Sweet and sour meatballs are the perfect appetizer for your next tailgate party! They can be baked in the oven, or made in the Crockpot or Instant Pot.
Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe
One of the first recipes that Cade and I learned in our little cooking class we took in college was a homemade sweet and sour sauce. I’ve been wanting to make it into sweet and sour meatballs for years, but I always got distracted. I’ve finally busted out the recipe and it was such a smart move because these babies are oh so yum!!
In that class, we learned a lot about food, sanitation, and that Cade and I cook totally different. Let’s just say that I tend to be a bit better with multitasking — love you anyway, Cade!
But back to the food, which is the most important. These Asian meatballs can be baked or stuck in the slow cooker for 3-4 hours. You can even just whip up the sweet and sour sauce for meatballs and throw that in there too.
Before I jump into the sweet and sour meatballs recipe, don’t forget to snag our cookbook, Our Sweet Basil Kitchen which is on sale this week!!
Sweet and Sour Meatballs Ingredients
I know the ingredients list for these sweet and sour meatballs may seem lengthy, but I promise each ingredient is necessary. Here’s what we use in these Asian meatballs:
- Ground beef
- Panko bread crumbs
- Dry minced onion
- Ground ginger
- Salt and pepper
- Canola oil
- Bell peppers
- Onion powder
- Rice vinegar
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- Sesame oil
- Mandarin oranges
Can I Use Ground Turkey Instead of Ground Beef?
Absolutely! Turkey is leaner than ground beef, so the sweet and sour meatballs might end up a little dry or crumbly. In which case, I would increase the coconut milk to 1/3 cup to keep the Asian meatballs tender and juicy.
How to Make Sweet and Sour Meatballs
This sweet and sour meatballs recipe is essentially a dump and stir recipe. Seriously, it’s so simple! Here’s how to make Asian meatballs:
- Add the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine.
- Shape the meat mixture into balls, then bake until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, stir together the sweet and sour sauce ingredients in a saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened.
- Once the meatballs are baked, gently toss with the sweet and sour sauce and serve.
How to Make CrockPot Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Want to make these Asian meatballs in a CrockPot? Shape the meatballs, then place in a CrockPot. Pour the sweet and sour sauce over top, then cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
Why Did My Meatballs Fall Apart?
One of the most asked questions with meatballs is, why do meatballs fall apart? Totally understandable. Meat that has been ground up needs a binding ingredient to bring it all back together.
You absolutely should have some kind of carb and milk in addition to the egg. Its’ called a panade, and you only need about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs per 2 pounds of meat, give or take. But the point is, bread and milk are going to keep your meat juicy and wonderful as well as act like a glue so don’t skip it.
Tips for Making Sweet and Sour Meatballs
When seasoning these Asian meatballs, be sure to use 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat. If you use less salt than this, it’s likely you’ll wind up with bland sweet and sour meatballs.
Struggling to keep your Asian meatballs round? Use oil for rolling! I learned this on a cooking show. Place a little oil on your hands and roll ’em up! In fact, I put the oil on a dish and dip the meat in it and roll whenever I need a little more oil. The oil shines the meat up all pretty, but it also helps the meat smooth together in your hands so you avoid making clumpy, overworked meatballs.
Speaking of overworked sweet and sour meatballs, I mentioned this already but it’s almost always because you over mixed the meat. Ground meat needs to be handled gently and to a minimum. The more you mix the meat, the tougher and more rubbery it becomes. I tend to use my hands to ensure I don’t keep mixing, because who wants to hang out in raw meat? It’s also a good idea to stir all of your mix-ins together before adding to the ground meat.
More CrockPot Recipes:
- Creamy CrockPot Chicken and Rice
- Slow Cooker Beef Brisket
- Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili
- CrockPot Cafe Rio Chicken
- Slow Cooker Smothered BBQ Beef
- Crock Pot Rotisserie Chicken
- Slow Cooker Pineapple Mexican Chicken
- Slow Cooker Potato Broccoli Corn Chowder with Bacon
- Asian Sticky Slow Cooker Ribs
- Chili Sauce and Grape Jelly Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Korean BBQ Beef
- Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken
- Chicken Carnitas
- All our CROCKPOT and SLOW COOKER recipes here!
Sweet and Sour Meatballs for the Oven or Slow Cooker
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 2 pounds ground beef, (we used 85/15)
- 2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons dry minced onion
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup coconut milk, (or regular milk will work)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/3 cup red bell pepper, , chopped
- 1/3 cup yellow bell pepper, , chopped
- 1/3 cup green bell pepper, , chopped
- 1 clovw garlic, , minced fine
- ½ tablespoons onion powder
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, (white is also fine)
- ⅛ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 cup canned mandarin oranges, , smashed (with juice)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch, , for desired thickness
- ¼ cup cold water
- sesame seeds , ,for garnish
- green onions , , for garnish
For the meatballs:
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, add the meat, breadcrumbs, onion, egg, coconut milk, and seasonings.
- Mix with your hands until just combined.
- Roll into balls by rubbing your hands with a little oil and then place in a greased 9x13" baking pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
For the sauce:
- In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the oil, peppers and garlic.
- Saute until tender, about 3 minutes.
- Add onion powder, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar and sesame.
- Stir to combine and add the oranges and juice.
- Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch and water together and then whisk into the sauce.
- Bring back to a boil then turn down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve over meatballs with sesame seeds and green onions.
How much garlic? Surely not a cup?!
Oops! 1 clove of garlic
Thank you, Linda!
I’d like to do these in the Instant Pot. How long and what setting should I put these at? I would assume to include all sauces as well to cook everything together?
Hey Elizabeth! You will want to saute the meatballs with a little oil so they are brown around the outside, and then cook them in the instant pot on manual high pressure for 4 minutes with all the ingredients for the sauce. Enjoy!!
We really love this recipe! Do you think it would also work work with ground turkey? If using turkey would you recommend any changes to the recipe? Thanks!
Absolutely! Turkey is more lean than ground beef so they might and up a little dry/crumbly. I would increase the coconut milk to 1/3 cup to keep them tender and juicy.
To make in a slow cooker, do you fully cook the sauce according to directions (ie bring all ingredients to boil on stovetop) and put the sauce over meat in slow cooker? Or would you just mix ingredients and then have sauce cook in slow cooker as well?
Great question! Just mix and cook it in the slow cooker! Enjoy!!
hey girl- these meatballs look so yummy! Ya’ll have a great week!
I think you accidentally omitted the amount of sugar from the recipe?
Hi Carol, Sorry about that, it’s there. 🙂
These look delicious, but how much sugar?
It’s corrected. Thanks for your patience.