These tender, juicy, flavorful, from scratch Cocktail Meatballs are made with a mix of ground beef and pork meat, and then covered in a delicious sweet and spicy sauce made with honey, orange juice and sriracha!
These cocktail meatballs are an easy to prep, addictive and impressive party dish, and a guaranteed crowd favorite!
Cocktail Meatballs are a guaranteed crowd favorite! These little guys have never failed me, and they are the PERFECT game day appetizer or party snack, and can be whipped up in a jiffy.
I make these sweet and spicy cocktail meatballs from scratch. And they are coated in a delicious (with a nice kick!) sweet and savory sauce made with honey and sriracha sauce. Tender, juicy, flavorful and addictive, these are an easy to prep, versatile recipe.
You can make these cocktail meatballs as well as the sweet and spicy sauce ahead of time, so you can enjoy your party or game with minimal stress. You could of course make these with frozen, store-bought meatballs as well. But personally, I prefer to make my own, because that way I know exactly what’s in the meatballs, plus it’s easy, so why not? 🙂
How to make Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Meatballs
I make these cocktail meatballs with a mixture of pork and beef. You can make the meatball mix in two ways – in the food processor or a stand mixer. This is because I want these meatballs to have a Kofta-like juicy, tender texture, instead of being crumbly.
The meat is mixed with a flavor paste made of onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Then they are mixed in with a mixture of breadcrumbs, milk and eggs that acts as a binder for the ground meat.
Use a small cookie scoop to perfectly portion each meatball, so that they are all the same size. This really helps with cooking all the meatballs evenly in the oven.
If you’d like to, you can cook these cocktail meatballs in batches over a stove, but the oven is easier. Just 15-20 minutes in the oven, and all 40 meatballs are cooked in one go!
Why cook these cocktail meatballs on a wire rack?
If you cook these meatballs directly on a half sheet pan, they will bake in their own puddle of juices, which prevents even cooking. But if you place them on a wire rack, which is then kept on a half sheet pan, the juices will drip down on to the half sheet pan. That way the meatballs are free to bake evenly throughout, with even air circulation all around them in the oven.
But here’s another tip for cooking them on a wire rack – use a cross-wire baking rack that has smaller squares (like the one pictured above). This way there’s less of a chance of you getting wire rack marks on your cooked meatballs.
The meatballs can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge or freezer until needed. These are so good, you can eat them just like that, but the sweet and spicy sauce really does elevate this dish!
How to make the sweet and spicy sauce for these cocktail meatballs
Cocktail meatballs are typically made with a grape jelly sauce. While that’s great, I made these cocktail meatballs without grape jelly. Instead, I use a personal preference of honey and orange juice for the sauce here. Just as fruity-tasting and sweet. The honey and orange juice are then mixed with sriracha sauce and balsamic vinegar. The result is a thick sauce that has sweet, fruity, spicy, tangy flavors, all perfectly balanced!
Serve these cocktail meatballs with cocktail picks or bamboo forks.
While these are an obvious choice as a game day appetizer or party snack, I also like to serve these sweet and spicy meatballs for lunch and dinner. Leftover cocktail meatballs are great in salads, and sometimes I serve them with baked potatoes or with rice. They are tender, juicy and super flavorful, no matter how you devour these bad boys! 🙂
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Other Game Day snacking ideas that you may like…
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 shallot
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns or ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ lb pork mince or ½ lb chopped pork butt
- 1 lb ground beef (beef mince)
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup honey 4 oz in weight
- ¼ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup sriracha more to taste
- 3 - 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup orange juice strained
- Salt to taste
- Line a half sheet baking tray with foil or parchment paper (so that clean up is easier), and place a wire rack on top. The wire rack should be a cross-wire baking rack. Next, preheat oven to 325°F.
- Place the panko crumbs in a bowl, along with the milk. Allow the breadcrumbs to soak up the milk.
- In a spice grinder or small food processor, place the roughly chopped shallots, peeled garlic, black pepper and salt. Process to form a smooth paste.
- If you’re using pork meat, place the pork meat in the food processor and process until the meat is chopped very finely and is almost like a paste. If you’re using pork mince, just place the mince in the food processor.
- Add the soaked panko, spice mix and the egg to the pork mixture. Pulse the mixture until you have a wet mix that's almost like a paste.
- Add half of the beef mince and pulse a few times to mix well. Then add the rest of the beef mince and pulse until almost all of the beef mince has been mixed in.
- Scrape the meat mixture into a bowl, and mix the ground meat with a spatula or your hand. Make sure all of the meat and spice mix are well combined.
- Using a small cookie scoop, portion the meat mix. Next, roll these portions into small balls (about 1 - 1 ¼ inches in diameter), using wet hands.
- Place the meatballs on the wire rack, with at least ¾ inch of space between each.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15 - 20 minutes, until cooked through.
- Remove from the oven, and allow the meatballs to cool slightly. Then remove the meatballs from the wire rack and allow them to cool completely.
- FREEZING FOR LATER - once the meatballs have cooled down completely, place them in an airtight container or a ziploc freezer bag, and freeze for later use. Frozen meatballs can be thawed overnight in the fridge before use.
- Mix the honey, tomato ketchup, ¼ cup sriracha, 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar and orange juice in a pan. Whisk to mix well. Add a pinch of salt.
- Heat over medium heat until the sauce comes to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes, while stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Taste and add more salt and more sriracha sauce (up to ¼ cup), if needed. If you want more of the tangy flavor without the spice, add the rest of the balsamic vinegar. Whisk to mix well.
- Add the thawed or room temperature meatballs into the sauce. Stir to coat the meat balls, and let them heat through in the sauce. Simmer for a few more minutes if you want to thicken the sauce more.
- Place the meatballs on a serving tray and spoon some of the sauce over them. Serve warm, with cocktail picks.