Cocktail Meatballs

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Throw away that recipe that calls for frozen meatballs and grape jelly – these homemade cocktail meatballs are so much better.

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 they’re 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.

What you’ll need to make them


How to make Them

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


Mash with a fork until the bread is mostly dissolved.


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 the texture tender with a nice snap, which is what we’re going for.)


Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth.


Add the ground beef and mix again until just combined.


Using moistened hands, form the meat mixture into balls 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.


Bake the meatballs for about twenty minutes.


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.


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


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


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

You can find these bamboo forks on Amazon — Norpro 190 72-Pack Bamboo Party Forks, Brown

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Cocktail Meatballs

Throw away that recipe that calls for frozen meatballs and grape jelly – these homemade cocktail meatballs are so much better.

Servings: About 25 mini meatballs
Total Time: 40 Minutes


  • 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 packed 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


  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 tablespoon-size 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 them to a serving platter, spear with toothpicks and spoon the sauce over top. Garnish with parsley if desired. Serve warm.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meatballs and sauce can be frozen in separate containers for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat the meatballs in their sauce on the stovetop over medium heat until hot in the center.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 meatball
  • Calories: 85
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 8g
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Sodium: 214mg
  • Cholesterol: 24mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • As always, delicious recipe. Family loves it. Thank you .

    • — Jane on October 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • so… can i do it with just beef? or just pork? if so, which one would you recommend?

    • — jay on September 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure – I’d go with all beef. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • Yum!! Easy to make with ingredients readily available in the pantry!Thanks!

    • — Carol on August 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • These were very easy and tasty. Gobbled down in minutes at my party. Great recipe. Thank you!

    • — Pauline Allan on August 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made cocktail meatballs for 40 for a church gathering. They were delish, as evidenced by a little boy who told his mom, “Mrs. L makes the BEST meatballs!” Thanks for enhancing my reputation. I absolutely love learning little tricks like beating the pork till it’s sticky. It sounds so weird but it really did make for a fabulous texture!

    • — Pat L on March 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • How do I make this kosher? All beef but what can I substitute for the cream?

    • — Hannah on January 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Hannah, A few readers have commented that in place of the heavy cream, they’ve used Rich’s non-dairy coffee creamer (frozen) and another mentioned she was going to try it with Trader Joe’s unflavored non-dairy creamer. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made these for New Year’s party and they were huge hit! The sauce is out of this world…

    • — Alisa on January 8, 2020
    • Reply
  • can these be made ahead of time and reheated?

    • — Jennifer on December 22, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yep, that’s fine!

      • — Jenn on December 22, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made this recipe last night for a group event because I couldn’t find the ok’ standby of barbecue sauce. The feedback from everyone was Unanimous, it was great! Thanks for sharing this recipe! 🙂

    • — Satisfied chef on December 20, 2019
    • Reply
  • These are the most amazing meatballs. I have served fresh and frozen-then-served. PERFECT. These are what I consider adult meatballs but my nieces and nephews also inhale them. I am asked for the recipe every time. I am now making a triple batch because the meatballs and sauce freeze so great that if you are going to go through the effort it is wonderful to have these as back-ups for that last minute rock star moment. Follow the recipe exactly. I did not the first time and they were very good (didn’t follow the adding bread instructions as I should have) but when I added the soft bread as instructed OMG juicy yet held together and just the best with the sauce which you could slather on a shoe and eat it. Jenn, I’m a huge fan, have your book and rarely write reviews but so many of your creations have become mine I promise to share more reviews in the future.

    • — Robin Richter on December 18, 2019
    • Reply
    • So glad you like these! 💓

      • — Jenn on December 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Made these for my Halloween party this past weekend. Instead of using the sauce in this recipe, I used your honey, lime and sriracha sauce recipe (which I am madly in love with). Turned out GREAT and was a complete hit! My friend recently turned me onto your website and everything I’ve made so far has been absolutely wonderful. You have great flavors and I am starting to feel a kinship of sorts at this point. :O) THANK you for all the fabulous recipes. You are now my go to gal for creating happiness in my kitchen. Cheers!

    • — Juli Siegfried on October 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • So glad you’re enjoying the recipes, Juli! xoxo

      • — Jenn on October 28, 2019
      • Reply
  • Help!!! I wanted to make these for tonight however, I don’t have a paddle attachment, only a regular beater. How do I proceed?

    • — Estelle Crawford on September 14, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Estelle, regular beaters will work here too. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 14, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi–I want to make this recipe gluten free. What’s your suggestion for replacing the breadcrumbs? I normally use oatmeal.

    • — Nicole on February 14, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Nicole, you could stick with the oatmeal or use gluten-free bread crumbs which are pretty widely available in stores now.

      • — Jenn on February 15, 2019
      • Reply
  • Jenn, I hope I haven’t ruined my meatballs. I mistakenly put the ground beef in with the pork and beat it the entire time. Should I start over?

    • — Glinda on February 2, 2019
    • Reply
    • No worries, Glinda – it will be fine!

      • — Jenn on February 3, 2019
      • Reply
      • They turned out great – love the sauce! Thank you!

        • — Glinda on February 3, 2019
        • Reply
  • Can these be made with beef and veal as i am allergic to pork

    • — Barbara on December 9, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, Barbara – that’s fine.

      • — Jenn on December 10, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hey Jenn, I love your recipes and would love to try this but I can’t eat dairy. Do you think they would still be good without the heavy whipping cream or should I substitute with coconut cream?

    • — Nutshell on December 6, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi, You can substitute either almond milk or water to replace the cream. The sauce will still be good. 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 6, 2018
      • Reply
  • I have made this recipe many times. It is amazing! If you are in a hurry, you could spruce up frozen meatballs by making just the sauce. It is my go-to pot luck appetizer.

    • — Bobbi Jo LaForce
    • Reply
  • My guys cannot get enough of these. Holidays approaching I will be making these cocktail meatballs many times. Using the blender adds such ease to prep, the sauce is spot on. Highly recommend.

  • Great recipe! I’ve served these as appetizers over the holidays, and at Potlucks- they are always a hit wherever I bring them!

  • I’ve made homemade meatballs numerous times with all being wonderful recipes. This meatball recipe is the worst tasting meatball I’ve ever eaten, way too much pork! VERY GROSS

    • Meatballs were ok, but wasted over a gallon of sauce. Threw it away, was just awful. Made almost 400 meatballs for a wedding reception. I’m gonna make the grape jelly and chili sauce recipe instead. Glad I didn’t serve at the wedding. Oh well, I cook from scratch everyday but this just didn’t have a good taste! 4 taste testers. But, meatballs tasted good.

  • Hi. Can you use a slow cooker to keep these warm while serving buffet style?

    FYI: I love all your recipes that I’ve tried.

    • Glad you like the recipes! And, yes, you could keep these warm in a slow cooker for a buffet.

      • Hi. I don’t have a stand mixer. Can I use my hand mixer instead?

        • — Baishakhi Hazarika on January 22, 2020
        • Reply
        • Yep 🙂

          • — Jenn on January 22, 2020
          • Reply
  • Love these meatballs!

  • Can you serve these as a main dish (Ie for Easter)? And would you have to adjust their size and cooking length?

    • Hi Sandy, you can definitely serve these as a main dish; no need to make them larger – people will just eat more of them! These would pair nicely with steamed rice and this springy vegetable dish.

  • Up until this recipe, I’ve loved every one of your dishes Jenn. While the sauce is very good, the meatballs are a bit bland for my taste. Next time I’ll add some pepper and perhaps an herb.

  • I made these for my book club Christmas party and wow were they a hit! I followed the recipe as written except that I didn’t have a stand mixer. They were absolutely wonderful. The sauce is fantastic. I just love your recipes and am looking forward to my cookbook.

  • Let me start out by saying that I just love all your recipes. I participated in helping with the cookbook like many others by making your recipes and submitting the questions once completed. These were not on there but I have made these meatballs for so many occasions and I seriously can’t make enough it’s what people love. All your recipes are easy to follow and easy to find the ingredients, which I think any home cook can appreciate. I have made at least a dozen of your recipes, choose this one to review because it’s great whether you are having a party or not.

  • Hi, this looks like a great recipe but I was wondering why it calls for baking powder.
    Thank you

    • Hi Julie, the baking powder helps to add a little lightness and lift to the meatballs. Hope you enjoy!

  • can meatball be made in 24 hrs in advance?

    • Sure, Mary, that will work! Just reheat the meatballs in their sauce on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. It shouldn’t take long since they are small. Enjoy!

  • What is the equation between 1 meatball and 25 mini meatballs
    Am confused on the carb count, which shows 8 carbs per serving, and serving size shows 1 meatball
    Does this mean there are 8 carbs in every mini meatball, or a total of 8 carbs for the entire 25 mini meatballs

    • Hi Martha, sorry for any confusion — there are 8 carbs per mini meatball.

  • Made these recently for the college national champ games along with a few more snacks. They were excellent. I made a double recipe because that was the quantity of meat I had and hoped they were good. Also made the sauce which was excellent. The sauce is far better than others I tasted. I froze the extras and will make more sauce for Super Bowl. They were such a hit I plan to do this use/freeze double recipe every time.

  • I used the sauce recipe for Costco frozen meatballs as an appetizer at a baby shower and these were definitely the star! People were raving about them and I was so glad there were a couple left at the end so I could enjoy some on the couch later that night 😊 I imagine the meatball recipe is equally as tasty, and may have to try them out when I don’t have 8 other dishes to prepare. Thanks!

  • The meatballs were really good (Cook’s Illustrated is always good), but the sauce tasted just like a very very basic store bought BBQ sauce. If you’re making this for an event to impress, don’t bother with this sauce and find another one.

  • They day I was going to serve these meatballs I woke up at 4 a.m. and decided to go ahead and make them in case they didn’t work out. I made a double batch and followed the instructions completely. (I was quite surprised that the pork needed to be beaten until smooth in the Kitchen Aid mixer.) Also, I reheated the meatballs in the sauce prior to serving them. These are the best meatballs I have ever eaten and the guests were saying the same thing. Fabulous recipe!

  • Can I make these only with ground beef instead of pork?

    • Sure, Edna – that’s fine. Enjoy!

  • Zingy but not too much, one of the favoritie snacks of the appetizer table. Great recipe, thanks!

  • Unfortunately, I did not care for the taste of these.

  • Do the meatballs and the sauce both freeze well separately?

  • I would like to reheat the meatballs in the oven, the sauce on top of stove then serve sauce over them on a platter. I’m thinking they will become very strong in the sauce flavor if i reheat all in a pot. the meatballs are scrumptious, thanks for the recipe!!! Hopefully the oven won’t dry out the meatballs? Im diabetic also so try to cut down on the sugar on the holidays so not soaking the meatballs in the sauce will help.

    • Hi Marilyn, I suppose you could reheat them in the oven covered with foil, but I do think the meatballs may become a bit dry if put back in the oven afer being fully cooked. For best results, I would heat them in the sauce on the stove. Sorry!

      • What about reheating the meatballs in beef broth?

        • I think that would be fine, Cece.

  • I made this recipe (and doubled) for a Christmas party I am going to tonight. I didn’t have any ground pork on hand so used all beef. After completing them, however, I decided I wanted more of the sauce, so I went ahead and made another batch. (I like them swimming in it!). I think everyone will be pleased; I think they tasted great! A nice change to the other recipe I have been using for over 50 years! LOL Note: I don’t have a stand mixer so used my Kitchenaide hand mixer. When I was done, the meat mixture was all caught up inside where the beaters get attached – very difficult to clean out!!

  • Just a question. I apologize if it’s a repeat, I didn’t read through ALL the reviews/comments. Is the 1/2 cup brown sugar for the sauce packed? Would make a big sweetness difference if it’s not. Thanks!

    • Hi Lauren – Yes, it’s packed. Thanks for catching that; I’ll update the recipe. 🙂

  • Hi jennifer, i wrote to you before but cant find your response. I want to make these for a wedding hors d’oeurve table. Can I make these a couple days ahead of the wedding Also, do you think that they will be ok over a sterno tray to keep warm? Was thinking of doubling the sauce. What are your thoughts? Thank you

    • Sure, you can make these a day or two ahead. If you make them even more in advance, I’d cook and then freeze them (without the sauce). And They would be fine with the sauce doubled and kept warm over sterno. Enjoy!

  • Can you preform the meatballs and bake the next day? We are doing these for my daughters birthday!

  • Reviews are great. I will try for a Christmas gathering.
    Question- I don’t see how many meatballs the original recipe makes, tried counting on the rack? 25?

    • You’re an accurate counter – the recipe makes about 25 mini meatballs. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

      • lol, off to buy the ingredients now for a test run, prior to Christmas…

  • This is an amazing recipe! Followed recipe exactly and they were a huge hit! A must try and they freeze beautifully!

  • If I made these a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator – how do u suggest I heat them up to serve for a cocktail party? Thx!

    • Hi Caroline, you can just reheat the meatballs in their sauce on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. It shouldn’t take long since they are small. Enjoy!

  • Amazing flavor and texture. Usually meatballs are meatballs, but these delicious treats are so tasty! So excited to have found this website

  • Can you make these with ground turkey?

    • Hi Pat, It’s fine to replace the beef with ground turkey– just avoid the extra lean variety or the meatballs will be dry.

  • My guest has a tomato allergy. So I can’t use ketchup. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

    • Hmmm…. that’s a tough one. I’d suggest either using a different recipe like these Swedish Meatballs or looking online for a Hoisin-based sauce (which will give them more of an Asian bent). Hope that helps!

  • Hi, was going to make these cocktail meatballs for a wedding reception horderves table. What’s your thoughts on using a sterno buffet server to keep warm? Maybe double or triple sauce, thanks, Phyllis

    • I think it’d work nicely, Phyllis. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • I have an old family recipe that is very similar except it includes 1 tsp of curry powder in the sauce. I highly recommend this. So happy to find this version as I much prefer the texture of the meatballs done this way.

  • I don’t have a rack, would baking them on the sheet still work?

    • Yes, Karina, that would work. Some of the juices that drip from the meatballs will form a bit of a pool around them, but that won’t affect the end result.

  • Tangy and Sweet. The meatballs are the perfect texture. Delicious!!!!

    • — Chandra Q. Hinchen
    • Reply
  • Recipe sounds wonderful! Is there anything else that you can use instead of white bread.? Hate to throw almost a whole loaf out because no one will eat it! Panko maybe?

    • Hi Carol, I wouldn’t recommend panko or bread crumbs, here, but you could use a different type of bread if you prefer. You just want something somewhat soft. Enjoy!

  • I have a question. I recently made the sauce for some meatballs that were already cooked and the sauce was amazing. I need to make the sauce for a baby shower this weekend for about 300 meatballs and I want to make sauce ahead of time. My question is how do I need to store the sauce once I have cooked it and how many days ahead of time would you recommend for me to make the sauce.

    • Hi Kenyatta, You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead and store it in the fridge. Have fun at the shower!

  • Hello, I am allergic to pork can I just use beef for this recipe?
    ( or will that throw off the taste)

    • Hi Chandni, They’ll still be good with just ground beef- enjoy!

  • I used this recipe to make cocktail meatballs for a party. The meatballs “flew” off the platter. The homemade sauce is delicious and the baked meatballs are easy to make and very tender as advertised. Thank you!

  • Hi, can I substitute light brown sugar for the dark?

  • Absolutely loved these! Made triple the recipe ahead and froze til needed.Just added the sauce to defrosted meatballs.I made the mistake of offering leftovers to my guests as they all said “yes” and I only had a few for myself lolThese are the only meatballs I will make from now on!

  • how far in advance can i make these

    • Hi Emma, you could get away with making them up to 2 days ahead and refrigerating, or you can freeze them (without the sauce) for up to 3 months.

  • I found the meatballs themselves to be very bland. The sauce is okay, but I also had a hard time getting the sauce to stick to the meatballs. I’m thinking of adding more seasoning to the meatball mixture and less milk.

  • These are the best cocktail meatballs ever. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Great recipe.. a big hit at our Christmas party among all ages! Thank you for sharing!

  • These tasted great (made with turkey) but I wasn’t crazy about the texture that resulted from the mixing technique–the texture reminded me of hot dogs. I will make again but will stick to a lighter mixing technique. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Will this recipe work if I don’t have a stand mixer with a paddle attachment? How would you proceed without one?

    • Hi Jean, You can use an electric mixer with beaters if you have one. Otherwise, just mix by hand — the texture won’t be quite the same, but the meatballs will still be delicious.

  • Hi, I would love to try this recipe but I do not eat pork. What can I substitute pork with?

    • Hi Tam, You can replace the pork with veal, or just use additional ground beef.

  • Can I sub breadcrumbs for the sandwhich

    • Hi Cindy, for the best results, I’d recommend sticking with the bread here– sorry!

  • Hello Jenn, We do not eat red meat so what do you think of using ground chicken or turkey for the Cocktail Meatballs? Would I increase the amount of spice as both chicken and turkey might be bland?
    Thank you

    • Hi Yvonne, It’s fine to replace the beef with ground chicken or turkey– just don’t use extra lean or the meatballs will be dry. And while it’s not necessary to add any additional spices to the mix, you certainly can if you’d like. Enjoy!

      • I bought the beef and pork mix. Should I beat hard in the mixer or just combine?

        • Hi Lynda, It’s fine to beat the mixture together at a normal speed until you get to the step when adding the ground beef; at that point, you should just mix until the beef is combined with the other ingredients.

  • I am giving a party in November and want to serve these. Can I make them ahead and freeze? Need to quadruple the recipe . Any changes I should make?

    • Hi Audrey, Yes, you can make them ahead and freeze (without the sauce). No changes are necessary for quadrupling the recipe. Enjoy the party!

      • Freeze them uncooked or cooked??

        • Hi Lesley, I would freeze them cooked.

  • I followed this recipe except with turkey since my family doesn’t eat beef. Turned out very good too.

  • Can I use a hand mixer?

    • Hi Julie, It’s fine to use the hand-held mixer here — several readers have mentioned that it works well. Because it’s not as powerful as an electric mixer, you may need to adjust the time a bit.

  • Picture looks amazing. How important is the shallot? And what if I have garlic powder instead of the real deal?

    • Hi Billy, While not imperative, the shallot adds a nice oniony-garlic flavor to the sauce. And if you don’t have gresh garlic, garlic powder will do. Hope you enjoy!

  • The meatballs/sauce tasted divine! Very easy recipe with minimal ingredients. Those of you who may be looking for a good (meatballs in sauce) recipe, look no further. Give this one a try and you will not regret it!!

  • Hi jen
    I plan to make this for a small gathering of friends at home as an appetizer. I have a couple of questions before I do –
    A) can this be made entirely with ground mutton, which is goat’s meat? We don’t eat beef, and a few people at our gathering won’t eat pork.
    B) if this is baked ahead of time, should it be tossed in the sauce immediately? Or can I reheat the sauce on the pan and then toss the meatballs in there so that it can be served hot when my friends come over.
    Let me know
    Thanks in advance
    Love your recipes
    Warm regards

    • Hi Vanita, Mutton has a very strong flavor so I wouldn’t usually recommend it. However, if you like the flavor, it will work. And I would wait to toss the meatballs in the warm sauce until right before serving.

  • I made these last night and they came out SO good. I kept eating them, my fiance had to take them from me. I used ground turkey instead of pork. This has a very very tasty flavor that I fell in love. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Thank you for a very Yummy Recipe!!

  • Great for dinner! I don’t entertain often, but these cocktail meatballs work perfect over white rice for supper. Love the delicate texture of the meat and the tangy sauce. Excellent instructions. Enjoyed by the entire family. Thanks.

  • I would like to try this recipe this weekend for our race party. Can you cook the meatballs in slow cooker? On low or high temp and for how long? Thanks, Desirer

    • Hi Desiree, I think you could but you may need more sauce — it’s intended more as a glaze than the typical cocktail meatball sauce.

  • How would you suggest keeping them warm while serving?

    • Hi Yvonne, if you have a slow cooker, that would work well on the “warm” setting. Hope you enjoy!

      • Can they stay warmed in a chaffing dish?

        • Sure, Linda. Enjoy!

  • I just wondered if anyone had made these ahead and reheated. Looking for a do ahead recipe for an upcoming retirement party. Thanks!

  • Is there any way that I could replace the bread for matzo and milk/cream for almond milk? I’ve made your meatball recipe a few times now, and absolutely love it. I want to serve it for Passover, but am worried about how to make substitutions.

    • Hi Jen, I think that would work just fine. Enjoy and Happy Passover. 🙂

  • Excellent! For a shortcut, I used Pineland Farms frozen Italian style meatballs, which are available at Whole Foods here in Massachusetts. I did a taste test with both Pineland Farms Swedish and Italian style, and the Italian style edged out the Swedish for me. These delectable meatballs disappeared fast! Thanks, Jen!

  • This is a wonderful recipe! The key to this recipe is the technique. The meatball consistency was everything it should be. So happy to have found this and look forward to being creative with additional sauces. (The sauce was very good also.)

  • For the sauce ….. Can I substitute wine vinegar for the cider vinegar?

    • Yes, Gina — you can use white wine or rice vinegar.

  • They look wonderful, hoping to try this week. Could the white bread be substituted for store brought bread crumbs? And if so how much? Thank you

    • Hi Niomi, I would really recommend sticking with the bread here!

  • Hi there, I’m invited to a superbowl party and would love to bring these meatballs, how many do you usually get from one batch?

  • These cocktail meatballs were a big hit at our Christmas party, even though my meatballs were not perfectly round like yours. (How do you do that?) At least one person asked me for the recipe and I sent her to your site. When I made the first batch in advance of the party, I put several over rice and served them for dinner. Delicious! Thank you!

  • First time I ever made homemade meatballs and I chose to make this recipe. It was amazing!! I have made a number of your recipes and they have all been a hit. You are a superb cook!!! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • My daughter is dairy allergic, can I replace the cream with a substitute? Say almond milk? I did this recipe Christmas Eve and it was a hit. It will now be part of our Christmas Eve tradition. But I need more recipes my daughter can eat as well. All the good recipes have milk, cream or cheese.

    • Hi Valerie, You can use either almond milk or water to replace the cream.

  • We were invited to a New Year’s Eve party last night and were asked to bring an appetizer. I wanted to try something new so I did a Google search and found this recipe. Everyone at the party brought an appetizer but this one turned out to be the hit of the night. Kids and adults raved about it which convinced someone who is a vegetarian to try 1. She loved it and actually had a few more. No joke. This recipe will now be added to my collection. It’s a keeper. Thanks for posting such great recipes!

  • Is apple cider vinegar and cider vinegar the same thing? Can I use light brown sugar as well? I’m trying this recipe for the first time today.

    • Hi Marlaina, Yes and yes 🙂

  • What can I put instead of beef ?

    • It’s fine to replace the beef with ground turkey or chicken; just don’t use extra lean or the meatballs will be dry.

      • Thanks Jenn,
        I’m going to try to make them today!!
        Happy New Year to you.

  • I loved the recipe i substituted gluten free bread because of my gluten allergy.
    The meatballs were the right constancy.
    There were no leftovers from our last function.

    • Thank you!! That was my question — cause I’m gluten free too.

  • Would love to try these, but I don’t have a Kitchen Aid Mixer – just a hand-held one. It does have a “sort-of” paddle attachment… would that work? Would there be a big difference in outcome if
    I didn’t use a mixer and just did by hand? Any advise on using the handheld instead of stand mixer to adapt this and other recipes?

    • Hi Rita, It’s fine to use the hand held mixer for this recipe — several readers have mentioned in the comments that it works well. And it’s almost always fine to use a handheld mixer instead of a stand mixer; just keep in mind that it’s not as powerful so you’ll need to adjust speeds and times.

  • I’m going to use a meatless Italian sauce in place of your sauce recipe since it has most of the ingredients: tomato sauce (in place of catsup), sugar, water, onion, P&S.
    I’ll add Worcestershire sauce and perhaps one medium garlic.

  • Amazing recipe, had to make for an xmas potluck in a pinch, my mom linked me this recipe and they are incredibly delicious.
    thank you

  • These were a huge hit at my book club gathering. Have never tried the technique of whipping the meat in a kitchen aid. It was really great.

  • This is the best recipe EVER for these mini cocktail meatballs, the sauce is SO GOOD, you won’t even believe it!


  • A huge hit! Froze them separately after cooking, heated them in the sauce, gone in 5 minutes! I followed the recipe exactly, even though it was weird using a mixer on the meat…Outstanding, my new go-to recipe for apps!

  • We do not eat beef or pork, can I use ground chicken and turkey?

    • Yes, chicken should work.

  • Can I use an ice cream scoop to equalize size of meatballs? If so, what size scoop?
    Your recipes are improving my life. Thank you!!!

    • Hi Patti, So happy you are enjoying the recipes! You can definitely use an ice cream scoop — go with a 1-1/2 T size.

  • Hi there. I live in Australia and am not sure if your ‘ground’ meat is the same as our ‘minced’ meat. In the pics, the pork looks like sausage meat and the beef looks coarser. I am looking forward to testing these asap as I need to make a bucket load for my husbands 50th. Look forward to clarification. Cheers!

    • Hi Miranda, The pork is not sausage meat — just plain ground (or minced) pork. Hope that helps 🙂

  • My daughter has celiac so I can’t use the regular bread. Any idea how it would be with UDI’s Gluten free bread?

    • Hi Stefany, I think it would work well. Hope your family enjoys 🙂

  • Hi Jenn,
    How many meatballs does this recipe make? (I’m trying to decide if I should double it — or more — for a larger than family group.) I can’t wait to try it, after all the glowing reviews. Glad I found your site!

    • Hi Penn, The recipe makes about 25 mini meatballs. I definitely recommend doubling the recipes — they go fast 🙂

  • These meatballs look yummy! Can I use ground turkey instead of beef and pork?

    • Hi Karen, They won’t be quite as tender and flavorful but it should work. Please let me know how they turn out 🙂

      • That makes since. What about a combination of beef and turkey or beef only? Several people at the party do not eat pork.

        • Yes, that would be much better 🙂

  • Can you use the sauce recipe in a crock pot?

    • Hi Kathy, You could but you might need more sauce — it’s intended more as a glaze than the typical cocktail meatball sauce.

  • Can the meatballs, and then the sauce, be made separately and then frozen? I’d like to prepare, defrost and heat up on the stove. Sounds yummy! Thank you!

    • Hi Chris, Yes, that should work fine 🙂

  • This is probably the best recipe I have ever used for meatballs. Unfortunately there are never leftovers! No question 5 stars!

  • Love to cook and have always been less than satisfied with any cocktail meatball recipe I’ve used — until this one! Fabulous! Very tasty, tender meatballs and the sauce is tangy with a perfect kick. Going in my recipe box as my go-to meatball recipe! Many thanks!

  • This is an excellent recipe. I love the sweetness.

  • I made these meatballs last week and after I baked them , I let them cool and froze them for an upcoming party. My question is do I bring them to room temperature before putting them in the sauce or do I put them right in the sauce frozen? Thank you!!! I will rate them after my party but I am sure they will be amazing!

    • Hi Mary, I’d defrost them in the fridge, then heat them in the sauce before serving. Hope everyone enjoys!

  • Hello, Jen… can I just use my hands to.mix the ingredients?

    • Hi Winnie, Do you have a hand held mixer? That works but if not you can mix with a wooden spoon or by hand.

  • made these today and it was amazing! perfect tender meatballs with the right seasoning. the thought of using my mixer weirded me out but the results yielded the perfect snap. i now have a go to meatball recipe. thank you so very much for sharing these wonderful recipes, jenn. 🙂

  • I made these meatballs for my grandaughter’s christening party. They were a BIG hit! Super easy, and the sauce is amazing!

  • I have shared this recipe and your website many times. These little meatballs were worth the extra effort and I would not use any other recipe again. Amazingly delicious!!

  • I added two tablespoons of Makers Mark whiskey to the sauce. It was delicious!

  • Very good, from what I tasted. My family had them gone before I could get to them

  • EVERYBODY loves these and they disappear at parties. Use those cute toothpicks with the frills and they are irresistible to kids!

  • I made these yesterday for an Oscar party. They were the perfect combination of savory and sweet and sour. Everyone loved them! As someone who enjoys cooking, it’s so fun and a huge relief to have a resource where the recipes have all been tested and perfected. Thank you, Jen!!

  • I made these gluten free for my family and also for a work luncheon. They were enjoyed by all. The sauce is great. I have searched many years for a great meatball recipe. This will be my go to recipe from now on. I have also made the Swedish version… so good.

  • Hi Jenn,
    2 questions: I only keep fat free milk in the house, can I substitute this for the heavy cream. Also, can I substitute light brown sugar for the dark brown?

    • Hi Emily, Yes and yes 🙂

  • Hi Jen, I love your recipes. For this one, is there anything I can use instead of pork? Thanks, Patricia

    • Thanks, Patricia! It’s fine to replace the pork with more beef.

  • Hi Jenn. I was wondering if you had ever frozen the cocktail meatballs? If so, do you bake them first or freeze them raw?

    • Hi Kelly, Yes, freezing works well. I would freeze them after baking (without the sauce).

  • My husband loves junk food, however he’s fussy about it, if you can imagine! He loves the grape jelly/cocktail sauce, repulsive meatball concoction that you put in the crockpot. I cringe every time he wants them and I get embarrassed putting the ingredients in my cart at the store!! I’ve tried a few other scratch recipes that went into the garbage because nothing compared to the prepackaged ones, cringe! So, when I saw this recipe I had to try it! When I heard the words these words “these are the best meatballs you’ve made”, I thought victory is mine! Lol!
    They are delicious, the sauce is perfect!
    They are a bit tough to roll, the mixture is very sticky and you really need to keep your hands wet as the recipe suggests, but they are worth it!

  • My family doesn’t like most frozen, pre-made meatballs, but love the sauce (cranberry sauce & chili sauce), so I decided to try making your recipe for the Bowl Games yesterday. Wow! So tasty! I loved the texture of the meatballs & the flavor, too. The sauce was so delicious. I may cut back just a tad on the brown sugar next time, but leave all else as is. I haven’t tried one recipe that isn’t fantastic on your site yet. Thanks, Jenn!

  • I was thinking of making these for a New Year’s Eve party. They need to be gluten free but I cannot use traditional gluten free bread due to other allergies. Any ideas? I will also be using almond milk and all beef. Lastly, I was thinking of putting them on warm in a crock pot so they can stay warm throughout the evening. Can’t wait to try them!

    • Hi Jacky, Re. the bread, you’ll need something to bind the mixture together, otherwise it will be way too wet to form into balls. What do you typically use for this type of thing? The crock pot will work fine.

  • Hi, I have a ceramic chaffing dish I’d like to serve these meatballs in with lots of the sauce, so I’m planning on quadrupling the recipe (it’s for a big Open House) and making quite a lot of the sauce. Will the meatballs be Ok and not fall apart while being in the sauce for several hours? I’m not putting them in all at once, of course, just adding more meatballs to the dish as necessary. Thanks!

    • Hi Nancy, They aren’t delicate so I think they will be fine.

  • I made these for my nieces first birthday and they were a hit. For time saving on the day of-I made them two days before and the day of I warmed them up in my crock pot on low for a couple of hours. They were awesome! I’m not surprised since everything on this blog is incredible. Thanks, Jenn!

  • I am going to make these for a holiday party this weekend. If I make them ahead and refrigerate, could I finish them with sauce and refrigerate them prior to reheating? What would you recommend for temperature and timing to reheat? Thank you, these look delicious and so much more appetizing than crock pot meatballs!

    • Hi Jill, Yes, that’s fine — just re-warm the meatballs in the sauce on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. Shouldn’t take long since they are small. Hope everyone enjoys them.

  • Could you make these in a slow cooker?

    • Hi Meg, They cook very quickly so not sure a slow cooker would be necessary.

  • If I use frozen meatballs, should I bake the meatballs first, then heat them in the sauce or can I mix the meatballs with the sauce and bake all together?

    • Hi Kathy, I’d bake the meatballs first, then warm them with the sauce.

  • Hi, what other things would the sauce go good with?

    • Hi Monique, It would be delicious over grilled chicken or pork.

  • Can I make these ahead of time? I am doing a big christmas cocktail party– would like to make the day before. Any thoughts?

    • Hi June, That will be absolutely fine to make ahead and reheat. Hope you enjoy!

  • The best recipe for cocktail meatballs I have ever come across! BIG hit at the party! Great recipe to make ahead of time!

  • Hi, this recipe looks amazing. The presentation is wonderful. Here is a question though: we are not big fans of ground beef. So can I use ground turkey to make these. If I did would I have to use the veal and pork. I have never used veal. What would you recommend… thanks

    P.s. All the recipes on the blog for 10 recipes for picky eaters look absolutely delicious. My goal is to make all of them this month. I am making the Tilapia and Garlic Mayo tonight. I can’t wait to try them all.. sooo ok excited!!!

    • Hi Monique, It’s fine to replace the beef with turkey; just don’t use extra lean or the meatballs will be dry. I would definitely keep the pork (there’s no veal in the recipe) as it adds a lot of flavor.

  • For a Christmas Holiday potluck, I need to make recipe without pork. Using one lb. ground beef, will the meatballs be dry and not tasty?
    Have followed your website since I found it!!

    • Hi Maggie, Use 80-20 or 85-15 ground beef and it will be just fine.

  • 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.

    • Hi Margaret, Yes that will work fine.

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

  • What could I use for a substitution for All spice?

    • Hi Suzanne, You can just leave it out.

  • I don’t have all spice. Will the recipe be okay without it or should I go back to the store?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Sam, Don’t go back to the store — it will be fine!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

    • 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.

      • 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! Now my favorite site for recipes! Simply better than all the rest! 5 STARS all the way!!!

        • 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!

          • Yay! So glad it turned out well 🙂

            • — Jenn
  • These Meatballs are ABSOLUTE PERFECTION!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • 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.

  • 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! 😉

  • These are fabulous!

  • 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.

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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.

  • 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 😉

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

  • 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!

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

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

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

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

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

    • 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.

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

  • Where does the baking powder come in with the recipe?

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

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

    • Hi Eliana, You can replace the cream with water.

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

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