jam
- Texas Trash Party Mix
- Bacon-Wrapped Smokies
- Corn Dip With Cream Cheese
This is the world's most delicious Crockpot BBQ Meatballs recipe! Featuring an elevated sweet and savory grape jelly-ketchup sauce and juicy, tender, full-flavored cocktail meatballs!
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
- ⅓ cup milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, separated
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 teaspoons chili powder, separated
- 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder, separated
- 1 teaspoon onion powder, separated
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 ½ cup ketchup
- 1 cup grape jelly
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from chipotles in adobo)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 425°F and have ready a rimmed baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil.
Add the breadcrumbs, milk, egg, 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, black pepper, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and a ½ teaspoon onion powder. Mix with a fork until well combined.
Add in the ground beef and mix to combine with your hands. Stop as soon as the crumb mixture is evenly distributed throughout the beef.
Scoop out generous, tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture and roll into a ball with damp hands. You should have about 45 meatballs.
Place the meatballs on the baking sheet, leaving a 1" gap between them. Use two baking sheets if necessary not to overcrowd the meatballs. Bake for 20 minutes, until the meatballs have browned and fully cooked through. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Add the ketchup, grape jelly, adobo sauce, apple cider vinegar, 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and the paprika to the crockpot and stir.
Add the meatballs and gently stir until they are evenly coated in the sauce. Cover and cook on high for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or on low for 3 to 4 hours.
If you'd like to thin out the Jelly BBQ Sauce, gradually splash in up to a ½ cup of hot water, stirring after each splash until you've reached the desired consistency.