Sweet, but with a slight spicy kick, Cranberry Meatballs are a holiday appetizer that will be gobbled up by kids and adults alike!
With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what recipes I want to make for my family this year. We love appetizers, so I will absolutely be making these cranberry meatballs.
They’re sweet and spicy with the perfect amount of holiday flavor. Just like another one of my favorite holiday crock pot appetizers, spinach artichoke dip. This cocktail meatball recipe takes SO little prep work that you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy and mingle with your guests!
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For me, appetizers are the best part of any dinner party. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well thought out, well-prepared meal.
But, there is something that is just so wonderful about grazing on tiny bites of cheese and crackers, and of course delectable cocktail meatballs. I love the variety when it comes to appetizers. Sometimes it’s so hard for me to not fill up before the main meal!
For YEARS, I have been making sweet and spicy grape jelly meatballs in my slow cooker. (Follow the same instructions as this recipe, but sub in grape jelly for the cranberry sauce!) However, when it comes time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I like to switch up the recipe. I make my cocktail meatballs a bit more festive for the season – so Cranberry Meatballs it is!
Cranberry sauce is not my favorite thing in the world. It’s a bit too tart for my taste all on its own, but mix cranberry sauce with homemade chili sauce and you’ve got a match made in holiday heaven.
I find myself “taste testing” these cranberry sauce meatballs a few too many times before serving to my guests. I really love this recipe! So, I always make sure to make a BIG batch to allow for everyone to come back for seconds… and thirds… and fourths. They’re such a crowd pleaser!
Cranberry Meatball Ingredients
MEATBALLS – One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it uses frozen cooked meatballs. This cuts down on SO much prep (and cooking) time. When it comes to hosting for the holidays, time is PRICELESS. I’ll do whatever I can do to make recipes that are easy like these yummy cocktail meatballs!
I thaw the meatballs in the fridge overnight, but if you’re in a hurry, pop them on a baking sheet in a warm oven until they’re ready.
SAUCE – This sweet and spicy sauce will have your tastebuds firing on all cylinders! It’s got everything. Some sweetness from the cranberries and brown sugar, umami from the soy sauce, and heat from the red pepper flakes. You can even add more pepper flakes after cooking if you want your sauce extra spicy!
Cranberry Meatballs with ONLY 3 Ingredients!
Love the idea of this recipe, but looking for a way to cut down on ingredients? Get ready to make literally the easiest holiday appetizer ever! Follow all of the directions above for these cranberry sauce meatballs, but use store-bought chili sauce in place of mixing up your own.
- 32 oz bag of frozen meatballs
- 14 oz can of jellied cranberry sauce
- 12 oz jar of chili sauce
Making this cocktail meatball recipe is as easy as can be! Plop the meatballs in your slow cooker, cover with the sauce ingredients, and cook!
How to Make Cranberry Meatballs in a Crock Pot
- Start by placing your thawed meatballs into a 2 quart or larger slow cooker (my favorite is linked below!!)
- Next, make your cranberry chili sauce combination. (AKA – a holiday party in your mouth!) Whisk together the jellied cranberry sauce, ketchup, water, soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and light brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Your sauce will be slightly grainy because of the brown sugar, don’t worry. Cooking it low and slow in your crock pot will make the sauce caramelize and become smooth and delicious!
- Now, pour the mixed sauce on top of the meatballs. Give them a quick stir to make sure all the meatballs are coated. Cook on HIGH for 2 hours or on LOW for 4 hours.
- Last, garnish your cocktail meatballs with dried cranberries and scallions, serve, and enjoy!
If you want your meatballs done SUPER quick, make sure to thaw them ahead of time and cook on HIGH for 2 hours. If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, thaw the meatballs and cook them on LOW for 4 hours.
But, if you’re looking to let those cranberry meatballs cook all day, put the meatballs straight into the crock pot from the freezer. Then top them with the sauce and let them cook on LOW for around 6 hours.
I like to serve my cranberry meatballs straight from the crock pot so that they stay warm as my guests mingle and nibble. I just set a dish of toothpicks next to the crock pot and let everyone grab and go as they please!
Other Cocktail Meatball Recipes
Whether you’re hosting a football tailgate party or planning a family holiday meal, cocktail meatballs are the perfect way to keep your guests munching while they wait for the main meal to be served. Here are some of my other favorites – you can’t go wrong with a good cocktail meatball recipe!
- Buffalo Chicken Meatballs – buffalo wings WITHOUT the mess! These yummy meatballs are a family favorite in our house!
- Meatball Parmesan Bites – these cute little meatballs are the perfect appetizer for sharing with friends and family!
- Hawaiian Meatballs – sweet and sour perfection, these delicious cocktail meatballs are delicious and can be made in under 30 minutes!
Looking for some more holiday-worthy appetizer ideas?
- Bacon Wrapped Figs
- Baked Brie
- Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
- Spinach Dipped Stuffed Crescent Roll Christmas Tree
- Sweet Potato Rounds with Goat Cheese
- more APPETIZER recipes…
Tools used to make this Cranberry Meatballs recipe
Crock Pot: For me, the bigger the crock pot, the better! I use this thing weekly (at least!!!).
Mixing Bowls: I have had this set of mixing bowls for years and couldn’t love them any more than I already do!
*This post originally posted on 11/12/2015.
- 2 pounds frozen cooked beef meatballs thawed
- 14 ounces canned jellied cranberry sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- Dried cranberries for garnish
- Chopped green onion for garnish
- Place thawed meatballs into a 2-quart or larger slow cooker.
- Whisk together cranberry sauce, ketchup, water, soy sauce, ground ginger, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and light brown sugar in a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour the sauce on top of the meatballs. Cook on HIGH for 2 hours or on LOW for 4 hours.
- Stir before serving. Garnish with dried cranberries and green onions if desired.
I have been making these for years and I use a can of whole cranberry sauce and 1 jar of Chili Sauce. Yummy! You just can’t go wrong with the flavor of these meatballs!!
Nancy Thomas says
Made these for Thanksgiving. We had a bunch of ppl over and they were the bomb with everyone. We will have these again. Thank you!
Aubrey Cota says
So great!! I love them too. Thank you Nancy.
Alene Baker says
all I do this but take a can of jellied cranberries and bbq sauce mix together and pour over meatballs and slow cook as above
Alene Baker says
I need to add to that cranberry sauce is what I use not cranberries
I made this for Christmas – it was DELICIOUS! My whole family of “foodies” gobbled these up. This will be a family holiday favorite for years to come. THANKS!
These look absolutely delicious!!! I’m always on the lookout for good meatball recipes, thanks for sharing!