Slow cooker cocktail meatballs will be a hit as a party appetizer or even as a main dish. Cooked meatballs are tossed in a sweet and (slightly) spicy sauce and simmer away in the crock pot in this easy recipe.
Party meatballs in the crock pot aren’t an earth-shattering, revolutionary food. This we know. But these sorta sweet and spicy slow cooker cocktail meatballs are a whole new ballgame…no grape jelly needed!
Instead of sticking with the ubiquitous two-jar sauce recipe, these cocktail meatballs in the crock pot are coated in a semi-homemade BBQ sauce mixture made with your choice of fruit preserves for a fun, fruity, and unique take on this classic dish.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Can it be easier to make? Whisk together the sauce ingredients in your crock pot, then stir in the meatballs and set it to cook.
- It’s a slow cooker recipe that doesn’t take all day. These sweet and spicy cocktail meatballs will be bubbly hot in an hour or two.
- It’s a perfect party appetizer as it can stay warm in the slow cooker for several hours to be hot and ready to eat at any time.
- Frozen meatballs: Be sure to use fully-cooked frozen meatballs (I think most of the store-bought ones are). I recommend the “homestyle” flavor over Italian as it works better with the sauce. A 32-ounce package is great with this quantity of sauce, but a little smaller or larger also works.
- Ketchup: This acts as the base of our semi-homemade BBQ sauce.
- Fruit preserves: These are a fun way to switch up the flavor and they add a wonderful flavor to BBQ sauces, like in these grilled blackberry chicken wings. We *LOVE* seedless raspberry preserves here, but blackberry, apricot, and yes, grape jelly, are all fine.
- Mustard: Either dry mustard or prepared Dijon mustard work.
- Worcestershire sauce: This bumps up the “meaty” flavor of these cocktail meatballs.
- Apple cider vinegar: This brings a controlled tang.
- Hot sauce: Use as much (or as little) as you like of your preferred hot sauce. Two teaspoons adds a very mild zip – increase accordingly!
- Add all of the ingredients (except for the meatballs) to the insert of your crock pot, then whisk to combine them well.
- Add the thawed meatballs and give them a big stir to coat evenly.
- Place the lid on and cook on low heat for 1.5-2 hours, or until the center of the meatballs register 165°F. Stir everything up and switch the temperature to warm for serving, or transfer to a bowl.
- The easiest way to thaw fully-cooked frozen meatballs is to thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. For a quick thaw, transfer meatballs to a microwave-safe dish or bowl and microwave in spurts on very low power, about 20% or so, until thawed. Stir the meatballs around the bowl after each spurt so that they thaw evenly.
- This recipe provides a generous amount of sauce for 32 ounces of meatballs. If using a smaller package of meatballs, you may wish to decrease the quantity of sauce.
- This recipe is pictured in a 4.5-quart slow cooker and just about fills it half-way. I would not use a much larger crock pot here without doubling the quantities as too much empty space in it as it can lead to overcooking.
Of the fully-cooked frozen meatball varieties, I recommend a homestyle flavor as it’s neutral. I would not use Italian flavored meatballs as they wouldn’t mesh well with the flavoring of the sauce. Beef or a blend of beef/chicken/pork meatballs all work, as do vegetarian meat-less balls.
While this is a common method in some recipes, I thaw the frozen meatballs before cooking, as the USDA recommends thawing all frozen meat before slow cooking. Even though these meatballs are fully-cooked in the first place and don’t take all day to cook, I prefer to be safe and thaw them. This also helps them heat evenly.
Switching up the flavor of fruit preserves is an easy way to make a new spin on these cocktail meatballs. Just be sure they’re seedless. Raspberry preserves are my favorite to use here for their flavor, but blackberry preserves provide a more neutral flavor. Other options are strawberry or apricot preserves, or grape jelly.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs
- 1 cup seedless fruit preserves raspberry, blackberry, grape,
- ¾ cup ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 Tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic minced/pressed
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2-3 teaspoons hot sauce more or less as you like
- 32 ounces fully-cooked frozen meatballs homestyle, thawed
- All all sauce ingredients (everything but the meatballs) to the insert of your slow cooker and whisk well to combine.
- Add the thawed meatballs and stir to coat evenly.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 2 – 2.5 hours, or until the meatballs register an internal temperature of 165°F. Switch to the warm setting if serving from the slow cooker, or transfer to a bowl.
- To make these cocktail meatballs vegetarian or vegan, use frozen meatless meatballs and choose a vegan Worcestershire sauce, if needed.
- The meatballs will thaw in the refrigerator overnight. To quick thaw, take them out of the package and add them to a microwave-safe bowl or plate. Microwave in spurts at 20% power, stirring after every round, until the meatballs are thawed.
- This recipe fills up a 4.5 quart slow cooker about halfway, so I would not use a very large capacity crock pot without increasing the yield as you’d end up with a lot of empty space.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.