Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (2024)

4 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

| 95 Comments |

4.67 from 115 votes

Jump to Recipe | Updated: | by Nora

Crockpot BBQ Meatballs are made with just a few simple ingredients, but they’re so good! The barbecue sauce turns into a thick, sticky glaze – perfect for a party appetizer.

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (1)

This recipe for Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs is one of my favorites for whenever I need a quick and easy appetizer. I use barbecue sauce to make a delicious glaze on my homemade meatballs, but feel free to use storebought meatballs if you prefer.

I fully appreciate how easy these are easy to make thanks to the slow cooker doing most of the work. I serve them on their own or as mini subs (or over mashed potatoes for dinner!) – they are going to be a big hit either way!

Ingredients you’ll need

Here is a visual overview of the ingredients in the recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities!

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (2)

Ingredient notes

  • Ground beef: I prefer lean ground beef here. If you use a fattier ground beef, please note that a lot of the grease may drain out into your glaze as the meatballs cook. For a leaner version, feel free to use ground turkey!
  • Barbecue sauce: I prefer a smooth barbecue sauce here (over one with large pieces of things like onion etc.). Pick one you like the flavor of – it’s a pretty big part of the dish ?
  • Worcestershire sauce: feel free to leave this one out if you don’t have it on hand. You can also use 1 tablespoon soy sauce as a replacement.
  • Meatballs: Feel free to use frozen meatballs (I recommend using 1 pound for saucier meatballs, 1.5 pounds for more of a glaze) instead of making your own. See my tips below for buying frozen meatballs for this recipe!

How to choose frozen meatballs:

  • Read the ingredients:I don’t know about you, but I want my meatballs to actually contain meat. Read the ingredients on the back of the bag and look for a brand that uses mainly ground meat, breadcrumbs, egg and seasoning. Too many additives and fillers aren’t necessary.
  • Buy a large bag:If you have the freezer space, it’s more economical to buy a large bag – even if you don’t need all of the meatballs right now. They will keep for some time in your freezer and might just save you on a busy day.
  • Make sure they’re fully cooked:You’ll want fully cooked meatballs for this recipe, or you’ll have to defrost and cook them first. Otherwise they could fall apart in the sauce and you’ll end up with BBQ spaghetti sauce.
  • Looking for a healthier option?You can also make this recipe with turkey meatballs, or choose a lower sodium brand.

How to make BBQ Meatballs in the slow cooker

First, you have to make the meatballs (if you’re using homemade; you’ll skip this if you’re using frozen ones).

Add all ingredients for the meatballs to a bowl and combine very well (1). I use a hand mixer with the hook attachments for this, easy and mess-free.

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (3)

Next, shape the meatball mixture into 1 teaspoon sized balls and cook them until browned (2).

Different ways to make the meatballs:

Cook the meatballs on the stoveor makeoven baked meatballs (or use ready-made ones.

P.S: If you need more help, I have step-by-step photos and a video for you onHow to Make Meatballs.

Once the meatballs are ready, combine the BBQ sauce with spices and Worcestershire in a small crockpot (3).

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (4)

Carefully stir in the meatballs – don’t smash them as you add them to the sauce! Then, slow cook the meatballs on low for 3-4 hours.

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (5)

Recipe tips

  • Defrosting:If you’re using fully cooked, frozen meatballs (either homemade or store-bought), it’s easier to use them frozen. THAT BEING SAID, do so at your own risk because using frozen foods in crockpots isn’t generally recommended. Since the frozen meatballs are fully cooked, I myself do it. I check the internal temperature of the meatballs before serving with a thermometer to make sure it has reached 160°F (see more about safe meat temperatureshere).
  • There’s no need to stir!You should actually never open your crockpot while it’s on (unless the recipe says so), because the heat in there decreases super fast. And stirring the meatballs too much will make them scraggly and will eventually break them up too much – not a nice result!
  • Use the appropriate crockpot size:If you want to make a larger batch, use a larger crockpot, too. You don’t want to stuff your crockpot to the brim with meatballs and sauce. They will have a harder time heating through and the sauce won’t get as nice and sticky.
Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (6)

Serving ideas

While these meatballs are a wonderful party appetizer by themselves, they are also great for dinner!

You can serve them with rice or mashed potatoes and add peas, a coleslaw, sautéed green beans or sautéed zucchini on the side.

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (7)

Or try any of the ideas I have listed in my post about BBQ meatball side dishes.

More easy holiday appetizers

  • Crockpot BBQ Little Smokies
  • Baked Honey Wings
  • Baked Spinach Artichoke Dip (in a Bread Bowl!)
  • Bacon Wrapped Dates with Pecans and Goat Cheese

PSIf you try this recipe, please leavea review in the comment section and add a star rating in the recipe card – I appreciate your feedback! Follow along onPinterest,FacebookorInstagram.

Printable recipe

Printable Recipe Card

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (12)

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Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs

Crockpot BBQ Meatballs are made with just a few simple ingredients, but they’re so good! The barbecue sauce turns into a thick, sticky glaze – perfect for a party appetizer.

Recipe by Nora from Savory Nothings

made it? tap the stars to add your rating!

4.67 from 115 votes

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Recipe details

Prep 15 minutes mins

Cook 4 hours hrs

Total 4 hours hrs 15 minutes mins

Servings 10 servings

Difficulty Easy

Ingredients

To make the meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • cup finely chopped onion OR shallot
  • cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ teaspoon dried parsley optional for more flavor
  • ¼ teaspoon dried garlic powder optional for more flavor
  • salt & pepper to taste

To make the sauce

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika smoked or regular both work
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt or less to taste

Instructions

  • Make meatballs: To make the meatballs, mix all ingredients in a large bowl (I use a hand mixer with the dough hook attachements for easy and mess-free work) and shape into small meatballs. I use 1 teaspoon meat mix per meatball for a good appetizer size; make sure to firmly shape the meatballs or they disintegrate in the sauce.

  • Cook meatballs: Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add some oil. Cook the meatballs until browned on the outside and entirely cooked through. OR bake the meatballs at 425°F for 10-12 minutes.

  • Slow cook with sauce: Once the meatballs are cooked, mix all sauce ingredients together in a 3-4 quart slow cooker. Add the meatballs and cook on low for 3-4 hours. The meatballs keep in the slow cooker for another 1-2 hours.

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Notes

Ingredient notes

  • Ground beef: I prefer lean ground beef here. If you use a fattier ground beef, please note that a lot of the grease may drain out into your glaze as the meatballs cook. For a leaner version, feel free to use ground turkey!
  • Barbecue sauce: I prefer a smooth barbecue sauce here (over one with large pieces of things like onion etc.). Pick one you like the flavor of – it’s a pretty big part of the dish ?
  • Worcestershire sauce: feel free to leave this one out if you don’t have it on hand. You can also use 1 tablespoon soy sauce as a replacement.
  • Meatballs: Feel free to use frozen meatballs instead of making your own. See my tips below for using frozen meatballs for this recipe!

To use frozen meatballs

You’ll want fully cooked meatballs for this recipe, or you’ll have to defrost and cook them first. Otherwise they could fall apart in the sauce and you’ll end up with BBQ spaghetti sauce.

If you’re using fully cooked, frozen meatballs (either homemade or store-bought), it’s easier to use them frozen. THAT BEING SAID, do so at your own risk because using frozen foods in crockpots isn’t generally recommended. Since the frozen meatballs are fully cooked, I myself do it. I check the internal temperature of the meatballs before serving with a thermometer to make sure it has reached 160°F (see more about safe meat temperatures here).

Cooking tips:

  • There’s no need to stir!You should actually never open your crockpot while it’s on (unless the recipe says so), because the heat in there decreases super fast. And stirring the meatballs too much will make them scraggly and will eventually break them up too much – not a nice result!
  • Use the appropriate crockpot size:If you want to make a larger batch, use a larger crockpot, too. You don’t want to stuff your crockpot to the brim with meatballs and sauce. They will have a harder time heating through and the sauce won’t get as nice and sticky.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 137kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 11gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 511mgPotassium: 276mgSugar: 10gVitamin A: 185IUVitamin C: 0.8mgCalcium: 26mgIron: 1.8mg

Nutrition is an estimate.

More recipe information

Course: Appetizer

Cuisine: American

I updated this old favorite here on the blog on 12/25/2019 (yes that is, in fact, Christmas – nap time is my best friend 😉 ) to make the instructions easier and to add a few notes for tweaks I started making since first posting this in 2014, but the recipe is essentially the same and just as delicious as it has always been.

More meatball recipes

  • Crockpot Swedish Meatballs
  • Easy Italian Meatballs
  • Cranberry BBQ Crockpot Meatballs
  • Pineapple BBQ Meatballs

Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (17)
About Nora
When I got married to my professional chef husband, I realized I had to step up my game in the kitchen. Now I share my favorite foolproof family recipes here on Savory Nothings: Chef-approved, kid-vetted and easy enough for everyday home cooks like you and me! Learn more.

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Comments

  1. A says

    Hello,
    I just found out that I am making an appetizer for a backyard wedding co*cktail hour for 150-175, surprise! I’m planning to use Costco’s frozen meatballs which I believe includes about 6 pounds of meatballs. Can I make this recipe for the event by using your ingredients x6? Also, I have a 6 quart crockpot and others at my disposal. What is your ideal crockpot size to meatball ratio so that I don’t over fill the crockpot? Thank you!

    Reply

    • Nora says

      That’s a lot to consider, and I definitely don’t want to ruin your wedding appetizer ? The meatball part in the recipe yields a little over a pound, so I think using the ingredients for the sauce x6 would work great.

      I do think you can do a 3x batch in a 6 quart crockpot. I do think you may probably need a longer cooking time than the recipe indicates with such a large batch, I would guess anywhere from 1-3 hours extra. I would VERY highly recommend doing a test batch before catering a wedding, even if you need to invite half of your neighborhood to a meatball feast…

      Reply

  2. Sam says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (20)
    Very easy to make and delicious. Added in cayenne pepper to meatballs as I like some heat.

    Reply

    • Nora says

      I’m so glad, Sam!

      Reply

  3. Gail says

    What size crock pot do you use? How many meatballs?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Gail, a 3-4 quart crock works best. If you mean frozen meatballs, I would use 1 to 1.5 pounds – depending on how much sauce you want around them. Hope this helps!

      Reply

  4. Jamie Lee says

    How lean is the beef you use? Have you ever used half pork and half ground beef for a different flavor?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      We usually get our beef directly from a local farm, so can’t put an exact number on it. I’d say around 85-90% lean. I have actually made crockpot meatballs with half pork/half beef before and they turned out great! Hope this helps!

      Reply

  5. Ellen Brambrut says

    Can you make these with the sauce and all, and just reheat the next day in crock pot for 1-2 hours?

    Reply

    • Nora Rusev says

      Ellen, if you completely cook the meatballs through and keep everything in the fridge until ready to reheat, then yes, I’m sure that would work!

      Reply

  6. Linda says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (21)
    I made these a few nights ago (Bowl Game Season!) and they were quick and awesome. I doubled the recipe and they went very quickly! Everyone commented on the ‘balls. I shared the recipe with two other Mom-Cooks in the group.
    Will definitely make these again! ❤️

    Reply

  7. Shawna says

    I used ground venison instead. I’m pretty proud of how they turned out since I’ve never made meatballs before, this recipe made it so easy.

    Reply

  8. Crystal says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (22)
    Love this recipe. I use frozen meatballs. The sauce is amazing. Others love the dish too. There are some that say the sauce is really rich for them. Anyway to fix that?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi Crystal, really happy to hear this! If you want to try make these a little less rich, you can thin out the glaze to make more of a sauce. I have a recipe here for Cranberry BBQ sauce that uses cranberry-apple juice to thin out the BBQ sauce: Cranberry BBQ Crockpot Meatballs – you can try lots of juice flavors, pineapple, apple juice, grape juice… Let me know if you end up trying!

  9. Loretta says

    Hi I have frozen 28 count ,1/2 bite size meatballs in my freezer can i use these ,and do i need to add any more of the ingredients
    Thanks

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi Loretta, that should be fine to use with the exact recipe for the sauce!

      Reply

      • Loretta says

        Thankyou :0)

        Reply

  10. Hazel says

    Hi can you tell me what size crock pot you use for these meatballs ?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      One that’s between 4-5 quart would be perfect, Hazel! Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions. – Nora x

      Reply

  11. Monique says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (23)
    I made these for a partyI attended tonight and I swear, they were gone after 5mins! I made them with a mixture of beef and pork and they turned out lovely!

    Reply

    • Nora says

      That is usually my experience with these, too 🙂 We make them for parties all the time and they barely ever last long enough for me to grab one. So glad they turned out well for you, too, Monique! Thanks for taking the time to leave a review, too – I appreciate it so very much.

      Reply

  12. Erin H. says

    How many pre cooked meat balls should I put in the slow cooker?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi Erin, I would ballpark anywhere between a pound and a pound and a half. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  13. Yasmine says

    Hi, is there any way to make these if I don’t have a slow cooker? I have large le cruiset pots as well as a large nonstick pot. Thanks

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi Yasmine, Sure! Prepare the meatballs as directed in the recipe. Then gently simmer the sauce separately in a pot without the lid. Once it has thickened (this should happen fairly quickly – 5 to 10 minutes, tops), add the meatballs and simmer for another 4-5 minutes or until they’re nicely glazed. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  14. Yumvilla says

    I made this and my family loved it. My boy said that “it’s so yummy to eat”!

    Reply

    • Nora says

      I’m very happy your family enjoyed the meatballs, Jennifer! Thanks for coming back to review the recipe – I appreciate it!

      Reply

  15. MEAl5 says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (24)
    Love this recipe ! want to try it now!

    Reply

  16. Casey Parker says

    Hi! These look delicious! My question is probably dumb but I see that one of the ingredients for the meatballs calls for mustard. Are you referring to dry ground mustard or actual mustard (like you would put on a sandwich)? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Nora says

      It is actual mustard! Hope the meatballs turn out well for you 🙂

      Reply

  17. Courtney says

    Can I use rice instead of bread crumbs?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      I really don’t know, Courtney! I have never used rice in meatballs before. The bread crumbs are really not incredibly important to make the recipe work (there’s the egg as the binder), but they do help the meatballs to stay in shape in the crock pot. If you want to avoid the gluten, you could do ground gluten free oats? Hope that helps!

      Reply

  18. Elaine says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (25)
    My mouth is watering just from looking at these. I can’t believe how happy I will be trying these when I make this delicious dish – thanks to your recipe. Thanks so much for publishing it Nora!

    Reply

  19. Brittany says

    Hi what kind of BBQ sauce do you use?

    Reply

    • Brittany says

      Never mind just saw the last comment

      Reply

      • Nora says

        Sorry I’m only just seeing your question, Brittany! Glad you found your answer in the comments! Did you like the meatballs?

        Reply

  20. Kelsey says

    Hi, jist curious what brand of bbq sauce you used? I don’t ever buy it so I get lost standing in front of all the choices!

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi Kelsey, I love Stubb’s Hickory Bourbon and basically use it one anything and everything that requires BBQ sauce, haha! Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply

  21. Stephanie says

    Sticky BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe - Savory Nothings (26)
    Hi Nora – I’m making these as we speak – can’t wait to dig in!! (I’ve sampled already and they are delicious.) Having these for dinner over rice tonight – spiced it up a bit by adding garlic and Frank’s Red Hot.

    Reply

    • Nora says

      I’m excited you made the meatballs, Stephanie! They’re definitely a reader favorite here on Savory Nothings. And I’m a huge fan of your recipe tweaks – garlic and hot sauce sound like two amazing additions! Hope they were delicious – and thank you so much for taking the time to rate the recipe and leave a comment, I very much appreciate it.

      Reply

  22. Nneka says

    Hi there! When using the ready made meatballs is adding salt to the sauce needed?

    Reply

    • Nora says

      Hi! No, I don’t think so! If you prefer to omit it, I would do so. You can always check the seasoning once they’re done cooking and adjust if you feel like it. Hope that helps 🙂

      Reply

  23. Ann says

    I made this and my family loved it. I made it with ground turkey instead. Next time I will make the meatballs smaller.

    Reply

    • Nora says

      I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed the meatballs, Ann! Great idea with the turkey. I actually have a cranberry turkey meatball recipe for the crockpot on the site, perfect for the upcoming holiday season 🙂 And I find it super hard to gauge meatball size! Somehow they always end up bigger than I intended, ha! Thank you so much for your feedback, I appreciate it!

      Reply

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