Sweet and Smoky, this oven meatballs in bbq sauce 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. These bbq meatballs are Pot-luck perfect recipe.
This recipe was first published in October of 2014 and updated December, 2020 with new photos.
I’m very excited to share this meatballs in bbq sauce 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 my favorite meatball recipe of all time and the best bbq sauce for meatballs recipe 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 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.
I love the flavor combination of ketchup, brown sugar and liquid smoke. It’s my kind of BBQ flavor, 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:
Ingredients to make Smoky Sweet BBQ 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 BBQ Oven Meatballs
- 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.
How to make these oven meatballs. 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, Bake the Barbecued Meatballs: 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.
BBQ Meatball Recipe Tips & FAQ’s
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.
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.
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.
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.
These 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.
Recipe for Oven Meatballs In BBQ Sauce
I hope you give these meatballs in BBQ sauce a try. They’re simply perfect for entertaining and pot-lucks. This simply is a great recipe for bbq sauce for meatballs.
And if you have a favorite oven meatballs recipe, let me know, I’m always looking for new recipes.
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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Meatballs in BBQ Sauce
- 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.
Meatballs in BBQ Sauce …They’re What’s for a Pot Luck.
Katherine Dietz says
Is the sweet onion in the recipe a Vidalia onion?
Also what brand name of chili powder do you use?
Thanks for another great recipe!
Lea Ann Brown says
I’m not sure if the sweet onion is technically a Vidalia. The onions labeled as sweet onions right now are squatty in appearance like a vidalia and are labeled as sweet.
The brand of chili powder I buy “Original Mexene Chili Powder Seasoning” I find it at King Soopers.
Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy New Year.
Katherine A Dietz says
Hi just a few questions: 80/20 in ground beef or can I use ground chuck from the deli? Light or dark brown sugar? Hickory or Mesquite liquid smoke? Thanks,
Lea Ann Brown says
Good questions. I didn’t realize they made more than one flavor of liquid smoke, good to know.
I have Hickory in my fridge, but I’m sure both would work well.
I’ve made these meatballs so many times over the years and am sure I’ve used about every mix of beef available. I always buy whats on sale. With that said, yes, the chuck would work well. There’s so many added ingredients, I don’t think the grade matters much.
Either dark or light brown sugar will work. I usually have light brown sugar on hand.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Kristin Lowman says
Do you have any tips for making my meatballs in advance and refrigerating overnight? Or is there any reason not to do this? I have several dishes to cook for a party and would like to do a few things the night before. Thank you!
Lea Ann Brown says
Thanks so much for your note. Good questions and I need to add the instructions for advance presentation to this post.
I’ve done this many times and for the same reasons as you. I need to make a few things in advance for entertaining.
You can prepare and form the meatballs in advance and store them in the refrigerator on a baking sheet. Also prepare the sauce in advance and store separately in the fridge.
Proceed with the recipe once you’re ready to bake and serve. I hope that answers your question.
And let me know if you have any other questions.
3 cups of brown sugar … that is a lot. I notice one person said she likes them better than dessert so they must be very sweet Can the brown sugar be cut back to 1 cup and would the sauce still be good as an appetizer. I do not like that much sugar in anything except desserts Just asking. My hubby is diabetic
Lea Ann Brown says
This meatball sauce recipe makes a large amount. I think you’d be fine cutting back the brown sugar. However, you may have to add more catsup to make enough to cover the meatballs.
Let me know how it turns out please. Thanks for your note.
Karen (Back Road Journal) says
The old recipes like yours are worth bringing back. I haven’t had these in years and I always loved them.
The recipes for the meatballs and the sauce both look simple and delicious.
Dennis Yannakos says
The food looks scrumptious!
Best Kitchen Utensils
Those do sound superb, Lea Ann. I never get tired of these and when everyone else at the party is turning to desserts, I find myself fishing the last of the meatballs out of the sauce as my dessert.
Lea Ann Brown says
I’d be right there with you.
BBQ is always great….I have never tried BBQ meatballs, am going to do it soon. Sounds as though you have a lovely group of neighbors!
Lea Ann Brown says