This slow cooker cranberry meatballs recipe is the perfect dump-and-go appetizer that everyone will love. These sweet, savory, and tangy party meatballs are great for any occasion but are always requested for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays. They only require a few minutes of prep work, and then the crockpot does the rest!
These crockpot cranberry meatballs are the best holiday appetizers. All you need are some kitchen staples and a bag of frozen meatballs, and you'll have these amazing slow cooker meatballs in no time.
Why You'll Love This Crockpot Meatballs Recipe
- It's so easy to make! You simply mix all the ingredients together and then turn on the crockpot. While I like to mix the ketchup, brown sugar, and lemon juice separately together to make sure they're well combined before adding it to the slow cooker, you can literally skip that step, dump everything in the slow cooker, stir for 5 seconds, and let the crockpot work its magic!
- They're the perfect party food because you can leave the crockpot plugged in and set on the warming function so everyone can serve themselves whenever they feel like it. No need to worry about plating it up or making sure it doesn't end up cold.
- I use mini meatballs, so they're so easy to just pop in your mouth with a toothpick. No messy bites!
Ingredients You'll Need
- cranberry sauce — I use fresh cranberry sauce (check out my slow cooker cranberry sauce!), but you can use store-bought sauce as well. For store-bought sauce, you'll need whole cranberry sauce and not cranberry jelly, as the jelly has less fluid.
- ketchup — for that sweet and tangy flavor.
- brown sugar — you can use light or dark brown sugar. I love the caramel notes you get with brown sugar. If you want a deeper flavor but don't have brown sugar, a little tiny bit of molasses will give you the same effect. Brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses!
- lemon juice — for some bright citrus flavor. I find that it helps cut through the flavors and keeps the sauce from tasting one-dimensional. I also usually have orange juice in my homemade cranberry sauce, as I love the citrusy flavor. However, since these meatballs already use cranberry sauce with OJ, brown sugar, and ketchup, the lemon helps add citrus flavor without extra sweetness. This crockpot cranberry meatballs recipe is sweet enough 😉 Don't mind the extra sweetness? Use orange juice, then.
- frozen fully cooked mini meatballs — a bag of 26 oz mini meatballs is perfect, but you can always add a little more as there's enough sauce. No need to thaw the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker.
- fresh chopped parsley — for garnish. I like the pop of color it adds.
How To Make This Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs Recipe
- Add the ketchup, brown sugar, and lemon juice to a small mixing bowl.
- Whisk together until well combined. This is my preferred method as it ensures the sugar is well mixed into the sauce before the cranberry sauce is added.
- Add the meatballs to the crockpot and pour the mixed sauce over top.
- Add the cranberry sauce to the crockpot.
- Stir until the meatballs are coated with the sauce.
- Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours.
- Add a bottle of 12 oz chili sauce to the slow cooker to add a bit of spice. You can also add a few squirts of sriracha instead!
- If you don't have brown sugar, you can use white sugar instead.
- You can add a splash of soy sauce for a little hint of extra umami.
- You can add a pinch of garlic powder and onion powder for a little extra savory flavor.
Tips and Notes
- I like to serve my cranberry meatballs straight from the slow cooker so that they stay warm as my guests nibble on apps as they hang out. Place some mini forks or toothpicks beside it, and you're all set. This also makes for a great potluck dish as well!
- You can use any type of meatballs such as chicken meatballs, turkey meatballs, pork meatballs, or beef meatballs. You can even use a mixture.
- Crockpot liners make cleaning up a lot easier.
You sure can! Simply simmer everything in a large pot over medium-low heat with a little extra water. Stir frequently to ensure the sauce doesn't burn.
If you prefer homemade meatballs, you can make them ahead of time and cook them first, either in the oven or stovetop. Cooking them ahead of time will keep them from essentially melting into each other and turning into a giant meatloaf in the slow cooker. This is my go-to beef/pork meatball recipe, and this is my go-to chicken meatball recipe.
Store leftover cranberry meatballs in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- 2 cups fresh cranberry sauce (or store-bought whole cranberry sauce)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 26 oz frozen fully cooked mini meatballs
- Fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
- Add the ketchup, brown sugar, and lemon juice to a small mixing bowl. Whisk together until well combined.
- Add the meatballs, mixed sauce, and cranberry sauce to the slow cooker.
- Stir until the meatballs are coated with the sauce.
- Cook on HIGH for 2 hours or LOW for 4 hours.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 9 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 281Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 789mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 2gSugar: 13gProtein: 12g
All nutritional data is an estimate.