Cranberry Meatballs


This cranberry meatballs recipe is perfect for the holidays! Delicious served as part of a main dish, or as an appetizer. 

cranberry meatballs served over polenta

This is such a great recipe to change things up a bit. Combine the familiar – meatballs – with something a bit unique – cranberries on meatballs. This recipe is unique in that it’s entirely homemade. Instead of using canned cranberry jelly, we use homemade cranberry barbecue sauce. No ketchup, no chili sauce, no jellied cranberry sauce. All homemade.

I love to cook, but some days it’s hard to come up with ideas for dinner. I’m a big fan of serving the tried and true on repeat, sometimes, it’s nice to change it up a little – especially for seasonally appropriate dishes like this.

It’s both savory, and a little sweet. Such a great protein rich dish!

Delicious served over polenta (as shown in the photos), or rice, or even mashed potatoes. These are excellent as party appetizers as well, simply served on a toothpick.

I love to make these between thanksgiving and Christmastime when Cranberries are on sale everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, these are still good all year long, but you’ll need to visit your grocery store’s frozen section to find cranberries.

Ingredients Used for Cranberry meatballs

These meatballs are made with pretty simple ingredients – the first one being meat. With the fruity nature of these meatballs, I prefer to use ground pork or turkey and leave ground beef for more traditional meatballs recipes like these gluten-free meatballs.

ingredients for making cranberry meatballs

Here’s the ingredients list:

  • Ground pork or turkey
  • Evaporated milk
  • Egg
  • Breadcrumbs (I use gluten free bread crumbs)
  • Parsley
  • Oil
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Cranberries
  • Brown sugar
  • Maple syrup
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dijon mustard

Ingredient Substitutions

This is a pretty straight forward recipe. Most of the substations you might make would affect the flavor, and the moisture level but not make or bread your recipe per se.

  • You could swap brown sugar for white, or coconut sugar
  • Use agave instead of maple syrup
  • Onions instead of shallots

And things like that. But again, keep in mind, the flavor will change with every substation.

How to make the meatballs

The first step to making cranberry meatballs is making the meatballs themselves. If you’re in the mood for quick and easy, feel free to use frozen meatballs and skip on to making the sauce.

For the rest of us, This is fairly simple. You can see in the photos that I’m making turkey meatballs. 

ingredients for making meatballs in a bowl

Thoroughly combine your ground pork or turkey, evaporated milk, eggs, breadcrumbs, parsley, and salt and pepper. You can do this using a sturdy spoon, your hands, or a stand mixer.

turkey mixture in a bowl

Roll mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 22-25 minutes, to cook through, and remove them from the oven and set aside when they’re done.

baked meatballs on a tray

How to make the Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

While the meatballs are baking, work on making the sauce. This is where the cranberry action happens.

Dice the shallots, and sauté in oil in a large skillet until soft.

shallots sauteed in a pan with oil

Add the garlic, and sauté, stirring, or another 30 seconds.

Stir in remaining sauce ingredients, and stir to combine, then finally, add the cranberries and simmer until they’re soft and begin to burst.

cranberries in skillet with sauce ingredients

Transfer (carefully! since they’re hot) to a blender, or use a stick blender to blend the sauce smooth, then pour them back into the pan.

Simmer sauce until nice and thick.

cranberry barbecue sauce in a skillet

Add the cooked meatballs and stir to coat.

That’s it! Serve the meatballs over rice, polenta, mashed potatoes, or grits, and garnish with green onions or fresh parsley.

skillet full of cranberry meatballs

So good during the winter months to serve at family gatherings, or especially as a party appetizer. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I make these meatballs on the stove top?

Yes. Instead of putting them in the oven, you can put them in a well oiled skillet and cook them over medium heat, turning them over 2-3 times while cooking, until they are done through.

Can I make these in the slow cooker?

For me, I would cook them first, then add them to the slow cooker to stay hot.

How to Store leftover cranberry meatballs

cranberry meatballs served over pollenta

To store leftovers, or make meatballs ahead of time to serve later, mix them with the sauce and let them cool. Transfer the combination to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.

To reheat:

  • In the oven: Place in an oven-safe dish, and cover. Place in 350º oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through.
  • On the stove top: Place in a skillet with a bit of water. cover, and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • In the microwave: Place in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat, stirring at thirty second intervals until heated through.
  • In the crockpot: Transfer meatballs to crockpot and heat on high heat for about an hour.

Can meatballs be frozen?

You can freeze leftovers in the sauce in a freezer container, or ziplock bag. For the best flavor and texture though, I would recommend freezing only the meatballs, and making the sauce later.

Other recipes you’ll enjoy


Cranberry Meatballs

fruity, tangy homemade cranberry sauce over homemade turkey meatballs.

  • Author: Elise New





  • 1 ½ pounds ground turkey (pork is also good!)
  • ⅓ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup bread crumbs


  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • ¼ cup shallots
  • 2 loves garlic, minced
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ pounds cranberries




  1. Preheat oven to 375º
  2. Combine meatball ingredients until thoroughly mixed

  3. Roll into 1 inch balls (you can use a cookie scoop for this)

  4. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes until cooked through

  5. Remove from oven

  6. While meatballs are baking, make cranberry sauce

  7. Dice shallots, and sauté in oil until soft

  8. Add garlic and stir

  9. Stir in brown sugar, parsley, maple syrup, water, apple cider vinegar, and mustard

  10. Add cranberries and simmer until cranberries are soft, and begin to burst

  11. Use a stick blender to blend sauce until smooth, or transfer carefully to a blender and process, and pour back into pan

  12. Cook until thick

  13. Add cooked meatballs, and stir to coat

  14. Serve over rice, polenta, mashed potatoes, or grits

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  1. I followed this cranberry meatballs recipe for our holiday gathering, and it was a huge hit. The combination of savory meatballs and the sweet-tart cranberry sauce was absolutely delicious.

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