Cooked in a rich cranberry sauce with sweet, spicy, and savory flavors, these tender cranberry sauce meatballs are the perfect easy-peasy appetizer to enjoy this holiday season.
I hate to imagine life without a bag of frozen meatballs in my freezer. I have used them for last-minute parties, potlucks, fellowships, and even entire family dinners when the need arose. Making them homemade is always great but having that bag of all beef meatballs (we also love the turkey ones) on hand for “food emergencies” has saved the day on more occasions than I care to count.
The other thing that saves the day during the holiday season is cranberry sauce. Do you always end up with one random can of cranberry sauce in your pantry? I always do. This cranberry sauce meatball recipe is what that can was meant for. These festive-flavored cranberry meatballs are perfect on a holiday buffet or as a little nibble while waiting on the big meal to finish up.
When I say the sauce has spicy, sweet, and savory notes, I mean it. You see, our meatball sauce is made with a combination of cranberry sauce, chili sauce, honey, orange juice, and salt and pepper. A unique combination but trust me, the flavors work so well together to make a rich and irresistible sauce. All you need to do to make your cranberry orange meatballs is bring the sauce ingredients to a boil, add the meatballs, and let them simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce thickens. It will be ready in just 30 minutes.
Another one of my favorite meatball recipes is Dr. Pepper Meatballs. However, these cranberry orange meatballs are the sweet and mildly spicy cousin to Dr. Pepper Meatballs and come in at a very close second. They have a distinctive holiday flare to their taste. So, ready to give my a go?
- Frozen fully cooked meatballs
- Whole berry cranberry sauce
- Chili sauce
- Orange juice
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Cranberry Sauce Meatballs
Place all ingredients except for meatballs into a large saucepot or dutch oven.
Bring just to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring often.
Carefully add meatballs and reduce heat to medium-low.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes until they are heated through and the sauce is thickened.
Add a garnish of chopped fresh parsley and enjoy!
- Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat them either on the stovetop or in the microwave.
- You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating as above.
- I generally use ground beef or turkey meatballs, but you can use any kind of frozen meatballs you like. This also relates to the size of the meatballs, so feel free to use appetizer or mini-party meatballs too.
- You can also use homemade meatballs instead.
- A few people have asked in the comments and I typically use Heinz Chili Sauce for this recipe.
- Instead of whole berry cranberry sauce, you can use jellied cranberry sauce, or homemade cranberry sauce.
- Feel free to substitute the honey for brown sugar, which is a regular addition to cranberry meatball recipes and gives the dish the same hint of sweetness to balance out the spicy and savory notes.
- For BBQ cranberry meatballs, substitute the chili sauce for your favorite barbecue sauce (or use homemade BBQ sauce). This gives the meatballs more of a smoky flavor.
How do you serve cranberry meatballs?
You can serve them as a meatball appetizer (see more appetizer recipes below) or over rice or mashed potato as the main dish. If opting for the latter, I’d add some steamed vegetables as a side dish too, like Brussels sprouts, fresh green beans, or zucchini and squash.
Can I make cranberry sauce meatballs in the slow cooker?
Absolutely! All you’re going to do to make is place the meatballs in the slow cooker, combine the sauce ingredients and then pour that over the meatballs, add the crockpot lid, and cook them on high for 2 hours or on low for 4 hours.
Check out these other easy party appetizer recipes:
- 1.5 lbs frozen fully cooked meatballs
- 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1/3 cup honey
- ½ cup chili sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine everything except meatballs in a dutch oven or a similar pot on the stovetop. Stirring constantly, bring just to a boil over medium-high heat.1 can whole berry cranberry sauce, 1 cup orange juice, 1/3 cup honey, ½ cup chili sauce, salt and pepper to taste
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Carefully add meatballs and stir to coat. Continue cooking until meatballs are heated through and the sauce is thickened (15-20 minutes).1.5 lbs frozen fully cooked meatballs
- Serve on their own as an appetizer or over rice as a meal.