Saucy Meatballs

These delicious, little meatball morsels are the perfect combination of sweet and tangy and make for an appetizer worthy of an elegant dinner party or a down-home football game.

I snagged the recipe idea from the Sister’s Cafe (thanks Brittany!) but changed it up a bit, swapping in the Pioneer Woman’s meatball recipe for store-bought meatballs and changing the cooking method a bit. I wanted a sturdy yet tender meatball that would hold up to being cooked and sauced, and these definitely fit the bill.

The brown sugar, tart cranberry sauce, and spicy cocktail sauce combine in a perfect compliment of flavors and these meatballs were deemed worthy to add to the meatball arsenal I’ve collected already.

Saucy Meatballs

One Year Ago: Loaded Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two Years Ago:Toffee Butterscotch and Tapioca Pudding

Saucy Meatballs

Yield: Makes 30-34 meatballs

Saucy Meatballs


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef or lean ground turkey
  • ¾ cup quick oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (for coating meatballs)
  • Canola oil
  • Sauce:
  • 12 oz. jar of cocktail sauce
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water


  1. For the meatballs: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the meatball ingredients (except the oil and flour). Roll into medium-small balls (about the size of a ping pong ball – if you want specifics) and place on a cookie sheet. Place sheet in the freezer for five minutes.
  2. After 5 minutes, remove meatballs from freezer and immediately dredge in unseasoned flour. Heat 1/3 cup canola oil in a large skillet. When oil is hot, add meatballs and brown on all sides (but don’t cook through). Place the meatballs in a single layer in a 9X13-inch baking dish and make the sauce.
  3. For the sauce: combine the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through to coat the meatballs in the sauce. Serve with toothpicks.


Alternately, you can make the meatballs the day beforehand (including cooking them by themselves in the 9X13-inch pan) and then the next day, place the meatballs and heated sauce in the crockpot and cook on high for 2-3 hours to heat through.

Recipe Source: Meatballs adapted from Pioneer Woman/Sauce from Sister’s Cafe

28 Responses to Saucy Meatballs

  1. Crystal says:

    can I make my own cocktail sauce for this? ketchup, horse radish, Tabasco and lemon juice?

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Mel, I’m having a meatball dilemma! I want to make some turkey meatballs for my sister for our family’s Easter dinner (she cannot eat beef or pork) and I can’t decide between these Saucy Meatballs, your Sweet and Sour Meatballs, or your Teriyaki Meatballs. The meatballs will be her main “entree” and she will be able to enjoy all of our other side dishes with them. Any suggestions? Thanks so much for your help!! And, Happy Easter to you and your family!

  3. titus says:

    Just so you know, these meatballs freeze well without the sauce. I always make about six dozen meatballs, using a dozen for that night with the sauce. The rest I freeze in zip lock bags and have pulled them out as long as four months later and had them taste just as fresh. I have two toddlers and don’t always have time to make meatballs. This trick has saved me many times.

  4. […] found this recipe over at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and it is SO delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I made them […]

  5. Deb says:

    Made these for a Christmas party tonight and they were a HUGE hit! I doubled the recipe and used 3 lbs of frozen meatballs. Made in the crockpot. Super easy and SO good!

  6. Kendall says:

    Has anyone tried these with ground turkey? We have an open house this weekend, and don’t want to try making that change unless someone can recommend it. (This switch would be purely for selfish reasons, as I don’t eat beef.)

  7. Christine says:

    Just came across this recipe and wanted to add that you might want to try adding a can of bavarian sauerkraut (15 oz can – DRAINED) to the sauce if you like kraut. I have been making a similar recipe for years that includes the kraut, it is on and is the bavarian style meatballs. I refuse to use pre-made frozen meatballs as it seems that they are loaded with “fillers” more than meat so I make my own meatballs for the recipe.

  8. Zenaida says:

    Another Amazing Job!! Theses are FANTASTIC!! My boyfriend and I are addicted!! I’ve made these twice now and I still want more!! Thank you so much for this easy to follow recipe!! Totally worth the time to make and they taste fantastic!! I made white rice to go along and it works great!! 🙂

  9. Nathalie says:

    I also made these using frozen meatballs instead and they were almost all gone- I had used a pre-made sauce for half of the meatballs and this recipe for the other half and there wasn’t much left of either so I’m guessing they were very much liked!

  10. Mel says:

    Nathalie – nope, you are right ON track. Cocktail sauce is the shrimp-dipping sauce. Sounds weird but I promise it is delicious. 🙂

  11. Nathalie says:

    I’m just looking at some appetizers for our Christmas party, while I’d love to make my meatbalss homemade for the essence of time I think I will buy them pre-made and frozen.

    I usually buy a sauce and just put it in with the meatballs in the slow cooker, but I’m wondering if doing my own sauce would be better and be a crowd-pleaser, although I’m not sure what cocktail sauce is? It sounds like sauce used for dipping shrimp, but I might be WAY off track…? lol

  12. Holly says:

    Do you have a favorite cocktail sauce to use in this recipe? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Holly – I don’t have a favorite brand. I’ve bought several and honestly, can’t remember which ones I liked better, although I do remember not liking the generic brand.

  13. Christina says:

    These meatballs are really good. I made them yesterday as part of our super bowl party menu along with the pretzel bites and chorizo and cheese dip. Yum! All of the recipes were a hit! My son especially loved the meatballs and asked if I’d make them for dinner one night. I was surprised at how easy the pretzel bites were. I used to avoid anything with yeast as I was nervous to work with it but you have instillef confidence in me with your awesome recipes!

  14. Sonya says:

    I have made these about 6 times this past year. They are a huge hit with everyone. I’m making these this weekend for a Christmas appetizer party with friends. I just hope my kids don’t eat them all before the other guest arrive.

  15. Jennifer says:

    First, I REALLY love your site! My hubby does too, since he gets better dinners! Just a quick suggestion for the meatballs; I found it faster to just drop the meat by the spoonful into the flour, roll it into a ball and drop it right into the oil.
    Thanks for the great recipes!

  16. Melanie says:

    josh (Jen’s sister!) – your comment made me laugh! I’m glad we are BFFs. If you are anything like Jen, than I would love you.

  17. josh says:

    It is Jenny Bastian’s sister again. Just want to tell you that you are my new bff. I have been using a bunch of your recipes and my kids said the other night…”mom we are glad you finally learned how to cook!”. Little snots…what the heck mac n cheese just hasn’t been good enough? Anyways thank you so much you are a life saver!

  18. grace says:

    excellent, melanie–good for you for going the extra mile and making your own (delicious) meatballs. that sauce must be just outstanding. sweet, tart meat. hallelujah. 🙂

  19. Cammee says:

    These look perfect! I’m loving the archive links.

  20. Jenn says:

    These sound delicious! I love a good meatball. Thanks.

  21. Chrissy says:

    my mil’s recipe had the same sauce ingredients except she put in grape jelly vs. cranberry sauce… unusual but it tasted great

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