Sweet and Sour Meatballs (Cocktail Meatballs)

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This is one of my favorite meatball recipes! Perfect as an appetizer and delicious as a meal over rice!

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!

Easy Cocktail Meatballs 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.

Easy 3 Ingredient Cocktail Meatballs! These delicious appetizer meatballs can be made 3 different ways and cooked on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Ketchup and Grape Jelly makes the best ever sauce!

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

5 from 1 vote
Review Recipe

Sweet and Sour Cocktail Meatballs (grape jelly meatballs)

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
Servings 48 meatballs
Author Holly N.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
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!


  • 2 lbs frozen meatballs
  • OR
  • 2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 small onion , very finely diced
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 3/4 cup grape jelly

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together all meatball ingredients just until combined. Form into 1" meatballs. Bake for 18-20 minutes (or bake frozen meatballs according to package directions).
  3. Combine sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until preserves/jelly melts. Allow to come to a boil for 1 minute. Toss with meatballs and allow to simmer on low 10-15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Other sauce options for meatballs:
  • 10 oz apricot preserves & 2/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 14 oz jellied cranberry sauce & 12 oz chili sauce
Nutrition Information
Calories: 56, Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 18mg, Sodium: 93mg, Potassium: 99mg, Carbohydrates: 6g, Sugar: 4g, Protein: 4g, Vitamin A: 1%, Vitamin C: 1%, Calcium: 0.7%, Iron: 3.3%

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

Keyword cocktail meatballs, grape jelly meatballs


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Easy 3 Ingredient Cocktail Meatballs! These delicious appetizer meatballs can be made 3 different ways and cooked on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Ketchup and Grape Jelly makes the best ever sauce!
Easy 3 Ingredient Cocktail Meatballs! These delicious appetizer meatballs can be made 3 different ways and cooked on the stove top or in the slow cooker. Ketchup and Grape Jelly makes the best ever sauce!

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About the author


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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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  1. I have used the grape jelly/ketchup for cocktail weiners many times, but the ratio is equal parts of both. People rave over the ‘sauce’ and always ask for the recipe. When I tell them what it is, they are always amazed!

  2. I think I am going to make this with the Apricot and BBQ sauce. I use Sweet Baby Rays, Do you think that will be too sweet?? should I add some hot sauce too?

  3. I grew up with (and still make) 12 oz bottle of chili sauce mixed with 12 oz jar of grape jelly mixed, heated and meatballs adde. Better if allowed to heat slowly for a number of hours or prepared on one day and refrigerated and reheated to actually serve on the next day. This has always been a hit!

  4. I have made the grape jelly-ketchup for years but I make meat balls from ground beef alone. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop meat balls into boiling water. When they float they are done. Then let them cook in crockpot. This make the meatballs less fat. Fat is in the water. 

    1. I also made the sauce from the grape jelly and ketchup and meatballs from scratch. It was awesome!!! Loved the sauce. I added some honey to the meatball mix which was ground beef. I soaked some bread in milk as I didnt have bread crumbs and put all the wet ingredients together and baked my the meatballs in the oven. Using Grace hot jerk sauce in the sauce really took it up a notch. Use about half teaspoon if you like a bit of heat.

  5. I was looking for something to make for the family for Thanksgiving to snack on. For this and made it, for my hubby’s picky family. And everyone loved them! I did the apricot and barbque sauce soo good!

  6. My mother always used grape jam and Bennett’s Chili Sauce and a touch of brown sugar.  The chunky pieces in the chili sauce give it a little more substance.  Always a favorite!

  7. I like my ooie gooie but how’ve do I get them that way??  My sister-in-law knows the recipe or ratio for that but I haven’t spoken to her in a couple of years, I know it’s cranberry sauce and chili or bbq?? Can someone please help me 

    1. I meant the calories and carbs for the sauces, not necessarily the meatballs cause that depends on what kind you get.

  8. i HAVE DONE THE CRANBERRY MEAT BALLS AND THERE GREAT BUT DO YOU HAVE THE RECIPE FOR THE LITTLE COCKTAIL WIENERS AND MUSTARD AND JELLY. It was with current jelly but I can not find any of that anymore and do not know how much for the mustard do you or any one have the recipe.
    Thank you and enjoy this club so much I love the weekly recipes we have a variety to pick from and you always have something I will try..

    1. The recipe that I have tried is

      1 cup currant jelly
      1 cup prepared Dijon mustard
      1/4 cup ketchup
      1/2 cup brown sugar
      1 lb mini smokies

      Simmer on low 1 hour.

  9. I have a huge Christmas gathering and I’ll be making a lot of these! I’ll try both sauces. Thank you so much for the recipe :)

  10. These meatballs would be a great appetizer for this Super Bowl Sunday. I pinned and shared them. Thanks for linking up to Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop.

    Many Blessings,
    Diane Roark

  11. mine are different….chili sauce, cranberry jelly sauce, sauerkraut and I don’t bake first, they go into sauce to cook. They are wonderful

  12. I have this recipe and use red currant jelly and heinz chili sauce(find in the ketchup aisle). So yummy, I use equal parts jelly to chili sauce.

  13. I have been making both versions of this recipe for many years. These meatballs practically vanish when they are part of a pot-luck meal. We often buy frozen plain meatballs, and they work well with this recipe, and couldn’t possibly be easier to make. I can have these on the table in a few minutes, and minute rice is a great side dish.

  14. I have made these several different ways, along with different ingredients, as filler to extent, without taking away from ease of cooking, or flavor. I like to spice things up a bit. I have used chili sauce along with pepper jelly, they were wonderful, and have used grape jelly along with Sriracha, if you like a little more heat. I would caution on the amount of Sriacha that you would use, maybe half chili sauce and half Sriracha, to tone down the heat. Just some suggestions, enjoy

    1. Oh my gosh! I never thought of adding Sriacha (which I could literally eat by the bucket!!) That would be such a great addition! Can’t wait to try it!

  15. Hi Holly,
    I just love your Cocktail meatballs, they are just awesome! Hope you are staying warm and cozy in this cold weather and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  16. These look SO SO GOOD!!!! Oh my goodness, what a great appetizer! I don’t know which sauce sounds better!!! They look super yummy!

        1. I put 3/4 cups grape jelly and the 1 bottle Heinz chili sauce in saucepan and heat on stove while meatballs are in the oven. Then I combine everything in crockpot on low. My family loves them.

  17. A recipe that is my favorite is frozen meatballs, finely chopped onion, dousing of Worcestershire Sauce, for each bag of meatballs, 1 jar jalapeno jelly, 1 jar of cocktail sauce. Brown onions in pan and add meatballs and Worcestershire Sauce, brown meatballs on all sides. Transfer to crock pot and add jelly and cocktail sauce, put on low for 3 to 4 hours, or until jelly and sauce are combined and make a rich sauce. Make plenty, people LOVE them!