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Meatball Appetizers

Follow our complete, step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to make this quick and easy Meatball Appetizer. Always a favorite for family get-togethers, holiday parties, or game day. They’re super easy with a sauce made from grape jelly and chili sauce. Printable recipe included.

Easy Cocktail Meatball Appetizers Recipe

This is one of those “tried and true” recipes for an appetizer that you’ve probably seen at one of your family get-togethers or parties. They’re just that good, and they’re pretty simple to make.

I like a recipe you can make a day, or even days ahead of time, so you’re not trying to complete everything on the day of your party or that family reunion.

My cousin Frankie called these “Cocktail Meatballs” when she submitted them as one of her favorite recipes for our family’s cookbook.

Frankie was the daughter of one of my mom’s sisters, and was always the life of the party. She was a “cut-up” and could always bring a smile to your face.

We had been having yearly family reunions for about as long as I can remember, and family members were called upon one year to submit some of their favorite recipes for a cookbook. That book was printed some years back and called the “Stewart Family Favorites” cookbook.

My mom was a Stewart before she was married, so it was all relatives from her side of the family. Sadly, we no longer have those yearly reunions and Cousin Frankie is no longer with us.

There are lots of variations on this particular appetizer, but this is the way Cousin Frankie liked them. I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Ready to give them a try? Alright then, let’s head to the kitchen, and… Let’s Get Cooking.

Meatball Appetizers Recipe:  You’ll need these ingredients.

Place your ground beef in a large mixing bowl.

Add the bread crumbs.

I’m using the Panko style of dry bread crumbs. Years back, we didn’t even know of such a thing.

If you don’t want to use them, or don’t have them, make your own. Toast a couple slices of white bread, then crumble it up into small pieces. Or, just break up a regular slice of white loaf bread into small pieces. Either way will work.

The bread crumbs are a binder to help hold the meatballs together.

Add the milk.

Shed a tear or two as you chop the onions into really fine pieces. Smile.

Add the chopped onion to the beef mixture.

Add the salt.

Add a dash or two of black pepper.

Cousin Frankie didn’t call for it in her recipe, but I think I would add a little bit of Garlic Powder to the recipe should I make them again. I like the flavor, so you might want to consider it. It’s not in the printable recipe.

Jump in with both hands and crumble the beef up into small pieces.

Mix it up really well.

I used a small scoop to measure out how large I wanted the meatballs to be.

You could use a Tablespoon, or just gather a small amount out by hand. Try to be consistent with the size of each one.

Roll the beef mixture in the palms of your hands.

Shape it into a compact ball.

Repeat the process until you have enough meatballs to fill up a large skillet.

Do Not Crowd the pan. You’ll need to leave plenty of room to move them around as they cook.

Place the skillet with the meatballs over Medium heat on your stove top.

If you think you’ll need it, add a small amount of the vegetable oil. I’m using a cheaper ground beef, which has a bit more fat, so I’m pretty certain I’m not going to need it.

As the meatballs start to brown, keep moving them around so you can brown them all over.

This was my third batch. As you can see, they made lots of grease.

Keep rolling them around in the pan to make sure they cook evenly all the way through. This took me about 8-10 minutes per pan.

Cook them until they are done, but don’t over cook them. You’ll have to sacrifice one when you get started to see about how long they need to cook.

I lined a bowl with a folded paper towel, then placed the cooked meatballs in the bowl once they were done. This will help drain off more of the grease.

At this point, you could freeze them for later if desired. After they cool of course.

Grab a large sauce pot and place it on your stove top. Add the jelly.

Be sure to note the size jar of jelly that you have. Cousin Frankie’s recipe called for a 10 ounce jar and the one I had was a 16 ounce size, so I only used part of the jar.

Add the bottle of chili sauce.

Stir the jelly and chili sauce as you bring it up to a simmer over Medium heat. Keep stirring until the jelly dissolves.

Add the meatballs to the sauce.

Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for about 15 minutes, stirring often so they don’t stick to the bottom

Remove from the sauce pot and place in a chafing dish or serving bowl.

The meatballs could easily be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead of time if desired. They could even be frozen for serving several weeks later. Make them ahead of time, and reheat them when needed.


You’ll want to have some toothpicks handy so your family and guests can easily pick up a few of the meatballs if serving them as appetizers. Keep napkins handy as well. Smile.

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