Recipe Review

Slow Cooker Honey-Chipotle Meatballs Are a Party Win

published Feb 27, 2019
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(Image credit: Little Spice Jar)

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I always get excited whenever I see a slow cooker full of miniature meatballs at a party. Next to deviled eggs, they’re some of the most versatile party hors d’oeuvres you can serve. You can sauce them with any kind of flavors — sweet, salty, savory, spicy, or all of the above — and they’re small enough for people who just want a bite, but substantial enough for anyone who skipped dinner.

Slow cooker meatballs are even a pretty good dinner on their own. Just add some vegetables to a recipe like this one for honey-chipotle chicken meatballs, and you have an easy weeknight dinner that will bubble away in the slow cooker for hours, without your having to chop or dice even a single ingredient.

The author designed this recipe to be the simplest possible meatball recipe in the world, and it shows. Most meatball recipes call for minced garlic and onions, but this one uses garlic powder and onion powder instead, which means no knives and no chopping. Just combine eggs, breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan, ground chicken, and the garlic and onion powders in a bowl with salt and pepper and mix them with your hands or a spoon until they’re fully combined. Then just scoop them out and form them into little balls and put them on a baking sheet.

An old culinary school professor once told me, “If it looks the same, it cooks the same,” so the safest way to make sure your meatballs are uniformly cooked is to make sure they’re all the same size. The most reliable way to do that is to use a small scoop, like a tiny ice cream scoop or a one-tablespoon measuring scoop to measure them. But if you don’t have a scoop or if you trust yourself to just use your hands, it’s OK to eyeball them. Then bake them for about nine minutes.

Most grocery stores sell packages of pre-made frozen meatballs, and if you want this recipe to be even more simple, you can use those instead of making your meatballs from scratch. Just thaw them first, then put them in the slow cooker. And if you’re the type of person who likes to be prepared, you can make your own frozen meatballs. Just follow the meatball recipe in advance, then freeze them on a baking sheet and store them in a plastic bag until you need them later. Your future self will thank you.

The meatballs are very simple, but they’re the most time-consuming part of this recipe. Once those are cooked, just put them in the slow cooker with a jar of cherry preserves, a bottle of store-bought honey-chipotle barbecue sauce, and some red pepper flakes and a bit more garlic powder. Cherry-based meatball sauce might sound bonkers, but people will love it once they try it. (Everyone loves IKEA meatballs with lingonberry sauce, after all.) Let the meatballs simmer in the fruity, chipotle-flavored sauce on low for about two hours, and it’s ready to serve with just a package of toothpicks on the side.

If you’d rather make a meal of these meatballs, just mix a few cups of fresh broccoli florets into the pot with about 30 minutes to go, and the heat from the pot will steam them perfectly while you wait.

Get the recipe: Slow Cooker Honey Chipotle Meatballs from Little Spice Jar

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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