These sweet & spicy meatball bites are so easy to make (the sauce has just two ingredients!) and are a great holiday or game-day snacky-treat.
Sweet & Spicy Meatball Bites
This time of year a staple appetizer I see everywhere is a simple block of cream cheese topped with some pepper jelly. In fact, it was just a few weeks ago at a get-together to celebrate my cookbook launch that this old standby popped up again and I couldn’t help but wonder how else a jar of pepper jelly could be used. Don’t get me wrong, I love the old cream cheese standby but variety is good and there’s enough room in this world for another appetizer made with pepper jelly.
And so that’s what we have today: some sweet and spicy meatball bites made with store bought BBQ sauce and some sweet and spicy pepper jelly. They’re savory little bites that take about thirty minutes start to finish and can be made ahead, which is a welcomed relief this time of year when holiday craziness is in full swing.
Some Ingredients You’ll Need
- I made meatballs from scratch with ground beef, salt, pepper, garlic powder, breadcrumbs and an egg but I would not fault you if you decide to buy frozen meatballs instead. If you go the storebought route you will cut the prep time from 15 minutes to almost 0 minutes unless you count cutting open the bag, which in that case the prep time would be approximately five seconds. One advantage of making your own (and they are super simple – no chopping required, just dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mix) is that you can make meatballs that are bite-sized, which is approximately one tablespoon of the meatball mixture.
- If you go the homemade meatball route, you’ll want to brown the meatballs in a hot pan just until they develop a nice crust. They will leave all sorts of savory browned bits on the bottom of the pan which you will scrape up and incorporate into the sauce. If you go the store-bought route, you can skip the browning and warm the meatballs directly in the sauce.
- The sauce is a simple two-ingredient wonder that includes store-bought BBQ sauce and some pepper jelly. A lot of the heat level and sweetness of the sauce will depend on the kind of sauce and jelly you use.
- For the pepper jelly, I used a local brand based in my hometown called White Bison. It’s a small business owned by a mother/daughter duo who not only make cute jars of jelly with a beautiful label but also make a delicious pepper jelly that’s both sweet and spicy and perfect for these meatballs. For the record, they aren’t paying me to mention this (it’s really important to me to disclose if I am being paid) I just like to mention locally owned small businesses who make products that I love. And this pepper jelly? So good. Be sure to visit their White Bison pepper jelly website – they take orders online(!)
- For the BBQ sauce, I used Stubbs Original BBQ sauce. Again, not paid to mention this and only doing so because 1) it’s my favorite BBQ sauce and pretty much my go-to anytime I need some and 2) in combination with the pepper jelly you get a savory sauce that has a nice spicy kick with a touch of sweet.
- That said, depending on the kind of pepper jelly and BBQ sauce you use you may get a different result, so experiment. If your pepper jelly is very spicy I would avoid a spicy BBQ sauce or vice versa.
- So, the sauce is simple: After you’ve scraped up all the browned bits just add the BBQ sauce and the pepper jelly and whisk until the sauce is smooth. Add the meatballs back to the pan and simmer them until they’re cooked through and hot. Serve these sweet & spicy meatball bites straight from the pan, or piled on a bowl, or lined up on a plate with some toothpicks for easy snacking.
More Appetizer RecipesPrint
These sweet & spicy meatball bites are so easy to make (the sauce has just two ingredients!) and are a great holiday or game-day snacky-treat. You can make them up to a day in advance and just warm them up when you’re ready to serve them.
For the Meatballs
- 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (see note)
- 1/2 cup pepper jelly (see note)
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
Make the Meatballs (see note)
- In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and egg. Add the ground beef and, using your hands, mix the beef with the breadcrumb mixture until combined.
- Scoop one tablespoon of the meatball mixture and roll it between your hands to form a ball and set it on a plate. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Place about half of the meatballs in the pan, spacing them several inches apart. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Don’t worry if they’re not all the way cooked through because they will finish cooking in the sauce. Transfer the browned meatballs to a clean plate. Place the other half of the meatballs in the pan and repeat the browning process. Transfer them to the plate with the other meatballs.
Make the Sauce
- Once you’ve browned all of the meatballs pour the water into the pan and, as it simmers, scrape up all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Pour the BBQ sauce into the pan with the water and bring it to a simmer. Add the pepper jelly and whisk it into the BBQ sauce until smooth.
- Add the meatballs back to the pan and stir them around to coat them in the sauce. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for five to ten minutes or until they are cooked through and hot. Garnish the meatballs with the chopped parsley and serve. Serve the extra sauce on the side for dipping. Makes approximately 27 meatballs.
These homemade meatballs are simple to make, but you can substitute your favorite frozen meatballs to make this recipe even easier. If you do, you can obviously skip the meatball-making part (including the browning step) and just warm the meatballs up in the sauce.
For these meatballs, a lot will depend on the kind of BBQ sauce and pepper jelly you use. I used Stubb’s Original BBQ sauce and a pepper jelly made with bell peppers and a generous amount of red pepper flakes, so my meatballs had a spicy kick.
- Category: Appetizer
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1 meatball
- Calories: 79
- Sugar: 5.6g
- Fat: 3.8g
- Carbohydrates: 7.9g
- Fiber: 0.1g
- Protein: 3.5g
Keywords: meatball appetizer recipe, spicy meatballs, bbq meatballs