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Cranberry Meatballs are sticky, sweet and tangy. These delicious bites are the perfect holiday appetizer, or a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce. |

Cranberry Meatballs

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  • Author: Sam Hu | Ahead of Thyme
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 20 meatballs


Cranberry Meatballs are sticky, sweet and tangy. These delicious bites are the perfect holiday appetizer, or a great way to use up leftover cranberry sauce. 


For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups cranberry sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (or ketchup)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a large half sheet baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well until evenly combined. Set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Take 2 spoonfuls of the beef mixture at a time and use your hands to roll into meatballs (I recommend using disposable gloves for easy clean up). Transfer the meatballs to the lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes until fully cooked through and the internal temperature reaches 165F, as read on a meat thermometer. Set aside on a plate.
    • You can also cook the meatballs in the air fryer or deep fryer
    • In the air fryer: Cook meatballs in a single layer in the air fryer at 350F for 12-14 minutes. shaking the basket halfway through to promote even browning. You will have to cook in multiple batches, depending on the size of your air fryer.
    • In the deep fryer: Cook meatballs in a deep fryer or a deep cooking pot or skillet with high sides. Add cooking oil to fill up the pot with 1-2 inches of oil (enough to submerge the meatballs). Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 300F. Use a slotted spoon to add the meatballs in. Deep fry for 5-7 minutes until cooked.
  5. While the meatballs are baking, add cranberry sauce, tomato paste, honey, and salt in a large skillet. Stir to combine and heat over low heat until smooth and warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked meatballs to the skillet and toss well to coat. Serve immediately.


Use frozen meatballs: You can save even more time by making these with frozen pre-cooked meatballs. Then, all you really have to do is make the sauce and toss in the thawed frozen meatballs. Toss to coat and cook until warm.

How to store: Place leftover cranberry sauce meatballs in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to four days.

How to reheat: Reheat meatballs in a shallow saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a little water if the sauce thickened up too much in the refrigerator. You can also reheat in the microwave until warm.

How to freeze: Freeze leftover meatballs (once cooled to room temperature) in a freezer bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. I would recommend separating the meatballs into individual serving sizes or family servings and freeze in freezer bags. This way, you can easily defrost the exact portion that you want. When ready to eat, defrost the meatballs overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Beef
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American