This is a super simple recipe for cranberry meatballs. Homemade meatballs are made from scratch to achieve the best possible flavor and baked in the oven. Quick and easy recipe!
It only takes 10 minutes to prep 24 cocktail meatballs for baking so why not make them from scratch?
This post includes detailed information, possible substitutions, FAQ’s and more ideas for festive appetizers.
How to make cranberry meatballs
Make homemade meatballs by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl. It is best to use hands to mix as that way you achieve the most even distribution of spices. Use gloves for an easy clean-up.
Then all you have to do is divide the mixture into equally looking portions – I use the smallest cookie dough scoop and it works perfect. Try not to overfill it though.
Baking is pretty quick, about 15 minutes. However, this may vary (see detailed explanation under “How to cook meatballs in the oven”).
For the cranberry sauce, I used a store-bought jar to which I added some Thai sweet chili sauce, ketchup, and water and simmered it in a saucepan for a few minutes.
Making meatballs with cranberry sauce from a jar is convenient and quick, but if you like, use your favorite homemade sauce. You might need to adjust the rest of the ingredients to your liking though.
How to cook meatballs in oven?
Set oven temperature to 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius) and cook them in the middle of the oven until browned and cooked through. If not sure, use a food thermometer to check their internal temperature which should reach 165 Fahrenheit (75 Celsius).
This cranberry meatball recipe was developed and tested at sea level and they were ready in 15 minutes.
Please note that the cooking time may vary due to the size of meatballs, on your oven as well as the altitude you live in. For this reason, always make sure to keep an eye on them, especially when you make these for the first time to avoid over-cooking/under-cooking them.
Oven temperature can be also reduced to 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius) and cooked for a bit longer.
How to keep meatballs warm?
Transfer them all together with cranberry sauce in a slow cooker and keep them warm using either the KEEP WARM or LOW setting (I prefer the first option).
What to serve with cranberry meatballs?
- Meat – Any ground meat will work. Use your favorite kind or try using turkey, chicken, venison,…
- Pecorino cheese adds a ton of flavor and also seasons the meatballs. If you can’t find it in your local supermarket, use parmesan instead!
- Instead of 1 large egg, 2 small ones will work just as well.
- If you have coarse breadcrumbs, process them in a food processor to get a finer texture. This step can be omitted, though.
Tips for making the best cranberry meatballs
- Cranberry sauce can be customized to your liking. This recipe does not call for sugar as it is sweet enough as is. If you prefer the sauce sweeter, go ahead and add brown or white sugar to the sauce.
- If, for some reason you find the sauce for meatballs too sweet, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to it.
- Also, this cranberry meatballs recipe has plenty of sauce and should be enough for up to 32 meatballs.
- Don’t’ over-season meatballs. This recipe does not need much salt as pecorino is the main form of seasoning here.
- For best results use fresh flat-leaf parsley. It does make a difference.
More festive appetizer recipes for you to try:
- Caprese Salad Bites
- Bacon Wrapped Dates – who doesn’t love bacon appetizers, right?
- Honey Pistachio Goat Cheese Log – a perfect addition for your cheese board.
- Olive and Feta Shooters – easy, tasty and fancy-looking!
- 1 pound ground meat (450 grams), see note 1
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup fine breadcrumbs (40 grams)
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup finely grated pecorino cheese, see note 2
- ¼ teaspoon salt, see note 3
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons double concentrated tomato puree, see note 4
For cranberry sauce:
- 9 ounces whole cranberry sauce (250 grams)
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons sweet thai chili sauce
- ⅛ cup water (optional)
- Meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit (175 Celsius).
- Meanwhile: In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for meatballs and using your hand give everything a good mix (The longer you mix, the more even the distribution of spices).
- Line a baking sheet/tray with baking parchment. Use the smallest cookie dough scoop to get 24 similar looking portions of meat mixture. Place them onto the tray.
- Roll each into a ball and place it back on the sheet/tray. When finished, transfer the tray in the oven and cook at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius) for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
- Sauce: In a skillet or pot, combine all the ingredients (except water) and simmer on low heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly. If the sauce appears thick, add the water. If not, omit it. Add cooked meatballs and stir them around to make sure they are all covered in sauce.
- Serve warm!
- You can use either pork, beef, chicken or turkey meat or a combination of these.
- Pecorino can be substitute with parmesan.
- Because pecorino is salty enough to season the meat, only a little bit of salt is needed. If using parmesan, you can add slightly more but I don’t recommend using more than ½ teaspoon.
- Do not use pureed tomatoes – it’s a different product!
- This recipe should yield 24-26 meatballs and serves 6 people when counting 4 meatballs per head.
- Cooking time may vary. This depends on the size of your meatballs, your oven as well as altitude you live in. If not sure, always use a food thermometer to check for doneness. More info in the post above this recipe card.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 355Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 489mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 21gProtein: 24g