Grape Jelly Meatballs are such an easy party appetizer recipe that they hardly need an introduction. Saucy, savory, simple, and sweet, these 3-ingredient meatballs are such to be the hit of your next game day or holiday gathering.

If you are planning on having friends over and looking for party food ideas, some of our other favorites are a Fruit and Cheese Platter, Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball, and 7 Layer Dip.

Easy grape jelly appetizer meatballs in a bowl next to a small glass jar of toothpicks for serving.

I'm sure that to the uninitiated the idea of cocktail meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce might sound like a bad idea. But I promise it's worth it. My husband is OBSESSED with these and wants me to make them for every party. They are his favorite and always a crowd-pleaser.

And frankly, you can make a meal out of them by serving these saucy, almost barbecue-ish meatballs over some mashed potatoes or cooked rice with some steamed, sauteed, or roasted veggies on the side. Or serve them on buns for a meatballs sub with some pickled onions and melted cheese on top.

And if you love meatballs, be sure to also check out our Greek Meatballs (Keftedes), Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs, and Swedish Meatballs!

Why this Recipe Works

  • This unsual combo of meatballs with grape jelly and chili sauce has been around since the 1950's, so it's vintage!
  • Everything is just thrown in the crockpot and slow cooked until the meatballs are hot all the way through and the grape jelly and chili sauce combine to form a delectable sauce that is reminiscent of both bbq and sweet & sour at the same time.
  • Serve these up straight out of the slow cooker with toothpicks (cocktail sticks if we're being fancy) for easy sharing.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Heinz chili sauce: This is my choice for the classic version of these meatballs, although you could use plain old ketchup or bbq sauce if that's all you have on hand. You can easily find it at the grocery store next to the ketchup.
  • Frozen cooked meatballs: I typically use ⅓ of the big 6-lb bag of cooked Italian meatballs from Costco when I'm making a regular-size batch of these easy appetizers. But chicken or turkey meatballs will also work if you are looking to keep things slightly healthier.
  • Grape jelly: Really any sweet jam could work here and give you a similar flavor profile. Raspberry jam, apricot preseves, apple jelly, and even cranberry sauce would all work well.
A jar of Heinz chili sauce, Welch's grape jelly, and Costco frozen Italian meatballs.

How to Make Grape Jelly Meatballs

To make this 3-ingredient grape jelly meatball recipe, simple dump all of your frozen meatball into the base of a slow cooker, then dump the chili sauce and grape jelly on top. I don't even bother to stir things together at this point.

Cover with the lid and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours or on HIGH for 2 hours until the meatballs are heated all the way through. Give everything a stir until the sauce combines and the meatballs are evenly coated. That's all there is to it!

Recipe FAQ's

How do I thicken my grape jelly sauce?

At first the sauce will be very thin, but as some of the moisture cooks off it will thicken up. Also, once you turn off the crockpot and let the meatballs cool a bit, the sauce will thicken up even more. If it still isn't thick enough for you, you can mix equal parts cornstarch and cold water (about 1 tablespoon of each is a good starting point) to create a slurry and stir that in to the hot sauce. After letting that cook for a few minutes it should thicken the sauce nicely.

Can these be made on the stovetop?

Sure! If you don't want to cook your grape jelly meatballs in the crockpot you can always just combine everything in a large pot on the stove and heat over medium-low heat until the meatballs are cooked through. Let the meatballs simmer for a little while until the sauce thickens slightly, but be careful not to let it cook too long or get too hot or the sugars in the jelly can start to burn.

Can I make this with homemade meatballs?

You definitely get a gold star if you go the extra mile and make homemade meatballs instead of using the premade frozen ones from the store. Just prepare them all the way through cooking before using them. But honestly, this is one of those recipes where it's all about ease and convenience, especially if you are doubling or tripling the batch for a big group and I'm not throwing any shade on those helpful Costco meatballs.

Other Cooking Methods

  • Instant Pot Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you need to speed things up, you can make these just as easily in your Instant Pot. In this case, add all your ingredients along with ¾ cup of water to help loosen up the sauce so you don't get a burn notice on your machine. Set the IP to cook for 6 minutes at HIGH pressure, then do a quick release and stir everything to combine. Because you are adding extra liquid, you might want to then turn the IP to the "saute" feature and let some of the water cook off for a minutes so the sauce isn't too thin.
  • Stovetop Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you don't want to cook your grape jelly meatballs in the crockpot you can always just combine everything in a large pot on the stove and heat over medium-low heat. Let the meatballs simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, but be careful not to let it cook too long or get too hot or the sugars in the jelly can start to burn.
  • Oven Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you don't have a slow cooker or IP and don't want to watch meatballs on the stove, another good option is to use the oven. Just dump everything in a large 9x13-inch baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 325°F for 25-30 minutes until the meatballs are heated all the way through.
A hand lifting a grape jelly meatball on a toothpick over a bowl of the meatballs.

Recipe Tips

  • Make-Ahead: You can definitely make these a day or two in advance, then just reheat before serving. They are good for 3-4 days in the fridge after making them.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the meatballs and sauce once they have cooled completely if you have lots leftover. They will be good for 2-3 months and just need to be reheated again to serve.
  • Variations: Besides swapping out the grape jelly for a different flavor of jam or preserves mentioned above, you could also add some additional spices to kick things up a notch. A chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce or 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder is my top choice, but a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for some heat, garlic powder for even more of a savory boost, or brown sugar to sweeten things even more are all popular additions.
An overhead image of crockpot grape jelly meatballs in a serving bowl.

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Grape Jelly Meatballs

5 from 3 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 5 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Grape Jelly Meatballs are such an easy party appetizer recipe that they hardly need an introduction. Saucy, savory, simple, and sweet, these 3-ingredient meatballs are such to be the hit of your next game day or holiday gathering.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds cooked frozen meatballs (about 48 small homemade meatballs)
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar Heinz chili sauce (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 ½ cups grape jelly

Instructions
 

  • Add the frozen meatballs to a large crockpot, then dump the chili sauce and grape jelly on top. No need to stir to combine at this point.
  • Let the grape jelly meatballs cook on LOW for 3-4 hours or on HIGH for 2 hours, then stir well to evenly coat the meatballs in the sauce. Serve with toothpicks for an easy appetizer or over rice or mashed potatoes for a main dish.
  • If you want to thicken the sauce more, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of cold water in a bowl for form a slurry, then stir this into the hot meatballs and sauce until thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Notes

  • Frozen cooked meatballs: I typically use ⅓ of the big 6-lb bag of cooked Italian meatballs from Costco when I'm making a regular-size batch of these easy appetizers. But chicken or turkey meatballs will also work if you are looking to keep things slightly healthier.
  • Grape jelly: Really any sweet jam could work here and give you a similar flavor profile. Raspberry jam, apricot preseves, apple jelly, and even cranberry sauce would all work well.
  • Instant Pot Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you need to speed things up, you can make these just as easily in your Instant Pot. In this case, add all your ingredients along with ¾ cup of water to help loosen up the sauce so you don't get a burn notice on your machine. Set the IP to cook for 6 minutes at HIGH pressure, then do a quick release and stir everything to combine. Because you are adding extra liquid, you might want to then turn the IP to the "saute" feature and let some of the water cook off for a minutes so the sauce isn't too thin.
  • Stovetop Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you don't want to cook your grape jelly meatballs in the crockpot you can always just combine everything in a large pot on the stove and heat over medium-low heat. Let the meatballs simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly, but be careful not to let it cook too long or get too hot or the sugars in the jelly can start to burn.
  • Oven Grape Jelly Meatballs: If you don't have a slow cooker or IP and don't want to watch meatballs on the stove, another good option is to use the oven. Just dump everything in a large 9x13-inch baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 325°F for 25-30 minutes until the meatballs are heated all the way through.
  • Make-Ahead: You can definitely make these a day or two in advance, then just reheat before serving. They are good for 3-4 days in the fridge after making them.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the meatballs and sauce once they have cooled completely if you have lots leftover. They will be good for 2-3 months and just need to be reheated again to serve.
  • Variations: Besides swapping out the grape jelly for a different flavor of jam or preserves mentioned above, you could also add some additional spices to kick things up a notch. A chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce or 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder is my top choice, but a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for some heat, garlic powder for even more of a savory boost, or brown sugar to sweeten things even more are all popular additions.

Nutrition

Calories: 317kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 250mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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