These Sweet and Sour Crockpot Meatballs are an easy appetizer or dinner! Made with fresh or frozen meatballs, homemade or store bought, and covered in the best pineapple sweet and sour sauce!
Let me tell you, we are big meatball lovers year round but there is just something about the holidays that make me crave them like crazy!
More often than not, it’s these Sweet and Sour Crockpot Meatballs that are hitting the table. The sweet and sour combo is one that just never gets old around here, especially if they’re loaded with pineapple and peppers (if we throw some veggies in we can call it dinner, right??).
I also love how versatile meatballs are.
They can stand alone as an appetizer (one that leaves you free to enjoy the party!), or be served over rice or noodles or mashed potatoes — that sweet, sticky sauce is good on so many things!
I will usually try to stock up on lean ground beef when it’s on sale and make a giant batch of meatballs for the freezer so I know what’s going into our bellies, but sometimes, life is crazy and that just doesn’t happen.
How to choose frozen meatballs:
- Read the ingredient list. I know it seems obvious, but I think a lot of people don’t. Meatballs, especially if they’re frozen, don’t need to include a lot of random, weird ingredients you can’t pronounce. Look for something made with the basics: meat, bread crumbs, seasonings.
- Go big. Even if you don’t use them all for this one recipe, buying a large bag will get you a better deal overall and you can stash the rest in the freezer for a crazy day down the road.
- If you’re looking for healthier options, look for frozen turkey or chicken meatballs, or meatballs with lower sodium.
Tips for Cooking Frozen Meatballs in the Crockpot:
- Don’t thaw. It will be easier to stir them into the sauce if they are still firm and frozen, resulting in a better texture overall.
- Don’t stir — often. And this goes for fresh meatballs as well. If you stir too often, you are losing a lot of heat from the slow cooker, but you’re also going to end up mashing them and your meatballs won’t be balls anymore. You will have sweet and sour meat sauce.
- Don’t overcook. Meatballs, particularly if they’re precooked, really don’t need much cook time. If you overcook, you risk ending up with — you guessed it — sweet and sour meat sauce.
Variations on these Crockpot Meatballs:
- These Sweet and Sour Meatballs are naturally dairy-free and gluten-free provided that the meatballs you choose are gluten-free. Please double check all of your ingredients to make sure.
- You can use store bought or homemade meatballs for this recipe. This is an easy, basic homemade beef meatball recipe if you’re looking for one (just skip the sauce).
- You can use fresh or frozen meatballs for this recipe, and I’ve included approximate cook times for both in the recipe. I actually prefer to use frozen, because they hold together really well in the slow cooker, but either works just fine.
- If you’re not a fan of sweet and sour sauce (or pineapple, or peppers…) you can make some adjustments to the recipe to suit your tastes. Keep in mind that if you’re removing sweetness, or seasoning, you’ll likely want to replace it with something else.
How to prep these Sweet and Sour Meatballs ahead:
- If you’re making homemade meatballs, that is a great thing to prep ahead of time and keep refrigerated or frozen until you need it, since it can be a time consuming process.
- The sweet and sour sauce can be made completely in advance and store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks before using (great if you make a double batch and have extras!).
- Earlier in the day or the night before, you can combine the sauce with the peppers in the slow cooker, and add in the meatballs just before cooking. If you’re using fresh refrigerated meatballs, you can let them hang out in the crockpot the day before, too (just not with frozen!).
Sweet and Sour Crockpot Meatballs
- 1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 540 ml pineapple tidbits with juice 1 can, 19 oz
- 2 bell peppers cut into 1/2-1" chunks
- 680 grams frozen beef meatballs 1.5 lbs, about 45 1" meatballs
- In a 4 quart slow cooker (anywhere from 3-6 is fine), whisk together jam, vinegar, corn starch, soy sauce and garlic.
- Add pineapple with juice, peppers, and meatballs and stir until combined.
- Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 2-3 hours, until meatballs are heated through and sauce is thickened and bubbly. Serve immediately over rice, noodles, or as an appetizer.
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