Cocktail Meatballs

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Cocktail meatballs were a popular appetizer in the 1960s and 1970s. My mother and grandmother used to make them with a well-known recipe that called for frozen meatballs, grape jelly, and Heinz chili sauce. It seemed like everyone made them that way back then! This recipe offers a modern twist on the classic dish by using homemade meatballs and a sweet and tangy sauce that can be prepared in just 15 minutes. The meatballs are not only delicious as an appetizer, but they can also be served over rice for a satisfying dinner. Plus, kids love them! Using an electric mixer to make the meatballs results in a tender texture with a satisfying snap, perfect for spearing with toothpicks. That said, if you don’t have an electric mixer, it’s fine to mix the meatballs by hand.

What you’ll need to make Cocktail Meatballs

ingredients for cocktail meatballs

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the eggs, cream and bread cubes in a small bowl.

eggs, cream and bread cubes in bowl

Mash with a fork until the bread is mostly dissolved.

mashed bread and cream mixture

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth, then the ground beef.

process of making meat mixture in mixing bowlMix again until just combined.

finished meatball mixture in mixing bowl

Using moistened hands, form the meat mixture into balls and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. The rack is useful because any fat from the meatballs drips down but if you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to just place the meatballs directly on the baking sheet.

meatballs on rack over baking sheet

Bake the meatballs for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through.

cooked meatballs

Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, grated shallot, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, water, salt and pepper in a sauté pan large enough to hold all the meatballs.

sauce ingredients in skilletSimmer the sauce for about ten minutes, until slightly thickened.

simmering sauce


Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat evenly.

baked cocktail meatballs simmering in the sauce

Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with finely chopped parsley if desired, and spear with pretty toothpicks.

Notes: The technique for mixing the meatball ingredients, for the most part, comes from Cook’s Illustrated. The bamboo forks shown in the photo are available on Amazon. 

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