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Savory party meatballs smothered in grape jelly and barbecue sauce? If you thought jelly and meatballs didn’t mix, get ready to have your mind blown with this easy appetizer, Grape Jelly Meatballs!

grape jelly meatballs on a Christmas plate with toothpicks.

This 3-Ingredient Meatballs recipe is a delicious balance of savory, tangy, and sweet! If you still can’t believe it, try them for yourself. You’ll be going back for more and more and more — these grape jelly meatballs are addictive.

This classic recipe is inexpensive and super easy, using only three ingredients. And even better, I provide three methods to make these tasty jelly and barbecue meatballs.

To top it all off, these sweet and saucy meatballs can be an appetizer, main entree, or side dish!

If you need more effortless crowd-pleasing appetizers to add to your holiday menu, check out my Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip, Pineapple Cheese Ball, and Mediterranean Appetizer Pinwheels.

ingredients for grape jelly meatballs on a table.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Grape Jelly and BBQ Meatballs

  • Grape jelly | Grape jelly is the perfect rich and sweet compliment to savory meatballs and tangy barbecue sauce. You can use whatever brand of jelly is your favorite.
  • Barbecue sauce | Add your favorite basic barbecue sauce for a beautiful balance of flavor. You may use chili sauce instead if you prefer. Or, even better, use a combination of the two!
  • Frozen meatballs | Could this recipe get any easier? Use fully-cooked frozen meatballs. Homestyle is best — however, Italian meatballs will work fine.

How to make Easy Grape Jelly Meatballs

Learn how to make this three-ingredient crowd-pleasing recipe for savory and sweet meatballs three ways — with the slow cooker, stovetop, or oven.

measuring grape jelly into a cup.

Slow Cooker Method

STEP 1 | Combine the sauce

Hands down, making these incredible grape jelly and barbecue meatballs in the slow cooker is the easiest method. However, it does take the longest. 

Start by adding the jelly and barbecue sauce (or chili sauce) to the slow cooker and stir the ingredients thoroughly.

frozen meatballs in a crockpot with sauce.

STEP 2 | Add the meatballs and cook

Then, empty the frozen meatballs into the slow cooker and gently stir to coat them with the sauce. And finally, replace the lid and set the heat on low.

In three to four hours, your jelly meatballs will be ready to serve—That’s it!

Stovetop Method

STEP 1 | Create the sauce

For a quicker stovetop method, grab a large saucepan and set the temperature to medium heat. Pour the grape jelly and barbecue sauce (or chili sauce) into the pan and stir until the ingredients are well combined.

STEP 2 | Add the meatballs and simmer

Now, add the frozen meatballs to the pan and stir to coat them with the sweet and tangy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and bring the ingredients to a simmer.

Then, continue cooking for 30 minutes until the meatballs are heated through. Stir the recipe occasionally to ensure everything cooks evenly.

a wooden spoon lifting grape jelly meatballs out of a crockpot.

In the Oven

STEP 1 | Preheat and prep

Making grape jelly meatballs in the oven is still very easy! Plus, it takes as little as 25 minutes to bake.

Begin the recipe by preheating the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking spray or grease it with butter. Then, empty the bag of frozen meatballs into the dish.

STEP 2 | Mix the sauce and add it to the casserole dish

Grab a medium mixing bowl and pour in the grape jelly and barbecue sauce (or chili sauce). Stir the two ingredients until they are combined. Carefully pour the sauce over the meatballs. Then, cover the casserole dish tightly with foil.

STEP 3 | Bake and serve!

Finally, slip the casserole dish into the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Using caution, lift the foil from the dish to check if the jelly meatballs are finished baking. You’ll know your meatballs are done when they are hot and bubbly. 

tips

  • Because the frozen meatballs are fully cooked, the goal of cooking the recipe is to heat them all the way through. So, when the meatballs are thawed and hot, dive on in!
  • To give this recipe an extra zing, add a splash of hot sauce or a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
  • If you are using this recipe for an appetizer, you can serve the jelly meatballs straight from the slow cooker with a serving spoon or poke toothpicks into each one and place them on a festive tray. 
  • When using the slow cooker method, remember not to lift the lid as it cooks. This allows the heat to escape and can alter the proper cooking time.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of meatballs work best?

I like to use homestyle frozen meatballs for this recipe because they are mild in taste, allowing the tangy sauce to steal the spotlight. In a pinch, you can use frozen Italian meatballs. They are seasoned a little heavier but blend well with the sweet jelly and tangy barbecue sauce.

The meatballs can be made with turkey, beef, chicken, or any combination. Furthermore, this recipe works best when you use smaller meatballs. The ratio of each bite is perfected with smaller meatballs and plenty of sauce!

You can also make your own meatballs. Just be sure to cook them before starting the recipe and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Can you make this recipe with other jelly flavors?

Traditionally, this meatball appetizer recipe is made with rich and sweet grape jelly. However, you can experiment using different flavors of jelly, like strawberry, apricot, or peach. 

Of course, expect the taste to differ, but the meatballs will be a hit no matter what jelly you use.

How do you store grape jelly meatballs?

These saucy meatballs will store well in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to four days. You can also freeze the recipe in an airtight container or freezer bag. It will last a good three months in the freezer.

To reheat the meatballs, pour them back into the slow cooker or even heat them in the microwave. Just cook them until they are heated all the way through.

a bowl of grape jelly meatballs garnished with chopped parsley on a table with appetizer plates.

Serving suggestions

What’s great about this easy grape jelly meatball recipe is that it can be served as an appetizer, main entree, or even a side dish.

Poke a toothpick into each meatball or skewer a few onto a medium bamboo stick and place them on a tray as an appetizer. Or you can drop a serving spoon into the slow cooker and have your guests scoop them out onto small appetizer plates.

Complete the spread with this Holiday Cheese Board with Sage Honey Ricotta and some spicy Air Fryer Jalapeño Poppers — YUM!

As a hearty side dish, pair this recipe with a refreshing and light Christmas Salad. Let the meatballs be the star of the show and serve them over buttery rice or fluffy mashed potatoes with a green veggie side.

a hand holding a grape jelly meatball on a toothpick.

Behind the recipe: Grape Jelly Meatballs

Who knew grape jelly would dress up homestyle meatballs so well? I’d love to know who first tried this peculiar idea. They must have received a lot of doubt from their taste testers.

But imagine the look on their face after taking the first bite of these sweet and savory meatballs—jaws dropped! If you’ve tried this recipe, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the true origins of this classic recipe are unknown. We know that they have been enjoyed by families and featured in cookbooks since the 1960s and continue to be a hit to this day.

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Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

a bowl of grape jelly meatballs garnished with chopped parsley on a table.

Grape Jelly Meatballs

If you thought jelly and meatballs didn’t mix, get ready to have your mind blown! This Grape Jelly Meatballs recipe is a delicious balance of savory, tangy, and sweet!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 5 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 319 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup grape jelly
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce or chili sauce
  • 2 lb. frozen meatballs

Instructions
 

Slow Cooker

  • Add grape jelly and barbecue sauce to the slow cooker and stir to combine.
  • Empty the meatballs into the slow cooker and stir gently to coat with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.

Stove Top

  • In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the grape jelly and barbecue sauce.
  • Add the meatballs, stirring to coat with the sauce. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are heated through.

Oven

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray and add the meatballs.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the grape jelly and barbecue sauce. Pour over the meatballs and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are hot and bubbly.

Notes

  • Because the frozen meatballs are fully cooked, the goal of cooking the recipe is to heat them all the way through. So, when the meatballs are thawed and hot, dive on in!
  • To give this recipe an extra zing, add a splash of hot sauce or a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
  • If you are using this recipe for an appetizer, you can serve the jelly meatballs straight from the slow cooker with a serving spoon or poke toothpicks into each one and place them on a festive tray. 
  • When using the slow cooker method, remember not to lift the lid as it cooks. This allows the heat to escape and can alter the proper cooking time.
  • These meatballs will store well in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to four days. You can also freeze the recipe in an airtight container or freezer bag. It will last a good three months in the freezer.
  • To reheat the meatballs, pour them back into the slow cooker or even heat them in the microwave. Just cook them until they are heated all the way through.

Nutrition

Calories: 319kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 13gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 297mgPotassium: 294mgFiber: 1gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 59IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 24mgIron: 1mg
Keyword barbecue sauce, easy appetizer, slow-cooker, snack
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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