Sweet & Tangy Homemade Meatballs (Crockpot OR Stovetop)

Homemade meatballs with a sweet, flavorful sauce makes an easy supper in the crockpot or on the stovetop.

Looking for an easy stovetop meatball recipe your kids might even like too? (Yes, even that picky one.)

How about one that you can easily make on the stovetop in a dutch oven OR in the crockpot?

The sweet and savory homemade meatballs I’m sharing are a family favorite – and a hit with our kiddos too.

homemade meatballs-sweet and tangy

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Sweet and Tangy Meatballs: start with quality beef

Ground beef is a go-to freezer staple around our house.

When you live in the Midwest (beef country) and have several kids, you learn how to stretch a pound of ground beef to its fullest potential!

For this recipe, you can use just a pound of ground beef, or throw in an extra 1/2 pound more depending on your family size.

We bought 1/2 a beef (cow) this year and I’m loving not having to run to the grocery store very often.

I also love knowing what’s in our dinner (grass finished beef) and not having to worry about questionable fillers.

If you don’t have quality local beef, we also love the ground beef from Butcherbox. Read my full review of Butcherbox here.

We usually get by with just one pound for the 6 of us.  These have a rich sauce, and it usually makes around 22 meatballs (last I counted). 

Why make meatballs from scratch?

Technically, you could also cheat and just buy frozen meatballs.  I do that every now and then, truth be told.

But since I know what’s in the beef I buy and I always have plenty of it, I usually opt to make my own.

This simple homemade meatball recipe is perfect for weekends when you want to throw something in the crockpot and not have to think about a complicated main course.

At the same time, if you don’t get them in the crockpot in time, you can easily make them on the stovetop.

I’ll provide instructions for both methods.

You can serve these as a stand-alone main dish, or on a bed of rice.

Sweet and tangy meatballs are great with baked potatoes on the side and a salad or steamed veggies.

Since they’re pretty rich on their own, you can go simple on the sides.

How to make homemade meatballs

Below you’ll find the ingredients and directions for making homemade meatballs in the crockpot OR stovetop, along with a zero-effort sweet and tangy sauce.

Meatball Ingredients

  • 1 to 1.5 pounds lean ground beef (I like extra-lean)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 16-oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 12-oz. bottle chili sauce  


#1.  Mix together the sauce ingredients above: ketchup, brown sugar, cranberry sauce and chili sauce.  Place in either the slow cooker insert OR a dutch oven on the stovetop, on low heat.

This will allow the cranberry sauce to melt a bit while you’re assembling the meatballs.

#2.  Place the ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley and minced onion in a mixing bowl and combine.

homemade meatball mixture step 1

#3.  Form into (approximately) 1-inch meatballs.  Or whatever size you prefer!

meatball prep and sauce mixture

4.  Stir the sauce again.  (It’s ok if there are still some cranberry chunks.  It will break down more as it cooks.) 

Then, nestle the raw meatballs down in the sauce and gently spoon the sauce back over the meatballs.  Try not to move them around too much or they’ll fall apart. 

meatballs into the sauce mixture
ready to cook meatballs

5.  If you’re cooking on a stovetop, place the lid on your dutch oven and continue to cook on low temperature for approximately 1 hour on low heat until cooked through.

In the slow cooker, place lid on top and cook for approximately 6 hours on low or until meat is cooked through.

*You can start stirring meatballs after the first 10 minutes or so on stovetop, or first 2-3 hours in the crockpot.  Try not to stir them too early or again, they’ll fall apart!

finished homemade meatball recipe

*Cooking times will vary based on your stove, dutch oven/ crockpot used, and how much meat used.  Cook to an internal temp of 165 degrees.


Yield: 20

Sweet & Tangy Homemade Meatballs (Crockpot OR Stovetop)

finished homemade meatball recipe

Homemade meatballs that are kid-friendly, rich and satisfying.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 1 to 1.5 pounds extra lean ground beef
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion

Sauce ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 16-oz can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 12-oz bottle chili sauce


  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and place in either dutch oven on stovetop, OR in slow cooker insert on low heat.
  2. Mix together the ground beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, parsley and onion.
  3. Form into approximately 1-in meatballs.
  4. Stir the sauce again; then nestle meatballs down into sauce. Spoon some sauce back over the meatballs. Don't move the meatballs around too much to keep them intact.
  5. For Stovetop: place lid on dutch oven and continue cooking on low heat for approximately 1 hour. For Crockpot: place lid on top and cook on low heat approximately 6 hours. You can stir meatballs on stovetop to ensure even cooking - after the first 10 minutes or so. Stir in crockpot after the first 2-3 hours (stirring too early can make them fall apart). *Cooking times will vary; cook to 165 degrees internal temperature.
  6. Serve alone or on a bed of rice.

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