Meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce sounds like a crazy combination but melds into a delicious appetizer when prepared on the stovetop or in a crockpot.
This is probably one of those recipes that is better to simply serve rather than to announce the ingredients in advance. My wife chose to make frozen chicken nuggets rather than sample the combination of chili sauce and grape jelly I prepared. In reality, there is nothing alarming about the flavor of this sweet and sticky sauce and it will prove to be a popular appetizer at your next party.
Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce
Admittedly, when I first heard of mixing grape jelly with a bottle of chili sauce, 'enticing flavor combination' was not the first phrase to come to mind. However, this has been a popular appetizer for decades, as the seemingly odd combination transforms into a sweet and savory sauce, similar to barbecue sauce.
Speaking of which, a popular alternative to this recipe is substituting bbq sauce instead of chili sauce. I've tested the recipe both ways, and each is good. I find using BBQ makes the sauce far sweeter, and chili sauce is a bit more balanced.
Best Ground Beef for Meatballs
Whenever I discuss how to make meatballs I recommend using 80/20 ground beef, because the added fat makes for a more moist and flavorful meatball. However, for this recipe, I actually recommend using 90/10 ground beef, and this is why:
Meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce are typically served as a party appetizer, which means either cooking them in a slow cooker or keeping them warm in a slow cooker. Using a fattier hamburger will have more grease leaking out, pooling in the bottom of the slow cooker and mixing in with the sauce. Using a slightly leaner beef, such a 90/10, still is fatty enough to make a flavorful meatball, but it limits the amount of grease that will be pooling when the dish is served. However, if desired, you can certainly use 80/20 beef in this recipe instead.
How to Make Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce
This recipe can be easily prepared on the stovetop or in your crockpot (affiliate link). To prepare on the stovetop you will place the sauce in a saucepan and mix it together then add the meatballs, covering and cook on medium-low until they all are cooked through.
Alternatively, you could just bake or broil the meatballs in the oven and add them to the sauce prior to serving. This is a particularly good option if you choose to use 80/20 beef instead of 90/10, as you can drain away the grease.
Slow Cooker Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce
If you are looking for the absolutely easiest way to prepare this appetizer, simply make it in the slow cooker. Add the raw meatballs to your slow cooker, then mix together the sauce and pour it over the meatballs. Cover, and cook on high for 2 hours, or until the meatballs are cooked through. You could cook it on low instead, just plan on it taking another hour or two to finish cooking.
Which method of cooking tastes best? Personally, I prefer to make these on the stovetop and then add them to the slow cooker to keep warm. Making the sauce on the stovetop allows me to simmer it down and thicken it slightly, which makes it cling better to the meatballs when serving.
Meatballs with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 24 ounces chili sauce
- 1 cup grape jelly
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)
- Prepare the meatballs by combining all of the ingredients in large bowl and mixing together with your hands.
- Tip: I often separately combine the wet ingredients with the seasonings to ensure even distribution, prior to mixing it with the ground beef.
- Form meatballs by scooping out 1-2 tablespoons of meat mixture then forming into a ball by rolling between your hands. This will yield -24-48 meatballs depending on the size.
- Cook the meatballs in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes then combine with the sauce, or simmer them in a large saucepan with the sauce until cooked through.
- Place the jelly, chili sauce, and seasonings in a saucepan and simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
- Serve with meatballs in the sauce.