Sweet and Smoky, this BBQ Meatballs recipe is a dream come true. It makes a large batch, perfect to feed that party crowd. Baked in the oven and slathered with the best bbq meatball sauce you’ll find. BBQ Meatballs are Pot-luck perfect.
This recipe was first published in October of 2014 and updated December, 2020 with new photos.
I’m very excited to share this BBQ Meatballs Recipe with you, as I suppose I’ve had it all my life. I remember my mom making this very early in my youth.
It’s truly our favorite meatball recipe of all times and the best bbq meatball sauce you’ll find. It’s a crowd pleaser.
It feeds a crowd and is baked in the oven on baking sheets with BBQ sauce poured over to caramelize into a sticky flavorful glaze.
The best part about this BBQ Meatballs recipe is the sauce. It’s easy and it’s incredible with flavor. Simply The best bbq meatballs sauce you’ll ever taste. So good, I wonder why I ever grab a bottle of at the store.
You’ll love the flavor combination of ketchup, brown sugar and liquid smoke. It’s my kind of BBQ flavor. A Kansas City style bbq sauce, if you will. And it’s easy.
Last Saturday night our cul-de-sac held a pre-Winter-hibernation block party. I brought these bbq meatballs and the crockpot was empty on that return trip home. One neighbor commented that he had eaten about 20 of them.
Don’t you love hearing comments like that about your food? I most certainly do.
Let’s take a look:
Table of contents
Ingredients to make BBQ Meatball Sauce
Just 5 ingredients to an incredible smoky, sweet, sticky BBQ sauce.
- Ketchup: And lots of it. Use 4 cups of your favorite brand.
- Onions: Sweet or yellow onions, chopped
- Liquid Smoke: Some barbecue snobs may turn up their noses at Liquid Smoke, but it’s a natural product made by condensing smoke from burning wood. It gives this bbq sauce just the smoky punch it needs.
- Brown Sugar and Garlic: Brown sugar for that sweet sticky component and garlic makes everything better.
Ingredients to Make Baked Meatballs in BBQ Sauce
- Ground Beef: Choose an 80-20% lean ground beef for the ideal meat to fat ratio for both flavor and that “juicy” factor.
- Onions and garlic: Diced sweet onions and diced garlic.
- Evaporated milk: Is condensed milk where the water has been evaporated by 60%. I like using evaporated milk for meatballs, it just makes everything creamier.
- Eggs and Saltine Crackers: The binder that brings these beautiful meatballs to their perfectly round meatball glory.
- Seasonings: Chili Powder, salt and pepper. Choose a good quality chili powder for a guaranteed good flavor.
Evaporated Milk: You can use cream, half and half or whole milk. I don’t like using 2% or skim milk. You need that fat for flavor and binding.
How to make BBQ Meatballs Sauce. It’s easy.
How To Make Meatballs In The Oven:
- Step 1 Make The BBQ Meatball Sauce: In a sauce pan, mix catsup, onion, garlic, liquid smoke, brown sugar and over medium heat, bring to a boil. Done. Turn off the burner, leave the pan on the hot burner to keep the sauce warm while you make those meatballs.
- Step 2 Mix the Ingredients for the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grab your favorite large bowl and add all the ingredients for the meatballs. Important: use your hands to mix the ingredients together. A spoon or other large utensil will simply smash the ingredients together and will cause the meatballs to become too dense and mushy in texture.
- Step 3 Roll the meatballs: Again, use your hands. Grab a chunk of the mixed meat mixture and using the palms of your hands roll into 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. About 15 gentle rolls will form a good solid meatball. As you roll the meatballs, place them on a sheet pan lined with foil or sprayed with non-stick spray.
Step 4, Cover the meatballs with bbq sauce and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes (depending on what size you made them). And be generous with that sauce.
Remove the bbq meatballs to your favorite serving platter and dig in.
A food processor works best. Just use the pulse feature until the crackers are fairly fine and even in size. If you don’t have a food processor, place crackers in a gallon sized zip-lock bag and remove air. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers.
Not really, but here’s what I’ve done. Make Ahead: Bake the meatballs first. When you’re ready to serve them, scoop them into a slow cooker. Pour the prepared sauce over the meatballs. Cook them on low for a couple of hours. This works great for making this recipe in advance and if you’re transporting them to a pot-luck.
I know what you’re thinking, a leaner blend of hamburger sounds like a healthier option. However, the 80-20 blend has just the right amount of fat to make the meatballs tender and juicy.
Tips for Success
- Practice your knife skills and chop those onions as small as you can. If the chunks are too large, it may cause the meatballs to separate or worse, fall apart.
Pro Tip Knife Skills: Always keep the hand that’s gripping the knife clean and dry. A wet hand could cause slips resulting in nicks or worse a nasty slice on your hand.
- These bbq meatballs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. The best way to re-heat them is to use the microwave. Using your 50% power setting, heat them in 30 second increments until nice and steamy. This recipe also freezes well. It works best if you separate the meatballs before freezing. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
What To Serve With BBQ Meatballs
So many wonderful comfort food options. Here are some of our favorites.
- Traditional Southern Cole Slaw
- Classic Old Fashioned Potato Salad
- Or for a lighter option, serve them with a nice big tossed salad.
Recipe for Oven BBQ Meatballs
I hope you give this BBQ Meatballs Recipe a try. They’re simply perfect for entertaining and pot-lucks. This simply is a very popular recipe.
If You’re A Meatball Fan, Check These Out
- Homemade Baked Italian Meatballs
- Honey Sriracha Party Meatballs
- Buffalo Chicken Ground Chicken Meatballs
- Mexican Meatballs with Queso
- Authentic Swedish Meatballs Recipe
And if you ‘re looking for more appetizer recipes, don’t miss my Appetizer Category. You’ll find lots of fun finger food ideas, including the most popular on my site for Shrimp Campechana, an authentic Mexican appetizer chock full of tomatoes, jalapeno, cucumber and more.
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BBQ Meatballs Recipe
- 3 pounds ground beef 80-20 blend
- 13 ounces evaporated milk *note below
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten with a fork
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups saltine crackers crushed. The crackers should measure 2 cups after crushed. About 1 1/2 sleeves of saltines.
- 1 whole onion diced
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 3 teaspoons chili powder
- For the Sauce:
- 4 cups ketchup
- 1 large sweet onion diced
- 2 clove garlic diced
- 4 tablespoons Liquid smoke
- 3 cups brown sugar firmly packed
- BBQ Sauce Directions:
- In a sauce pan, mix ketchup, onion, garlic, liquid smoke, brown sugar and using medium heat, bring to a boil. Turn the burner off but leave the pan on the burner to keep warm while you make the meatballs.
- To Make The Meatballs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix first 9 ingredients together in a large pan. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredient until well blended.
- Again, using your hands, form into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
- Place the meatballs on two 9 x 13 baking dishes, sprayed with no-stick spray or covered in aluminum foil.
- Cover liberally with sauce and bake for 30 – 45 minutes or until meatballs are done. (time depends on meatball size)
- This makes around 90 meatballs.
BBQ Meatballs …They’re What’s for a Pot Luck.
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.