Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This is a favorite meal of ours that I have been making for years. On Sunday evenings when I am planning our weekly menu, I’ll ask Brian to give me at least one meal suggestion. No fail, he either comes up with this dish or his other fave, Sweet and Sour Chicken. (By the way, I usually veto his suggestions, though, because I have so many recipes to try that I don’t like eating the same thing week after week. Rude, I know, but how will I ever try all these recipes before I die if I am making Sweet and Sour Meatballs or Chicken every week?)

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

These meatballs are also a huge winner with my kidlets. The meatballs are tender and perfectly seasoned, especially after baking in the simple sweet and sour sauce. For me, this is definitely a perfect weeknight meal – and we enjoy it often (but clearly not as often as Brian would like)!

Update Nov. 2014: After five or so years living on the blog, this recipe needed an update (mostly the photos). I also gave a few additional tips and instructions in the recipe. I cut the milk down to 1/4 cup to make the meatballs sturdier (the original was 1/2 cup if you want to stick with that) and I usually scale back the sugar to 1/4 cup as well (1/2 cup in the original). And of course, I always double the sauce since we like it on the saucy side. Read the notes below the recipe title for another cooking variation that is speedy and oven-free.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

What To ServeBaked Brown Rice
Fresh, seasonal fruit
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Homemade Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Yield: Serves 6

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I usually use a combination of lean ground beef and lean ground turkey but really any ground meat would work well - just keep in mind that if you don't want the grease to pool in the bottom of the baking dish (ew), use a pretty lean meat.

Also, I highly recommend doubling the sauce if you like dishes like this a bit saucier. Very often, I forego the baking and instead brown the meatballs in a skillet (or if doubling, I use my large electric skillet) on all sides and then drain any grease (most often there isn't any if using lean meat). Pour the sauce into the skillet, cover and let the meatballs simmer for 10-15 minutes until cooked through, turning once or twice.


  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground meat (see note)
  • 3/4 cup quick oats or old-fashioned oats that have been lightly pulsed in a blender
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Sauce:
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want the sauce)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce (my favorite homemade version here)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot, cooked rice for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. For the meatballs, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Form into about 12 meatballs (right around 2-inches each). Place in a lightly greased 9X13-inch pan.
  3. For the sauce, whisk together the ingredients until well-combined.
  4. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bake for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.
  5. Serve over hot, cooked rice, if desired.


Freezable Meal: After covering the meatballs with sauce, cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil and freeze. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake covered without thawing for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 20-30 minutes more, until meatballs are cooked through.


Recipe Source: adapted from Lion House Recipes

133 Responses to Sweet and Sour Meatballs

  1. Jackie Hewitt says:

    The meatballs are great but we didn’t like the sweet and sour sauce but I think thats mainly because we prefer gravy or tomato sauce with meatballs

  2. Hank says:

    This recipe is fantastic. I have made it several times. The amount of sauce in this recipe is perfect, imho. It is my go-to recipe for meatballs and, on occasion, I have also used different sauces. The only consistent difference I find necessary from the written instructions for me though is that I prefer to cook the meatballs for an hour at 350, not 30 minutes. Maybe it is the way that I put them side by side in the casserole dish, but I leave them there for an hour.

  3. Erin says:

    These were a hit. Definitely double the sauce.

    My husband has a gluten issue, so I used almond flour instead of oats. Not that oats are gluten, but grains in general bother him. All of my condiments- mustard, ketchup, etc etc were gluten free. (Vinegar can be an issue for gluten, and vinegar is in ketchup, mustard, etc etc.)

    Thanks, Mel!

  4. Jessica Glover says:

    I made these tonight for the second time, they had been in the freezer and in an effort to speed up the cooking process I put them on the stove. I seared them on all sides then added the sauce and let simmer on the stove. AMAZING!!! This will be my method of cooking these from now on! Thanks Mel for another great recipe!

  5. pam says:

    Just made this for supper, using ground chicken instead of ground beef. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about it while it was cooking – the smell of the apple cider vinegar was a bit off-putting (my 6yo even said “what’s that smell?!?”), but it tasted really good. Next time I’d triple the sauce though – doubled wasn’t saucy enough for my sauce-loving family.

  6. lynn says:

    These are so good! I wanted a crockpot recipe so
    I baked the meatballs in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes
    I doubled the sauce recipe and dumped all the ingredients in the crockpot and added the cooked meatballs to the crockpot
    cooked on low for 2hrs
    the Best!!

  7. Jen says:

    Have you ever used all ground turkey?

  8. Christina says:

    I made your meatball sub recipe last weekend and it was the first-and-only meatball I’ve ever made that my fiance and I both loved. It was perfect and I don’t know if I want to experiment with another recipe… but I’d love to try this sauce.

    What do you think about using the meatballs from your meatball sub recipe with this sauce?

  9. Heidi says:

    After I saw these on Facebook, I knew I had to make them tonight. They were a huge hit. Seriously, the best meatballs I’ve ever had. We had them with roasted root veggies because I had way too many from a crop share this week, but they went awesome with the sauce. Thanks for another great recipe!!

  10. amanda a says:

    fantastic! and bonus–my kids loved them! thanks, mel!

  11. Sweet Dee says:

    This recipe is amazing! It’s a staple in my house now (like a lot of your recipes) and it never fails. I’ve used every kind of BBQ sauce you could think of and it always turns out great (My favorite to use is Stubbs sweet heat). Thanks Mel!

  12. Denise says:

    Mel, Excellent recipe. I had my boys 8 and 10 make this recipe tonight. What a blast watching them mix the burger with their hands! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Jocelyn says:

    I make this recipe at least monthly for the past 3 years! It is one of my favorites and the leftovers taste just as good as fresh!

  14. Shoby says:

    These are delicious!! Only tip I would add is to not overcrowd the skillet (like I did) if you are browning first, as this makes it difficult to turn them these are definitely picky kid friendly!

  15. Jessica says:

    Made it, doubled the sauce so we’d have some for on the rice. Sweet ‘n’ tangy! Yum!

  16. I made these meatballs the other night, they were delicious! And they’re husband approved which makes them even better! Thanks for sharing the recipe! =)

  17. Sandy says:

    Do these meatballs work as a party food? using toothpicks, they’ll need to be pretty firm. Would love your opinion on this. Thanks!!

  18. Lee says:

    My 8 year old made these meatballs tonight for dinner! He had a great time doing this (mostly) on his own and was so proud when we all rated this a 10 out of 10 for dinner.

  19. Emily says:

    These meatballs have been a family favorite for a long time. Last night I tripled the batch (some for dinner, some for the freezer) and was feeling good and then remembered my son had to leave for scouts early – yikes! He needed dinner fast! My Instant Pot was out to make rice, but I switched things up and put a single layer of Meatballs and sauce in with the saute mode, to speed things up, but it also browned the bottom of the meatballs for even more tastiness! I set manual pressure cook for 7 minutes and did a natural 10 min. release. They were absolutely fabulous!!! And my boy went to scouts with a full belly!

  20. Lindsay says:

    We love these! Curious if you know how they freeze after being fully cooked? I want to make them for a friend and I’m not sure if they will eat them immediately or stick them in their freezer for another time. Thanks! PS We had your sweet and sour chicken last night for about the 100th time. Our favorite!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Lindsay – these freeze well after they are cooked, I think. The trick is to reheat on low instead of cooking them fully again.

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