An easy recipe for delicious, sticky, sweet-and-sour meatballs, smothered in a tasty sauce. Quickly bake them in the oven, then coat them in the sauce.
Meatballs are wonderful. The kids love them, so naturally, I make them often. But grownups enjoy them too - they are simply fun to eat!
I have quite a few meatball recipes on this blog. My favorites include pork meatballs, keto meatballs, turkey meatballs, and chicken meatballs. But these sweet and sour meatballs are especially good. The sauce they're cooked in is wonderfully flavorful.
The ingredients you'll need
Here's an overview of what you'll need to make this recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below:
For the Meatballs:
Lean ground beef: I like to use an 85/15 blend. I find that 93/7 is too lean.
Kosher salt and black pepper. If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use. A teaspoon of kosher salt weighs less than a teaspoon of regular salt.
Spices: Onion powder and garlic powder. Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish.
For the sauce:
Unsweetened ketchup: I buy it at Whole Foods and you can also find it on Amazon.
Rice vinegar: Or use white wine vinegar if that's all you have on hand.
Honey: Just 2 teaspoons, or you could use a sugar-free substitute.
Light soy sauce: Or use a gluten-free alternative and add salt as needed.
How to make sweet and sour meatballs
The original recipe is my mother in law's and calls for browning the meatballs in a skillet, then cooking them in broth, and finally glazing them with the sauce.
My mother in law's meatballs are amazing, but I am far too lazy for a three-step recipe! So I decided to streamline, skip the browning and cooking and simply bake the meatballs, then coat them in the sauce.
The result is wonderful! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps for making this recipe:
Mix the beef and spices. Place the meatballs ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix everything together.
Form the meatballs. Now divide the mixture into 20 portions and form into meatballs.
Bake them. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on a greased baking dish and bake them for 10 minutes at 400°F.
Prepare the sauce. Simply mix the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat them over medium-low heat.
Finish the dish. Add the meatballs to the sauce and turn to coat. Keep cooking until heated through and thickened, about 5 more minutes. You can mix in a cornstarch slurry at this point (cornstarch mixed with cold water) to help thicken the sauce.
How to serve sweet and sour meatballs
You can serve them with toothpicks as an appetizer. But I usually serve them as a main dish for dinner. They're great on a bed of cauliflower rice. I also like to add an Asian-style vegetable such as sauteed bok choy or Asian Brussels sprouts.
Variations and substitutions
This recipe is wonderful as is and I almost always make it as written. Still, here are a few ideas for you for varying the basic recipe:
- Use ground pork instead of ground beef. You can also use a mix - half pork and half beef.
- Use fresh minced garlic instead of garlic powder.
- Add chopped cilantro to the beef mixture.
- You can add sriracha to the sauce for an added kick.
What about leftovers?
Leftovers of these sweet and sour meatballs should keep well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power.
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Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil for pan
- 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15)
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup unsweetened ketchup
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey (or a sugar-free substitute)
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or use a gluten-free alternative and add salt as needed)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch Optional, to thicken the sauce
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Brush a rimmed baking dish with oil.
- Mix the meatballs ingredients in a large bowl. Form 20 meatballs, and place them in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, whisk together the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat.
- Add the meatballs to the saucepan and turn to coat them in the sauce. Keep cooking, turning frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. You can promote thickening by mixing 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water and stirring the slurry into the sauce.