overhead image of a bowl of grape jelly meatballs and small serving plates with a meatballs and toothpicks
This recipe has been sponsored by Johnsonville®. As always, all opinions, ideas and recipes are my own.

If there’s one thing I know about food in Wisconsin, traditions are hard to break. We love our beer brats and we’ll never say no to cherry pie or a brandy old fashioned. And, these simple, grape jelly meatballs are no different.

They are ubiquitous at any Green Bay gathering. They can be found at football tailgates, graduation parties, even weddings throughout Wisconsin. They’re a total crowd pleaser, and they’re so easy to make – even from scratch.

To celebrate Brastgiving this year, I’ve given this cocktail meatball recipe a bit of a flavor boost with Johnsonville brats.

What’s Bratsgiving you ask? It’s a day devoted to Bratwurst where everyone can celebrate quality sausage and memorable times with family and friends. I can’t think of a better place than Green Bay to celebrate a holiday like that.

Don’t forget to check out Johnsonville’s website for more Bratsgiving recipes from around the Midwest, and vote for your favorite!

closeup of cocktail meatballs on a small plate with toothpicks in them

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Here’s what you’ll need to make them



a package of Johnsonville brats

How to make meatballs with grape jelly and bbq sauce

Prep. Preheat your oven to 400˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Mix the meatballs. Start by removing the casings from your bratwurst using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.

Add the brat meat and remaining meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix until combined. Be careful not to overmix.

Scoop the meatballs. Using a small cookie scoop or tablespoon, portion the meat mixture and roll into 1-inch balls.

Bake the meatballs. Place them onto your baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 12 – 15 minutes. If you’re transferring straight to the slow cooker, you can probably go for about 10 (see section below for more details).

Remove the cooked meatballs from the oven and either, transfer to the slow cooker, or toss with cooked sauce.

close up of slow cooker bbq meatballs with grape jelly sauce with a wooden spoon

Make the meatball sauce. Combine the grape jelly and bbq sauce in a mixing bowl. Whisk together.

If you’re serving immediately, heat the sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat until the jelly dissolves and the sauce is smooth.

If you’re adding it to the crockpot, just do that. The sauce will cook the the slow cooker.

overhead of bbq crockpot meatballs in a slow cooker insert

How to make slow cooker bbq meatballs

If you want to make these in the slow cooker, that’s awesome. It’s a great way to get them prepped in advance and have them warm and waiting for guests to arrive.

Since we’re making these meatballs from scratch, I think it’s important to cook them before adding them to the slow cooker. Just follow the baking instructions above (I promise it’s easy), and add them to the slow cooker with your meatball sauce.

You can make the meatballs a day or two in advance and store them in the fridge until they’re ready for the crockpot.

overhead image of grape jelly meatballs with bbq sauce on small appetizer plates with toothpicks

Common questions about this grape jelly meatball recipe

What can I substitute for grape jelly?

You can substitute any flavor of jelly you prefer, just make sure it’s a smooth jelly (no pieces of fruit) and that it’s not a reduced-sugar or sugar-free version, since those will leave you with a runny, thin sauce.

How long can meatballs stay in crockpot?

Meatballs can stay in the crockpot on low (or the warm setting once they’re cooked!) for a very long time, from 1 – 10 hours. While it’s almost impossible to overcook meatballs in sauce, it’s best to keep an eye on them to prevent them from over cooking.

What ingredient makes meatballs moist?

As meat cooks, the fats break down and the meat will shrink and become more dense, leading to a tough meatball. That’s why binder ingredients like eggs, milk or breadcrumbs are used to keep meatballs moist as they cook.

What temperature are meatballs done?

These cocktail meatballs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160˚F. After cooking in both the oven and the slow cooker, they will easily reach that temperature, but it’s also best to use an instant read thermometer if you’re unsure.

closeup of 3 grape jelly bbq meatballs on a stack of appetizer plates

More appetizer recipes you’ll love:

More Wisconsin favorites:


Grape Jelly Meatballs

Loaded with flavor and a secret ingredient, these sweet and savory grape jelly meatballs are made from scratch with only a handful of ingredients. This easy cocktail meatball recipe is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and can be made in the oven or the slow cooker.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 64 meatballs 1x
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 package Johnsonville brats, casing removed
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 egg or 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 12-ounce jar grape jelly
  • 11 1/4 cups barbecue sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine brats, ground beef, breadcrumbs and egg. Mix until well combined.
  3. Scoop mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake meatballs for 12 – 15 minutes.
  5. Combine grape jelly and barbecue sauce in a mixing bowl and whisk together.

To serve immediately:

  1. Heat the sauce over medium heat until the jelly dissolves and the sauce is smooth.
  2. Toss baked meatballs with sauce and serve.

Crockpot/Slow Cooker method:

  1. Transfer sauce and meatballs to a slow cooker and stir to coat.
  2. Cook on low for at least at least 1 hour before serving to allow the sauce to fully cook.

Keywords: dairy free, easy, sausage, beef, meatballs

Last Updated on November 12, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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