Cocktail Meatballs

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!

Cocktail Meatballscocktail meatballs

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!


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.


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.


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.

Grape Jelly Meatballs



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!).


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.


  • 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.

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Cocktail Meatballs (Grape Jelly Meatballs)

Cocktail Meatballs are the PERFECT appetizer made with frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and chili sauce, easy to throw together and only 3 ingredients!
Yield 30 servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder



  • 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.


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.


Calories: 137kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 224mg | Potassium: 154mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 105IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 0.5mg
Keyword: slow cooker grape jelly meatballs

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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    1. 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?

  1. 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.

    Barbara Hausmann

  2. Can this recipe be made with freshly made meatballs? Or meatballs not made in a slow cooker?

    Thank you,

    1. 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!

  3. Can you make these from scratch with raw meatballs? If so, at what temperature and for how long? Mel Heinrichs

    1. 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!

    1. Using a manual setting, set the temperature to high for 10 minutes and then complete a natural release. Enjoy!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

    1. 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.

  8. 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?

    1. 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!

        1. 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.

  9. 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??

    1. 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.

  10. 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!

          1. Can you use regular sized Italian meatballs and if so do you need to adjust the amounts of ingredients?

          2. 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.