Sweet and Sour Meatballs in the Crockpot

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Sweet and sour meatballs in the Crockpot will stay warm for hours during your party. Serve these savory cocktail meatballs for an open house, football party, or any event that has guests nibbling at your buffet table over the course of time.

The white serving bowl is filled with sweet and sour meatballs in a rich glaze.

Whenever I'm a guest at a big holiday party at someone else's house, I get super excited to find a slowcooker filled with cocktail meatballs.

I never thought to make them myself until we needed an easy dish for our family New Year's Eve party.

Now that I know how easy sweet and sour meatballs in the Crockpot are to prep and serve, they will be a standard party appetizer from now on!

If you've never tried this crazy popular dish, you're going to LOVE the perfect sweet and sour sauce on the meatballs.

It is just the right texture and not too sweet because I add a special "secret ingredient!"

Jump to:

Why This is the Best Recipe

There are so many easy party appetizers to choose from but I think this is the best sweet and sour meatballs recipe because:

  1. Keep Warm in Crock Pot: Hosting an open house or a long party for watching the big game? The meatballs will stay warm for hours and hours in the slowcooker on your buffet table.
  2. Start with Prepared Meatballs: Save time and money by using a bag of your favorite frozen meatballs.
  3. Easy Sweet and Sour Sauce: You might be surprised to see ketchup and grape jam on the list, but just wait till you taste the magic they make together!
  4. Not TOO Sweet: Some sweet and sour meatball recipes are cloyingly sweet but not this one. A dash of hot sauce accents the sauce just right without making it spicy.

Ingredients

The ingredients are on the counter in front of the slowcooker filled with frozen meatballs.

This easy cocktail meatballs recipe is the perfect slowcooker appetizer. All you need to make it is:

  • Frozen Meatballs: You can use beef, turkey, or pork. I used Italian style meatballs, but plain meatballs work great, too.
  • Brown Sugar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Ketchup
  • Grape Jam
  • Hot Sauce: We love Texas Pete but any hot sauce will do. This keeps the meatballs from being too sweet.
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Cornstarch
  • Olive Oil: Just for browning the meatballs, you can use canola oil or vegetable if you prefer.

Brown the Meatballs

This first step is actually optional but I think it greatly improves the final texture of your appetizer.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the frozen meatballs and cook them until they've browned on the outside. They don't need to be warmed through, they'll finish in the slowcooker.

However, by browning the outsides of the meatballs, they have a more savory crispy bite to the final dish.

If you're in a rush, you can just let the meatballs cook completely in the slowcooker.

Once the meatballs are browned, transfer them to the Crockpot.

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Prepare the Sweet and Sour Sauce

While the meatballs are browning, you can prepare the sauce.

Add water, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ketchup, grape jam, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to a sauce pan and whisk it all together.

The saucepan has the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce being whisked together.

Heat the sauce over medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil.

In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of water and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth.

Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and whisk it in.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Pour the prepared sauce over the meatballs in the slowcooker and stir to coat.

The cooked sweet and sour sauce is being poured over the frozen meatballs inside the slowcooker.

Crock Pot Cooking Instructions

Cover the slowcooker and cook the meatballs on LOW for 30 minutes - 1 hour or until the meatballs are finished warming through.

You can keep them warm with the "KEEP WARM" setting for a few hours during your party.

The sweet and sour sauce has been stirred over the meatballs in the Crockpot.

Make Ahead Tips

You could make this entire dish in advance and then just reheat it in the slowcooker for your party but be careful so the meatballs don't overcook and fall apart.

I'd recommend browning the meatballs in advance and preparing the sauce as directed up to 24 hours in advance.

You could combine the meatballs and sauce and store them in the fridge. Just scrape the mixture into your slowcooker and cook through before serving.

Do not try to freeze this recipe. The meatballs have already been frozen once, it is best not to refreeze them a second time.

Easy Meatball Variations

If you're not totally sold on the sweet and sour sauce for this meatball recipe, you could also try making one of these other dishes.

They'd each keep warm in the crockpot for your party, too.

You could try swapping my thick teriyaki sauce for the sweet and sour sauce. Add a big bowl of my roasted peppers and pineapple to the crockpot for a fun mix.

Try an Italian variation by using Italian meatballs in tomato sauce. They work great for easy meatball subs.

Or for a lighter spin, try my romano chicken meatballs with lemon sauce. I'd skip the asparagus, it will over cook in the crockpot if it sits too long.

Serving Suggestions

The cooked meatballs are ready for serving.

Serve the sweet and sour meatballs in the Crockpot right on your party table.

They will keep warm for several hours during your special event.

I always place a container of party picks, a stack of plates, and cocktail napkins so that guests have a place to set a few meatballs to enjoy.

The sweet and sour sauce on the meatballs has a savory flavor that pairs well with other savory appetizers.

I try to mix textures and add a creamy dip like my spicy jalapeño artichoke dip or my Oriental chicken layer dip with crispy crackers.

You could also make my easy seasoned pretzels for crunch.

These sausage crescent roll swirls are easy to make ahead and the flavors would work well on your party menu alongside the sweet and sour meatballs.

📖 Recipe

The white serving bowl is filled with sweet and sour meatballs in a rich glaze.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs in the Crockpot

5 from 46 votes
Classic cocktail meatballs keep warm on your buffet table for hours in the slowcooker. This wildly popular sweet and sour sauce is made from ketchup and grape jam but is elevated by a dash of hot sauce to keep it from being too sweet.
TOTAL TIME 25 minutes
PREP TIME 5 minutes
COOK TIME 20 minutes
YIELD 16 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds prepared frozen meatballs beef, turkey, or pork
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup grape jam
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce like Texas Pete
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Instructions

  • In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the meatballs to the skillet and cook until the outsides have browned. The meatballs don't need to have cooked through, they will warm in the slowcooker. Transfer the meatballs to a Crockpot.
  • Meanwhile, add the water, brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, grape jam, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce to a sauce pan and whisk them together. Heat over medium high and bring to a boil.
  • In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add the cornstarch and whisk it in with a fork. Add the mixture to the bubbling saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour the prepared sauce over the meatballs in the slowcooker and gently stir to coat.
  • Cover the slowcooker and heat on low for 30 minutes - 1 hour or until the meatballs are finished warming through.
  • To serve, you can keep the meatballs warm on the Keep Warm setting for a couple of hours.
COURSEAppetizers
CUISINEAmerican

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The photo collage shows the finished meatballs next to a Crockpot with all the ingredients laid out in front of it.

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