Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce Recipe

Easy Crockpot Meatballs smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce made with grape jelly and chili sauce. Use convenient frozen meatballs or make them yourself. Double this recipe - they'll go fast!

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.

A square photo of cockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce against a marble background.
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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.

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

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.

Or, make your own turkey meatballs.

Leaner than beef, these Turkey Meatballs are healthy, packed with flavor, and incredibly moist on the inside. A combination of fresh and dried herbs give these meatballs an Italian flare while also providing a balance of flavors. Good and good for you, these meatballs freeze beautifully and can be reheated in no time. To sauce or not to sauce, I leave that up to you!

Once the meatballs are browned, just add them to a crock pot with a jar of grape jelly and a jar of chili sauce (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through this link). 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).

5 from 14 votes

Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce Recipe

Easy Crockpot Meatballs smothered in a sweet and tangy sauce made with grape jelly and chili sauce. Use convenient frozen meatballs or make them yourself. Double this recipe - they'll go fast!
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 292kcal
  • 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: 292kcal

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

    1. meggan

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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. Debbie

    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.5 stars

  7. Cliff

    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!

    1. meggan

      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!

  8. Lana

    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!5 stars

    1. Chad

      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

    2. meggan

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

  9. Katie

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

    1. meggan

      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.

  10. Kathie

    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!

    1. JJ

      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.5 stars

    2. meggan

      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!

  11. 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. ?

    1. meggan

      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!

  12. jenny

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

    1. meggan

      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!

  13. Raven

    This sounds amazing!! Will be trying this week! Would this work well with turkey meat?5 stars

    1. meggan

      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!

  14. 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? :-)5 stars

    1. Hi, I used to know friends in SC. that used plum jam or jelly in place of grape jelly. Very yummy!5 stars

    2. Alan

      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. Claire-Louise Meek

      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 ?5 stars

  15. 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 :)5 stars

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