A Spicy Perspective

Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs Recipe: Fabulous Crock Pot Meatballs for holiday parties, made with a brilliant 3-ingredient glaze!

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Finish this sentence.

The holidays aren’t the holidays without….

What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it family? Christmas carols? Maybe snow?

Did anymore happen to visualize MEATBALLS, or was it just me?

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Seriously, I cannot think of a more iconic holiday appetizer than slow cooked meatballs in a sticky-sweet glaze.

I’ve heard stories of crockpot meatballs going 4 and even 5 generations back through family recipe boxes.

There are all sorts of recipes online for Crock Pot Meatballs. Some require only 2-ingredients, frozen meatballs and barbecue sauce. Others have long lists of ingredients.

Our family Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs Recipe is a happy-medium in my opinion.

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Gently simmered in a simple 3-ingredient spicy-sweet sauce, you can add made-from-scratch meatballs (recipe below) to the crockpot. Or you can use frozen meatballs when you’re in a hurry.

Homemade meatballs are better, if you ask me. But the freezer meatballs are still pretty darn good!

Either way, just pile the party meatballs in the slow cooker, pour in the sauce ingredients, and press start.

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Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs Recipe Ingredients

If making crockpot meatballs from scratch…

  • Ground Beef – The traditional base of great meatballs.
  • Ground pork sausage – Most meatball varieties include more than one type of meat. Adding pork sausage gives the meatballs an extra boost of flavor.
  • Bread crumbs – To hold in the moisture. You can substitute gluten free bread crumbs if needed.
  • Eggs – to glue all the ingredients together.
  • Onions & Garlic – For intense zesty flavor.
  • Italian seasoning – To add herby punch.
  • Smoked paprika – For that little extra something no one can quite put their finger on.
  • Whole berry cranberry sauce – Find this in the seasonal section of your local market. It’s canned.
  • Jalapeno jelly – You can use any kind of spicy jam or jelly you like. I usually go with Hot Pepper Spread.
  • Barbecue sauce – Pick your favorite!

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If you are making quickie Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs, you just need 4-ingredients…

  • Frozen meatballs
  • Whole berry cranberry sauce
  • Jalapeno jelly
  • Barbecue sauce

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Do You Have To Cook Meatballs Before Putting Them In A Crockpot?

Yes and no.

  • If you are making meatballs from scratch, you should brown the meatballs in a pan before placing them in the crockpot. This creates a outer crust so they are less likely to break or stick together.
  • You do not have to cook them all the way through before transferring the meatballs to the slow cooker. Just cook them until they are mostly brown on the outside.
  • However, if you are using freezer meatballs as a short-cut, just throw them right in the crock pot!

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How Long Does It Take To Cook Frozen Meatballs In The Crockpot?

Generally speaking, 4 hours on low heat.

However, fresh homemade meatballs only take 3 hours on low in the slow cooker. You spend a little extra time making them, but less time in the crockpot!

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Crock Pot Meatballs Add-Ins and Substitutions

Make this appetizer meatballs recipe your own by:

  • Adding sriracha sauce for heat
  • Reducing the spice by using berry jelly instead of jalapeno jelly.
  • Going gluten free by using gluten free bread crumbs or potato flakes, instead of regular bread crumbs.
  • Substituing ground chicken or turkey for the beef and pork.
  • Making 100 mini meatballs by using 1 tablespoon portions.

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Learn How To Make Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs From the Recipe Below

Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs Recipe: Fabulous Crock Pot Meatballs for holiday parties, made with a brilliant 3-ingredient glaze!
Servings: 40 meatballs


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup shaved onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 14 ounces whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 9.5 ounces jalapeno jelly or hot pepper jam
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce


  • In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, sausage, bread crumbs, eggs, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and paprika. Mix until very even and smooth.
  • Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Roll the meat mixture into tight ball, 1 1/4-inch wide. Place them in the skillet and brown on all sides.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked on the outside, move them to 4 quart slow cooker. Continue rolling and browning until all the meatballs are in the slow cooker.
  • Pour in the cranberry sauce, pepper jelly, and barbecue sauce. Cover and set on low for at least 3 hours, or on high for at least 1 1/2 hours.
  • Set the slow cooker on warm until ready to serve.



Want to make the quick-prep version? 
  1. Pour 2 pounds frozen meatballs into the crockpot.
  2. Add the cranberry sauce, jalapeno jelly, and barbecue sauce.
  3. Cover and slow cook on low for at least 4 hours. 


Serving: 1meatball, Calories: 91kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 234mg, Potassium: 88mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 65IU, Vitamin C: 0.2mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 0.6mg
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier

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8 comments on “Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs”

  1. I made a small batch of these using bite size Cooked Perfect frozen meatballs and they were delicious. I need to make a batch of 200+ and wondered if they could be cooked in the oven or stove top instead of a crock pot to save time.

  2. Pingback: 12 New Yr’s Eve Recipes You Can Make In An On the spot Pot - TRENDING HITS

  3. One of my all time favorite party foods. 

  4. These are going on the menu for Christmas! So easy and that sauce is fantastic!

  5. Perfect recipe for my holiday dinner! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I can eat an entire batch of cocktail meatballs. This recipe sounds perfect!

  7. Ahhhhh. Great timing. I just sat down to find a meatball recipe for a party and thought I’d check my email first… these are perfect. Can’t wait to try. Didn’t want the usual swimming in BBQ. Love the cranberry jalapeño combo!!