Feed a crowd with Slow Cooker Meatloaf Meatballs! Make the meatballs ahead (from scratch) and then let them simmer in the sauce in a slow cooker.
I found myself dreaming of meatloaf the other day.
I told my kids about it (two sounding boards under 5) and they decided I was crazy. Meat that looks like a loaf of bread?! Absolutely not. Mom has lost her mind.
I hastily switched the subject to meatballs and suddenly, the peanut gallery was on board. Meatloaf Meatballs were born.
(It’s all marketing.)
I started with my mom’s tried-and-true Meatloaf recipe and made a few changes.
Instead of oatmeal, I used breadcrumbs. I baked the meatballs in the oven to cook them through (and lose some of the grease) before transferring them to a slow cooker.
The sauce has ketchup and brown sugar just like the usual Meatloaf Sauce. To turn the meatloaf-to-sauce ratio on its head, though, I also added a can of tomato puree (I also tested it with a can of crushed tomatoes; equally joyous).
I also added some onions (instead of in the meatballs themselves; it’s a texture thing) and a splash of lime juice.
I can’t remember the last time “meat loaf” was so fun to eat.
Slow Cooker Meatloaf Meatballs
- 2 cups water divided
- 3 eggs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds 85/15 ground beef
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato purée (see notes)
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Set two wire racks on two rimmed baking sheets lined with foil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup water, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add beef and breadcrumbs and mix well (preferably with your hands).
- With wet hands, from the mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs (you will have about 65 to 75 meatballs).
- Arrange the meatballs on the wire racks and bake until browned, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to a slow cooker add tomato puree, ketchup, remaining 1 cup water, brown sugar, onion, and lime juice. Stir to combine.
- Transfer baked meatballs to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until sauce is hot, 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 6 to 8 hours on LOW. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
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