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!
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!
- 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 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.
- 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.
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!
If stored properly in an airtight container and refrigerator, these meatballs will keep for up to 4 days.
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.
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.
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.
Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs
- 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
- 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.
- 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 info is auto-generated. This information is an estimate; if you are on a special diet, please use your own calculations.