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Appetizers are what I want for every meal. I like to snack, pick, and choose small bite-size items. When someone asks me to bring an appetizer, or I need to make one at home… I freeze. All of a sudden, I feel like I have absolutely zero ideas of what to make. Appetizers really are best when someone else makes them.
Enter these meatballs! First, who doesn’t love a bite-sized meatball? Second, if you are going to have a meatball, it better have a lot of flavor and be utterly memorable. And let me tell you: these meatballs deliver.
This is the appetizer I always crave and can easily transform into an entire meal. Plus, the cranberry flavors are perfect for the holiday season!
The ingredients that make these meatballs so special:
- Bread. This is an essential ingredient that no one will ever taste. Bread is the secret ingredient that, when mixed with milk, becomes the glue that provides a perfect texture and keeps the meatballs juicy.
- Milk. In these meatballs, I prefer to use whole milk. The flavor from whole milk will always give more richness to any dish and that holds true with this recipe.
- Onion. Grating the onion into the meat mixture allows the flavor to evenly distribute throughout the meatballs and melt into the meat.
- Garlic. A little garlic goes a long way, but is needed to round out the flavors.
- Worcestershire sauce. This is the ingredient that no one can ever place, but is needed to bring a dish’s flavor to stardom territory.
- Egg. The egg binds everything together and gives a lightness to the meatball.
- Ground beef. Lean ground beef offers both great flavor and texture.
- Ground pork. Pork offsets the beef to provide a lighter meat flavor along with a slight sweetness.
- Barbecue sauce. Your favorite jarred barbecue sauce will work great. If you love it already, this recipe will only make it better.
- Orange marmelade. This has a sweet and sour dicotomy going on and lends a welcome citrus undertone to the sauce.
- Cranberries. Fresh or frozen cranberries are the perfect festive ingredient. As they cook, their sour juice melds with the sweet marmelade and barbecue sauce to create a sweet, tangy, and sticky sauce that coats the meatballs.
These meatballs go together quickly, can be made a few days ahead, and stored in the refrigerator. I’m now making these often and find they are great added to a salad or just made into a meal. Really, these are the best meatballs that also happen to be a great holiday appetizer!
Watch how to make these cocktail meatballs
Cocktail Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce
For the meatballs
- 2 slices bread (approx. 3 oz)
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp grated onion
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
For the sauce
- 12 oz bottled barbeque sauce
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 cup orange marmalade
For the meatballs
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, tear up the bread into pieces and add the milk. Mash the milk and bread together to form a paste. Add in the salt, pepper, grated onion, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and egg. Mix to combine. Add in the ground beef and pork.2 slices bread (approx. 3 oz), ¼ cup whole milk, 1 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 2 tbsp grated onion, 1 clove garlic, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 large egg, 1 lb ground beef, 1 lb ground pork
- Use hands or an electric mixer to combine until all the ingredients are completely combined and smooth. Use a scoop or spoon to make 20 1-ounce size balls.
- Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs. Allow the meatballs to brown on two sides, about 3-5 minutes. Once browned, place the meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until they reach 160°F, 15-20 minutes. While the meatballs are roasting, prepare the sauce.
For the sauce
- In the same skillet in which the meats were browned, add the barbeque sauce, marmalade, and cranberries. Over low heat, bring to a simmer. Continue to cook over a low simmer until the cranberries begin to burst and are softened, 12-15 minutes.12 oz bottled barbeque sauce, 1 cup orange marmalade, 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- Once the meatballs are baked and fully cooked, remove them from the oven and add them to the prepared sauce. Spoon the sauce over the meatballs coating them completely. Serve directly from the skillet or set on a platter.