Slow Cooker Spicy Cocktail Meatballs from Scratch

Serve these homemade sweet and spicy cocktail meatballs just to hear all the YUMS!! coming from your guests in between bites.  Have recipe cards ready or let them know you found the recipe here.

Who doesn’t love a good appetizer or dip, other party foods include my Tzatziki sauce and my artichoke spinach dip to complement these tasty homemade appetizer meatballs.

meatballs on plate

These homemade meatballs are also great tucked into a french roll for a meatball sandwich.

Why this recipe works

This is an easy from-scratch cocktail meatball recipe that is a proven potluck favorite! Cocktail meatballs should be small, preferably one juicy bite-sized and most frozen meatballs are just too big and not juicy like these simple homemade hors d’oeuvres. You can shape these into whatever size you prefer.

For a quick sweet and spicy meatball recipe check out my slow cooker version.


  • Ground Beef – I use 20% fat ground beef for just enough fat to provide sometasty flavor. Some peoplelike to add ground pork.
  • The Seasonings -chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne,salt, and black pepper. You can also add minced dried onions.
  • Eggs, bread crumbs, and butter – are used for the binding agent to hold the meatballs together.
  • The cocktail meatball sauce – raspberry jam, spicy bbq sauce and ketchup.

Tips for Making Homemade Appetizer Meatballs

Follow a few simple tips for great homemade meatballs.

  • Select the right meats-Use a fattier meat beef or pork for more tender meatballs. Leans meats ground turkey can be easily overcooked and can become dry. Try using use a blend of different kinds of ground meats for a deeper more complex flavor
  • Work with chilled ingredients Mix the meatballs in a chilled bowl to keep everything on the cooler side. 
  • Add some  moisture -Add binders like eggs and bread crumbs mixed with a little milk to add moisture for moist and tender meatballs.
  • Do a taste test – Cook up a tiny bit of the meatball mixture in the skillet and do a little taste test if there is enough seasoning. You don’t want to cook everything up and find out there’s no flavor!  Add more spices or herbs if needed.
  • Don’t overwork the meatballs-Mix just enough to incorporate all the ingredients and when forming the balls don’t pack them tight otherwise you’ll end up with tough balls.
  • Cooking the meatballs – Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to portion out on the meatballs so they cook up evenly. Never fry up the meatballs, instead bake or broil.
  • A quick alternative to homemade -If you don’t have Homestyle or spicy meatballs.  For an office potluck lunch I have taken the frozen meatballs and sauce to work,  then plugged in the slow cooker in the morning and by lunch my potluck dish is ready.

Storing Leftovers

The meatballs freeze well either before or after baking.

To store cocktail meatballs without the sauce cool to room temperature then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  When the meatballs are frozen enough, about 2 hours, so they won’t stick together, place the cocktail meatballs in a freezer bag and store for up to 2 months. The sauce should be stored separately in an airtight container.

How Many cocktail meatballs should you serve per person?

Plan on serving 5-6 1-inch meatballs per person, the larger the meatball the fewer you need per person.

What size are cocktail meatballs?

I make mine about 1-inch in diameter because this is the perfect one bite-size.

What to serve with cocktail meatballs?

More Easy Appetizers

Did you make this recipe? I would love it if you left a comment or review! Be sure to sign up for the email list and follow “A Weekend Cook” on Pinterest and my Facebook page.

meatballs on plate

Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Meatballs

Homemade bite-size cocktail meatball appetizers.
4.50 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 48 meatballs
Calories: 420kcal
Author:Sydney Dawes



  • 2 pounds ground beef 20% fat
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Meatball Sauce

  • 1 cups raspberry jam
  • 1 cups spicy bbq sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup


  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • In a medium bowl add the ground bee, eggs, melted butter, bread crumbs, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  • Use a small scoop to make small 1-inch diameter meatballs and place them on a broiler-safe baking pan.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Lightly spray or coat a 3 or 4-quart slow cooker with vegetable oil and preheat on low.
  • In a medium-size bowl mix together the jams, ketchup, and BBQ sauce
  • Add a layer of the sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker crock, and then a layer of meatballs, repeat the layers until all the sauce and meatballs until all meatballs are in the slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for about 3 hours.


  • Serve as an hors-d’oeuvre for your next potluck.
  • The recipe can be cut in half or doubled.


Serving: 4meatballs | Calories: 420kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 808mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 26g
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @AWeekendCook or tag #aweekendcook!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


    1. I apologize, I thought I removed this recipe for updating. The oil is to coat the slow cooker and I originally had butter being added to the beef mixture, but later changed it to a little milk. I did a quick update and I plan on reworking this recipe and writing up more useful information for making the meatballs.