This Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe is so versatile! You can mix and match ingredients and make it with whatever you have on hand! This no-fail meatballs recipe will be one you make again and again!
This recipe gets requested by my kids more than anything else I make. Seriously. Every time I ask what I should make for dinner, someone says, “Sweet and Sour Meatballs!”
Luckily, we always have the ingredients on hand!
Ingredients for Sweet and Sour Meatballs
These meatballs are great because you basically need three types of ingredients that you can usually find in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer.
For the ground meat, you can use hamburger, ground turkey, ground pork, or ground chicken.
Don’t have any ground meat on hand? No worries! Quickly make your own! Just toss some chicken breasts, thighs, or pork chops into a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped to your liking.
We always have hamburger, but sometimes it is frozen. If you are planning to use frozen hamburger, I suggest you try to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator rather than defrosting it in the microwave.
(Sometimes the edges start to cook in the microwave, and it also starts to smell funky).
Many recipes for meatballs use eggs and/or bread crumbs. But I have a child who is allergic to eggs and wheat, so I just use oatmeal. It works perfectly!
For sauce, the sky’s the limit! Just go to your fridge and see what you’ve got! I like to use a combination of ketchup with teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, barbecue sauce, or any other type of Asian sauce.
Play around with the ingredients until you find a combination that you like best. But even if you don’t have everything on hand, you can always improvise!
- Brown sugar (or white sugar, or white sugar with a bit of molasses)
- Chopped onion, or dried onion (optional, especially if you have kids who don’t like onions)
- Worcestershire sauce (optional)
How to make Sweet and Sour Meatballs
First, you’ll make the meatballs. (Although you could also make the sauce first and set it aside until the meatballs are ready).
Before we start, I want to say that it’s easiest to make these if you have a food processor. But if you don’t, you can mix the ingredients for the meatballs together in a bowl with a fork or with your hands.
The first step is mixing 1 pound of ground meat with 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (or 2 tablespoons dried onion), 3/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 cup of rolled oats (or 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, or 1 egg).
One benefit of using a food processor is that you can get those onions chopped really small and mixed in thoroughly so that your kids don’t notice! 🙂
I will say, however, that it’s best to chop the onions as small as you can beforehand (smaller than you see in my picture here) because overworking the meat in the food processor can yield tough meatballs. You really want to handle/mess with the meat it as little possible. Just pulse the food processor with the meat until everything is mixed together, but no more.
Next, get a small cookie scoop and scoop out the meat mixture. Place the meatballs into a 9×13 baking dish. (This is an affiliate link to a special glass baking dish that you can put directly from the freezer into the oven!)
After I’ve scooped out all the meat, I gently roll each meatball between my hands to smooth them out. (This is totally optional). This recipe makes 30-40 small meatballs.
HOW TO FREEZE MEATBALLS
If you don’t want to bake all of them, you can easily freeze some for later. Simply place them on a small foil-lined cookie sheet and place in your freezer, uncovered, for several hours to flash freeze.
Once they’re frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag and put the bag back in the freezer.
You can easily bake them from frozen, too! When you’re ready to bake, put the desired amount into a baking dish, make the sauce, pour it over, and bake for ten extra minutes.
If you want to prep this to go straight from freezer to oven, you can get the OXO Freezer-to-Oven Safe baking dish I mentioned above. Just make everything and put it in the dish and freeze it all. Then take out of the freezer, uncover, and bake!
For the sauce, mix together 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of mustard, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 cup of ketchup with 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce (or any of the other Asian sauces I mentioned earlier).
Then add 1/2 cup of vinegar and stir. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bake them at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
Note: The sauce does not thicken up in the oven. If you want your sauce to be thicker, add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to it before pouring over your meatballs. When making the sauce with corn starch, mix the corn starch with the sugar before you add any of the wet ingredients for the sauce.
Feel free to garnish with sesame and seeds and green onions!
This recipe first appeared on Fun, Cheap or Free, where I am a contributor.
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 egg, slightly beaten (optional)
- 1/4 cup white or yellow onion, finely chopped (or 2 tablespoons dried onion), optional
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, optional
For the Sauce
- 1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
- 2 teaspoons corn starch (optional)
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (or other Asian sauce, like hoisin, barbecue, etc.)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the ground beef, oats, onions, egg (if using), salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce (if using) together. Use your hands, a fork, or food processor. Do not over-work the meat.
- Use a small cookie scoop to form meatballs. Place in a 9x13 pan. If desired, you can gently roll the meatballs between the palms of your hands to smooth them out.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the brown sugar and corn starch (if using). Then add the mustard, ketchup, teriyaki (or other) sauce, and Worcestershire sauce (if using).
- Once those sauce ingredients are smooth, add the 1/2 cup of white vinegar and slowly stir until everything is blended.
- Pour over the top of the meatballs and bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362 Total Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 98mg Sodium: 949mg Carbohydrates: 42g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 34g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 25g