Delicious Mini-Meatballs in Tangy Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Welcome to my kitchen, dear reader. I am thrilled to share with you one of my favorite recipes – Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce! This recipe is perfect for parties and gatherings of all kinds, whether you’re hosting a game night, Thanksgiving dinner, or a fancy holiday soirée.

As we head into the holiday season, I always find myself looking for new and creative appetizers to serve to my guests. That’s when I discovered these little bites of heaven. These Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce are the perfect combination of sweet and savory, making them a crowd-pleaser that will have everyone asking for the recipe.

But these meatballs are not just delicious – they are also incredibly easy to make. All it takes is a few simple ingredients and a little bit of time to create this tasty dish. And if you’re short on time, don’t worry – this recipe can easily be adapted to work with pre-made frozen meatballs.

So why not step outside of your comfort zone and try something new? Trust me, once you taste these Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce, you won’t want to go back to your old standby appetizers. Let’s get started – your guests will thank you!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce
Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce

Listen, food is more than just fuel for our bodies. It’s an experience that we can share with our loved ones, a memory that we can look back on with fondness. This recipe for Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce is the perfect dish to make for any party or get-together because of its sweet and savory flavors.

Picture this: succulent meaty mini meatballs swimming in a luscious cranberry sauce that’s bursting with flavor. The sweetness of the jellied cranberry sauce is perfectly balanced by the tang of the chili sauce, brown sugar and lemon juice. The cayenne pepper adds a subtle spicy kick while the fresh basil and parsley bring bright and herbaceous notes to the dish. Trust me, this meatball and cranberry sauce pairing will tantalize your taste buds like you’ve never experienced before.

So if you’re looking for something new to wow your friends, family or guests, give these Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce a try. I guarantee it’ll become one of your go-to party dishes!

Ingredient List

 Bite-sized meatballs drenched in a sweet cranberry sauce.
Bite-sized meatballs drenched in a sweet cranberry sauce.

Let’s start by grabbing all the necessary ingredients for these mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce! Here are the ingredients you need:


  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cranberry Sauce
Sauce 1 (Sweet & Tangy)

  • 1 can (14 oz) whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon

Sauce 2 (Spicy)

  • 1 can (14 oz) jellied cranberry sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice

BBQ Sauce (optional)
Sauce 3 (Cranberry BBQ)

  • 2 cups canned cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • Cayenne pepper or chili powder, to taste
  • Fresh basil or parsley, chopped, for garnish

Most of these ingredients are probably already in your kitchen. If not, they are easy to find at your local grocery store.

The Recipe How-To

 These mini-meatballs are perfect for entertaining.
These mini-meatballs are perfect for entertaining.

Making the Meatballs

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of onion powder, 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

  2. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and then form into small, bite-sized mini meatballs.

  3. Heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat, add some olive oil or cooking spray to the pan.

  4. Add the meatballs to the skillet and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until they develop a nice brown crust all around.

  5. Once they are done cooking, set them aside on a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.

Making the Cranberry Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes

  1. Combine 1 can of whole berry cranberry sauce and 1 can of jellied cranberry sauce in a large slow cooker.

  2. Add in 3/4 cup of chili sauce, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice, and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the slow cooker.

  3. Use a spoon to mix everything together until it is well-combined with no lumps or bumps.

  4. Cook on low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

  5. Once finished, turn off your slow cooker and let cool before serving on top of your cooked mini meatballs as an appetizer or with rice as an entree.

Enjoy this deliciously sweet-tangy-spicy combination with family and friends!

Substitutions and Variations

 A delicious balance of savory and tangy flavors.
A delicious balance of savory and tangy flavors.

Are you looking to mix things up with this mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce recipe? There are plenty of possibilities for substitutions and variations to take it from a classic dish to something uniquely delicious. Here are a few suggestions to get your taste buds tingling:

– Meatless Meatballs: Looking for a vegetarian option? Swap out the lean ground beef for your favorite plant-based meat substitute, like Beyond Meat or Quorn mince. You can also try using mushrooms or quinoa as your base.

– Turkey Meatballs: Lighten up the recipe by swapping out the beef for lean ground turkey. You will still have a juicy and flavourful meatball without all the calories.

– Sweet and Sour Meatballs: You could choose to skip the cranberry sauce and opt for sweet and sour flavors instead! Simply mix pineapple juice, brown sugar, cider vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, onion powder, and cornstarch together in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to boil until it thickens and becomes glossy then pour over cooked meatballs.

– Swedish Meatballs: Change things up by taking inspiration from Swedish cuisine! Use ground pork instead of beef for your meatballs, swap the chili sauce with soy sauce as well as use fresh dill instead of parsley. Finish off by adding a dollop of lingonberry preserve or cranberry jelly on top.

– Frozen Meatballs: If you are short on time and do not want to kickstart from scratch, you could look at store-bought frozen ones! Just heat them through in either the oven or slow cooker then toss them in any of these delicious cranberry sauces suggested in other sections of this article.

Experimenting with new substitutes or variations is always an excellent opportunity to spice things up while exploring different flavor profiles. Remember to stay adventurous, have fun with your culinary creations, and let your imagination run wild!

Serving and Pairing

 These meatballs are loaded with spices and seasonings.
These meatballs are loaded with spices and seasonings.

Now that you’ve got your Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce fresh off the stove, it’s time to think about what to serve with them. These little guys make a perfect appetizer for any party, and they go well with several different side dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

First, we recommend serving the meatballs with some warm, crusty bread. The bread helps to soak up all that delicious sauce and provides a nice contrast in texture to the meatballs. You could also try pairing them with pita or naan bread for a Middle Eastern twist.

Another great option is to serve the meatballs over a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes or creamy polenta. The creamy starchiness of these sides contrasts beautifully with the savory meatballs and tangy cranberry sauce. You could also try serving them alongside some roasted vegetables like green beans or Brussel sprouts for a more substantial meal.

If you’re looking for something lighter, try pairing these Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce with a simple spinach salad. The bright and fresh flavors of the greens complement the sweet-tartness of the sauce perfectly. You can toss the spinach with some crumbled feta cheese and toasted pecans for added texture and flavor.

Finally, we recommend serving these meatballs as an appetizer at your next party. They’re sure to be a hit with your guests and will go perfectly with other party foods like chips and dip, cheese platters, and cocktail shrimp.

No matter how you choose to serve these Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce, just be sure to have plenty on hand for seconds (and maybe even thirds). Trust us; your guests will thank you!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 A great appetizer for holiday parties or game day gatherings.
A great appetizer for holiday parties or game day gatherings.

Ah, the timeless question of how to store and reheat leftovers. We’ve all been there – you make a delicious dish, but either can’t finish it all in one sitting or decide to make it in advance for a party. Fear not, my fellow meatball lovers! The Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce recipe was made for those who like to plan ahead.

Firstly, let’s talk about making these beauties ahead of time. You can pre-make the meatballs (cooked or uncooked) and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat them in the sauce on low heat until heated through. If you’re really planning ahead, you can even freeze the cooked meatballs for up to 2 months.

Now onto storing the leftovers. If you have any leftover sauce or meatballs (unlikely, but hey, it happens!), store them in separate airtight containers. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. The cooked meatballs can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

When it comes time to reheat your leftovers, there are a few options depending on how you stored them. For refrigerated leftovers, simply microwave them until heated through or reheat on low heat on the stovetop. For frozen leftovers, allow them to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating using your preferred method.

And that’s it! With these make-ahead and storing tips, you’ll definitely want to make extra of these Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce just so you can enjoy them even longer.

Tips for Perfect Results

 A mouth-watering treat for any meat lover.
A mouth-watering treat for any meat lover.

As a home chef, I know how important it is to create dishes that not only look good but taste amazing as well. Therefore, I’ve put together a few tips and tricks to ensure that your mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce come out perfectly every time.

1. Don’t Overwork the Meat

One of the most common mistakes people make when preparing meatballs is overworking the mixture. It’s important to mix everything together thoroughly but be careful not to overdo it. Overworking the meat will cause it to become tough and chewy, leading to an unpleasant texture.

2. Use Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs have a stronger flavor than dried ones and can really elevate the taste of your dish. In this recipe, I recommend using fresh basil and parsley. Fresh herbs also give a nice pop of color to your mini-meatballs.

3. Choose Lean Ground Beef

When selecting ground beef for this recipe, choose a lean option. The fat content in regular beef will cause your meatballs to shrink and become greasy when cooking. Plus, lean ground beef has less saturated fat which makes it better for your health.

4. Let the Sauce Simmer

For the sauce, let it simmer on low heat for at least 10-15 minutes after adding all of the ingredients together. This will allow all of the flavors to meld together properly.

5. Add Some Heat

If you want to kick up the heat in your mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce, add some cayenne pepper or more chili sauce in the mixture. This will give your dish a little spice and added depth of flavor.

6. Don’t Overcrowd the Pan

When cooking your mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce on the stovetop, make sure not to overcrowd the pan. Leave a little space between each one to allow for even browning and cooking.

By following these tips, you should have no problem making perfect mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce every time. Trust me, these sweet and tangy bites will be a hit at any party or gathering!


Before we conclude our mini-meatballs in cranberry sauce recipe article, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that might help you with your cooking journey. These questions have been compiled to answer some common doubts people often have while preparing this recipe. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the FAQs!

Should meatballs be cooked before putting in sauce?

When it comes to cooking meatballs in tomato sauce, there is a common question that arises – should you put raw meatballs in sauce to cook? While it is possible to do so, my personal recommendation is to brown the meatballs first in a skillet with some olive oil. By doing this, the meatballs develop a delectable texture on the exterior while keeping the inside moist and flavorful as it completes cooking in the tomato sauce. This process provides a balance between the outside and inside of the meatball, creating a mouthwatering treat for your guests.

Is it OK to put raw meatballs in sauce?

Don’t worry about browning the meatballs before adding them to the sauce. Simply put them directly in the simmering sauce and they will cook through just fine. Rest assured that it’s safe to do so as long as the sauce is kept at a gentle simmer until the meatballs are fully cooked. This method is a real time-saver and results in juicy, flavorful meatballs that are cooked to perfection in the rich tomato sauce.

How do you amp up canned cranberry sauce?

Elevate the taste of your canned sauce by incorporating a few simple ingredients. For a homemade touch, try adding a teaspoon or two of freshly grated lemon or orange zest, a tablespoon of finely chopped candied peel, or a splash of juice. By doing so, the flavors of your sauce will become more vibrant and flavorful. This tip is useful as of October 14, 2022.

Do you add anything to canned cranberry sauce?

To add a burst of citrusy flavor to your dish, incorporate 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed orange juice along with 1 teaspoon of finely grated orange peel. For a fruity twist, include half a can of mandarin oranges and half a cup of juicy pineapple. Enhance the sweetness with half a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a cup of chopped dried apricots, which also adds a chewy texture. For crunch and nuttiness, sprinkle half a cup of toasted pecans on top. To elevate the dish to a sophisticated level, drizzle 2 tablespoons of Zinfandel wine over the ingredients.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce Recipe is a must-try for anyone who wants to impress their guests with a delicious appetizer. Combining spicy and sweet flavors, this dish is a perfect choice for any occasion. With the convenience of making-ahead, storing, and reheating, it’s also an ideal option for busy hosts who want to save time but still serve mouth-watering food.

Don’t let the ingredient list intimidate you! Using common ingredients such as lean ground beef, canned cranberry sauce, and brown sugar, this recipe delivers exceptional results that will leave everyone wanting more. Plus, the tips and variations provided will help you adapt the recipe to your taste preferences and dietary needs.

Whether you’re hosting a party, celebrating a special occasion, or enjoying a weeknight dinner with your family, this Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce Recipe is guaranteed to be a hit. So why not give it a try and see for yourself? Your taste buds (and your guests) will thank you!

Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce

Mini-Meatballs in Cranberry Sauce Recipe

These cute little meatballs go very quickly at holiday gatherings.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 60 meatballs
Calories 50.5 kcal


  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 cup challah bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups chili sauce or 1 1/2 cups catsup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  • In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, garlic, onion powder, basil and pepper.
  • Mix well but do not overwork or meat will become tough when cooked.
  • Form into small balls the size of a walnut or smaller.
  • Place meatballs in a slow oven of 300 degrees F and bake for 25 minutes.
  • In the meantime, in a crock pot set at 325 degrees F, mix together the cranberry sauce (if you so desire, you can use jellied. I prefer the whole berry.) Add remaining sauce ingredients.
  • When meatballs are baked, transfer them to the crock pot and stir into the sauce.
  • Cook in crock pot for 1 hour.
  • Lower heat to keep warm for serving.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 2001gCalories: 50.5kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 3.4gFat: 1.7gSaturated Fat: 0.7gCholesterol: 16.9mgSodium: 106.3mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 4.2g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Christmas, Fruit, Hanukkah, Kosher, Meat, Potluck, Thanksgiving, Weeknight
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