This has been one of my favorite holiday appetizers since I was a kid!

Grape Jelly Meatballs may sound like a strange combination, but it’s amazing. I promise. With just 3 simple ingredients, this recipe is so easy it practically cooks itself, and there are never any leftover.

Cocktail Meatballs are great to make ahead by simply adding the ingredients to the slow cooker and turning it on.

cooked Grape Jelly Meatballs

Ingredients in Grape Jelly Meatballs

Meatballs – Use premade or homemade meatballs. Frozen meatballs make for super fast prep!

Grape Jelly – Use any kind of grape jelly. If you can’t find any, other types of jelly work just fine. I’ve even used canned cranberry sauce in a pinch.

Ketchup or Chili Sauce – I most often use ketchup because it’s the recipe we had growing up! You can also use chili sauce which is a zesty ketchup-style condiment.

Sauce Variations

You can change this recipe up a bit based on what you have on hand. The sauce needs something sweet (jelly) and something zesty (ketchup).

  • Replace the Grape Jelly with apricot preserves, orange marmalade, canned cranberry sauce, raspberry preserves, or hot pepper jelly.
  • Replace the Ketchup with Heinz chili sauce, or barbecue sauce.

Important Ingredient Info

If swapping the ketchup for chili sauce, it is not a spicy sauce. Look for the Heinz brand in a glass bottle near the ketchup (you can also get it online here or make homemade chili sauce).

It is the same chili sauce I use in my favorite meatloaf topping.

Ingredients for grape jelly meatballs

How to Make Meatballs with Grape Jelly

This is the easiest homemade appetizer recipe ever, but you’ll get rave reviews because everyone loves these incredibly tasty little bites! I can’t get enough of them.

  1. If making homemade meatballs, prepare and bake them according to the meatball recipe.
  2. Add all ingredients (including the frozen or cooked meatballs) to the slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on low per the recipe below.

The sauce will thicken some as it cools slightly or if you leave the lid off and keep them warm during a party. If you’d like it thicker, combine equal parts cornstarch and water and stir a little in (I never find the need to thicken it).

Feeding a Crowd?

If you have a larger Crock Pot (6qt), this recipe can be doubled. If preferred, the sauce can be doubled, and you can add some little smokies and let it all cook together.

Leave a box of toothpicks near the crockpot, and they’ll disappear quickly.

grape jelly meatball ingredients in a white slow cooker

How To Serve Grape Jelly Meatballs

Crockpot Grape Jelly Meatballs can be an appetizer for any holiday party or served as a complete meal.

  • If serving at a party, once cooked, turn the slow cooker onto the warm setting and keep a bowl of toothpicks nearby.
  • Tuck them into slider rolls or hoagie rolls for a heartier meal.
  • Serve over a bed of white rice or mashed potatoes!
  • Add sauteed peppers and onions to make this into a sweet and sour meatball dish.
grape jelly meatballs in a serving dish with a cocktail pick

Leftovers/Make Ahead

Grape Jelly Meatballs are a great make-ahead dish!

Prep ahead: You can cook them the day before, store them in the fridge overnight, and then reheat them in the Crockpot. If you didn’t use lean ground beef, you may want to skim off any fat that may rise to the top. Or, freeze them for a rainy day! (Or for the next game day!)

  • To store: Keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, and in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. Make sure to use a sealable container, and leave room for the sauce to expand, if freezing.
  • To reheat: Thaw overnight and either place them back in the Crockpot and reheat for 2 to 3 hours, or put them in a pot on the stovetop, add a little extra ketchup or some chili sauce if desired, and heat until bubbly and hot! They will be just as good as the day you made them, and probably even better!

More Party Favorites

Did you make these Grape Jelly Meatballs? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below!

cooked Grape Jelly Meatballs
4.98 from 215 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Grape Jelly Meatballs

Grape Jelly Meatballs are a sweet and savory appetizer that is made with just 3 simple ingredients.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 12 servings


  • 2 pounds frozen fully cooked meatballs or 48 small homemade meatballs
  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ¾ cup grape jelly


  • Cook meatballs according to recipe directions if using raw meatballs.
  • Place meatballs, ketchup, and grape jelly in a small slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  • Cook on low 3-4 hours or until heated through.


In a hurry? Cook the meatballs according to the package/recipe directions. Heat the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer 1 minute. Add cooked meatballs and simmer uncovered 5 minutes more.


  • Replace the Grape Jelly with apricot preserves, orange marmalade, canned cranberry sauce, raspberry preserves, or hot pepper jelly.
  • Replace the Ketchup with Heinz chili sauce or barbecue sauce. If swapping the ketchup for chili sauce, it is not a spicy sauce. Look for the Heinz brand in a glass bottle near the ketchup (you can also get it online here or make homemade chili sauce).
Store leftovers in the fridge in a covered container for up to 4 days. Reheat in the slow cooker or on the stovetop until heated through. 
4.98 from 215 votes

Nutrition Information

Calories: 292 | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 321mg | Potassium: 328mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 159IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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

Course Appetizer, Beef, Party Food
Cuisine American

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crockpot full of cooked Grape Jelly Meatballs with a title
plated Grape Jelly Meatballs with a title
close up of Grape Jelly Meatballs with a title
Grape Jelly Meatballs cooked in the crockpot and plated with writing


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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. Great question Linda! These can be cooked on the stovetop. Bake meatballs for 18-20 minutes (or bake frozen meatballs according to package directions).
      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.

  1. Thank you! Your recipes are always my “go to” when looking for a certain recipe for something. Have you ever made this with any of the other substitutions for the grape jelly? (I just really hate grape jelly) I have plenty of the other substitutions always on hand and would love to give it a try.

  2. This is my go-to item for gatherings. I love that the meatballs aren’t too sweet, so I enjoy that they have less grape jelly than other recipes. They’re always a hit!5 stars

  3. I have made this for years but instead of Ketchup I use the chili sauce and instead of meatballs I use slices of Polish sausage and have plenty of Ritz crackers5 stars

    1. In the first instruction, we cook raw meatballs per directions. We have not tried with raw meatballs.

      1. Your dish will taste much better if you bake or fry the meatballs first. Also, you can get pre-cooked meatballs in the frozen section of most grocery stores . Of course you get better meatballs if you make them yourself but the frozen version is great in a pinch.

  4. I’m always looking for a good meal idea without having to get a whole bunch of ingredients to make the recipe I love to cook

  5. Love your web site with all of your wonderful recipes. I just wanted to give you another version of the Grape Jelly Meatballs. Everyone around here uses Chili sauce instead of ketchup. It like ketchup but has a kick. You use equal amounts Chili Sauce and Grape Jelly.
    You find the Chili Sauce with the Cocktail Sauce. Made by Heinz.

    1. Yes, Nanci, so happy to hear you’re enjoying the recipes! We love chili sauce in place of the ketchup!

  6. Holly, why don’t you create a best seller set of recipes for Seniors and the Elderly that are as simple as Grape Jelly Meatballs. You have no idea how difficult it is for someone like me, 88 — but in great shape to try to feed my husband and myself. It has to be simple, and easy!

    You can’t imagine how many of us would be so delighted and grateful for such recipes! It’s not fun trying to find simple recipes among the myriad of recipes available. Thanks for your consideration,
    Royanne Boyer~

  7. I make these with sugar-free hickory smoke BBQ sauce and sugar-free grape jelly. I also add Lil Smokies.

    1. It can depend on the size of the meatballs, this is made into 12 servings. If you have 48 small meatballs, it will be 4 meatballs per serving.

  8. I use Pace medium picante sauce instead of the ketchup. Gives it a nice spicy kick. My husband will eat these as a main dish.

    1. I accidentally added a little to much grape jelly compared to the chili sauce I had. Can I use ketchup to make up for it? Or will the combo be gross?

  9. These are the best as an appetizer. I made them a second time substituting BBQ sauce for the ketchup. My grandkids loved it this way. I served this over rice with stir fried vegetables. Also, I left the meatballs in the fridge overnight by accident and found that it worked just as well only it cooked more quickly because they weren’t frozen. Great tecipe!!5 stars