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.
        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! 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!
      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.
        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 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.

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! 

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 15 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 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. 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!

  2. Rolanda

    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. Bobbi Baker

      I realize the post above is almost four years old now, however I was wondering if the you are referring to regular yellow mustard, dijon or dry mustard. Do you still use chili sauce and grape jelly and then add the mustard?

    2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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. Karen

      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

  6. 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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