Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce

Homemade Crockpot Meatballs smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce made with grape jelly and chili sauce. Double this recipe – they’ll go fast! Scroll down for an easy video tutorial.

Crockpot Meatballs are always a good idea.

These small yet hearty bites can be the cornerstone of any buffet or party spread. In fact, with meatballs on the menu, traditional entrees are rendered almost unnecessary.

People LOVE crock pot meatballs. They go back for seconds. They fill up on them.

Homemade Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce - a photo of a black crockpot full of reddish brown meatballs - click photo for full written recipe

Especially crockpot appetizer meatballs in grape jelly sauce! The combination of grape jelly and chili sauce is almost legendary in the Midwest.

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If you’ve never had them, you’re in for a real treat!

My version is from a regional cookbook called The Calico Capers, but within that cookbook there were several versions of easy crock pot meatballs that were all very similar. Lots of food memories involving meatballs!

Homemade Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce - a photo of a three meatballs in a white bowl with a silver spoon with a crockpot in the background - click photo for full written recipe

I made the meatballs from scratch, but you are certainly welcome to substitute the store-bought frozen meatballs (the frozen Italian meatballs work just fine; see notes below). If you make them from scratch, fry the meatballs in batches in some vegetable shortening for added Midwest authenticity.

Once the meatballs are browned, just add them to a crock pot with a jar of grape jelly and a jar of chili sauce. Cook until heated through, about 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 6 to 7 hours on LOW.

You can make these easy Crockpot Meatballs ahead, too! Just reheat them in the slow cooker, or on the stove if you’re in a rush (and transfer to the slow cooker to keep warm).

(Need a crock pot? I’ve had this one since 2009 and just love it.)

Save these Crockpot Meatballs to your “Appetizers” Pinterest board!

And let’s be friends on Pinterest! I’m always pinning tasty recipes!

A square photo of cockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce against a marble background.
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Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce

Homemade Crockpot Meatballs smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce made with grape jelly and chili sauce. Double this recipe - they'll go fast! 48 frozen meatballs may be substituted.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 292 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2/3 cup finely minced onion
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (for frying the meatballs)
  • 10 ounces grape jelly
  • 12 ounces chili sauce

Instructions

To make the meatballs:

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, bread crumbs, onion, milk, egg, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 

  2. Using a strong spatula or your hands (I like to wear latex gloves), mix well. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (you should have around 48 total).

To fry the meatballs:

  1. Heat vegetable shortening in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned on all sides and the meatballs are cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes per batch (an internal thermometer should read 155 degrees for 15 seconds). Add more shortening between batches if the skillet looks dry.

To bake the meatballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a rack on top. Arrange meatballs on rack and bake until browned with crispy edges, about 20 minutes (an internal thermometer should read 155 degrees for 15 seconds).

To sauce the meatballs in a slow cooker:

  1. Transfer browned meatballs to the crockpot. Add grape jelly and chili sauce. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 hours on HIGH or 4 to 6 hours on LOW, until the sauce is hot. Serve directly from the crockpot with a serving spoon or toothpicks, or transfer to a serving dish.

To sauce the meatballs on the stovetop:

  1. Transfer browned meatballs to a pot. Add grape jelly and chili sauce. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the sauce is hot, about 10 minutes. 

To freeze the meatballs (without sauce):

  1. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, not touching. Freeze until solid, about 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and store up to 1 month in advance.

Recipe Notes

  1. The homemade meatballs can be fried ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Simply reheat in the crockpot with the sauce. Or, make the entire recipe ahead of time, refrigerate overnight, and reheat in the crockpot before serving.
  2. 48 store-bought meatballs may be substituted for the homemade meatballs. Simply add the frozen meatballs straight to the crockpot with the grape jelly and chili sauce, and cook until heated through.
  3. Sweet chili sauce may be substituted for regular chili sauce. The flavor will be a little different but still delicious!
  4. Adapted from "Appetizer Meat Balls" in the Calico Capers Go To Cookbook.

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27 comments

  1. These look amazing, I love the beef/pork combo and the sweet spicy sauce (drool). This is actually my favorite way to enjoy meatballs, but It is so easy for me to eat so many  in a small amount of time.  In fact, I would start as I’m putting them on the plate. 1 for the plate, 1 for me :)

  2. Hi, Meggan! You know, I have some ready-to-roll-into meatballs meat in my freezer that I’ve been wondering what to do with. It’s a fabulous idea to combine them with a jar of jelly and chili sauce in a crockpot!
    I haven’t been very successful with my crockpot recipes so far, so I’m keen to try anything that looks as lovely as this. We don’t really have grape jelly here in the UK though – I wonder what I could use instead … maybe redcurrant jelly? We also don’t have jars of ‘chili sauce’ as such. Would that be a tomato-based sauce with a spike of chili? How big roughly would the jar be? :-)

    • Hi Helen, I’m also in the UK and gave this a try at the weekend, so I thought I’d let you know my findings, just in case you haven’t tried it yet and still wanted to! I Googled the key ingredients of grape jelly (which is essentially jam) and American chili sauce, and chose the closest things I could get in my local supermarket – Maggi Authentic Mild Malaysian Chili Sauce (340g) and Hartley’s Blueberry Jam (340g). It turned out really nice, albeit very rich and sweet, with a lot more sauce than Meggan’s pictures. This was fine for me as I was cooking it to be served for dinner with rice or noodles, rather than as an appetiser. If I was making it again I’d either use more meat or less jam (I used the whole jar) or would perhaps put some chunky green peppers in the sauce to cut through the sweetness a bit, or a little garlic in the meatballs or something. Enjoy! Thanks Meggan for an easy and different dinner idea ?

    • Helen, Chile sauce should be all chile, not tomato. It can be a variety of spice level, from enchilada sauce to really hot habenero sauce. I’ve been thinking cranberry or raspberry jelly, instead of grape, as well.

  3. This sounds amazing!! Will be trying this week! Would this work well with turkey meat?

    • Hi Raven! I don’t see why not! I haven’t tried them, but it sounds tasty. The only thing I can think of is, if your turkey is super lean, make sure you have enough oil when you fry them so they don’t stick to the pan. Good luck! And thank you for your comment!

  4. How long would you cook the meatballs if they are store bought? Is it the same time frame.

    • Hi Jenny, yes. I should have put that in the post. It’s still about 3 to 4 hours on HIGH and they should be good to go. The nice thing about frozen meatballs is they are precooked so you just need to get them hot. Thank you!

  5. Hi thanks for this post!

    I am going to fry these and let them cool then freeze on a cookie sheet and transfer to freezer bags. Would the crock pot cook time be the same? I bought a gargantuan tube of meat to make lots of these, can’t wait to try the sauce. I remember a grade school teacher bringing us some that were sweet and sour, she used equal parts grape jelly and mustard and the were TDF. ?

    • Hey there Rolanda! Yes, the crockpot time would be the same. You are basically duplicating a giant bag of frozen meatballs that are already cooked, so it basically just takes however long to heat them up (a couple of hours on HIGH or so). Grape jelly and mustard sounds like a pretty fantastic combination, I’m definitely going to try that next! Thank you so much for the tip, and for reading the ol’ blog. :) Take care!

  6. What size crock-pot is used for the basic recipe? 4qt? I most likely will double so need to know if a double batch will work in a 6 qt. also do you double the jelly and chili sauce? Thanks!

    • always had the meatballs or smokies, or wieners with BQ sauce until one lady at work brought some, had a totally different taste and was so yummy. She had used the grape jelly and 2 bottles of Heinz cocktail sauce. It was a double big batch. I have added lil’ smokies to the meatballs all in one large 6 qt. crock pot. My husband said the guys at his table was digging to the bottom for the lil’ smokies. I let them stay on high until slightly bubbling then leave on very low for about 6 hours, let those flavors really infuse into the meat.

    • Yeah, that sauce is UNSTOPPABLE for lil smokies too. Probably even better than the meatballs, like your husband said they were digging to the bottom for those! I think you’re right, longer cooking times can only improve this already great situation. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Has this been done with Italian sausage instead of ground pork? Would the flavors completely clash?

    • Hi Katie, I think these would taste excellent with Italian sausage! I’m a huge fan. I don’t think the flavors would clash at all. I haven’t tried them though. I definitely will though and will update the post! Great idea.

  8. Megan, can we add garlic to it? Ive been lately add garlic to most of my recipes, but I don’t know about this one!

    • Hi Lana, YES! Absolutely. That would taste fantastic, probably better than what I’ve been making! :)

    • I’m curious if you ended up making this and where you added the garlic, to the meatballs or the sauce? How was it? I’m gonna make this tomorrow and was also gonna add garlic.

      Thanks

  9. What brand of chili sauce do you recommend. Is it like a sweet chili sauce or something else. I need something on the mild side for the pallets i’ll be cooking for. Thank you!

    • I need to put this in the recipe, sorry for the confusion! I use Heniz Chili sauce. It’s not sweet chili sauce per se, but it’s not too far off. I have also made these with sweet chile sauce it’s great! My mother, who has no tolerance for spice, can eat this. Here’s a link to the stuff I buy: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Heinz-Shipper-Chili-Sauce-12-oz/15754581 (I would recommend buying it locally, not online, but at least this way you can see it). Thank you Cliff!

  10. These are amazing. I have made them a couple of times. I used grape jelly the first time, but the 2nd time I went with elderberry jelly because it isn’t as sweet as the grape. That was pretty amazing as well. I realize elderberry jelly isn’t easy to come by, but if you can get your jands on some it is definitely worth a try.

  11. When using store bought frozen meatballs, do you need to thaw the meatballs first? Or do you put them right into the crockpot while still frozen?

  12. I have used store meatballs in spaghetti sauce, how do you think they compare with home made

    • Hi Ginny, I have had some excellent store-bought meatballs in my day. I think it comes down to how much time you have – you should not skip eating meatballs simply because you don’t have time to make them. At least, that’s how I feel. I’m a big fan of buying some things and making others… it’s all about low-stress! I hope this helps. Thank you for stopping by!

  13. I’ve been making these for 35 years. Always a hit. Sometimes I substitute canned cranberry sauce for the jelly. Adds a nice tang to the sauce. If using jelly I add a little lemon juice to cut the sweetness a bit. Absolutely no fail recipe. 

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