Sweet, sticky, and tangy cranberry jalapeno meatballs with only 4 ingredients. Dump cranberry sauce, BBQ sauce, and a fresh jalapeno in your slow cooker. Then, stir in a bag of frozen meatballs. This addictive and easy appetizer will disappear from your table! They also make a delicious main course.
The version of this that I grew up with involved cocktail weenies, grape jelly, and mustard in a crockpot. They would show up at funerals and church potlucks. They were weird, but people loved them! These easy slow cooker cranberry sauce meatballs are a festive take on those old-school favorites.
The cranberry and BBQ sauces make a sweet, sticky glaze with a little tang. A jalapeno adds a hint of spice. These cranberry sauce meatballs are irresistible.
You can leave the slow cooker on the warm setting after they finish cooking. Then, leave them out for guests to nibble on. Set them out before Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. They’re a perfect easy snack while everyone waits for the big meal. It’s very easy to double or triple this to feed a crowd. Just make sure you’re crock pot is big enough!
Make these for fall or winter appetizers, or serve them for dinner with mashed potatoes or rice.
Ingredients for Cranberry Jalapeno Meatballs
Homemade whole berry cranberry sauce. I love using my orange and walnut cranberry sauce. It adds so much flavor, and it’s easy to make! If you don’t want to make your own, use a 14-ounce can of whole-berry cranberry sauce.
Sweet barbeque sauce adds a complex and smokey flavor. It helps create a sticky sauce that coats the meatballs. We like Sweet Baby Rays.
Add a fresh jalapeno for a hint of spice. Remove the seeds to keep them from being bitter or too spicy. You can omit the pepper if you don’t like heat or add an extra one if you want it hotter.
Frozen homestyle meatballs. Use cocktail-size meatballs, and don’t thaw them first. Just dump them still frozen.
Substitutions & Variations
These easy slow cooker meatballs with cranberry sauce are easy to adapt. Here are some easy ways to change them up.
- Adjust the spice: Leave the seeds in the jalapeno to make the sauce spicier. If you want even more heat, add an extra jalapeno.
- Make it vegan: Use frozen plant-based meatballs (like Impossible) to make these vegetarian/vegan. Just make sure you choose a vegan BBQ sauce to go with them!
- Change up the flavor: Use grape jelly instead of the cranberry sauce or Heinz Chili Sauce in place of the BBQ.
How to Make Cranberry Jalapeno Meatballs
First, remove the seeds from your jalapeno. Then, dice it. You can leave the seeds in if you want this to be hotter. You can also add an extra jalapeno. Just, make sure you know your audience. 😉
Dump the jalapeno in the slow cooker with the cranberry sauce and BBQ sauce. Give it a stir.
Add in the meatball and stir to coat.
A single batch will actually fit perfectly into a 2 quart slow cooker, but you have to stir carefully.
Cover the slow cooker and cook them for 4 hours on high. Stir once, halfway through. This will make sure the meatballs on the bottom don’t burn.
These will actually fit in a 2-quart slow cooker. It’s a tight fit, so be careful stirring the meatballs in. I think this is worth noting! I make them in a smaller crock pot if serving them as an appetizer or bringing the meatballs to a potluck or family dinner. The little slow cooker takes up so much less room!
How to Serve Cranberry Sauce Meatballs
As an appetizer: These crowd-pleasing appetizers always get gobbled right up. You can leave the slow cooker on the warm setting to serve them. Place a dish of toothpicks next to the meatballs so folks can self-serve. The cranberry sauce makes them a perfect festive appetizer for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
As an entree: These make a yummy main dish for dinner. Serve with steamed rice or mashed potatoes and some roasted vegetables.
More awesome cranberry recipes
- Turkey Cranberry Sliders
- Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
- Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip
- Crunchy Broccoli Salad with Cranberries
- Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
- Cranberry Crostini