Crockpot BBQ Meatballs use just 3 ingredients and less than 5 minutes prep, yet are the ultimate party appetizer or ultra-easy dinner served over egg noodles or mashed potatoes. A few short hours in the slow cooker delivers tender, juicy meatballs coated in a sticky, sweet BBQ glaze.

Shallow ceramic bowl filled with sweet and sticky crockpot BBQ meatballs, garnished with chives and ready to serve.

The Perfect Appetizer – Or Easiest Dinner

This is one of those recipes that I used to think was too simple to be worth sharing, but time has taught me it’s the super simple ideas we need most!

With just 3 ingredients and literally less than 5 minutes of work, this is the kind of recipe you can pull out of your back pocket on the absolute busiest days to salvage a family dinner at home or magically create a crowd-pleasing appetizer for impromptu gatherings. In my book, there’s a lot to like about that!

Why I love these slow cooker BBQ meatballs, continued:

  • Deliciously sweet, sticky sauce. The sauce that coats the meatballs is irresistibly sweet, sticky, and tangy all at once. Of course, this will vary slightly depending on what BBQ sauce you use. That’s part of the fun.
  • Three ingredients, five minutes. I know I already mentioned these stats, but in my opinion their importance cannot be overstated. 🙂
  • Kid-friendly and versatile. When I’m planning out party food, these are the item most likely to satisfy picky eaters of any age. And I know that any extra will make terrific lunches for my kids the following days, whether at home or packed for school.

I am pretty sure that Crockpot grape jelly meatballs were a mandatory menu item for suburban American families throughout the 1980s. In my circles, they were primarily made with a mix of grape jelly and Heinz chili sauce. While that’s delicious, modern me is partial to this BBQ sauce version. It’s my go-to time and time again!

Related: Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Ingredient & Substitution Notes

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need. Find full amounts in the print-friendly recipe card below.

  • Grape jelly or jam. Don’t overthink this: Bonne Maman is great, but so is Smuckers or any store brand. I’ve also tried this with apricot jam and cranberry sauce, both great variations!
  • BBQ sauce. This one matters: use one with a flavor profile you like! Tangy, hot, smoky, sweet, whatever you choose will definitely shine through.
  • Frozen mini meatballs. No surprise, our favorites are the Italian “party meatballs” from Trader Joe’s. They are the most tender of any we’ve tried! Full-size meatballs also work perfectly well, but require longer to warm.

Can I make this with homemade meatballs?

Absolutely! Make a batch of your favorite homemade meatballs, in any size you like, place them in the Crockpot with the sauce ingredients, and proceed.

Whether the meatballs are browned in a skillet or baked, be sure they are fully cooked and pretty sturdy on the outside before placing in the Crockpot, both for food safety and to minimize any tendency for them to break apart.

Of course this will work with any type of meatball, from a classic ground beef version to lighter ground chicken or our favorite healthy-ish ground turkey meatballs — with vegetables snuck in.

Close up of a slow cooker BBQ meatball with a toothpick in it, ready to be picked up and eaten out of a ceramic bowl.

How To Make Crockpot BBQ Meatballs

  1. Combine all ingredients. Pour grape jelly and BBQ sauce into the bottom of your Crockpot. Add meatballs and stir until fully coated.
  2. Cook meatballs. Let that slow cooker do all the work.
  3. Enjoy! Garnish with chives or thinly-sliced green onions, if desired, and serve as you like.

How long do I cook frozen meatballs in the slow cooker?

Cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 3-4 hours. One or two stirs is OK to minimize sticking, but resist the urge to stir them very much, because slow cookers lose heat very rapidly any time the lid is cracked.

When ready to serve, the meatballs should be hot in the center and tender all the way through. The sauce will be just a bit sticky and so, so good.

Serving Suggestions

We enjoy these equally frequently as appetizer and as an emergency main dish. Crockpot BBQ meatballs please both ways!

How long can I keep meatballs in the slow cooker?

Fully cooked meatballs can stay on a slow cooker’s “keep warm” setting for up to 3 hours either before or during serving. They can also go on in the Instant Pot on the same setting!

If serving straight from the Crockpot or a warming plate, leave a small spoon nearby for guests to scoop out desired portions. This is the best approach if you expect guests to graze over the course of an hour or more, so the meatballs stay warm and tender.

If they go too long and the sauce dries out or thickens excessively, add a small splash of chicken broth or water and stir well to incorporate.

Countertop with a bowl full of Crockpot BBQ meatballs, small appetizer plates, and toothpicks for serving.

If, on the other hand, you are serving an already-gathered crowd and expect guests to dive bomb as soon as the buffet opens up, consider transferring the meatballs to a large bowl or serving platter and placing toothpicks nearby. Chives, either fresh or dried, make a pretty garnish if you’re into it!

We also love these meatballs as a super quick family dinner, though! Semi-homemade totally gets the job done on busy days. Stick these meatballs in the Crockpot, and when mealtime rolls around, serve over some mashed potatoes, rice, egg noodles, or other pasta. Steamed veggies, roasted carrots, or a simple salad on the side rounds it out.

Storage & Reheating

Pleased to report these reheat beautifully and make a terrific packed school lunch for kids, as well!

  • Storage: Leftovers keep well in the fridge for 4-5 days. Just store in your favorite airtight container and keep tightly sealed.
  • To Reheat: Reheat meatballs in the microwave, stirring in between 60 second intervals. Don’t worry if the sauce thickens slightly in the fridge; it will loosen back up as it warms.
  • Freezing: I haven’t tried freezing these meatballs after they are warmed, but it is theoretically safe to do so, as long as they do not spend more than 2 hours at room temperature before being stored again in the refrigerator or freezer, according to USDA food safety guidelines. The meatballs may be less tender, however, owing to the loss of moisture as they thaw.

Related Recipes

Craving more Crockpot favorites? Slow cooker butter chicken, white bean Parmesan and pearl couscous soup, slow cooker teriyaki chicken, and Crockpot shredded chicken tacos are top of our list!

More meatball recipes include Greek chicken meatballs, za’atar-spiced lamb meatballs, and tender chicken meatballs served with orzo and peppers.

If you’re more in the market for super simple appetizers, round out your spread with cucumber Boursin bites, apricot brie bites, or keep it casual with the ultimate tray of pinto bean nachos. Or whip up a quick dip: blender salsa or sun-dried tomato white bean dip always hit the spot!

If you try these Crockpot BBQ Meatballs, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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3 Ingredient Crockpot BBQ Meatballs

Just 3 ingredients and less than 5 minutes prep for the ultimate party appetizer or ultra-easy dinner served over egg noodles or mashed potatoes. A few short hours in the slow cooker delivers tender, juicy meatballs coated in a sticky, sweet BBQ glaze.


  • 1 cup grape jelly or jam
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 20 ounces frozen fully-cooked mini meatballs about 30


  • Combine jam and BBQ sauce in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add meatballs and stir well to combine and coat them well.
    1 cup grape jelly or jam, 1 cup BBQ sauce, 20 ounces frozen fully-cooked mini meatballs
  • Cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 3-4 hours. Once the meatballs are fully warmed through, turn the slow cooker to the “keep warm” setting until and while serving. Enjoy!


  • We enjoy these equally frequently as an always crowd-pleasing appetizer for groups and as a deliciously fun & casual family dinner. In the dinner department, my kids’ favorite combination is BBQ meatballs served over egg noodles with green beans on the side!

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 366 kcal, Carbohydrates: 44 g, Protein: 12 g, Fat: 15 g, Saturated Fat: 6 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 51 mg, Sodium: 422 mg, Potassium: 319 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 32 g, Vitamin A: 85 IU, Vitamin C: 4 mg, Calcium: 30 mg, Iron: 1 mg
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