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Cranberry BBQ Meatballs

Photo: Tara Donne; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Hands-on time 45 mins
Total time 1 hr

Makes 8 servings

Cranberry jelly is the secret to these sweet and savory BBQ meatballs. 


  • 1 cup bottled chili sauce (such as Heinz)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sauce from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans cranberry jelly
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

How to Make It

  1. Whisk together first 7 ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepot over medium heat. Cook, whisking frequently, 12 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

  2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; let cool 10 minutes. Add remaining 1 teaspoon salt, beef, and next 4 ingredients. Mix thoroughly--by hand works best--and shape into 48 (3/4-ounce) balls.

  3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Cook 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining meatballs.

  4. Heat sauce in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Adjust heat to maintain a very low simmer. Add meatballs (you may have to do this in 2 batches depending on the size of your pot), and simmer 7 minutes.