This cranberry meatballs recipe offers a unique twist on a classic dish, combining the sweetness of cranberry with a spicy kick. Perfect for those who enjoy a blend of flavors, these meatballs are cooked in a slow cooker, ensuring they are tender and full of taste. Whether served as an appetizer or a main course, this dish is sure to be a hit at your next gathering or family dinner.
Why This Recipe Works
- Perfect Flavor: The combination of sweet cranberry sauce with the spicy heat from the hot sauce creates a perfectly balanced flavor profile. This contrast ensures that each bite is both intriguing and satisfying.
- Versatile: These cranberry meatballs are versatile, making them perfect for various occasions. They can be a hit at a party as an appetizer or serve as a comforting main dish over rice for a family dinner.
- Easy: The recipe is straightforward and utilizes a slow cooker, making it convenient for anyone to prepare. This ease of preparation ensures a stress-free cooking experience while delivering a dish full of flavor.
Complete list of ingredients with quantities and instructions is located in the recipe card below
- Ground Beef: Opt for lean ground beef for a healthier option, but a slightly higher fat content can add more flavor and juiciness to the meatballs. Ground turkey can be used as a lighter substitute.
- Large Egg: The egg acts as a binder to hold the meatballs together. Ensure it’s fresh for the best results.
- Plain Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs help to give the meatballs structure and prevent them from falling apart. For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
- Minced Garlic: Fresh minced garlic will add a more robust flavor compared to the powdered version. It adds a depth of flavor to the meatballs.
- White Onion: Finely chop the onion for a subtle flavor and to ensure it blends well into the meatball mixture. Yellow onion can be used as an alternative.
- Salt and Pepper: These seasonings are essential for enhancing the overall flavor of the meatballs. Adjust according to your taste preference.
- Cranberry Sauce: This adds a sweet and tart flavor that complements the spicy elements. Look for a sauce with whole berries for added texture.
- Chili Sauce: This sauce contributes a tangy and slightly sweet flavor. It can be found in the condiment aisle of most grocery stores.
- Frank’s Red Hot Sauce: This hot sauce adds a spicy kick. You can adjust the amount based on how spicy you want your meatballs.
- Brown Sugar: It balances the heat from the hot sauce and the tartness of the cranberry sauce with its sweetness. Light or dark brown sugar can be used.
- Optional Garnish (Green Onion): Adds a fresh and slightly sharp flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweet and spicy meatballs. Chopped parsley can also be used for garnish.
How To Make Cranberry Meatballs in the Slow Cooker
- Preheat and Prepare: Start by preheating your oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Mix Meatball Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, finely chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Mix well, preferably using your hands, for even distribution of ingredients.
- Form Meatballs: Using a cookie scoop or your hands, shape the mixture into round balls. Roll them between your palms to smooth them out, then place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake Meatballs: Bake the meatballs in the oven until they turn golden brown. This initial baking helps to set their shape and add texture.
- Prepare the Sauce: While the meatballs are baking, mix together cranberry sauce, chili sauce, hot sauce, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined.
- Layer in Slow Cooker: Place a layer of baked meatballs in the slow cooker. Pour half of the sauce mixture over them. Add the remaining meatballs and cover them with the rest of the sauce.
- Cook: Set your slow cooker to the desired temperature. Cook the meatballs, stirring occasionally to ensure they are evenly coated in the sauce.
- Garnish and Serve: Once cooked, you can garnish the meatballs with chopped green onions if desired. Serve them alone or over a bed of rice, depending on your preference.
- Meatball Size: Keep the meatballs uniform in size for even cooking. A cookie scoop can be a handy tool for this.
- Browning: Baking the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker helps to develop a richer flavor and a better texture. Alternatively, you can sear them in a skillet.
- Slow Cooker Lining: Consider lining your slow cooker with a liner or lightly greasing it for easier cleanup.
- Sauce Consistency: If you prefer a thinner sauce, consider adding a small amount of water or broth to the slow cooker.
- Resting Time: Let the meatballs rest for a few minutes after cooking. This helps in distributing the juices evenly, making them more flavorful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can prepare the meatballs and even bake them a day ahead. Store them in the refrigerator and then proceed with the slow cooking process when ready.
Leftover cranberry meatballs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure they are in a covered container.
Absolutely. Once cooked, allow them to cool completely and then freeze them in airtight containers or freezer bags. They can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Yes, you can use frozen meatballs for a quicker version of this recipe. Just skip the meatball-making steps and start by layering the frozen meatballs in the slow cooker with the sauce. Adjust cooking times as needed.
These Cranberry Meatballs are a simple yet tasty option that combines sweet and spicy in every bite. They’re great for any event or a cozy dinner at home, and the slow cooker makes the cooking process a breeze. Give this recipe a try, and don’t forget to rate, review, and pin it so others can enjoy it too!
Spicy Cranberry Meatballs Recipe
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ medium white onion finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Sauce:
- 1 14 oz. can cranberry sauce
- 1 12 oz. bottle chili sauce
- ¼ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. It’s often easier to mix using your hands.
- Shape the mixture into round balls, about 1-½ inches in diameter, by rolling them between your palms. Place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs for 18-20 minutes, or until they turn golden brown.
- While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, chili sauce, hot sauce, and brown sugar. Mix well.
- After baking, let the meatballs cool for 10 minutes.
- In a slow cooker set to high heat, add a layer of meatballs and top with half of the sauce. Add the remaining meatballs and sauce, ensuring they are well coated.
- Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Optional: Garnish with chopped green onions and serve alone or over rice.
- Keep the meatballs warm until serving.
- For a healthier option, substitute ground beef with ground turkey.
- For a quicker meal, use frozen homestyle meatballs instead of making them from scratch.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.