Grilled Grape Meatballs.

To make the grape jelly meatballs even better, cook them on the grill and add a touch of barbecue sauce to the classic recipe.

Grilled grape meatballs.

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What are grape jelly balls?

I remember going to block parties as a kid where at least one person would bring a slow cooker full of grape jelly meatballs. And everyone would gobble them up.

The idea of ​​mixing grape jelly with meat may seem a little strange, but it works.

History of Grape Jelly Meatballs

Based on my research on, one of the original grape jelly meatball recipes was highlighted in Montgomery County Sentinel January 1962.

Woman's editorial director Kathleen Leary reported that two women, Lois Levine and Marian Fox Burros, decided to publish a book to simplify the entertainment of hostesses. The elegant yet easy cookbook It included 200 recipes that could be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for one to three days or frozen.

They said the goal of the book was to help hostesses be guests at their own party. And one of the most popular recipes for doing just that was their warming meatballs.

The original recipe

The original recipe called for mixing two pounds of ground beef, a beaten egg, a grated onion, and salt to taste. After shaping the meatballs, they were placed in a boiling pot with chili sauce, grape jelly, and lemon juice.

Once cooked, the meatballs can be served immediately or stored in the refrigerator or frozen and then reheated on a baking sheet for the party.

Grilled grape meatballs.Grilled grape meatballs.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the recipe was also called spicy buffet meatballs or grape jelly meatballs. In the 1980s, they were even nicknamed funky meatballs.

How the recipe has changed

In the end the recipe became even simpler.

People would simply throw a bag of frozen meatballs into a slow cooker or Instant Pot with a jar of grape jelly and a bottle of Heinz chili sauce. It became a must-have appetizer at parties.

Well, fast forward to the 21st century and things are changing again.

I have included a recipe for my homemade meatballs and of course I cook them on the grill. In addition to the chili sauce and grape jelly, I add a little BBQ sauce. My favorite for this recipe is HELLO BOY.

But you can’t just drizzle the sauce over the meatballs. They need to be completely submerged for maximum flavor. And if you really want to go all out, you can toss them in a pan with the sauce on the smoker to make them extra rich and authentic.

You'll definitely want to whip up some for your next party or game day picnic.


  • Panko Breadcrumbs: These ingredients help give body to the meatballs.
  • Milk: It serves to soften the breadcrumbs and add moisture.
  • Minced meat: I prefer to use a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground pork.
  • Spices: Italian seasoning, kosher salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper
  • Grape Jelly: No need to look for expensive brands. The classic Welch's works great.
  • Chili sauce: Chili sauce is similar to ketchup, but it contains more spices and is therefore a little spicier.
  • Barbecue sauce: Use whatever type you like. I like HNY FYR for this recipe because it is sweet and spicy.
Substitutions: Instead of chili sauce, you could use ketchup, but it won't have as much zing. 

See the full recipe below for servings and full list of ingredients.

How to Grill Grape Jelly Meatballs

Heat your grill to about 300 degrees F or medium-low heat. If you have a charcoal or gas grill, it's also a good idea to set up an indirect heat zone, in case flare-ups occur.

If you are cooking with wood, cherry and hickory wood are great for this recipe.

  1. FIRST STEP: Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let the breadcrumbs soften for 5 minutes.
panko breadcrumbs soaked in milk.panko breadcrumbs soaked in milk.
  1. STEP TWO: Add the meat and spices to the bowl. Mix well. It is easier to use your hands.
Bowl of meat and bowl of spices.Bowl of meat and bowl of spices.
meatball dough.meatball dough.
  1. STEP THREE: Shape the meat mixture into 24 golf ball sized patties. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Rolled meatballs.Rolled meatballs.
  1. STEP FOUR: Place the meatballs on the grill over direct heat and cook for about 30 minutes, turning them regularly.
Grilled meatballs.Grilled meatballs.
  1. STEP FIVE: Place a saucepan on the grill and add the gelatin, chili sauce, and barbecue sauce. Stir to combine.
Meatballs and sauce in a pan on the grill.Meatballs and sauce in a pan on the grill.
  1. STEP SIX: After the meatballs have cooked for about 30 minutes, use tongs to dip each one into the hot sauce. Continue grilling for another 10 to 15 minutes. The internal temperature of each meatball should be about 165 degrees F.
Dip the meatballs in the sauce.Dip the meatballs in the sauce.
PRO TIP: If you want to add even more flavor to these, make the sauce in an aluminum half pan. Then after you've grilled the meatballs for 30 minutes, place them in the pan with the sauce and smoke for another 30 minutes. 

How to Serve Party Meatballs

To serve as an appetizer, transfer the meatballs to a platter or bowl and serve with additional sauce and special toothpicks.

Grilled grape meatballs.Grilled grape meatballs.

To serve the dish as a meal, arrange the meatballs on a plate of rice or noodles.


Store leftover meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. You can also freeze them for up to 6 months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Then, simply reheat them in the microwave.

GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • To obtain juicy meatballs, chill them for at least 30 minutes.
  • Set an indirect heat zone in case flare-ups occur
  • Heat the sauce before dipping the meatballs

Frequent questions

Why do people put grape jelly in meatballs?

The idea of ​​using grape jelly as a sauce for meatballs originated in the 1960s, when two cookbook authors created recipes to make party planning easier.

What is the secret to getting tender meatballs?

There are four main methods for making tender meatballs.

First, start with meat that has a good balance of fat and meat. I like to use 80/20 ground beef and ground pork shoulder.

Second, mix breadcrumbs and milk into the meat to get a softer texture.

Third, make sure your meatballs are cold before grilling. This helps the fat melt into the meat instead of dripping out of the meatball.

Finally, cook your meatballs only to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I use a Thermoworks UNO Thermal Pen to check the temperature.

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  • Warming grid: Heat the grill to 300 degrees F. It’s also good to have an indirect heat zone, in case flare-ups occur.

  • Mix: Place the panko breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and let soak for five minutes. Add the meat and seasonings. Mix with your hands and form into 24 meatballs. Place on a pan and let cool for 30 minutes.

  • Grill: Place the meatballs on the grill, close the lid and leave them to cook for 30 minutes, turning them occasionally.

  • Prepare the sauce: While the meatballs are grilling, place a sauce pot on the stove. Add the sauce ingredients.

  • Immersion: Once the meatballs have been grilling for 30 minutes, lower them one by one into the pan with the sauce. Return them to the grill. Close the lid and grill for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

  • Serve: Serve with special toothpicks.

Instead of using a mix of ground beef and pork, you can use just beef or even turkey.
For a more intense flavor, you can also put the sauce in a half aluminum pan. After the meatballs have been grilled for 30 minutes, add them to the pan and smoke for at least 30 minutes.

Calories: 164kilocalorieCarbohydrates: 15GProtein: 7GFat: 8GSaturated fats: 3GPolyunsaturated fats: 1GMonounsaturated fat: 4GTrans Fats: 0.2GCholesterol: 28mgSodium: 372mgPotassium: 181mgFiber: 1GSugar: 10GVitamin A: 100IUC vitamin: 3mgSoccer: 24mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and should only be used as an approximation.

Be sure to rate it, leave a comment, and save it so you can do it again. Show off your awesome results on social media by tagging @girlscangrill

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