Recipe: Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Recipe: Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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Kelli Foster
May 3, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Show up at your next potluck with a big pot of meatballs, swimming in a glossy sweet and tangy sauce, and everyone's going to be excited. That's just what meatballs have the power to do.

They're simmered and served from the slow cooker, which can be plopped down on the appetizer table next to the cheese and crackers, or served up as a main course.

Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs: Watch the Video

An Easy One-Pot Potluck Favorite

Making meatballs in the slow cooker means everything comes together in a single pot that can go straight from your kitchen to the potluck table. The sweet and sour sauce comes together with pantry ingredients and is whisked together right in the bowl of the slow cooker. It starts cooking while you mix and shape the meatballs to build a thicker consistency. Then once the meatballs are rolled, you add them to the sauce in the slow cooker.

The meatballs won't be fully submerged at first, and that's okay. Give them a gentle stir and spoon some sauce over top, and as they cook they'll sink down and eventually be surrounded by the sauce.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Makes 45 meatballs; serves 6 to 10

  • For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup

    cornstarch

  • 3 tablespoons

    water

  • 1 cup

    unsweetened pineapple juice

  • 1/2 cup

    rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons

    soy sauce or tamari

  • 1/4 cup

    ketchup

  • 1/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 large

    yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 large

    red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • For the meatballs:
  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/2 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 pounds

    lean ground beef

  • 1/2 large

    yellow onion, finely diced

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 2

    medium scallions (green parts only), thinly sliced

Make the sauce:

Place the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and whisk until completely dissolved. Transfer to a 5-quart or large slow cooker. Add the pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and brown sugar and stir to combine. Add the onion and bell pepper and stir to combine. Cover and turn on to the LOW setting while you make the meatballs.

Make the meatballs:

Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, milk, salt, ginger, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the ground beef, onion, and garlic. Use your fingers to work the mixture together just until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Do not overwork.

Scoop out about a tablespoon of the meatball mixture and roll into balls in palm of your hands. Place in the slow cooker. Repeat until all the meatballs have been shaped. The meatballs will not be completely submerged with the sauce. Gently stir and scoop a little sauce over the top so that they're coated.

Cover the slow cooker and cook until the meatballs are no longer pink at the center, 3 to 4 hours on the LOW setting. Gently stir, top with the scallions, and serve warm.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The meatballs can be mixed and shaped up to 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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