Warm and wintery, tender and tasty, cranberry meatballs scream holiday dinner party. But.. they’re just too good to limit yourself so serve them anytime!

Cranberry Meatballs in a rectangle white serving dish

A festive and flavorful dish, cranberry meatballs make the perfect appetizer for holiday gatherings. If you enjoy cranberry meatballs Paula Deen style or envy the cranberry meatballs Taste of Home describes, this recipe will take you to that level and beyond! This dish is simultaneously upscale and down to earth – a culinary rarity. Nestle these delicacies next to a sprig of holly or evergreen for a starter that is swank yet homey, posh but laidback, classy while unpretentious.

There are a number of recipes for cranberry meatballs southern living offers, what can I just like this one better! This lip-smacking sauce never ceases to amaze me. Magic emerges from this orange, cranberry, chili concoction! And to those of you who love doing everything by hand, take heart:  not only are the meatballs made from scratch, but you can also contribute your own cranberry sauce, marmalade, and bread crumbs to this recipe. If the mouthwatering photos below put you in the meatball mood, you might also like to try our BBQ Meatballs .


  • Homemade meatballs are always seventy steps above store bought selections!
  • Our sauce combines some unique flavors for a surprising result!
  • Cranberry sauce elevates any winter dish to super hostess status.




Cranberry Meatballs in a rectangle white serving dish, top shot

What Ingredients Do You Need To Make Cranberry Meatballs?

Cranberry sauced meatballs are made with a couple pounds of ground chuck mixed into two eggs, minced onion, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and dried thyme.  

The lip smacking delicious sauce is composed of a can of cranberry sauce, a jar of chili sauce, and some sweet orange marmalade blended with water, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes.

How Do You Make Cranberry Meatballs?

A distant cousin of Teriyaki Meatballs, these easy cranberry meatballs are made in five simple steps. First you mix the meatballs, shape them, and brown them. Then you blend and simmer the sauce. Finally, you cook the meatballs thoroughly in said sauce. Cook time is just under thirty minutes.


Cranberry Meatballs in a rectangle white serving dish
5 from 2 votes

Cranberry Meatballs

Warm and wintery, tender and tasty, cranberry meatballs scream holiday dinner party. But.. they’re just too good to limit yourself so serve them anytime!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 -8 person
Calories 362 kcal
Author Kathleen



  • 2 Pounds Ground Chuck
  • 2 Large Eggs Lightly Beaten
  • 1/4 Cup Onion Finely Minced
  • 1/3 Cup Soft Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves


  • 1--16 Ounce Can Cranberry Sauce
  • 1--12 Ounce Jar Chili Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Sweet Orange Marmalade
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the meatball ingredients until evenly combined.

  2. Shape mixture into 1-inch meatball, you'll have about 54.

  3. In a large skillet, brown meatballs in batches, over medium-high heat. Remove browned meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. 

  4. In a pan (large enough to accommodate and mix the meatballs-later) mix together all the sauce ingredients until combined. Over medium heat, cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until sauce is smooth, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add the meatballs, reducing heat to low and cook, gently stirring, for 15-20 minutes or until the center of meatballs are no longer pink. Serve

©GonnaWantSeconds.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

Nutritional Information

Nutrition information will vary based on the specific products. To be safe, check the nutrition facts labels of your products. Optional object listed above have been left out of nutritional data.

Nutrition Facts
Cranberry Meatballs
Amount Per Serving (1 /8 of the recipe)
Calories 362 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 37%
Saturated Fat 9g 45%
Cholesterol 121mg 40%
Sodium 868mg 36%
Potassium 360mg 10%
Total Carbohydrates 13g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 8g
Protein 22g 44%
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 4%
Iron 15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cranberry Meatballs in a rectangle white serving dish, with saucers and fork on the side

Recipe Notes For Cranberry Meatballs:

Variations: You can make extra spicy cranberry meatballs by adding four teaspoons of diced hot chilies and cayenne pepper to the meat mixture, or by adding your hot sauce of choice to the sauce mixture. You can also swap out US style chili sauce for a Latin American variety to kick things up a notch.

A new pepper blend just may become your new favorite. This one adds the perfect amount of heat without adding the flavor of Chilis. It’s really delicious. It does contain some surprising asian ingredients, but don’t let that deter you. You will love how this blends in with darn near everything adding a flavor profile that’s complex and super easy to achieve!

And.. adding either ketchup or BBQ sauce gives them a little Kapow!    

Chili Sauce: Chili sauce is primarily composed of tomatoes and chilis, consequently it tends to be sweet and mild. As mentioned above, US style chili sauce is typically less spicy than its Latin American counterpart.

Cranberry sauce: My advice here is to go for quality. While ocean spray cranberry meatballs are good I just think other brands improve the dish. It is also relatively easy to make cranberry sauce yourself, it might be worth going the extra mile! I’m partial to our homemade cranberry sauce, go figure….

Meat selection: Ground chuck is the ideal meat for this recipe – the relatively high fat content helps the meatballs hold together and keeps them tender and moist. 80/20 Ground beef will also work.

Bread Crumbs: If you don’t have store bought bread crumbs on hand, or if you prefer a homey touch in your cooking, you can make your own. Process some leftover bread in the food processor. I prefer a hearty sourdough variety but just about any bread will work. This recipe calls for 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs, so one slice of bread should do the trick. And if you don’t have a food processor, fear not. Just toast or bake your leftover bread until it’s slightly crunchy but not crisp, and crumble the result using your hands. Don’t worry about adding any additional seasoning – these zesty meatballs can hold their own!

Mixing and shaping: Yes, mixing raw meat and egg with your hands is a little gross. Your ten graceful fingers do a much more thorough and gentle job than any old spoon, though, and your fluffy meatball eating diners will thank you. When it comes time to compress the meat mixture into balls, don’t overdo it. You do not need to mash the ingredients into a compact sphere for them to hold together – just gently roll the balls between your hands.

Browning: You may be tempted to skip this step if you are in a hurry, but I don’t advise it. Browning the outsides of your meatballs before you move them to the pan with your cranberry sauce mixture brings out so much more depth. The caramelized surface and slight crust really seal the deal by creating complex layers of flavor. Don’t just take it from me: check out Reactions’ video on why the Maillard Reaction — named after the French scientist who studied it in 1912 — makes everything a little more awesome.

Testing the center: This is often the trickiest part of meatball recipes for beginner chefs. How do you check to see if the center is still pink without destroying your meatballs? Cliff Taylor gives a nice answer on Quora: use an instant read thermometer (this one is great!) His answer covers some other dos and don’ts in the fine art of meatball gastronomy.

Can You Make Cranberry Meatballs Ahead Of Time?

Yes, thank goodness! Flexibility is incredibly important in holiday cookery. Cranberry meatballs will keep in the fridge for three days.

How Do You Freeze Cranberry Meatballs?

If you are trying to get even further ahead with your holiday cooking, freezing your meatballs is a great option!

Much like Sweet and Sour Meatballs, this recipe is best portioned into freezer safe sealable bags after completely cooling. Press any air out of the bag, and seal it tight.

Remember to thaw in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the microwave! The counter method’s safety is dubious, and thawing in the microwave could damage the meat with uneven heating. When in doubt, check the United States Department of Agriculture’s page on freezing safety.

I prefer to freeze the meatballs alone, without the sauce, for texture reasons. The reason I do it this way is because the sauce can separate when freezing, and of course, we want a lovely presentation when we serve them!

Making the meatballs is the most time consuming part of this recipe anyway. The sauce comes together in minutes so making it the day I’m serving seems like no big deal!

More Meatball Recipes…