collage of cocktail meatballs on a plate with a wooden fork

Sweet and Sour Meatballs are a favorite from way back when I was young! We have served these easy cocktail meatballs at every party and gathering for as long as I can remember!

Tender juicy meatballs simmered in a quick two ingredient sweet and sour sauce made with grape jelly. These will be the first thing gone and nobody will ever believe what is in them!

close up of meatballs covered in sauce with appetizer forks in a white bowl

Grape Jelly Meatballs

While we make my favorite easy Meatball Recipe with pasta for dinner often, these are a party go-to for us!

Every single time I bring these cocktail meatballs to a party, they are gone immediately and I always get requests for the recipe.

How to Make Cocktail Meatballs

The easy sauce for these Sweet and Sour Meatballs needs just two ingredients: ketchup and grape jelly (of course there are other variations below for more great 2 ingredient sauces). Combining these two ingredients, as strange as it may sound, makes an easy sweet and sour sauce and is perfect for simmering meatballs or even cocktail smokies.

You can use homemade meatballs (which is my preference) or use frozen if you’re in a hurry!

These work perfectly in the Crockpot too!  Bake the meatballs as directed (or just add them frozen if you’re not making homemade) and place the sauce ingredients in the slow cooker.  Add meatballs to the sauce and let heat through on high for at least 1-2 hours before serving (a bit longer if using frozen). Once heated through meatballs can be left on low for serving.

meatballs covered in sauce in a pot

More Meatball Sauces You’ll Love

While I most often use grape jelly and ketchup for the meatball glaze, you can swap the ingredients based on your favorites or what you have on hand you just need one sweet item and one zesty! Swap out the grape jelly for apricot preserves, cranberry sauce, apple jelly etc. and you can swap out the ketchup for chili sauce or barbecue sauce!

  • Meatball Sauce #1 (my favorite) – 3/4 cup grape jelly & 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • Meatball Sauce #2 – 10 oz apricot preserves & 2/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • Meatball Sauce #3 – 14 oz jellied cranberry sauce & 12 oz chili sauce

These are amazing as an appetizer or even served over rice for a weeknight meal that your kids will love!

More Easy Appetizers You’ll Love

close up of meatballs covered in sauce with appetizer forks in a white bowl
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Sweet and Sour Meatballs (Cocktail Meatballs)

Easy Cocktail Meatballs are a delicious appetizer that can be cooked on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Ketchup and Grape Jelly makes the best ever sauce! Also known as Sweet and Sour Cocktail Meatballs (or grape jelly meatballs)
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 48 meatballs



  • 2 pounds frozen meatballs


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • ½ small onion very finely diced
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Sauce (see notes)

  • 10 ounces apricot preserves
  • cup barbecue sauce


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  • If making homemade meatballs, combine ground beef, diced onion, bread crumbs, eggs, and pepper in a medium bowl. Divide the mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
  • Bake homemade meatballs for 18-20 minutes or bake frozen meatballs according to package directions.
  • In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine apricot preserves and barbecue sauce. Stir until the preserves start to melt.
  • Add in meatballs and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened.


Other sauce options for meatballs:
  • 10 ounces strawberry preserves & ⅔ cup ketchup
  • 14 ounces jellied cranberry sauce & 12 ounces chili sauce
If using fully cooked meatballs, they do not need to be baked first. Simmering time may need to be increased slightly.
4.99 from 172 votes

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1meatball | Calories: 56 | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 99mg | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 50IU | Vitamin C: 0.8mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.6mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American

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collage of meatballs covered in sauce with an appetizer fork and in a pot
meatballs covered in sauce with an appetizer fork


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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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Recipe Rating


  1. I made this with the grape jelly/ketchup sauce and frozen turkey meatballs, to take to a last minute party, and it was wicked good and so freaking easy. Also – I didn’t have a way to keep them hot so they were room temp by the time people ate and you know what? Still totally yummy. xoxo5 stars

  2. I remember I tried this at a party once and they were so good! I was wondering if I could use strawberry jelly instead of grape though?5 stars

    1. I have not tried this recipe with strawberry but it sounds like an interesting flavor combo! I would love to hear how it turns out for you, Seevahn.

  3. I made the grape jelly meatballs which were excellent by the way…and had left over so I froze them in the grape sauce. Will it still be good if I just add more sauce to the meatballs ?

    1. Hi Jen, Add meatballs to the sauce and let heat through on high for at least 1-2 hours before serving (a bit longer if using frozen). Once heated through meatballs can be left on low for serving.

  4. These sound wonderful – can you substitute ground beef for one of the meats or just use all 3??

    1. Hi Debi, for this recipe we used either frozen premade meatballs or we make homemade meatballs using ground beef. Whichever you prefer!

    1. Hi Loreta, depending on how far in advance you can pre-cook and freeze the meatballs or store them in the fridge and then top with the sauce when ready to serve.

  5. Sweet and sour meatballs were excellent. I added a little Chinese sweet and sour sauce, green onion and sesame seeds!!

  6. I’m going to try the recipe made with jellied cranberry sauce with frozen meatballs stuffed with cranberries. Thanke

  7. Another great combination for sauce is 1 jar currant jelly and an equal amount of yellow mustard.
    absolutely delicious!