These sweet and tangy BBQ meatballs make a delicious appetizer or weeknight dinner. They’re easy to bake in the oven with simple ingredients!
Baked BBQ Meatballs
In my experience there are two appetizers most people love: deviled eggs and meatballs. This recipe is for Baked BBQ cocktail meatballs and it’s one of my favorites! This is not an Italian flavored meatball — these are barbecue meatballs with bold flavor…the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and savory!
Growing up, cocktail meatballs were on every potluck or cocktail party menu. The recipe I most remember had a sauce made of chili sauce and grape jelly. I remember it being very tasty, but I love these homemade barbecue meatballs even more!
This recipe feels slightly more “sophisticated” to me because both the meatballs and the barbecue sauce are made from scratch. However, don’t let that intimidate you because this is a very easy 4-step recipe! All you need is an hour for them to bake, which is actually faster than those “easy” crockpot meatballs (more on that in the FAQs section).
The original cocktail meatball recipe is from Granny’s personal recipe book. It looks like a friend emailed it to her about 30 years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t tell who that is. But we will thank them for this amazing recipe anyways.
As with so many recipes that we put on Granny’s in the Kitchen, this one came with incomplete directions and ingredients that weren’t clear. So we’ve tested it and tweaked it to make it work for modern kitchens.
One of the reasons Stacey and I started this website was to clarify and recreate traditional recipes that may have fallen out of fashion or just didn’t have complete recipes.
Back in the day, it seems the home cooks could look at a list of ingredients and just know what to do with them. These days though, more explanation is required.
Neither Stacey nor I are professional cooks. We love food and we especially love the traditional recipes that we grew up with and how women traditionally shared recipes with each other.
We are doing our part to keep these food traditions alive!
For your convenience in re-creating our porcupine balls recipe at home, we’ve included shop-able ad links to some of the products and supplies used. Read our disclosure policy here.
For the Meatballs
- 4 lbs ground beef (I use regular vs lean ground beef so they bind together better)
- 2.5 packages of crushed crackers
- 2 Tablespoons of oregano
- 2 Tablespoons of black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large, chopped onion
- 1 large chopped green pepper
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic
- Enough ketchup to hold the mixture together
For the Barbecue Sauce
- ½ cup of brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons of yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 small bottle of ketchup (14 ounces)
- Half a ketchup bottle of water
Helpful Kitchen Tools
To Prep: Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly mist your baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Place all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
- Knead together to combine, then roll the meat mixture into balls, and place meatballs in a single layer in a baking dish.
- Add sauce ingredients to a separate mixing bowl and whisk together.
- Spoon or pour the BBQ sauce over the meatballs, cover pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F. Remove the foil, turn the meatballs in the sauce, recover and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Prep Tips and Recipe Notes
- Chili Pepper Flakes: The original recipe calls for quite a bit of red pepper flake in the meatball mixtures…1 ½ teaspoons per pound of ground meat. When testing the recipe, I made one pound with 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and one with none. I found the recipe with no red pepper was a little too bland for me. The one with one teaspoon was a little too spicy. I liked it but I would probably cut it down if making this for others. So we settled on a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes for the recipe. If you like spicy, you might want to add a little more. If you don’t like spicy foods or are making this recipe for kids, you can omit the red pepper altogether.
- Ketchup: The recipe calls for a small bottle of ketchup. I do not know what the actual measurement was originally. Today’s ketchups are not in the traditional bottle sizes or shapes. From my research, it seems like the old size was 14 ounces, so that is what we are going with.
- Crackers: The recipe calls for 2.5 packages of crushed crackers (instead of breadcrumbs like many meatball recipes). This could mean either a Ritz type cracker or a saltine cracker. I went with the Ritz option for half the recipe and a gluten free option for the other half that more closely resembles the saltine type cracker. Both crackers worked fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Freeze Meatballs?
Yes, you can freeze meatballs, including this recipe. To do so, I recommend placing the meatballs in a gallon size freezer bag and labeling with the date you made them. They can stay good in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Otherwise, place any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerated. They’ll stay fresh in the fridge for about to 3-4 days.
Can You Make Meatballs In A Slow Cooker?
Yes, you can prepare these meatballs in a crockpot if you prefer. Though I liked the baked version because it takes less time (1 hour vs 4 hours).
To make meatballs in a slow cooker, first mix the sauce and pour into the slow cooker. Place the meatballs in a single layer in your slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. Be careful not to overcook or the meatballs may release too much moisture and start to dry out.
How Can You Serve BBQ Meatballs?
There are so many ways to use these tasty and zesty meatballs!
- As an entree (they pair perfectly with potatoes and veggies!)
- On a sandwich, with extra sauce of course!
- As a snack
During the week after I made them, I enjoyed them in all the ways!
More Classic Party Appetizers To Try
BBQ Meatball Recipe (Printable Recipe Card)
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Baked BBQ Meatballs
- 1 large mixing bowl
- Small mixing bowl
- Baking dish
- 4 pounds ground beef
- 2.5 packages crackers
- 2 Tablespoons oregano
- 2 Tablespoons black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large onion, chopped finely
- 1 large green pepper, chopped finely
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1-2 Tablespoons ketchup to moisten mixture
- 13-14 ounces ketchup
- 6 ounces water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons yellow mustard
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
- 14 ounces ketchup
- 7 ounces water
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Roll meat mixture into balls about 1-inch in diameter and place in a single layer in a large baking dish.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients and pour over meatballs.
- Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- Check meatballs at half hour mark, gently turn so all of meatball gets some sauce. Re-cover and cook for 30 more minutes (1 hour total).
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