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Sweet and Sour Meatballs – Simple Holiday Appetizer

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs are a sweet and tangy appetizer perfect for the holidays! Use up leftover cranberry sauce in this quick and easy recipe.

cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe

One of my favorite holiday appetizers and potluck recipe is sweet and sour meatballs. When people hear the words ‘potluck’ there is sometimes a feeling of boring premade foods shared around a table at a work gathering or get together.

However, for me my mind starts racing… what will I make, something sweet, something savory, what unique recipe can I bring? The eating part is always really exciting for me because I love seeing what everyone else brings to a potluck. I love the community feeling of sharing our family favorite recipes around a table at a potluck.

When I think of a potluck one of the first recipes that comes to mind is sweet and sour meatballs! I’m pretty sure everyone has had a sweet and sour meatball at least once in their life. However, have they had holiday inspired cranberry sweet and sour turkey meatballs? I don’t think so.

This is why I am so excited to share this recipe with you! It is a unique twist on classic sweet and sour meatballs that will add some life to your next potluck or holiday gathering.

Bonus… these meatballs aren’t only for the holidays. Sweet and sour meatballs are always popular at game day parties, family gatherings or any party! The great thing about these meatballs is that you cook them in advance and simply keep warm until ready. The longer they sit the tastier they become. They are the ultimate low maintenance party recipe!

cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe

These sweet and tangy cranberry meatballs are so easy, and so delicious. They make the perfect appetizer during the holidays or anytime of the year! There’s something special about cranberry sauce mixed with the hoisin sauce (Asian BBQ sauce) it’s sweet, tangy and smoky. Just perfect!

These meatballs are one of the easiest holiday appetizers to make. It’s a set it and forget it recipe. The sauce comes together quickly in one pot and you can use frozen store bought meatballs! Simply add all the ingredients to a pot, simmer and keep warm until ready to serve.

Turkey meatballs often get a bad rep for being dry and flavorless. One of my goals in life has been to prove that’s simply not true. I absolutely love turkey meatballs for many reasons but the main being it is much healthier than ground beef. Of course, you can use store bought meatballs for this recipe for an even quicker dish, but I would highly recommend using my turkey meatball recipe.

If you’re looking for an even simpler set it and forget version of this recipe, I have also included a slow cooker option using frozen meatballs in the recipe card below.

It’s hard to find words to explain the warm, fuzzy feelings that surrounds the transition from fall into the snowy holidays, but for me some would be – fuzzie pjs, hot chocolate, mittens, cranberry turkey meatballs, and Gingerbread Truffles (check out my easy 3 ingredient recipe). I hope these sweet and sour meatballs become a holiday tradition for your family too!

What is in Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs?

bowls with cranberry sauce, cooked meatballs, hoisin sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, red wine vinegar, hot sauce the ingredients to make cranberry sweet and sour meat balls
  • Cooked Meatballs – I love making homemade turkey meatballs that are tender, moist and packed with flavor. However, you can also use any variety of store bought meatballs – frozen cocktail meatballs, Italian style meatballs, or you could even make this dish vegetarian or vegan by using plant based ‘meatballs’!
  • Cranberry Sauce – this recipe is perfect for the holidays as you can use leftover cranberry sauce. I love making a big batch of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving or Christmas and then transforming the leftovers (check out my Cranberry Brie Bites).

  • Hoisin Sauce – a smoky Asian BBQ sauce. The sauce for these meatballs has an Asian twist with ginger, soy sauce and hoisin sauce. However, you can use your favorite smoky BBQ sauce (mine is Stubb’s Smokey Mesquite).
  • Ketchup – adds a deep red color and a hint of tomato flavor to the sauce.
  • Brown Sugar – I love the deep flavor brown sugar adds to the sauce rather than white sugar. The brown of brown sugar comes from molasses which adds a deep flavor to the sauce.

  • Soy Sauce – a kick of salty umami flavor comes from soy sauce, can be substituted for the impossible to pronounce Worcestershire sauce.
  • Ginger and Garlic – ginger and garlic are two of my all time favorite aromatics to cook with.
    • Tip – store fresh ginger in the freezer wrapped in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag. This way you can have fresh ginger on hand for any recipe without having to constantly purchase it and worry about it going bad between recipes.
  • Red Wine Vinegar – the tangy kick in the sweet and sour sauce comes from red wine vinegar. I love the unique flavor compared to regular white vinegar, however you can use white vinegar as a substitute.
  • Hot Sauce, optional – I like having a little kick of spice in this dish, but this can be omitted.
cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

How to Make Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Full Printable Recipe at Bottom of Page

making cranberry sweet and sour sauce in a frying pan

Prepare the Sweet and Sour Sauce

1 If using homemade meatballs, preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 sheets pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl add all of the meatball ingredients. Gently mix until just evenly combined. Do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Measure ½ tablespoon of the turkey and gently roll into small meatballs. Place each meatball on the prepared baking sheet spaced apart. The meatballs will shrink slightly while cooking so they can be fairly close together. Repeat with remaining meat until all meatballs are shaped. Bake the meatballs until cooked through and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

2 In a large saucepot or frying pan (slow cooker cooking method in notes), add all of the sauce ingredients. Mix until evenly combined. Bring the sauce to a simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened.

adding cooked meatballs to a frying pan with cranberry sweet and sour sauce

Simmer the Meatballs

1 Add in the cooked meatballs and simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes (ideally 1 hour or longer for the meatballs to tenderize and absorb the flavor).

2 Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and/or green onion, optional, serve and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Meatballs

1 Add all of the sauce ingredients to your slow cooker. Mix until evenly combined.

2 Add frozen precooked meatballs into the slow cooker and mix until the meatballs are evenly combined. Ensure all of the meatballs are submerged in the sauce. Depending on the size of your slow cooker add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to ensure the meatballs are evenly coated in the sauce.

3 Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 3-4 hours, or until the sauce is bubbly and the meatballs are heated through.

4 Once fully cooked, switch your slow cooker to the keep warm setting until ready to serve.

5 Garnished with fresh chopped parsley and/or green onion, optional, serve and enjoy!

cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

What to Serve with Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs

My favorite way to serve these meatballs is on their own with little forks or cocktail toothpicks. Serve them as an appetizer at a holiday gathering, potluck or game day party! They are the perfect appetizer bite.

Main Dish Serving Ideas:

  • Serve over a bowl of fresh cooked white rice with a side salad for a perfect family dinner! The rice soaks up all the amazing flavors from the sweet and sour sauce.
  • Meal prep these meatballs with rice for easy grab and go lunches all week long!
  • Serve them Ikea Swedish Meatball style with a serving of mashed potatoes and your favorite steamed vegetables!
cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

Make Ahead and Freezing

  • Prep in Advance – this appetizer is perfect for making ahead! Prepare the recipe normally and then transfer the meatballs to an oven safe dish. Cover and place in the oven on the keep warm setting until ready to serve (up to 4-6 hours in advance of serving).
  • Freeze – I love making homemade meatballs, preparing this recipe and then freezing them. Allow the meatballs and sauce to fully cool and then transfer to an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Store frozen for up to 3 months. The night before serving, transfer to the fridge and thaw overnight. Add the meatballs and sauce to a pot stove top or slow cooker, heat until warmed through. Serve and enjoy!
cranberry sweet and sour meatballs plated in a white bowl with a burlap towel

Looking for More Easy Appetizers?

These are some of my favorite appetizers to serve at holiday gatherings!

  • Jalapeno Popper Wonton Cups – a crispy and creamy finger food perfect for game day! The filling is loaded with cheese, baconjalapenos and garlic. Baked in crispy wonton cups for a grab and go snack.
  • Fall Kale Apple Salad with a sweet and tangy honey Dijon vinaigrette. Tender kale tossed with fresh apples, raspberries, nuts and seeds for the ultimate fall salad!
  • Cranberry Brie Bites – cute and fancy appetizer to serve during the holidays. Light puff pastry baked until golden brown stuffed with briecranberry sauce and walnuts!

Enjoy!

– Sab

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, may earn me a small commission.

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs are a sweet and tangy appetizer perfect for the holidays! Use up leftover cranberry sauce in this quick and easy recipe. They make the perfect appetizer during the holidays or anytime of the year! There’s something special about cranberry sauce mixed with the hoisin sauce (Asian BBQ sauce) it's sweet, tangy and smoky. Just perfect! It's a set it and forget it recipe. The sauce comes together quickly in one pot and you can even use frozen store bought meatballs! Simply add all the ingredients to a pot, simmer and keep warm until ready to serve.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings 8
Calories 383 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2-3 lbs turkey meatballs, cooked, homemade or store bought, or beef, or plant based 'meatballs'

Sauce

  • 1 can cranberry sauce, 348mL can, or 1 1/2 cups homemade cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce, or smokey BBQ sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp hot sauce, more or less to taste
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp ginger, minced

Garnish

  • Parsley, chopped, to garnish, optional
  • Green onion, sliced, to garnish, optional

Homemade Turkey Meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground turkey, or ground chicken, or ground beef if preferred
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes, red pepper flakes
  • 4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper, ground

Instructions
 

  • If using homemade meatballs, preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 sheets pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl add all of the meatball ingredients. Gently mix until just evenly combined. Do not over mix or the meatballs will be tough. Measure ½ tablespoon of the turkey and gently roll into small meatballs. Place each meatball on the prepared baking sheet spaced apart. The meatballs will shrink slightly while cooking so they can be fairly close together. Repeat with remaining meat until all meatballs are shaped. Bake the meatballs until cooked through and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • In a large saucepot or frying pan (slow cooker cooking method in notes), add all of the sauce ingredients. Mix until evenly combined. Bring the sauce to a simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened.
  • Add in the cooked meatballs and simmer for another 5 – 10 minutes (ideally 1 hour or longer for the meatballs to tenderize and absorb the flavor).
  • Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and/or green onion, optional, serve and enjoy!

Notes

SLOWER COOKER METHOD
  1. Add all of the sauce ingredients to your slow cooker. Mix until evenly combined.
  2. Add frozen precooked meatballs into the slow cooker and mix until the meatballs are evenly combined. Ensure all of the meatballs are submerged in the sauce. Depending on the size of your slow cooker add 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water to ensure the meatballs are evenly coated in the sauce.
  3. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 3-4 hours, or until the sauce is bubbly and the meatballs are heated through.
  4. Once fully cooked, switch your slow cooker to the keep warm setting until ready to serve.
  5. Garnished with fresh chopped parsley and/or green onion, optional, serve and enjoy!
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Tag @fedbysab on Instagram and hashtag #fedbysab!

NUTRITION

Calories: 383kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 23gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 1103mgPotassium: 93mgFiber: 1gSugar: 31gVitamin A: 68IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 98mgIron: 3mg
This nutrition information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
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2 Comments

  1. Trying the cranberry sweet and sour meatballs. I have frozen meatballs but my slow cooker is being used for soup. Can I use frozen meatballs in the stove top method or should I cook the meatballs first?

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