Sweet, sticky, and simple, these Grape Jelly Meatballs are made with just three ingredients, and are the ultimate meatball appetizer! Everyone will fight over the last sweet-and-savory bite. You can make this easy appetizer on the stove top or in the crockpot!
An Addictively Yummy Meatball Appetizer
Have you ever tried this potluck favorite? If not, you might be a little… concerned… about the combination of grape jelly and meatballs, but don’t let that hold you back. This odd but classic little recipe is actually a barbecue-style recipe, combining barbecue sauce with sweet grape jelly for an extra-sweet, smooth sauce that’s super snackable. Savory little meatballs coated in that sticky yumminess? You’re going to love it!
On the other hand, maybe you’ve tried them and are just looking for a good recipe. Well, you’ve come to the right place! This simple, three-ingredient version is ultra-tasty and so easy, you’ll make them again and again. Plus, I’ve got a few fun variations listed below that will give you even more options for your next dinner.
Where Did Grape Jelly Meatballs Come From?
There are a few different cookbooks and recipes for this style of meatball, dating back to the notorious fifties and sixties, when jello and jelly were used in all kinds of ways. The most famous version might be Marian Burros and Lois Levine’s “Chafing Dish Meatballs” in their Elegant but Easy Cookbook, but to be honest, similar recipes have been around since the very earliest cookbooks. Looks like sweet and savory is an enduring combination!
The Ingredients You’ll Need
This is probably the easiest recipe you’ll ever make! There are only three ingredients, and no complicated cooking techniques. Yet another reason to love these sweet and savory meatballs!
- Meatballs: You will need about two pounds’ worth of frozen, fully-cooked meatballs, or cooked homemade meatballs.
- Barbecue Sauce: I use Sweet Baby Ray’s Original, but any kind of regular barbecue sauce, including homemade sauce, will work.
- Grape Jelly: Whatever brand you like. Jam is also fine, but jelly is more popular and will create a slightly shinier, clearer sauce.
How to Make Them
You can do grape jelly meatballs in the crockpot, which takes a few hours but is very low-maintenance, or make them on the stovetop for a quicker result. Here’s how to make them, either way:
- Make the Sauce. Whisk the barbecue sauce and grape jelly together in a small bowl, until it’s a smooth mixture.
- Add the Meatballs. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the jelly mixture into the crockpot, and then stir in the meatballs, coating them in the sauce.
- Cook! Cover the slow cooker with the lid, and cook for 2 – 3 hours on HIGH, or 4 – 6 hours on LOW, until the meatballs and sauce are hot.
- Enjoy. Serve directly from the crockpot with a serving spoon or toothpicks, or transfer to a serving dish with the sauce.
- Mix the Sauce and Add the Meatballs. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, whisk the barbecue sauce and jelly. Stir in the meatballs, coating them evenly in the sauce.
- Simmer. Cover the skillet with a lid, and let everything simmer until the meatballs are warmed through. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Enjoy! Transfer the meatballs and sauce to a serving dish, and serve right away.
Tips and Variations
There’s more than one way to make this amazing recipe – and I also have a tip or two to share for using your own meatballs. Read on, and enjoy!
- Meatballs Must Be Cooked: If you are using homemade meatballs, make sure you cook them first before adding them to the recipe.
- Any Meatballs Will Work: As long as they are fully cooked, you could use turkey meatballs, beef meatballs, Italian-style meatballs, Swedish-style meatballs… each one will bring its own unique taste to the dish, but they are all amazing.
- Barbecue Sauce Options: Another common way to make grape jelly meatballs is to swap the barbecue sauce for Thai sweet chili sauce. Sweet chili meatballs are such a fun twist.
- Jelly Options: Grape jelly is classic, but cranberry jelly is also delicious. Cranberry meatballs would make a great holiday version of the classic. You can also use orange marmalade – so flavorful.
What to Serve with Grape Jelly Meatballs
You can serve these with just about anything. If you serve over rice or egg noodles, you’ve got a quick dinner. Or you could serve alongside a few more yummy appetizers, for a festive party spread or light meal. These are just a few ideas to get you started.
- Deviled Eggs: Oh-so-snackable, deviled eggs are always one of the first snacks to disappear from any table. These Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs get a little upgrade from the sweet, savory addition of cheddar and pimientos.
- Veggies and Dip: Healthy raw veggies are irresistible when paired with Easy Homemade Tzatziki Sauce! This creamy, tangy dip is made with real garlic, cucumber, lemon juice, and yogurt – seriously good stuff.
- Pretzels: Sure, you could set out a bowl of ordinary store-bought pretzels – but if you really want to amp up the flavor and make a crowd-pleasing recipe, you’ve got to try these Homemade Soft Pretzels! They are actually pretty simple, and no one can resist their freshly-baked aroma. Or these extra flavorful Homemade Honey Mustard Pretzels!
Storing and Reheating
- Store grape jelly meatballs in the refrigerator in an airtight container, along with any sauce. They’ll keep for up to two days.
- Reheat in the crockpot or on the stove until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Do Grape Jelly Meatballs Freeze Well?
Yes, you can easily freeze leftover grape jelly meatballs – just cool them down first. Then pack them into a freezer bag or container along with the sauce, and freeze for up to four months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
Easy Grape Jelly Meatballs
- 32 ounces frozen, fully-cooked meatballs (or **cooked homemade meatballs)
- 12 ounces barbecue sauce, I use Sweet Baby Ray’s Original
- 10 ounces grape jelly or cranberry jelly
- In a small bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce and jelly until well combined.
- Add the jelly mixture to the crockpot, and stir in the meatballs.
- Cover and cook for 2 – 3 hours on HIGH, or 4 – 6 hours on LOW, until the meatballs and sauce are hot.
- Serve directly from the crockpot with a serving spoon or toothpicks, or transfer to a serving dish.
- In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, add the barbecue sauce and jelly. Stir to combine, and then add the meatballs.
- Cover pan and simmer until the meatballs are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
More Fun Party Appetizers
- Cheesy Ranch Pigs in a Blanket
- Hot Spinach Dip
- Homemade Chicken Empanadas
- Best Texas Caviar
- Air Fryer Bang Bang Shrimp
- Homemade Tostones With Mayo Ketchup
- Greek Tzatziki Sauce
- Southern Deviled Eggs
- Easy Bisquick Sausage Balls
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