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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gram’s Super Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I wish you all could have known Gram Maynard. She was one of those truly good people that you only come across a few times in your life and I am grateful every day that I had the chance to know her. Gram didn’t cook very much, but, despite that fact, some of my favorite recipes and kitchen tips came from her. Today I’m going to share one of those recipes because we had it on New Year’s Eve and, along with inspiring fond memories, it is simple and delicious and needs to be shared!

gram's super easy sweet & sour meatballs from @janemaynard

This is one of those recipes that almost isn’t a recipe because it is THAT EASY. These meatballs are perfect for parties and for watching football games. Or, in Gram’s case, Red Sox games!

gram's super easy sweet & sour meatballs from @janemaynard

Gram's Super Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs
From Barbara “Gram” Maynard
Recipe type: Main Dish, Beef
  • 1 package frozen cooked meatballs (between 20-30 ounces)
  • 1 12-ounce jar Heinz chili sauce
  • 12 ounces grape jelly (yeah, I know, it maybe sounds weird, but it tastes amazing!)
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. In a large sauce pan, mix together the chili sauce and grape jelly. Place over medium-high heat and add meatballs. Bring to an almost boil (will be spluttering, so you will need to stir regularly), then reduce heat to a simmer (medium or medium-low) and cook until meatballs are hot.
  2. Gram never did this, but if you’d like a bit more heat to the meatballs, sprinkle a bit of cayenne pepper in at the end to taste.
  3. See Comment #3 below for crockpot directions!


gram's super easy sweet & sour meatballs from @janemaynard


  1. 1

    my mom is known for this exact same recipe back home. people go crazy for them! she always does them in the crockpot.

    • Jane Maynard

      how does she do them in the crockpot? would love the details – I was worried they might get mushy!

    • i had a co-worker who made these every time we had a work party. and he always brought them in a crockpot and let them cook all day…we were salivating by the time it was time to party.

    • christina

      You put frozen meatballs in the crockpot & let them thaw & absorb the sauce.

  2. 2

    is this the same gram that makes grammy’s orange chicken…because if it is, then i’m totally in!

    • Jane Maynard

      it’s actually nate’s OTHER grammy who is of the orange chicken. they both have given me gems of recipes that I use all the time!

  3. 3

    for the crockpot…. heat the jelly and chili sauce together in a saucepan or microwave and then dump over the meatballs in the crockpot. cook on low 3-4 hours. my mom would bring these to work parties/potlucks all the time that way. super easy and fuss free.

    ohhh. and they totally don’t get mushy.

  4. I love meatballs, but this seems better than any meatball that I have ever eaten. The photography of this recipe is awesome. Thanks for such a great recipe!

  5. 5

    my mom makes the same thing except she uses cranberry sauce instead of grape jelly. I will have to try the grape jelly version 🙂

  6. I love this recipe. I’ve been serving it since, oh, the 1980’s, and it always goes first at parties.

  7. 7
    Kim from PA

    I made similar meatballs 3 X over the holidays for parties and each time they were a hit! The only difference is I made my meatballs with ground chicken breast and my recipe called for 8 oz of jellied cranberry sauce instead of grape jelly as well as 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and a squirt of lemon juice.

    I baked the meatballs for 20 min on a sheet pan (turned them over once during baking). I combined all the sauce ingredients in the crock pot, added the baked meatballs, gave it a stir and cooked on low for 5 hours.

    I recommend making them a day ahead….they get more flavorful when they sit in the sauce overnight.

  8. 8

    I have this exact recipe sitting in my stack of recipes!! However – I’ve never made them because I am never sure which frozen meatballs to buy. Any suggestions?????? There’s a lot of different brands/types of frozen meatballs apparently…

    • Jane Maynard

      for this batch nate picked up a random bag from Vons, it had an Italian name – they were great but I can’t remember what they were called. so helpful! I really like the party meatballs at Trader Joe’s, too!

    • carolina

      Thanks! I will try the TJ’s ones since I trust them to be good. Otherwise, it sounds like I just need to take the plunge and try them until I find meatballs I like. Or maybe I should just make my own meatballs. Hmmm….

  9. 9
    Kristine Notarangelo

    I used to make these in the 70’s …. When i was a young bride entertaining. Have not made these for years, but feel the need to do them again!

  10. Totally trying these. Like immediately.

  11. I’ve seen the meatball recipe before but never with that touch of cayenne. That would turn it into an appetizer that I’d love.

  12. 12
    Alice E

    Very similar to a recipe I have used for ages, but I use ketchup instead of chili sauce. It makes a good choice for kids or folks who don’t like it spicy. I tried it once with apple jelly, not a good idea, it needs the stronger flavor of the grape! I’ve used the crockpot for it successfully. I warmed the meatballs in the microwave before adding to crockpot, or put them in the refrigerator the night before so they would be thawed.

  13. 13

    gram, via betty crocker!
    been making these for years!!! they are always gobbled up….but i give betty crocker the credit…cause that’s where it’s from!

    • that very well could be true – and for all we know betty got it from someone else, too! 😉 I’m finding this is a pretty ubiquitous recipe, with good reason. I should go see if it’s in my betty crocker cookbook, now that I think about it! 😉

  14. 14

    This sound easy enough and seems to getting rave reviews Can you tell Me what you serve this with?

    Thanks So Much

  15. 15

    How many meatballs does this yield?

    • it depends on how many meatballs come in the package you purchase and how large the actual balls are (relative to the weight). I believe that my package had about 50 meatballs in the bag. hope that helps!

  16. 16

    I make them with chili sauce and hot pepper jelly! I make my meatballs, adding an egg and bread crumbs! I have been making them for many years!! My son and husband love them!! I serve it with rice or risotto and either asparagus, or a salad!

  17. Just posting a comment from our cousin Amanda Leonard, who posted this on Facebook, but it’s great info on how Gram made the meatballs in the crockpot!

    “I saw your comment about making them in the crock pot, so I wanted to add that when I make these, I do them in Gram’s actual crock pot (which is still holding up!). From what I know and how I make these, Gram would use some cheap ground beef (usually with a lot of fat in them) for the meatballs and start them the day before serving them. She’d cook them through in the crock pot, then refrigerate overnight. In the morning, she’d scoop off the fat and put them on low until ready to serve. They are a little crumbly but well infused with the flavor of the sauce.”

  18. 18

    We used to make this recipe with little smokies instead of meatballs and you’re right my first thought of the grape jelly was oh how weird . We are having the meatballs this year according to your recipe. Thank you for reminding me of this delicious treat !

    • thank you for commenting! and smokies sounds like a delicious modification, I may just do that next time! 🙂 oh, and you’re welcome for the recipe reminder! 😉

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