Cocktail Meatballs

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 homemade, 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

Print Recipe
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.
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  • Heather Lampman

    Looks great Jen! I’m all for spending a bit more time in order to get a superior product!

  • Eliana G

    How would you recommend modifying this recipe to be dairy free?
    Thanks!

    • Jenn

      Hi Eliana, You can replace the cream with water.

  • Greg Vernicek

    Where does the baking powder come in with the recipe?

    • Jenn

      Hi Greg, The baking powder is added along with the pork and spices, and helps add a little lightness and lift.

  • Greg Vernicek

    Oops. . .I just re-read the recipe and got the baking powder

  • Can ground chicken or turkey replace the pork? Also, can coconut or soy milk replace cream? Trying to make it Kosher : ) Sounds yummy!

    • Jenn

      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.

  • Amanda

    I will be making dairy free by replacing the cream with unsweetened almond milk.

  • Marlene

    Jen, What would you substitute for pork–turkey, veal, or chicken? Thanks!

    • Jenn

      Hi Marlene, Veal or more ground beef would work best.

  • Leslie W

    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!

    • Jenn

      Hi Leslie, You could also use a hand held electric mixer for this recipe.

  • Penny

    I wish you included a calorie count….also, I use sugar free jelly

  • Rochelle

    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 ;-)

  • Jean

    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?

    • Jenn

      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.

  • Amanda

    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!

  • Linda

    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.

  • Karen

    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!

  • Mary

    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.

    • Jenn

      Hi Mary, You could add a little soy sauce or just cut back on the sugar.

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