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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!

Crockpot meatballs with grape jelly sauce in a silver bowl.

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.

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.
A metal pie pan filled with crockpot meatballs.

Crockpot Meatballs with Grape Jelly Sauce

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! 
4.99 from 1306 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 40 mins
Servings 16 servings
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Calories 220




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 Video


To make the meatballs from scratch:
  • 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)
To make the meatballs:
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, bread crumbs, onion, milk, egg, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ 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.


Calories: 220kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 10gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 322mgPotassium: 255mgFiber: 1gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 149IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 16mgIron: 1mg
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Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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  1. My family has been making these for over 20 years :). Our sauce is a little different. We find that concord grape jelly (not jam, it was engrained on me not to use anything else lol) works the best with the best flavor. Chili paste (huy fong) its a green top with a gold label with a red rooster on it, and Worcestershire sauce. Grape jelly is base and you melt that down. to the liquid. Add a decent amount of chili paste and W.Sauce. Paste for heat and getting that interesting flavor, W.Sauce to tone down the sweetness and add a smoky flavor. Use with meat balls, lil smokies, or as a glaze.4 stars

  2. I have been making these for over 20 years, and they are always a hit! Our Christmas Eve meal would not be complete without them. Thanks for posting!5 stars

    1. Hi Angry Review, did you try making this recipe before rating it one star? I would guess not, because it is delicious. One thousand and ninety people also agree with me. I hope in the future you do try this recipe, or you find another recipe that is more to your liking.

  3. Hi Meggan, these meatballs look delicious. I’m considering making them for my son’s Birthday this coming Sunday. I have questions, Do you think doubling the recipe will feed a crowd of 25 Or should I triple it? Would a 6 qt Crockpot be big enough? Is the Chilli Sauce Spicy? How many meatballs in 1 serving? Sorry for the barrage of questions, haha. Thank you. :)

    1. Hi Brittany! I hope you all enjoy these as much as I do! I think doubling would be a great idea, even tripling! I’m not sure a tripled batch would fit in a 6-quart slow cooker, but a doubled would. These can also be made on the stove and then put into a slow cooker to keep warm (or even in a 200-degree oven). The sweet chili sauce is a little spicy, but gets mellowed out by the jam. I usually think of 6 meatballs in a serving, but meatballs vary so much, I would recommend looking at the bag itself and seeing how many meatballs they consider a serving and how many it makes and then honing in on how many bags you would need. On the recipe card itself, you can hover the mouse over the number of servings and adjust it as necessary. I hope your son has a wonderful birthday and you have a great time!

    1. Hi Laurie, I think it would only effect the flavor of the meatballs themselves. I love this either way. Take care!

    1. Hi Robyn, it will still need about 2 hours of cook time. Since slow cookers vary quite a bit, you’ll want to make sure they internally reach 160 degrees on a digital thermometer. Enjoy! – Meggan

  4. I substitute Lipton Cup of Soup Mix, Brown Onion Mix, & all the other ingredients above marinate overnight, in the refrigerator in the morning sit it out to get to room temperature, make meatballs your size, bake 400 deg & add pineapple. Barbecue Sauce grape jam. Make small


  6. I’m a vegetarian, so I haven’t actually eaten these, but my husband who is definitely a carnivore, loves these. Had them at a get together a couple weeks ago. I went to the store to buy frozen meatballs for the first time ever in my life, and boy was I confused! Soooo many varieties. Can you PLEASE tell me the type of meatball you use? Angus, Italian, Homestyle, etc…??? Thank you!!!5 stars

    1. Hi Judy! I prefer homestyle or homemade. I haven’t tried this with vegetarian meatballs, but I bet it would be delicious. Take care! – Meggan

  7. I plan on using frozen meatballs. It it better to pan fry or oven bake first to get that crispy taste on the outside?

    1. Hi Michelle, you can totally pan fry to get the crispy edge. Hope you enjoy! – Meggan

  8. I’m going to a BBQ on Saturday but leaving on Friday night and staying overnight. I’m wondering if I can make these on Thursday, then cool them down and refrigerate them for the ride and place in crock pot on Saturday to reheat and serve. Will they be ok or not such a good idea?

  9. If I am taking this to a party, should I leave them in the crock pot on the warm setting or just not have it on while at the party once they have cooked?? I wanted to keep them warm but not dry them out. Thanks

  10. I made this recipe yesterday for a school celebration. It was a success. It was the dish that everyone talked about and came back for seconds and thirds. Thank you!!!!!5 stars

  11. So exited to make this recipe! I would like to double it, would that affect cooking time/crockpot size?? Thank you!5 stars

    1. Hi Erika, you should be okay! I would suggest, if possible, just checking them with a thermometer to ensure they are at 160 internally. We have a great one linked in our shop! Hope this helps. – Meggan

  12. Hi! I do like this recipe but, for years, I’ve added the juice one medium lemon which seems to balance the sweet the savory and the tart. I have a batch in my crock pot now made with sugarless berry jam. Sometimes I use original grape jelly, or Lingonberry or whatever tickles my fancy. 🤣 Has anyone tried orange marmalade?5 stars

  13. Hi Meggan,–I should have asked You a little while ago, I noticed that some people said that they “used Little Smokie Meat instead of Meatballs & they turned out just/pretty good also,—I didn’t notice anything, but, You think You could get away with using “Venesin Deer Meat” once U’ve “got a Deer You take it to the Butcher, & He can actually “Make Pieces of Jerky & Vacuum Pack Them, & their actually packed, it’s about the same size of Little Smokie Sausages” but, because “it’s actually not a meatball, & it’s Deer Meat, You think I could still get get away with using that instead/also?—-Thanks

  14. I bought everything & went to “the MOOSE Lodge” at 12:00 for Superbowl Party went-up in the kitchen, left the meatball’s in their bags & left’em in Hot Water to thaw’em out & while they were thawing, I made the marinade w\a “shot of Jack Danials mixed in also, in the crock-pot & let it simmer on low, @ about 2:30– I put the meatballs in the crock pot & put the temp. from “low to high” NOW about every 20min. You gotta re-stir em’ so the marinade won’t stick & burn on the cermanic on the crock pot & it also helps to “Mix’en around so the one’s on the top don’t dry-out, & the one’s on the bottom, get soaked w/sauce,” Best thing to do is put’em in/on a bowl or disposable foil tray, & just put a medium or large size cooking spoon in the tray, that way You don’t have to shove toothpicks into’em or disposiable glasses to put’em in, REMEMBER, THEIR JUST AN APPITIZER SO YOU CAN LET U’r GUEST’S TAKE AS MANY AS THEY WANT, ON THEIR 1st TIME AROUND THE TABLE

  15. Thanks for the great recipe Meggan! They’ve been a big hit. I see it says 16 Servings, but for some reason, in my family it’s only about 3 Servings (haha).
    I’ve noticed a few people add Lil Smokies to the batch. If I do that, do I change how long I cook them in the crock pot? Do they also come frozen? I’ve never bought Lil Smokies so I want to do it right.3 stars

    1. Hi Mike, you can just add them right in and cook with the meatballs. The ones I’ve used don’t come frozen. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  16. Made the meatballs from the recipe and the sauce for our family Christmas party. Got tons of compliments and will definitely make this again!!5 stars

    1. Hi Beth, I haven’t tried it myself, but I believe they can be frozen. I think the sauce may possibly separate some. – Meggan

  17. Made this for Christmas eve. I cheated and used Earth’s Best mini meatballs from Target with this sauce. For the Grape jelly I used Good and Gather Organic grape fruit spread. Everyone was complimenting how great of a flavor it was. I would have never thought mixing grape jelly and chili sauce together would get rave reviews. See how much I know. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!5 stars

  18. Meatballs w/grape jelly/chili sce in crockpot….my sauce is very thin thougt it was supposed to be thick…what can. I do???

    1. Hi Jane, the sauce thickens as it cooks more and water from the meatballs evaporate. Also, when the meatballs and sauce are piping hot (over 200 degrees) they will be thinner than when they cool down slightly (to 160 or 170). Cooling down helps the sauce thicken. Not to COLD or even room temperature, but just not simmering anymore. Thanks! – Meggan

  19. Delish! I used whole cranberry sauce b’cause it’s what I had on hand along with a generic brand of chili sauce, and frozen meatballs from Costco. Tossed it all into a crockpot for several hours on low and served as an appetizer. Great idea to use cranberry sauce as an alternative to grape jelly. I may continue using it b’cause I liked the piquant taste the cranberries brought with the chili sauce. Thanks!5 stars

  20. Hi there – we don’t have a Crock Pot but we do have an Instant Pot. Do you happen to have directions on how to use an Instant Pot instead? Thanks!

    1. Hi Allyson, I haven’t tested this recipe in the Instant Pot! I’m sure you can do it but you may want to follow a recipe that has been created for this. Sorry about that! – Meggan

  21. Hi – I’m planning to cook these on the high temp in the morning and transport them right in the crockpot to a party 5-6 hours away. Then when we get there, just reheat on low. Do you think that will work okay?

    We have no time to cook them at the party since we will be traveling.

    Thank you,
    Dawn4 stars

    1. Hi Dawn, I don’t see why it wouldn’t! If you can, just double check the meatballs with a thermometer to ensure they are 160 degrees. Hope you enjoy! – Meggan

    1. Hi Tara, this recipe assumes you are using frozen meatballs, so you are all good! If you did want to cook them first, there are instructions for that as well. Hope you enjoy! – Meggan

  22. Serving these at a cocktail party at my hime. What do guests eat them with? Toothpicks? Should I provide forks? Thank you!

  23. Can’t wait to try these for my potluck! If I double the recipe, does it change the cooking time? I won’t be able to check on them because I’m just plugging them in the lounge and have to teach in my classroom while they cook, so want to make sure I get it right. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Brooke, you should be okay! I would suggest, if possible, just checking them with a thermometer to ensure they are at 160 internally. We have a great one linked in our shop! Hope this helps. – Meggan

  24. This recipe is amazing – I doubled my recipe and my guests devoured every last bite!
    Although the last time I made them the meatballs were a little tough and I think I may have overcooked them? What is the absolute least amount of time that I am able to cook them in the crock pot if I am making them fresh and I have already browned them in the oven until the desired temp is reached?
    Thank you!!!5 stars

    1. Hi Jodie, I’m glad you love this recipe! Since slow cookers vary so much, I would recommend cooking them until they reach 160 degrees in the center (if you’re making them with beef.) – Meggan

  25. I make these for every potluck I’m invited to, but I change the recipe. Instead of using chili sauce, I use Santa Fe Salsa. It’s got corn and black beans in it along with the rest of the salsa ingredients. I’ve had so many people ask me for the recipe and are completely shocked when they find out what’s in it and how simple it is to make. This was also one of my husband’s favorite recipes when he was alive. He loved when I would have a potluck at work because he always knew I was going to make these meatballs. Still a hit with my adult children as well.

    1. Wow Jackie thank you so much for sharing! That salsa sounds amazing and I am so glad that this recipe brings you some comfort. I’m sorry to hear about your loss. – Meggan

    1. Hi Letty, the chili sauce is quite similar to ketchup and not spicy at all. Hope the kids enjoy! – Meggan

  26. This recipe is a keeper. Everybody loves it. I think I’ll try the cranberry sauce version next time, it sounds great. My family also likes little smokies in this sauce and we usually put both meatballs and little smokies in the crockpot at the same time.5 stars

    1. What a great idea Debbie, definitely doing that next time! So glad you all love it. – Meggan

  27. Made the crockpot meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce expected the sauce to be thick and adhere to the meatballs it wasn’t why?

    1. Hi Maria, the sauce thickens as it cooks more and water from the meatballs evaporate. Also, when the meatballs and sauce are piping hot (over 200 degrees) they will be thinner than when they cool down slightly (to 160 or 170). Cooling down helps the sauce thicken. Not to COLD or even room temperature, but just not simmering anymore. Thanks! – Meggan

  28. This was the best recipe I ever used! I added a little oregano and minced onion and everyone was raving on how good they were. Highly recommend!5 stars

    1. Hi! Sorry if this was already asked. If I make my own meatballs, do I fully cook them before putting them in the crockpot and then how long should I leave them in the crockpot and at what setting? Thank you!

    2. Hi Nicole, it will probably take less time to heat them up, but probably still at least 2 hours on low. Slow cookers vary so much, I would recommend checking in on it. If you have other questions, just let me know! Thanks – Meggan

  29. I made these for a potluck and they were devoured. I used frozen vegetarian meatballs and NO one knew they were veggie.5 stars

  30. Mm mm m is spelling out just the right dish for me. Today is going with a jar of grape jelly, I bought, out of curiosity, in a dollar general’s store. For a day I thought of a sweet flavored recipe, tomatoes and over in the kitchen with one of those lid topped pans. With a picture of the then what I thought was just a tossed grape sweetener caught my attention. So thanks to Megan Hill’s recipe’. There will be a fantastic looking meatball dish to cover a nice long sweet speghetti.5 stars

    1. Hi Will! I haven’t tested this recipe with sugar free but it should probably be fine! The Chili Sauce also has sugar in it so be careful to watch for that too. I would suggest putting the sauce on the side and that way it can be portioned and monitored. Hope this helps! – Meggan

  31. I made them just as the recipe calls for. I doubled the ingredients. I took them to a memorial service reception and everyone raved about them and wanted the recipe. I was a little sheepish to tell them I used frozen meatballs. They were so delicious and so easy. I will definitely make them again. Thank you for sharing your recipe.
    Lynne5 stars

  32. Awesome recipe – this will be my second time making this. I love this article because if gives you both ways of making the meatballs. Thank you – this is works – and is delicious!5 stars

  33. Amazing recipe, I multiplied it by 3x and used it for a baby shower and everyone loved it! This recipe is simple and far exceeds other variants which use ketchup!

  34. My Mom has been bringing these meatballs to parties since I was a little kid – they are always a hit and she is always requested to make them by her sisters and friends. The ingredients of the sauce always sounds like they’d be so gross combined, but they’re quite yummy!5 stars

  35. I used boysenberry jam instead of grape jelly and it was delicious. The meatball recipe is very good too. Definitely will make in the future.5 stars

  36. I made these years ago and wanna make again but i was thinking of doing grape jelly with half chili sauce and half bbq sauce, wondering if you or anyone has tried it that way??

    1. Hi Krista, I haven’t but it sounds like it would taste great, especially with a barbeque sauce that would complement the jelly and the chili sauce. – Meggan

  37. We use grape jelly and medium or mild salsa, a splash of pineapple juice and add pineapple chunks the last 15 minutes. Their the best “sweet and sour meatballs” on the planet. I love mine on white rice or coconut rice. It’s delicious.

  38. These were very good (and I strive for perfection)! I just made these for Christmas. I made the meatball recipe from scratch and doubled it. The meatball recipe from scratch was very good, they were juicy, kept their shape and paired well with the sauce. For the sauce (I doubled the meatballs and the sauce btw) I like to use two 12 oz. Heinz Chili Sauce bottles, one 14 oz. Can of Jellied Cranberry Sauce and one 18 oz. Jar of Smucker’s Grape Jelly. The cranberry sauce adds a nice touch, as to keep the meatballs from becoming overly sweet. This is a winning combination, trust me… I have tried other cocktail meatball recipes online that I wasn’t happy with. This one’s a keeper! Delicious, thanks so much!

    -Kristen5 stars

  39. I’ve always made these with grape jelly and cocktail sauce. People devour them! I’ve never heard of chili sauce but I’ll have to look for it and make a small test batch. I hope you try it with cocktail sauce too! : )

    1. Hi Allison, yes! If you can’t use frozen meatballs, what’s the point LOL! So glad they worked out for you. :) -Meggan

    1. Hi Diane, the sauce will thicken as it cooks more and water from the meatballs evaporate. Also, when the meatballs and sauce are piping hot (over 200 degrees) they will be thinner than when they cool down slightly (to 160 or 170). Cooling down helps the sauce thicken. Not to COLD or even room temperature, but just not simmering anymore. Thanks!

  40. Going to try this recipe tonight! I forgot to buy the chili sauce. How much chili powder would you recommend to add to the ketchup to give it the same taste as the chili sauce?

    1. Hi Emily, since chili powders vary in heat depending on the brand I would recommend making it to taste. You can always add more. Thanks! – Meggan

  41. Hi can I make this with frozen meatballs then freeze them again ? I’m trying to make things in advance for a little gathering that I’m having.

    1. Hi Gina! I honestly wouldn’t bother. I don’t think you’ll be gaining anything by making in advance and re-freezing. I would just use frozen meatballs and throw it all in the crockpot or whatever the day you need it. You “could” do as you suggested, it wouldn’t hurt anything, but it doesn’t really help in my opinion. Thanks! -Meggan

    1. Ive never made meatballs before and I bought Italian style meatballs. Should I use plain meatballs instead? Also someone told me to use apricot jelly. Since I have italian meatballs should I eliminate the chili sauce?

  42. 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

  43. 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. 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

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

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

    1. 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

    1. 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

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

    1. 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

  46. 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. 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

    1. 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

  47. 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..

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

  49. 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

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

    1. 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

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

    1. 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


  52. 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

    1. 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!

  53. 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?

  54. 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

    1. I use Polaner All Fruit Grape Jelly. They don’t add any sugar. It helps reduce that sticky sweetness that many find off-putting , myself included.

    2. I want to make these for dinner. Looking for ideas of what to serve with them. These sound delicious!! Thank you.

    3. Hi Judy! These are really great served with pasta or with some rice! Come back and let me know what you end up going with! – Meggan

  55. 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. 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: (I would recommend buying it locally, not online, but at least this way you can see it). Thank you Cliff!

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

    2. 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.


    1. 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.

  56. 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. 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. 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!

  57. 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. 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!

    2. 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?

    1. 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!

    1. 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!

  58. 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 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

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

  59. 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