These cocktail meatballs (aka grape jelly meatballs) have a delicious sweet and tangy sauce that will drive everyone crazy! The meatballs are tender and juicy made with ground beef and ground pork, baked in the oven, and then, coated in outstanding sweet and spicy grape jelly sauce.
When you’re planning a party, you need plenty of finger food options. People need to be able to mingle and having bite-sized foods is a must for all types of parties.
So as a host, you need easy recipes that also taste fantastic! Cocktail Meatballs is one of those perfect recipes. Super easy to put together and you will need to make a double batch because guests will gobble them up.
I turn to these bite size appetizers anytime I host a cocktail hour, holiday party, or even a football party. Making a batch (or two) of these delicious, savory/sweeet/spicy snacks is the best! I have time to get myself, my house, and my appetizer ready.
Ingredients For Cocktail Meatballs
- Ground Beef – to ensure your meatballs are tender and juicy, meat to fat ratio should be 85/15.
- Ground Pork – Look for meat that is pale pink in color, with white pieces of fat throughout.
- Bread – You only need one slice. Plain white bread or wheat bread works the same! You can even use a slice of gluten free bread.
- Milk – I use whole milk, but skim or reduced fat also work.
- Yellow Onion – A Vidalia onion is a good substitute for a yellow onion.
- Garlic Cloves – If you’re a garlic fan, add an extra clove!
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Black Pepper
For the cocktail meatballs sauce, you’ll need:
- Ketchup – Use whatever your preferred brand of ketchup is. This ingredient provides a tangy flavor and smooth texture that just can’t be beat!
- Grape Jelly – This might sound like an odd ingredient for a savory sauce, but using grape jelly is the perfect way to add a tasty, subtle sweetness. If you need a substitute, try using another sweet jelly like cranberry, apricot, or orange!
- Beef Stock – there is only a little bit so if you don’t have any on hand, you can use water.
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Garlic Clove
- Red Pepper Flakes – The more pepper flakes you add, the spicier the sauce will be. If you want to turn up the heat, toss another 1/2 teaspoon or so into the mix.
Remember you can use cranberry, apricot, or orange jelly instead of grape if needed.
How to Make Cocktail Meatballs
First, make the meatballs:
Combine the ingredients. Mix together the ground beef, ground pork, egg, minced onion, pressed garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Then, squeeze the most of the milk out of the bread slice, crumble it, then add the crumbled bread to the mixture. Continue to mix everything until fully combined!
Form and pan them. If possible, use a cookie scoop (I use #40) to create even portion sizes. That way, every meatball will be the same size, so they’ll cook evenly! Once scooped and rolled, place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake them. Depending on the size, bake the meatballs for 20-22 minutes. Larger portions will need a slightly longer time to cook.
Time to make the sauce!
Whisk the ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until fully combined and smooth.
Simmer the sauce. Pour the sauce mixture into a warm pan and allow it to gently simmer for about 6-8 minutes. Every couple of minutes, stir the mixture to prevent it from burning at the bottom of the pan.
Add the meatballs. Once your sauce is deliciously cooked and ready, add the meatballs! Stir them into the sauce and cover each one, letting them cook in the pan for a few minutes.
Serve! Once the meatballs are covered in sauce, transfer them into your favorite party bowl and serve fresh. Enjoy!
Can I make these cocktail meatballs gluten free?
Absolutely! The only true gluten ingredients here is the slice of bread. Use a slice of gluten free bread instead and you will be good to go. If the slice of bread if small, you may want to use a slice and a half.
Tip: make sure you check the label on the ketchup that it is gluten free and on apple cider vinegar.
How can I keep them warm for a long party?
Nobody wants a cold meatball appetizer, right?! The best way to keep them warm is to transfer everything into a crockpot instead of the pan.
Instead of mixing the meatballs and sauce in the pan, you’ll mix them together in the slow cooker. Just leave the setting on warm, and they should stay warm through the party!
Just make sure to stir them once in a while and keep the lid on.
How long will they keep in the refrigerator?
Make sure to keep the meatballs in an airtight container, in the refrigerator. Stored properly, they will be good for up to 4 days. You can reheat them in the microwave until warmed through.
MORE APPETIZER MEATBALL RECIPES
Hungry for more? Check out my classic (and scrumptious) Italian meatball recipe!
One of my all time favorites is my recipe for garlic parmesan turkey meatballs.
If you made any of my recipes and shared them on Instagram, make sure to tag me @willcookforsmiles and #willcookforsmiles so I can see all the things you tried!
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Cocktail Meatballs (Grape Jelly Meatballs)
- 1 lb ground beef 85/15 meat to fat ratio
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 1 slice of bread
- 2-3 tbsp milk to soak bread
- 1/2 yellow onion finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves pressed
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-1.5 salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup grape jelly
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp beef stock (or broth)
- 1 garlic clove pressed
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a baking sheet with some oil or cover it with parchment paper.
- Combine the ground beef, ground pork, egg, minced onion, pressed garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper in large mixing bowl. Squeeze milk out of the slice of bread, break it up, and add crumbled bread to the bowl. (Discard squeezed milk.)
- Mix everything very well.
- Grease your hands with some cooking spray. To get even meatballs, use a cookie scoop. I use #40 scoop but you can use a slightly larger one. Try to keep the meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. (You can make meatballs a little bigger or smaller according to your own preference. Just remember to adjust cooking time if making bigger or smaller meatballs.)
- Quickly roll all the meatballs and add them to the baking sheet, close together but not touching.
- Bake the meatballs for 20-22 minutes, depending on the size.
- Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together and preheat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
- Pour the sauce into the pan and simmer for about 6-8 minutes. Make sure to slowly stir every couple of minutes while it's simmering.
- Add meatballs (just meatballs, but the juices left from baking meatballs) to the sauce. Carefully stir meatballs and sauce until coated and let them cook for just a few minutes.
- Transfer the meatballs and the sauce onto a serving bowl and serve.
Keeping them warm in a crock pot:
- You can also serve these meatballs in a crock pot to keep them warm for the party.
- Prepare the meatballs and the sauce per instructions above but combine them together in a crock pot instead of the skillet.
- Set the Crock pot to "warm" setting, cover, and let them stay in there for the party. You will want to stir them from time to time.