Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs are the perfect appetizer made with basic ingredients. These easy cocktail meatballs use cranberry sauce in the barbecue glaze. It’s the perfect meatball recipe for holiday parties!

Remember those slow cooker grape jelly meatballs made with jelly and bbq sauce? I have always loved them! They’re a classic party appetizer, kind of like these Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, Well, I think it’s time to update those traditional sweet and sour meatballs, don’t you agree?

These Cranberry Barbecue meatballs are a delicious appetizer, pairing homemade juicy meatballs with a simple homemade sauce. We all need easy recipes for game day and holiday parties. This unique meatball appetizer is a great option!

Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Like most recipes, there are plenty of things you can do to make this recipe your own. I have a few suggestions below:

Substitutions and Additions:

  1. These little meatballs are easily made gluten free, since we use oats instead of breadcrumbs. If you’d rather sub bread crumbs for the oats, please do so!
  2. If you know you’ll have leftovers, save a few plain meatballs so you can serve them with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese next time.
  3. Garnishing with diced green onions adds a festive holiday flair!
  4. This recipe calls for homemade meatballs. Please know that this is optional! If you have frozen meatballs feel free to use them. The holidays are so busy, there is no shame in taking a few shortcuts!
  5. A note, this recipe calls for chili sauce. Chili sauce can be found in the condiment section, near the ketchup. It’s very similar to ketchup, just with different spices! If you have a hard time finding it in store, it’s also available via Amazon here. Or, you can make your own chili sauce.
  6. This is optional, but you can also choose to sear your meatballs in a sauté pan for 1-2 minutes per side before baking. Doing this adds a lot of flavor through the golden brown caramelization of the meat.
  7. Yes, you can absolutely substitute ground turkey to make turkey meatballs, or any ground meat for a different kind of meatball.
Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Slow Cooker Instructions: 

These meatballs can easily be made in your slow cooker!

If you want to make crockpot meatballs, follow the recipe instructions through step 3.

Then, transfer the meatballs into a slow cooker. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and cook on low for 1 hour. 

After cooking the meatballs and glaze on low for on hour, be sure to switch the crockpot to “warm.” 

Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Ideas for Using Leftover Meatballs:

These Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs are absolutely fabulous as a main dish; meatball sliders! Use Hawaiian Rolls and melt provolone or swiss cheese. Serve with extra barbecue sauce.

Or, go lighter! Skip the cheese and top your leftover meatball sliders with this homemade Apple Slaw!

Here are some more ideas to use leftover barbecue meatballs:

  • Diced as a pizza topping
  • In a lettuce wrap
  • On a hoagie with melted cheese 
  • Over white rice
Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Need some appetizers to pair with these Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs for your party? Here are some other festive holiday appetizer ideas:

Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs
Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

These Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs are a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce!


Meatball ingredients:

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 pound mild country sausage
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder

For the Cranberry BBQ Sauce:

  • 14 ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 12 ounce bottle chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce or light soy sauce


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the meatballs.
  3. Shape the meat mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and place in a single layer on large baking sheet greased with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Bake the meatballs for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until browned and cooked through.
  5. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the cranberry BBQ sauce. In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients for the sauce, then cook over medium heat until the sauce begins to simmer. Cover with a lid and simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  6. When the meatballs are finished baking, remove them from the baking sheet and arrange into a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Spoon the BBQ sauce over the meatballs.
  7. Return the meatballs to the oven to bake in the sauce for an additional 10-15 minutes, until bubbly.
  8. Serve warm.
Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 455Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 114mgSodium 1411mgCarbohydrates 35gFiber 2gSugar 23gProtein 28g

The nutrition for this recipe is calculated by an app, and may be incorrect.

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Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs