Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Sweet and sour meatballs are one of my favorite party appetizers! I had never really had them until I was in college. I would regularly attend these "teas" which were receptions where we would munch on all sorts of finger foods and then sit down together in a small room to listen to a special guest speaker. It was during these teas that I had the opportunity to meet Madeleine L'Engle, Kenneth Starr, Sandra Day O'Connor, the Indigo Girls, Conan O'Brien, and many others. As much as I would look forward to meeting these noteable figures, I would also look forward to the food! I was always eager to find out what would be served and was thrilled any time I saw these meatballs on the table :)

I never really tried to make them myself, until one day a coworker brought them in. I was raving about them because it had been years since I had had them... and was surprised when she told me that the "secret ingredients" that make up the sauce are grape jelly and chili sauce! I had honestly never even heard of chili sauce before, but sure enough, I found it at the grocery store in the same aisle as the ketchup and barbeque sauces.

You can buy premade frozen meatballs and use them in this recipe to make a super quick and easy appetizer, but I like to make everything from scratch by adapting a recipe from Alton Brown.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
adapted from Alton Brown

3/4 pound ground pork
3/4 pound ground round
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 whole egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1 bottle (12 oz) of Heinz chili sauce
1 jar (18 oz) grape jelly (alternatively, try a can of jellied cranberry sauce)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, ground round, cheese, egg, basil, parsley, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes, and bread crumbs. Using your hands, mix all ingredients until well incorporated. Use immediately or place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Shape the meatballs into rounds and place the meatballs on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

In a large saucepan, add the chili sauce and grape jelly. Heat on low-medium heat until the jelly is completely melted. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Alternatively, add the sauce ingredients and cooked meatballs to a crockpot and heat on low for 4-6 hrs for optimum flavor.


  1. Those meatballs look good. Nice photos and presentation. The grape jelly and chili sauce sounds really interesting. I am going to have to try it.

  2. They are one of my all time favorites too. Which always shocks my friends. I think they think I want something snooty. Nope, I want meatballs and little smokies!

  3. oooh, a cranberry/chili sauce combo sounds delectable!
    i can't wait to try it--thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Oh if you give tgem ti me i will also gobble few of them.

  5. Grape jelly in the sauce? I had no idea that it could be made that way. Happy belated new year to you too! :)

  6. Wow, these will make my husband drool!!! :)

  7. Don't Be Put Off by the Ingredients....
    I like to keep an open mind, but the idea of grape jelly & chili sauce...come on!
    Well, I had to hide some of these for myself when I saw how fast they were flying off the table. I served them on Christmas day! and we all loved them.
    I am making them again this Saturday night for a party. Thanks for the great recipe!

  8. I am entering this recipe in a meatball cookoff tomorrow. My mom made this exact recipe when I was a kid, she still does actually and they my favorites.

  9. My mother always made these too, but she used apple jelly. When she would do the little smokies, she'd use apple jelly and BBQ sauce...also very good.

  10. When a friend of mine told me she was making meatballs this way for a baby shower my first thought was GROSS! Then I tried them and they were amazing! I would have never guessed what was in them if I hadn't known ahead of time.