Cocktail Meatballs are the PERFECT appetizer made with frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce, easy to throw together and only 3 ingredients!
Appetizers are an important part of any party, and our kitchen has been busy perfecting our Spicy Louisiana Shrimp Dip, P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps (copycat), and Sausage Balls!
Slow Cooker Grape Jelly Meatballs are one of the easiest appetizers you’ll ever make, made from frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce. Yes, they’re also known by their alternate name of cocktail meatballs because they’re classically served on a toothpick at parties and they’re so incredibly easy to make.
They are my all-time favorite meatball recipe, because my guests always love them and they take almost no prep time. You can make your own meatballs from ground beef if you’re really motivated, but when you’re about to have a house full of guests and limited time, this is a pretty good appetizer to have on hand.
In the past I’ve made slow cooker meatballs with BBQ sauce instead of the chili sauce, but my family definitely prefers the chili sauce version. You can also use other flavors of jelly instead of grape jelly, it’s all personal preference.
I’ve used apple jelly for Thanksgiving and red current jelly for Christmas in the past. Any flavor you choose, this is a great recipe when you have a crowd of people to feed, and the crockpot frees up your oven space!
HOW TO THICKEN GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS
If your meatballs end up in too thin of a sauce, you can easily thicken it in the slow cooker. Mix a tablespoon of corn starch with ¼ cup cold water. Pour into the slow cooker and stir into the sauce. Close the lid on the slow cooker and let it cook until the sauce thickens up.
HOW TO MAKE GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS IN THE OVEN
If you don’t have a free crockpot, you can also make these meatballs in the oven. Just grease a large baking dish and add the frozen meatballs. Whisk together the grape jelly and chili sauce and pour it over the meatballs, then bake uncovered for a total time of 30 minutes (or until the meatballs are heated through).
You can also make the meatballs this way to speed up the process, then just use the crock pot to keep them warm while you’re serving appetizers.
If you’re using an uncooked meatball recipe, you may have to increase the time until the meatballs reach 165 degrees F in the middle.
CAN YOU FREEZE slow cooker GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS?
Turn off the crock pot and allow your meatballs to cool completely. Then move them to an airtight container with the rest of the sauce, and freeze for 2-3 months. You can also combine everything ahead of time and freeze, then throw them in the crockpot when you’re ready to heat them up.
Create a free account to Save Recipes
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SLOW COOKER MEATBALLS
CAN YOU PUT RAW MEATBALLS IN A SLOW COOKER?
If you want to make your own meatballs, you can put them in the slow cooker raw and let them cook in the grape jelly sauce until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This temperature goes for ground beef, turkey, or pork meatballs.
If your meatballs are falling apart, your recipe may call for too much or too little bread crumbs or eggs. You can also try frying or baking the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker to help them hold their shape better. Try my Easy Homemade Meatballs for a tried-and-true recipe (and my other favorite meatball recipe!).
HOW TO MAKE GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS IN THE INSTANT POT
If you want something a little faster than the oven or the crock pot, you can make these meatballs in the instant pot.
- Place your frozen meatballs in the instant pot.
- Whisk together ½ tablespoon corn starch, grape jelly, and chili sauce. Pour it over the meatballs.
- With manual setting, set temperature to high for 10 minutes, and natural release.
TIPS FOR MAKING slow cooker GRAPE JELLY MEATBALLS
- If you don’t have Heinz chili sauce, you can use equal parts regular ketchup in this recipe.
- Lighten this recipe up by making homemade meatballs out of ground turkey and using sugar free grape jelly.
- Add ¼ cup of dark brown sugar, whisked together with the jelly, to give the meatballs a richer more molasses flavor.
- If you want these to look extra decorative, serve them on a tray with a toothpick in each meatball.
- 16 ounces grape jelly
- 16 ounces heinz chili sauce
- 32 ounces frozen meatballs
- Mix grape jelly and chili sauce in mixing bowl until well combined, then stir in frozen meatballs until well coated.
- Add to slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
Would seafood sauce work in place of chili sauce? I think it would just be a little spicier?
I haven’t tested this recipe using seafood sauce but yes, it would be spicier! How did the Cocktail Meatballs turn out for you with seafood sauce?
I used this recipe many times. One day I decided to add a table spoon of horseradish to the the pot. It was great, my friends loved it. Both ways are great.
Can this recipe be made with freshly made meatballs? Or meatballs not made in a slow cooker?
I was wondering the same thing.
I think I have some of the ingredients to make fresh meatballs.
The frozen ones in our local Walmart are crazy expensive!
I am ready to make this recipe for a retirement party. Do Italian style meatballs work? Thanks
I have not been able to find Heinz chili sauce. can any chili sauce work?
Should work just fine.
Will sriracha chili sauce work for this?
It’ll give it more heat but go for it!
Oh my goodness the cocktail meatballs call for so few ingredients. And easy prep too.
Can you make these from scratch with raw meatballs? If so, at what temperature and for how long? Mel Heinrichs
Yes, if you want to make your own meatballs, you can put them in the slow cooker raw and let them cook in the grape jelly sauce until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. This temperature goes for ground beef, turkey, or pork meatballs. Good luck!
Is the receipt for homemade balls on pintrist
Here is the direct link:
How long would I cook this if using an instant pot? My slow cooker is in use already. Thanks!
Using a manual setting, set the temperature to high for 10 minutes and then complete a natural release. Enjoy!
What kind of frozen meatballs do you use, plain or Italian? I’ve made this many times before but haven’t for a while and don’t remember what I used.
You can use whatever you prefer. I believe I used plain for this recipe though. Enjoy!
Great recipe. As is, everyone loved it. After a bit, I added some little smokies to add a little bit of a textural difference and I remembered that my mom did something similar when I was a kid with smoke sausage. Both ways, we loved it. Thanks for the recipe.
How long in the crock pot if the meatballs are thawed?
Are the thawed meatballs cooked or uncooked?
Hello, can I make this recipe using a 1.5 quart slow cooker?
No, the slow cooker will become overcrowded and won’t cook thoroughly. You’ll need to use at least a 3 qt slow cooker for this recipe unless you want to cut the recipe in half.
I have had this “dish” at parties, and thought it was quite GOOD! So glad I was able to find your recipe! QUESTION: Do you think it would be OK to double the recipe?
I have a work potluck to go to, can I make them the day before and then reheat them in the crockpot at work the next day?
Certainly! Or you can always put assemble them first thing in the morning at work and put them on high and they will be ready by lunch.
Can this recipe be made with raspberry jelly–NO Seeds?
Yes! I have made it with raspberry jelly, it’s delicious.
Thinking about making these for Thanksgiving. Can I replace with turkey meatballs?
Certainly! They will taste just as yummy!
I’d like to try these using some home made strawberry jalapeño fig jelly. How would you recommend adjusting the recipe? Do is still need chili sauce/ketchup?
I haven’t tried this with a jelly with that kind of unique flavor, but I say play around with it and let me know how it turns out!
You literally never say how to cook them in the crockpot….
How long beforehand?
It’s all in the recipe card. Cook of low for 3-4 hours. Enjoy!
Can you leave it on low for 5 hrs?
You can but they might be a bit mushy and the sauce may be thicker. Instead, I would switch it to warm after 4 hours if your slow cooker doesn’t automatically switch over.
What would you make to go along with this when serving as a dinner/main entree rather than an appetizer.
After some thought – I would definitely serve these with a potato or lightly seasoned noodles – something like my Easy Mashed Potatoes
Hope this helps!
If you use the oven method, what temperature to you bake it at and for how long?
Cook them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. I hope you enjoy them!
Wow, this looks incredibly delicious!!! My family would love it.
These are the best! I always serve appetizers on Christmas Eve, these will be super easy!
Such an easy appetizer idea! Definitely trying this.
Can I reheat them in the crockpot and for how long? Thanks!
These cocktail meatballs look so good. All your tips were helpful too!
So glad you found them helpful. Enjoy!
One of my all time favorite finger foods. Yours sounds so delicious.
This recipes could not be easier or more delicious! Perfect for parties.
You say that: “If you don’t have Heinz chili sauce, you can use equal parts regular ketchup in this recipe.” Equal parts regular ketchup and what??
Sorry for the confusion. I just meant that you can substitute with the same amount of regular ketchup as the chili sauce. It will adjust the flavor though. Hope this helps.
iv’e never thought about using jelly to get that sweet savory flavor, great idea! Thanks for the pointers! I cant wait to try it!
What brand od frozen meat balls are the best??
I don’t have a favorite brand, I like to switch it up. Sometimes I even make them myself or use turkey.
Can you use regular sized Italian meatballs and if so do you need to adjust the amounts of ingredients?
I’m not sure what you mean by regular sized. These were standard frozen meatballs. If you are using larger sized meatballs, you would adjust the ingredients depending how many and how large. Hope this helps.
Costco meatballs are perfect!
I thawed meatballs before I found this recipe. Will they still cook OK in the slow cooker.
yes, just shave an hour off the cook time.