These Mini Meatballs are homemade, pan fried to perfection, then tossed into a delicious sauce of your choice. My friends and family beg me to bring these small meatballs coated in a sweet and sour cocktail meatball sauce to every Holiday event, especially for Christmas Eve!
These Mini Meatballs are one of the best Holiday Appetizers. They're easy to make and great to store in the crockpot during parties to keep them warm. However, I'm not going to lie, once people know they're in the crockpot, those meatballs will be gone!
This recipe includes my homemade cocktail sauce, which is the most popular during the Winter holidays, like Christmas and New Year's Eve. Below you will find more sauce options, that are suitable year round, like this Quick Marinara Sauce and Spaghetti Alfredo Sauce. The homemade meatballs are really the star of the show and taste amazing in any sauce.
Why You'll Love This Recipe:
- These meatballs are mini, but big in flavor
- Super easy to make and they cook quickly in the pan
- Serve these as a Holiday Appetizer or for dinner
- The recipe makes over 50 mini meatballs and it's great for a crowd
Homemade Meatballs Ingredients:
Ground Beef and Ground Pork- Come together for the best base for meatballs. The combination of the two creates the most tender, juicy meatballs. I recommend 85/15 for the ground beef. This means 85% lean meat to 15% fat. A 93/7 is going to be much drier and an 80/20 ratio is going to give off a lot of fat. An 85/15 ratio is really that sweet spot.
Bread and Milk: This is one of my best kept secrets for meatballs. You soak a slice of Italian or white bread with milk, then combine it with the meatball ingredients for another level of juicy.
Onion & Garlic: Added for flavor. The onion is best grated in this recipe because we're working with small meatballs and don't want large chunks of onions falling out or any crunch if they don't soften enough while pan frying.
Egg and Panko Breadcrumbs: Used to bind the ingredients together.
*Full recipe ingredients and quantities can be found in the recipe card below.
Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce:
(Note: More Sauce options are listed below in Substitutions and Variations)
Ketchup: The bulk of the sauce, used for its acidity and thick texture.
Brown Sugar: Used to sweeten the sauce with a molasses like flavor.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Brings in a tangy taste to the meatballs.
Worcestershire Sauce: For umami flavors.
Cornstarch Slurry: A combination of cornstarch and water that thickens the sauce into a sticky glaze. Cornstarch always needs to be mixed with water before adding to sauces to avoid white powdery chunks that don't dissolve well.
Substitutions & Variations:
If you don't like garlic or onion, you can leave either out of the meatballs. I don't recommend leaving out any of the other ingredients in the mini meatballs, as they really all serve an important purpose.
Like fresh herbs in meatballs? Add in 1 tablespoon of finely chopped basil or parsley.
Alternate Meatball Sauce Choices:
Not big on Sweet and Sour cocktail meatball sauce? Try one of these quick and easy sauce recipes instead.
- Alfredo Sauce Recipe: A simple white sauce served with Spaghetti and ready in 15 minutes.
- Homemade Pasta Sauce: Quick and easy marinara sauce that pairs exceptionally well with meatballs and only takes 10 minutes of prep time.
- Rose Sauce Recipe: Alfredo sauce meets marinara in this easy pink sauce recipe.
- Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice: For a serious holiday vibe, serve these meatballs plain with a side of this cranberry sauce for dipping. It screams Thanksgiving and Christmas!
How to Make Mini Meatballs:
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Here are the Step by Step Instructions for Mini Meatballs.
Step 1: In small bowl, rip the bread into 2 pieces and pour over the milk. Allow it to soak for a minute or two. Squeeze the excess milk from the bread and add the bread only to a large bowl. Discard the remaining milk.
Step 2: In the large bowl, tear the bread into smaller pieces. Add in ground pork, ground beef, grated onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, egg, panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix together with hands or a spoon until it is fully combined.
Step 3: Roll into mini meatballs, about 2 teaspoons each in size and place them onto a cookie sheet. (We won't be baking them, but it holds all of the meatballs better than a plate will). You should get around 50 small meatballs. Sit them aside.
Step 4: If making the sweet and sour cocktail meatball sauce: Combine ketchup, 1 minced garlic clove, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire, and cornstarch slurry into a large skillet. Stir to combine, then place it over the stovetop on medium low heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should turn into a glaze like sauce.
Step 5: Prepare a large skillet over medium heat on the stovetop. Add in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and allow it to heat up. Carefully add in ½ of the meatballs to the pan, making sure they have enough room to cook.
Step 6: Cook for a few minutes on each side, turning them about 3-4 times with a set of tongs, until the internal temperature of the meatballs reach 165 degrees, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the batch to a paper towel lined plate and start the next batch.
Step 7: Once all the meatballs are finished, carefully toss them in the sauce, covering all surfaces in the glaze.
Step 8: Serve and enjoy!
- Remove some of the excess water from the onions with a paper towel if there is a ton of it.
- Try to roll the meatballs in a really similar size for even cooking time.
- If the sweet and sour sauce turns thicker than a glaze, add a few tablespoons of water into the sauce and stir. Reduce the heat to low and simmer.
- Having a party? Add them into a crockpot on the warm or low setting to keep them hot and ready to eat.
If pan frying the meatballs turn the heat to medium low and cover the pan for a few minutes to cook the inside of the meatballs faster and reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Soaking bread in milk and adding to meatballs will help create a juicy, rich meatball and avoid dry meatballs.
Cut the onion in half and remove peel. Carefully grate the onion on the largest setting on the cheese grater. Press the onions with a paper towel to remove some of the water. If you need all the water removed, enclose the grated onion in a cheesecloth and squeeze the extra water out over the sink.
If you have leftover meatballs, store them in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in sauce on stovetop or bake in the oven at 350 degrees until warm. If the sauce gets really soaked up, make an extra batch of sauce (or cut recipe in half if you don't have many meatballs) and add the sauce over the meatballs.
Absolutely! You can freeze them after rolling before cooking, or after pan frying. For the best results, vacuum seal and use within 2 months.
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