Cocktail Meatballs

5 stars based on 11 votes

Cocktail-Meatballs-from-Once-Upon-a-Chef

Throw away those old kitschy cocktail meatball recipes that call for grape jelly and frozen meatballs — these are easy-to-make and so much better. You’ll love that the meatballs are baked, not fried, and the sweet and tangy sauce is ready in under 15 minutes. What’s more, you don’t need to wait for a party or special occasion to make them; they’re delicious over white rice for dinner and kids absolutely love them. 

ingredients

Begin by combining the egg, cream and bread cubes in a small bowl.

egg-bread-cream

Mash with a fork until the bread is mostly dissolved.

mixing-pork-and-seasoning

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale. (I know it seems odd to make meatballs in an electric mixer, but the technique makes tender meatballs with a nice snap, which is what we’re going for.)

mixing-with-egg-mixture

Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth.

adding-ground-beef

Add the ground beef and mix again until just combined.

mixing-in-ground-beef

Using moistened hands, form the meat mixture into meatballs and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. The rack is useful because any fat from the meatballs drips down but if you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to just place the meatballs directly on the baking sheet.

ready-to-bake

Bake the meatballs for about twenty minutes.

baked-meatballs

Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, grated shallot, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, water, salt and pepper in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the meatballs. Simmer the sauce for about ten minutes, until slightly thickened.

simmering-sauce

Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat evenly.

meatballs-in-sauce

Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with finely chopped parsley if desired, and spear with pretty toothpicks.

Cocktail-Meatballs-from-Once-Upon-a-Chef

Note: The technique for mixing the meatballs and the meatball ingredients, for the most part, come from Cook’s Illustrated’s Swedish Meatball recipe. 

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Cocktail Meatballs

Servings: About 25 meatballs
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
  • 3/4 cup cubed white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (85% lean)

For The Sauce

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated shallot, from one shallot
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Serving

  • Finely chopped parsley, if desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up and place an ovenproof baking/cooling rack over top; spray rack generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg and cream together in a medium bowl. Stir in the bread and mash until no large bread chunks remain. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pork, garlic, allspice, pepper, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. Add the bread mixture to the mixing bowl and beat on high speed until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  4. Using moistened hands (it's sticky and wet hands help; keep wetting them as you go), form the meat mixture into 1-1/2-inch round meatballs and place on the prepared rack. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just done.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook gently until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat evenly. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter, spear with toothpicks and spoon the sauce over top. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve warm.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    This is a great recipe. I have the meatloaf mix: veal, pork and beef. Is it OK to put this combination in the mixer?
    Thanks so much.

    - Margaret on October 19, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Margaret, Yes that will work fine.

      - Jenn on October 19, 2014 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Thank you so much. I was hesitant; I always hear not to mix too aggressively. Best, Margaret

        - Margaret on October 19, 2014 Reply
  • What could I use for a substitution for All spice?

    - Suzanne on October 18, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Suzanne, You can just leave it out.

      - Jenn on October 18, 2014 Reply
  • I don’t have all spice. Will the recipe be okay without it or should I go back to the store?

    Thank you!
    Sam

    - Sam on October 16, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Sam, Don’t go back to the store — it will be fine!

      - Jenn on October 16, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I make cocktail meatballs every year for our large family gathering using frozen meatballs and bottled ingredients for the sauce– never again. These were the most tender meatballs I have ever made and the difference was obvious to all.
    Also, because I like tender meatballs, I am going to try using the mixer technique and baking powder for other types of meatballs. Never would have figured it out on my own. Thanks.

    - Judi on October 12, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Looks delicious! I will have to try to make for my youngest, who is a picky eater. I think he will love these! Cheers, Blake

    - Blake Holman on October 8, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    So, LOVE the pics! Very easy to follow but looks like you got a pretty fancy mixer going on there… Do I need one like that or can I use an electric egg beater? Also, what type of mixer is that and where can I get one? Can’t wait to make these meatballs. They sound DeLish! Please let me know so I can make them ASAP! Thanks so much!!! -Christina

    - Christina on October 2, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Christina, I have made this recipe with a hand held electric mixer, so I think the electric egg beater will work! The mixer in the photos is a KitchenAid 5-Quart Stand Mixer; you can find them at Target, Williams Sonoma or online. They are very pricey but last forever. I use mine all the time.

      - Jenn on October 5, 2014 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Wow thanks Jenn! It’s so nice to actually get a reply from a REAL person now-a-days… I really love how involved you are. Thanks for getting back to me. Just put my meatballs in the oven and the sauce is almost ready to go! Delicious! I’m sure the end result will be even better! Egg beater worked great! onceuponachef.com Now my favorite site for recipes! Simply better than all the rest! 5 STARS all the way!!!

        - Christina on October 6, 2014 Reply
        • 5 stars

          I never thought I could make something that tastes this good! (And I never thought I’d convince my husband that I can cook!) WOW! Thanks Jenn!

          - Christina on October 6, 2014 Reply
          • Yay! So glad it turned out well :)

            - Jenn on October 6, 2014
  • 5 stars

    These Meatballs are ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!
    Thank you for sharing!

    - Jennifer on September 28, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I tried these last week, and my boyfriend loved it, i loved it. I send some to my mom who is very picky about food, and she loved it and want the recipe.

    - Gina on July 17, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These were phenomenal! I have always stayed away from meatball recipes, until this one. Thanks for a simple, delicious dish! I may double it next time, as I had NO leftovers! ;)

    - Penny on July 10, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These are fabulous!

    - Lynne on May 23, 2014 Reply
  • I made this recipe and have to say that I thought the sauce was too sweet for me. I wonder if you could substitute soy sauce or teryaki to the recipe to give it a little more zing.

    - Mary on February 11, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Mary, You could add a little soy sauce or just cut back on the sugar.

      - Jenn on February 12, 2014 Reply
  • Have made these twice in one week already! Once for dinner (and yes my family loved them) and then again for our Super Bowl party. Everyone asked me for the recipe and I shared your site with them. Please keep the wonderful recipes coming!

    - Karen on February 3, 2014 Reply
  • Made these meatballs for dinner for my daughter and I. We ate them over rice as suggested and they were so good and so easy to make.

    - Linda on February 3, 2014 Reply
  • Made these for dinner using almond milk, all ground beef, and mixed by hand. They were still delicious and a real 30-40 minute meal that my kids devoured! Thanks for the recipe!

    - Amanda on February 1, 2014 Reply
  • Sounds great. Around how many meatballs does this recipe make? Plus, will this work doing it ahead of time and reheating or will it take away from the taste? Or possibly, prepare the meatballs ahead of time and do the sauce before serving?

    - Jean on February 1, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Jean, The recipe makes about 25 small (bite-sized) meatballs. It is absolutely fine to make the entire recipe ahead of time and reheat.

      - Jenn on February 1, 2014 Reply
  • Sounds wonderful ! I’ve heard of using baking powder to get a crisper crust on fried chicken, but who knew that it was ” Mother’s Little Helper” for meatballs too ?

    Thanks so much for sharing your recipes and expertise – I always look forward to seeing what you’re up to in the kitchen ;-)

    - Rochelle on January 31, 2014 Reply
  • I wish you included a calorie count….also, I use sugar free jelly

    - Penny on January 31, 2014 Reply
  • Hi Jenn! You can poo-poo the frozen meatball/grape jelly recipe all you want & yours sound great, but for those of us not lucky enough to have a Kitchenaid mixer our friends like them & they will have to do!

    - Leslie W on January 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Leslie, You could also use a hand held electric mixer for this recipe.

      - Jenn on January 31, 2014 Reply
  • Jen, What would you substitute for pork–turkey, veal, or chicken? Thanks!

    - Marlene on January 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Marlene, Veal or more ground beef would work best.

      - Jenn on January 31, 2014 Reply
  • I will be making dairy free by replacing the cream with unsweetened almond milk.

    - Amanda on January 30, 2014 Reply
  • Can ground chicken or turkey replace the pork? Also, can coconut or soy milk replace cream? Trying to make it Kosher : ) Sounds yummy!

    - Alison on January 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Allison, You can replace the pork with more ground beef or veal, and just use water to replace the cream. They’ll still be great.

      - Jenn on January 31, 2014 Reply
  • Oops. . .I just re-read the recipe and got the baking powder

    - Greg Vernicek on January 30, 2014 Reply
  • Where does the baking powder come in with the recipe?

    - Greg Vernicek on January 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Greg, The baking powder is added along with the pork and spices, and helps add a little lightness and lift.

      - Jenn on January 30, 2014 Reply
  • How would you recommend modifying this recipe to be dairy free?
    Thanks!

    - Eliana G on January 30, 2014 Reply
    • Hi Eliana, You can replace the cream with water.

      - Jenn on January 30, 2014 Reply
  • Looks great Jen! I’m all for spending a bit more time in order to get a superior product!

    - Heather Lampman on January 30, 2014 Reply

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