Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

Easy bite-sized meatballs in a two-ingredient sweet and spicy sauce! These sweet and spicy meatballs are so easy to make and great for parties, game days, and holiday meals.

meatballs and sauce in a skillet.

Gather ’round, friends, because today we have some sweet and spicy meatballs simmered in a two ingredients sauce! They’re savory little meatballs that take about 30 minutes from start to finish, and you can make them ahead, which is a welcomed relief this time of year when holiday craziness is in full swing.

And, let’s face it. Cocktail meatballs are a staple this time of year – can you even call it the holidays without a bowl of saucy meatballs with toothpicks on the side for serving? Perhaps, but the season won’t be as delicious.

We’re making a super easy homemade meatball recipe – no chopping, I promise! – and forming the mixture into cute bite-sized meatballs. Simmer them in that sweet and spicy sauce, and I’m pretty sure there won’t be any leftovers after everyone has a taste – they’re that good.

meatballs with toothpicks on a plate.

Ingredients

  • Dried breadcrumbs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Large egg
  • Ground beef
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • BBQ sauce
  • Pepper jelly

Substitutions

Meat: I like 85% lean ground beef for the meatballs, but feel free to substitute ground turkey, pork, or chicken.

Frozen meatballs: Short on time? You can skip the homemade meatballs and use frozen ones. Try to find ones that aren’t too big that they can’t be served as an appetizer.

Pepper jelly: There are usually a few different kinds of pepper jelly at the store – some are spicier than others, so choose your favorite heat level. Not into pepper jelly? Try using apricot, strawberry, or even grape jelly with the BBQ sauce to make sweet and tangy meatballs.

How to Make Them

Mix: Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Scoop one tablespoon of the meat mixture to form each meatball.

Brown: Place the meatballs in a hot pan with oil and brown them all over until they are cooked through. Take them out of the pan while you make the sauce.

Simmer: Combine the sauce ingredients in the same pan. Stir and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat them evenly.

Serve: You can serve them straight from the pan or pile them in a bowl with some toothpicks on the side.

saucy meatballs in a pan.

Recipe Tips

  • Frozen Meatball Tips: If you skip the homemade meatballs, just warm up the sauce in a pan and then add the frozen meatballs. Once they’re heated through, they’re ready to serve.
  • Make Ahead: You can make this recipe a day in advance and store the meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Warm the meatballs and sauce up in the microwave or on the stove before serving them.
  • Leftovers: If you have leftovers (doubtful), they will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Everyone will love the sweet and spicy flavors in these meatballs – the holidays aren’t complete without at least one batch. Enjoy!

Happy meatball-making,

April
little meatballs on a serving plate.

More Meatballs Recipes

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Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

meatballs and sauce in a skillet.

These sweet and 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 warm them up when you’re ready to serve them.

  • Author: April Anderson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: approximately 27 meatballs 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

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)

Instructions

Make the Meatballs (see note)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Garnish the meatballs with chopped parsley (if using) and serve. Serve the extra sauce on the side for dipping. Makes approximately 27 meatballs.

Notes

These homemade meatballs are simple to make, but you can substitute your favorite frozen meatballs to make this recipe even easier. If you do, 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.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 meatball
  • Calories: 79
  • Sugar: 5.6g
  • Sodium: 152.2mg
  • Fat: 3.8g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.2g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 2.1g
  • Trans Fat: 0.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.9g
  • Fiber: 0.1g
  • Protein: 3.5g
  • Cholesterol: 18.3mg

Keywords: cocktail meatballs, sweet and spicy meatballs, easy meatball appetizer recipe

Do you love this recipe? Don’t forget to leave a comment and your recipe star rating!

The nutrition is an estimate only. It was calculated using Nutrifox, an online nutrition calculator.

Post updated from the archives. First published in October 2018.

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