Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs


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This dump-and-go slow cooker cranberry meatballs recipe is made of just five ingredients – frozen meatballs, whole cranberry sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and lemon juice. These flavors infuse in the slow cooker for an appetizer cuisine that is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Looking for another meatball-style appetizer for your next game or potluck? Try my Slow Cooker Pizza Meatballs!

cranberry meatballs on a spoon.

Why this cranberry meatballs recipe works

Anytime I can use the crock pot to make something that tastes like it was made from scratch, like these homemade meatballs, it’s a winner in my book. Not to mention, I can make crock pot cranberry meatballs while skipping other ingredients that are typically made from scratch. This is one of those easy recipes you’ll want to add to your recipe book because it’s the perfect, absolutely delicious appetizer!

Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for cranberry meatballs on a table.
  • Frozen Meatballs: Store bought frozen meatballs do the trick in this recipe.
  • Whole Cranberry Sauce: We use canned whole cranberry sauce for this recipe, though if you have leftover homemade cranberry sauce, you can use that! You can even use jellied cranberry sauce for a smoother texture.
  • Brown Sugar: Add the sweetness to the cranberry meatballs.
  • Ketchup: Helps create a saucy base classic in many meatball recipes; the vinegar adds a tanginess to the recipe.
  • Lemon Juice: Adds a bit of acid and flavor to the meatballs.

Step-by-Step Directions

2 images about how to make cranberry meatballs in the crockpot.

Step One – Dump all ingredients into the slow cooker, ensuring the meatballs are on the bottom.

Step Two – Give everything a good stir and cook on LOW for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

cranberry meatballs in a bowl.

Variations

  • Sweet and sour version: Make a sweet and sour version of cranberry meatballs by adding soy sauce, hoisin sauce, garlic powder, ground ginger, and a spicy sauce like hot sauce. This is another delicious flavor.
  • Meatball type: You can go for an Italian sausage-style meatball or go with ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken meatball.
  • Garnish ideas: Consider topping these cocktail meatballs with chopped green onions, freshly chopped parsley, and/or fresh cranberries.
  • Serving: Serve these cranberry sauce meatballs straight from the crock pot with toothpicks for a quick appetizer or served with cheese, crackers, olives, nuts, etc. You can also add them onto a hoagie-style bun for a meatball sub. You can even serve it over mashed potatoes or steamed white rice.
close up of cranberry meatballs.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use homemade meatballs?

Absolutely! The idea behind frozen meatballs is to make prep time and cook time much shorter and easier. Though, if you have a favorite homemade recipe, you can use that!

How long will the leftovers last?

If stored properly in an airtight container and refrigerator, these meatballs will keep for up to 4 days.

Can I make these on the stove or in the oven?

Sure; however, cooking them in the slow cooker allows you to dump everything and walk away. This also allows easy transport (and clean-up) for game days and potlucks.

Am I able to use Heinz chili sauce?

Yes. You can actually use this in place of the ketchup or add it along with it. Heinz chili sauce is not spicy at all! It’s what is used in grape jelly meatballs.

Why such a long cooking time for precooked frozen meatballs in the slow cooker?

The longer they cook, they start to darken a little from soaking up the sauce and don’t taste so much like store-bought meatballs! The meatballs only get better the longer they cook.

plate of appetizers with cranberry meatballs.

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close up of cranberry meatballs.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 12
A unique recipe for meatballs! Cranberry meatballs are great for any fall or winter holiday.

Ingredients 
 

  • 32 oz frozen meatballs, (these are fully cooked, but frozen)
  • 28 oz. whole cranberry sauce, (two 14-oz. cans)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Instructions 

  • Pour the meatballs into the crockpot.
  • Add the cranberry sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and lemon juice – stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • We serve this as an appetizer with an assortment of cheeses (like brie, cheddar, etc), walnuts, pecans, olives, etc.
  • If stored properly in an airtight container and refrigerator, these meatballs will keep for up to 4 days.
  • You can use Heinz chili sauce in place of of the ketchup, in fact they have similar flavors and Heinz chili sauce is not spicy.
  • The long cooking time ensure the sauce soaks into the meatballs and they will have much more flavor than just cooking them until done.

Nutrition

Calories: 342kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 228mg | Potassium: 299mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 136IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is auto-generated. This information is an estimate; if you are on a special diet, please use your own calculations.

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5 Comments

  1. Donna Tessmer says:

    Apricot jam also works really well!

  2. Traci says:

    If I’m making homemade meatballs, should I pre-cook the meatballs first?

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      I would at least brown them first, then let the slow cooker finish cooking them.

  3. Mark D says:

    For the sweet and sour version, how much of each additional ingredient should be added?

    Soy Sauce
    Hoisin Sauce
    Garlic Powder
    Ground Ginger
    Hot Sauce

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      Hard to say without testing it, I apologize!