Cranberry meatballs are the best Christmas appetizer everyone will love. With a rich tangy sauce and tender homemade or frozen meatballs inside, these will be a hit. Baked in the oven you can cook it with all your other dishes.
Looking for a great party appetizer? Try cranberry meatballs this holiday season! We’ll show you how to make easy homemade meatballs and whip together this 3 ingredient sauce too. (originally published 12/19, affiliate links present)
Cranberry Sauce Meatballs
Nothing says Christmas like all things cranberry. BUT of course you can make these year round….. You’re going to start with this basic meatball recipe here. It is super versatile!!
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We smothered them with cranberry barbecue sauce of sorts but use your imagination and make a ton of different varieties. This is one of our favorite cranberry recipes though. Let us know what you think in the comments below when you make them!
I suppose you could use leftover cranberry sauce as well as canned. I haven’t tried that yet though so you’ll have to let me know what you thought if you use something with actual fruit in it. Of course it wouldn’t be as smooth as this method.
Ocean Spray Cranberry Meatballs
These are tbhe jellied cranberry bbq sauce ingredients. You just need:
- Can of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce
- Brown sugar
- you can add a dash of soy sauce if it is a bit too sweet for you
- Combine ingredients, stir until smooth
- Cover and cook stirring occasionally
- You can add a bit of hot sauce too if you want heat
- Cook frozen meatballs or homemade like below
- Pour sauce on top
- Bake again, total bake time will be about 30 minutes
Beyond pouring this on top of your meatballs you could use this for a lot of other things. Want a festive turkey glaze?
Try this! Make it in a big pot with little smokies and make those as a party appetizer too. The options are endless really when you find a great sauce.
3 Ingredient Cranberry Meatballs
We have directions on how to make easy meatballs in the oven below. You could make air fryer meatballs too or Crockpot frozen meatballs though. That decision is totally up to you. One is obviously quicker than the other but you can only make a small batch in your air fryer too.
How do you keep meatballs moist?
- Add moist ingredients into the mix
- like finely chopped or grated onions, parsley, parmesan cheese, barbecue sauce, etc….
- some like adding rice like in our Instant Pot porcupine meatballs recipe.
- Do like we did by mixing a higher fat ground sausage with your lower fat ground beef.
- Go easy on mixing everything together really well.
Want to make ultimate meatballs for dinner?
We’ve used these in Crockpot spaghetti and meatballs too. That’s a dinner idea nobody can get tired of!
Meatballs: in a large bowl combine ground beef, sausage, garlic powder and other ingredients stated below in recipe card. Form balls and bake on a cookie sheet until golden brown. You could alternatively buy frozen meatballs at the grocery store and cook them as directed on the bag. Now you can put meatballs in a 9×12 pan and bake again or put into your slow cooker!
This last stage of cook time is just for the meat to absorb this wonderful cranberry barbecue sauce. It is similar to the well known grape jelly meatballs recipe. You could make both really if you’re having a party.
How do you keep meatballs warm for a party?
- If you’re feeding a large crowd that will enjoy these all day long using a Crock pot is best!
- Put on low for 1 hour and then on warm for the rest of the time.
Keep the lid on and have skewers or toothpicks beside your pot for snacking.
What are the best frozen meatballs?
Hormel comes in at the top when a survey was conducted. Omaha Steaks was second followed by Devault brand. Personally I have bought a number of brands and never found one to be “bad”.
- I will admit that the higher priced bags do have the best texture to them. I’d recommend those.
- In the end homemade is just best, period.
What is the best way to cook frozen meatballs?
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Set the number of air fryer frozen meatballs you want to use on a baking sheet with plenty of space between and in a single layer.
- Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove and use as desired.
You can also defrost and cook Instant Pot frozen meatballs in a jiffy.
If you don’t have any leftover or canned cranberry sauce, you can use any other type of sweet and tart sauce, such as grape jelly, apricot jam, or applesauce.
Yes, you can make these meatballs ahead of time. Simply form into balls and then freeze them on a baking sheet. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag or container. When you are ready to cook them, simply thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave for a few minutes.
What to serve with meatballs
- Sweet and sour sauce is another idea if you want to have a meatball bar of sorts.
- Pasta always goes well
- Meatballs with cheese on a skewer is a great appetizer
- Pair them with your favorite pull apart bread
- White rice
- Mixed vegetables
If you want to just serve appetizers for dinner I would say our dry rub air fryer wings go well with cranberry meatballs too.
Whether you’re making these as a treat for just your family, or for Christmas day I bet you’ll love them. With a homemade bbq sauce that’s sweet with a little tang it is always a hit with a crowd.
- Pumpkin cranberry bread is great for brunch
- Our cranberry apple cobbler is always a hit
- Make a festive holiday cheese ball this year
- serve with bruschetta, crackers or vanilla wafers if it is a sweet dip
Use this printable recipe below for cranberry meatballs and let us know what you think in the comments below. We love to get feedback about how you served them and what your guests thought. Happy holidays or happy Super Bowl bash to ya’!
Stovetop Cranberry Meatballs
If you wanted to skip the oven and just use a cast iron skillet you could. Just use the instructions on how to cook meatballs on the stovetop here for timing etc.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine all ingredients for meatballs at the top of the recipe card. Shape them into 1 – 1 1/2″ balls and place on a non stick baking sheet or in a 9×13 pan.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they are browned on the outside.
- if using frozen meatballs just follow the directions on the back to defrost until tender
- While they are baking add sauce ingredients into a pan and warm on medium heat on your stovetop.
- Allow to simmer for a few minutes stirring here and there.
- Then set to low and cover for 5-10 minutes stirring often.
When meatballs are done baking remove from baking sheet and put into 9×13 pan if they aren’t in this already. Spoon cranberry sauce over them so all meat is covered and coated. Continue baking at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Serve!
Want to see a few of my favorite things that I am totally obsessed with?? Take a peek and see how many you might already have…twinsies!
- 1 9×13 dish
- Homemade Meatballs skip if using frozen
- 1 lb ground beef lean
- 1 lb ground pork mild or could use spicy for a kick
- 1 c quick oats
- 1/2 c onion finely diced
- 1 egg
- 2/3 c evaporated milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder optional
- 14 oz cranberry sauce jellied
- 12 oz chili sauce
- 2 tbsp brown sugar packed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a bowl combine all ingredients for meatballs at the top of the recipe card. Shape them into 1 – 1 1/2" balls and place on a non stick baking sheet or in a 9×13 pan.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they are browned on the outside. (if using frozen meatballs just follow the directions on the back to defrost until tender)
- While they are baking add sauce ingredients into a pan and warm on medium heat on your stovetop. Allow to simmer for a few minutes stirring intermittently, then set to low and cover for 5-10 minutes stirring often.
- When meatballs are done baking remove from baking sheet and put into 9×13 pan if they aren't in this already.
- Spoon cranberry sauce over them so all meat is covered and coated.
- Continue baking at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.