Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce Recipe

The easiest party appetizer on the planet is also the most delicious. Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce is a lifesaver for hungry crowds and cocktail parties, so make a double batch! 

Lighten up this recipe with homemade turkey meatballs, or round out your party menu with a batch of mini quiches, Cowboy Caviar, and Knorr's famous spinach dip. See more party ideas here.

Crockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce in a silver bowl.
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To those who’ve never tasted the miracle of crockpot meatballs, the ingredients might sound unusual, but trust the recipe and the generations of hostesses who adore it. Plain old-fashioned grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce is the secret to tangy, smoky, unstoppable meatballs.

All you have to do is throw everything together and turn on the slow cooker. If you’re using frozen meatballs, add them to the crockpot right out of the freezer. And if you’re making your own, (bless you) there’s a great recipe down below for you to follow.

Making Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce for a fabulous shindig? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

The all important sauce:

The two ingredients for this genius meatball sauce are super easy to find in most grocery stores.

  • Chili sauce. Heinz chili sauce is what you want for this recipe. It’s not spicy, and in fact there’s not much difference between ketchup and chili sauce. You can also use sweet chili sauce, in a pinch.
    If you don’t have it or can’t find chili sauce, use ketchup with a little chili powder, or use your favorite tomato-based barbecue sauce for meatballs.
  • Grape jelly. Smuckers, Welch’s, or generic jam or jelly is ideal. If you’re in a country where grape jelly isn’t readily available, look for some kind of fruit jam that has a smooth consistency that will melt down and sweeten the meatballs.
    The easiest party appetizer on the planet is also the most delicious. Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce is a lifesaver for hungry crowds and cocktail parties, so make a double batch! 

Let’s talk meatballs:

The real truth of the matter is this: frozen meatballs work just as fabulously as from scratch in this recipe. No judgement. However, making homemade meatballs is a great option, especially if you’re trying to avoid processed food. You can also keep things lean and try this recipe with turkey meatballs.

If you’re looking for the best frozen meatball to buy, well, maybe it’s time to do some taste testing. Costco, Farm Rich, Pineland Farms, or Trader Joe’s sells bags of frozen meatballs that taste pretty darn good, according to the reviews. Stow a couple extra bags in the freezer when you’re short on dinner ideas; meatballs always come in handy.

The easiest party appetizer on the planet is also the most delicious. Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce is a lifesaver for hungry crowds and cocktail parties, so make a double batch! 

How to make homemade meatballs:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, ground pork, bread crumbs, onion, milk, Worcestershire, and egg. Then add the salt and pepper. A big wooden spoon or spatula does the trick, but you can use your hands, too.
  2. Then roll the meatballs by hand into 1-inch balls. The goal is to make them bite-sized, but they will shrink a little when they cook.
  3. You need to cook the meatballs before adding them to the crockpot. You can do this by pan frying them or baking them in the oven.

To fry the meatballs, heat some vegetable shortening in a large shallow skillet over medium-high heat.

Fry the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd them. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes per batch; they should be browned on all sides. Double check their internal temperature before removing them from the pan; they should be 155 degrees on the inside when a food thermometer is inserted inside the meatball.

Baking meatballs is easy and requires less stove time. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

First, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment. Set a baking rack over the sheet pan and arrange the meatballs on the rack.

Bake the meatballs until they’re browned and have crispy edges—about 20 minutes. Use a thermometer to double check their internal temperature before removing them from the pan; the thermometer should read 155 degrees for 15 seconds.

Freezing meatballs:

To make meatballs from scratch and freeze for later, let the cooked meatballs cool completely before putting them in the freezer.

Once cool, arrange the meatballs on a sheet tray and pop the tray in the freezer. When the meatballs are frozen solid in a few hours, you can transfer the meatballs to a freezer-safe bag and store them.

How to make Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly:

  1. Once you browned all the meatballs you made, add them to the crockpot with a jar of chili sauce and a jar of grape jelly. Give everything a gentle stir. If you're using frozen meatballs, just add the frozen meatballs directly to the crockpot. There is no need to thaw them out beforehand. That’s it!
    Meatballs, chili sauce, and grape jelly in a black slow cooker.
  2. Cover the crockpot and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours, or HIGH for 2 to 3 hours. The sauce should be hot.
    Crockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce in a black slow cooker.

How to make meatballs with grape jelly on the stove:

Cooking up some stove top meatballs is easy, too! Add the meatballs to a saucepan that’s large enough to accommodate everything. Stir in the chili sauce and grape jelly. Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat until the sauce is hot, about 10 minutes.

Crockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce in a silver skillet.

Make ahead crockpot meatballs:

If you just want to make the meatballs the night before, 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).

Slow Cooker Meatball Variations:

  • Cranberry sauce. Some meatball devotées use canned cranberry sauce (yes, the smooth type!) in their party meatballs. It ups the tangy factor a little and tastes just as good.
  • Grape jelly and BBQ sauce. Barbecue sauce is a great substitute for chili sauce. Instead of chili sauce, your favorite tomato based barbecue sauce gives a little extra smoky taste to every bite.
  • Meatballs with grape jelly and mustard. Basic yellow mustard and grape jelly, what some people use as baked ham sauce, is pretty wonderful on crockpot meatballs.
  • Swedish meatballs. The Best Swedish Meatballs recipe is right here, creamy sauce and all.
  • Other fruit jelly for meatballs. Some cooks like using apple jelly or even elderberry jelly as a grape jelly substitute. That's fine! They will be delicious with either.
5 from 17 votes

Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce Recipe

The easiest party appetizer on the planet is also the most delicious. Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce is a lifesaver for hungry crowds and cocktail parties, so make a double batch! 
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword meatballs
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Calories 273kcal
  • 1 (32 ounce) bag frozen fully-cooked meatballs (see notes to make meatballs from scratch)
  • 12 ounces chili sauce
  • 10 ounces grape jelly

To sauce the meatballs in a slow cooker:

  • Add frozen meatballs to crockpot. Add chili sauce and grape jelly. 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:

  • Add meatballs to saucepan. Add chili sauce and grape jelly. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the sauce is hot, about 10 minutes. 

Recipe Notes

To make the meatballs from scratch:
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)
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).

Additional notes:

  1. Sweet chili sauce may be substituted for regular chili sauce. The flavor will be a little different but still delicious!
  2. Adapted from "Appetizer Meat Balls" in the Calico Capers Go To Cookbook.

Nutrition

Calories: 273kcal

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  1. Elizabeth G.

    I love, love this recipe and my mother made it for years. I do substitute for fun – I like to jam my own preserves each year as I have local berry farms nearby. So, instead of store bought grape, I have used home made blueberry, blackberry, and even cranberry jams and it is all so delicious. The cranberry one is not too sweet and has some spice to it too. Sometimes i have added a little local honey, as well. And, I make low sugar jams as a rule. People always love the combinations. I never substitute for the Heinz Chili Sauce. And I use frozen (plain) beef meatballs all the time. Great for tapas nights and cocktail parties. I like the home made jams as I also avoid any high fructose corn syrup additive from the jams. Enjoy!5 stars

  2. Keisha

    I’ve tried this recipe a while back ago (not this website), and wasn’t pleased with the outcome. I used frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and original BBQ sauce. Should I try the chili sauce this time?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Keisha, yes I think so. My rule is – EITHER barbecue sauce OR grape jelly and chili sauce. If you do grape jelly and barbecue sauce, it’s probably too sweet. I don’t know which barbecue sauce you used, of course, but I would use sweet baby rays and it’s just too sweet with grape jelly. And the chili sauce you want to use is shown in the picture – it’s heinz. It’s not overly sweet. It’s not Asian sweet chili sauce, is all that I mean. You need something to help cut all that sugar in the grape jelly. So I’d say go for it… I hope you like it! Thanks! -Meggan

  3. Jackie

    Can you use this for little smokies

    1. meggan

      Hi Jackie, yes absolutely. That’s really common where I’m from actually. It’ll be great! Thanks. -Meggan

  4. Rachel Clow

    Have you converted this to an Instant Pot or have suggestions for that?

  5. Sonia

    Do you have to use frozen meatballs or can they be homemade unfrozen in the crockpot with the grape bbq sauce

    1. meggan

      Hi Sonia, you can use homemade unfrozen. It will probably take less time to heat them up, but probably still at least 2 hours. If you have other questions, just let me know! Thanks. -Meggan

  6. Paige

    How long would you bake using frozen meatballs? And what temp?

  7. Lauren

    Are the units for the jelly and chili sauce in weight or volume? I.e. fluid ounces, or oz.?

    1. meggan

      Hi Lauren, that’s a great question. I think generally products (at least in the US) are sold by weight, not volume. So that’s what I think. The chili sauce is sold in a container that size, and so is the jelly. So you just buy those. I’m pretty sure it’s weight. Thanks! -Meggan

  8. Megan

    These sound and look amazing but I don’t have grape jelly in the cuoboard…would strawberry still taste okay?

    1. meggan

      Hi Megan, I’ve been working my way through the other jelly types and I haven’t gotten to strawberry yet. I know the apricot is good and I didn’t like the raspberry (but the raspberry also had seeds so that was a huge part of the problem, I think). So I don’t know on strawberry! Sorry about that. I’ll post an update when I find out, but I’m sure you want to make them today. :-/ -Meggan

  9. Karla Tawzer

    Simply the best.
    Tried and true recipe for easy & delicious meatballs for a crowd!
    The favorite go-to when invited to a potluck or family-event.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Karla, so happy to hear that! It’s the same in my life. People just LOVE these meatballs, me included. Sometimes I laugh and think “am I really putting grape jelly on meatballs” but yes I am and I love it. I am actually trying some other jellies too, the apricot is pretty decent, I didn’t like the raspberry (but I had a raspberry jam with seeds in it, so that was awful). Anyway. Thanks again for your comment! Take care. -Meggan

  10. Mary Aaron

    Can you substitute Thai chili sauce for the Heinz chili sauce?

    1. meggan

      Hi Mary, you can do whatever you want! I haven’t tried these with Thai chili sauce but it sounds like it would be great. I hope it works for you! I’ll put it on my list to try the combo. -Meggan

  11. Bea McDaniel

    When I came across this recipe it brought back some memories haven’t made none in many years..I also use this recipe for my meatballs with a few spoons of grape jelly…I sometimes uses chili sauce, barbeque sauce with a couple of spoons of Taco seasoning an grape jelly. That gives it a nice kick as well. But I prefer the frozen kind..

  12. Pixie

    I’ve used Robert Rothchild Roasted Pineapple & Habenero Sauce purchased from either Costo or Sam’s. They disapeared.5 stars

  13. Dave

    These are sooooooo good!!!5 stars

  14. Florence Kalma

    Made the grape jelly sauce and it was devoured! After the meatballs finished the guests used the sauce and put it over the other meats!5 stars

  15. Kimberly

    Has anyone tried this recipe and substituted grape jelly for pineapple or orange preserves? If so, what was the outcome?

    1. Pixie

      I’ve used Robert Rothchild Roasted Pineapple & Habenero Sauce purchased from either Costo or Sam’s. They disapeared.

    2. Amy

      I’m making these now. I accidentally bought extra hot red enchiladas sauce. How do I tone it down for office party? I added some light brown sugar and a bit of honey……..but they are still REALLY hot!!

    3. meggan

      Hi Amy, I’m assuming your party is tomorrow. So, honestly what I personally would do, if I could, would be to pour out as much of the hot sauce as possible, like down the drain. And get the regular chili sauce and add that. You want to try to replace the hot sauce with the correct sauce as much as possible. The only other thing to do would be to double or triple the batch and add more of everything (except the hot sauce – use the correct chili sauce!) which is basically the same thing. You have to either remove or spread out the heat. There are things that can tone down heat, like you said honey, but you would need so much it would ruin the flavor. This probably isn’t the most helpful advice but I think it would be the most effective. And in case any of the hot sauce soaked into the meatballs, even if you figure out the sauce, it’s probably best to warn people that these may be spicy! Good luck. Thanks – Meggan

    4. meggan

      Hi Kimberly, I haven’t, but now I have this dream of buying all the different kinds of preserves at a store and making the meatballs with all of them. I feel like this post needs a complete guide to all the preserves and which ones taste awesome. I’ll put it on my list for testing! I REALLY want to know, LOL! Thanks for the question. -Meggan

  16. Anne

    Can you serve this over buttered noodles for a dinner or is it just an appetizer?

    1. Jeff

      I’ve made these for years and serve them over rice or noodles, with either a veggie or salad. You can definitely make a meal out of them!5 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Anne – YES! That sounds amazing. You should definitely do that, and I should too. :D

  17. JOHN JESSMORE

    MY MOTHER ALWAYS USED 1 CUP MUSTARD AND 32 OUNCE JAR OF GRAPE JELLY AND PUT THE INGREDIENTS IN A PAN TILL ALL DISSOLVED AND HOT AND THEN POUR OVER MEATBALLS.I HAVE MADE IT THIS WAY MANY TIMES

  18. Eileen

    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. 5 stars

  19. Ginny neurauter

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

    1. meggan

      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!

  20. Chris

    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?

    1. Dee

      Thanks! I was wondering that since I started reading the recipe!5 stars

    2. meggan

      Hi Chris, put them right in the crockpot frozen. Thank you and sorry this was not clear!

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