Sweet and Sour Meatballs (2024)

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4.62 stars (363 ratings)

Feb 24, 2009222

Looking for the perfect meatball recipe? Look no further! These sweet and sour meatballs are tender, perfectly seasoned, and amazingly delicious!

This is a favorite meal of ours that I have been making for years.

On Sunday evenings when I am planning our weekly menu, I’ll ask Brian to give me at least one meal suggestion.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (1)

No fail, he either comes up with this dish or his other fave, Sweet and Sour Chicken.

By the way, I usually veto his suggestions, though, because I have so many recipes to try that I don’t like eating the same thing week after week.

Rude, I know, but how will I ever try all these recipes before I die if I am making Sweet and Sour Meatballs or Chicken every week?

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These meatballs are also a huge winner with my kidlets.

The meatballs are tender and perfectly seasoned, especially after baking in the simple sweet and sour sauce.

For me, this is definitely a perfect weeknight meal – and we enjoy it often (but clearly not as often as Brian would like)!

Update Nov. 2014: After five or so years living on the blog, this recipe needed an update (mostly the photos). I also gave a few additional tips and instructions in the recipe.

I cut the milk down to 1/4 cup to make the meatballs sturdier (the original was 1/2 cup if you want to stick with that) and I usually scale back the sugar to 1/4 cup as well (1/2 cup in the original).

And of course, I always double the sauce since we like it on the saucy side.

Read the notes below the recipe title for another cooking variation that is speedy and oven-free.

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What to Serve With This:

Baked Brown Rice
Fresh, seasonal fruit
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Homemade Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (4)

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes mins

Cook Time: 30 minutes mins

Total Time: 1 hour hr

4.62 stars (363 ratings)

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  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground meat, see note
  • ¾ cup quick oats or old-fashioned oats that have been lightly pulsed in a blender
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


  • ¼ – ½ cup brown sugar, depending on how sweet you want the sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot cooked rice for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  • For the meatballs, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Form into about 12 meatballs (right around 2-inches each). Place in a lightly greased 9X13-inch pan.

  • For the sauce, whisk together the ingredients until well-combined.

  • Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bake for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is slightly thickened.

  • Serve over hot, cooked rice, if desired.


Meat: I usually use a combination of lean ground beef and lean ground turkey but really any ground meat would work well – just keep in mind that if you don’t want the grease to pool in the bottom of the baking dish (ew), use a pretty lean meat.

Sauce: also, I highly recommend doubling the sauce if you like dishes like this a bit saucier. Very often, I forego the baking and instead brown the meatballs in a skillet (or if doubling, I use my large electric skillet) on all sides and then drain any grease (most often there isn’t any if using lean meat). Pour the sauce into the skillet, cover and let the meatballs simmer for 10-15 minutes until cooked through, turning once or twice.

Freezable Meal: after covering the meatballs with sauce, cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil and freeze. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake covered without thawing for 1 hour. Uncover and bake 20-30 minutes more, until meatballs are cooked through.

Author: Mel

Calories: 354kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 28g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 125mg, Sodium: 648mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 32g

Recipe Source: adapted from Lion House Recipes

Other Recipes Like This:

Asian-Style Meatballs with Sweet Chili Sauce
Sheet Pan Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli
Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemon Rice
Falafel Meatballs with Easy Tzatziki Sauce

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Beef Freezable Gluten Free Adaptable Main Dish Meatballs Rice Take-In Meal

posted on February 24, 2009 (last updated September 6, 2023)

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4.62 from 363 votes (307 ratings without comment)

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222 comments on “Sweet and Sour Meatballs”

  1. Rose Reply

    In previous use I found that I don’t need binders to have intact balls/kebabs so I didn’t use eggs, milk or oats. Seasoned with more stuff I had, as well (some blend).

    For the sauce I added some ketchup and doubled the BBQ sauce (we love saucy things), used only a splash of vinegar and added date syrup for color and sweetness with only a bit of the sugar (the BBQ sauce is sweet too).

    So basically I grabbed the concept and made it my own. Came out great! Will add to our menu. Thanks!

  2. Peg Reply

    I loved this recipe! I will definitely make it again. Actually this is going to be my favorite meatball recipe for all types of meatballs.

  3. Caryn Reply

    Could I substitute water for the milk? Need a dairy free option.

    • Mel Reply

      Could definitely try – or use a non-dairy milk like unsweetened (not vanilla) almond milk.

  4. Lisa Reply

    I love this receipe. I am lazy, so I use frozen meatballs. I triple the sauce and I add garlic powder, onion powder and siracha to the sauce. I cook it all in the slow cooker for 8 hours on low. I don’t even precook the meatballs. Turns out great!

  5. A Boyd Reply

    This is a family favorite! We make it exactly as the recipe calls for except we double the sauce..we might even triple it next time. It’s delicious over white sticky rice!

  6. Dodi Reply

    I doubled the meat portion of this recipe and ended up with 31 meatballs. I quadrupled the sauce, using the lower amount of sugar that was written in the recipe. 3 out of 5 of us felt like the acidity of the vinegar took over the flavor, making these meatballs hard to eat. I do wonder if that would be different had I used more sugar?

  7. Mary Reply

    I’ve made sweet and sour meatballs for 43 years but we just had this new recipe and it was hands-down, the best meatball and sauce recipe we’ve ever had. I made roughly 24 to 30 meatballs so I’d have leftovers tomorrow. I quickly made another batch of it and double was was just right for us.
    I’ll be making this often.

  8. Teresa Reply

    I tried this sauce with some precooked meatballs and I would suggest the vinegar needs to be halved or even less. It came out quite sharp and vinegary

  9. Jennifer Reply

    I have made sweet and sour meatballs for years and was in the mood to try a new recipe. This was a HUGE hit. I made the bbq sauce as well. I agree with all the reviews that you need to triple the sauce – but it was scrumptious.

  10. Jess Reply

    So easy to make and good version of sweet and sour. Great recipe!

  11. Miranda Reply

    Amaze-balls! I doubled my sauce 4x and used ground turkey for the meatballs, served mine over quinoa Kids and hubs had rice definitely a hit and will be added to our menu

    Thanks for the recipe

  12. Miranda Reply

    Amazing recipe! I doubled my sauce 4x and used ground turkey for the meatballs, served over quinoa

    Thank you ❤️

  13. Jill Reply

    These meatballs and the sauce are amazing! Family favorite, including 3 young kids!

  14. Katie Reply

    I love these. Made them again tonight with ground turkey and they came out even better than before, I think bc the oats were pulsed finer. Hubby raves 🙂 Thank you!

  15. Bobbie Reply

    To quote my hubby, “These are so friggin’ good. Definitely my new favorite. You have to make these again!” Thank you, Mel. I now have my two daughters hooked on your blog as well. We are better cooks and bakers thanks to you. Many blessings coming your way!!

  16. Annie Reply

    These meatballs with rice make an amazing meal!! Even my picky 5 year old loved it. I made a double batch and brought some to a friend who recently had a baby. I am usually nervous to cook for others but felt confident this time! I used about 2/3 cup of sugar for the doubled amount. Thanks for a great recipe Mel!

  17. Doodledcurls Reply

    I love this recipe! We have mostly used the sauce with frozen meatballs, but it still tastes delicious! Do you think I could cook this in the crockpot for a crowd? Or is the oven the way to go?

    • Mel Reply

      Yes, that should work great with frozen meatballs!

  18. Dennis Tumberg Reply

    This was very good! The whole family liked it, which is hard to do. I did modify by using frozen meatballs, I baked the meatballs for a little bit first (made the sauce in the meantime), then left it in the oven while making rice.

  19. Crissy Reply

    These were so delicious! I loved the sauce so much! I used Rudy’s bbq sauce, but the other stuff added so much flavor. I only had 1 lb of meat so I used slightly less of the meatball ingredients. We loved this with rice and broccoli!

  20. Gentry Gygi Reply

    We have been making your recipes while at home during this crazy COVID-19 time. Made the banana muffins this morning, and they are all gone! and tonight made this for dinner. Used dehydrated onions, worked great. My kids said, “Mom, I think this needs to be a go-to meal.” So, it is a definite, easy winner. Thanks for making bellies happy in our home.

    • Mel Reply

      Glad to hear you are staying safe and cozy (and eating well) right now!!

  21. Erin Reply

    Looks great! There is no link for the homemade bbq sauce. Can you add one please? 🙂

    • Mel Reply

      Sorry about that! I got it added.

  22. Kaime Reply

    This is the BEST meatball recipe in the history of ever. Thank you. I mean this when I say that what you do positively impacts the everyday lives of your readers. I’m not sure how long it takes to post one recipe, but I imagine it takes much longer than it took me to prepare this day-changing meal. May you be blessed abundantly for every ounce of effort you pour in.

    • Mel Reply

      Thank you so, so much! Your comment was so heartfelt and SO kind. It’s words like these that keep me going!

  23. Melissa G. Reply

    My whole family loved this recipe! My 3 and 8 year-olds helped make it, and it was simple enough that they didn’t need much help. We doubled the sauce and it made the perfect amount for us. There are six in our family and we had no leftovers. We might have to double as our kids get bigger. Simple+delicious=happy family. Thanks Mel!

  24. Katie Reply

    I couldn’t find the homemade bbq sauce recipe so i just used sweet baby rays. This recipe is way to vinegary. Will b adding more sugar next time, if there is a next time.

    • Nina Reply

      I also thought this was a meh…the flavours were really harsh and not well balanced. This may just be our personal taste though. Mel never disappoints with her baked goods. Several of her recipes are in our home rotation, bagels, Greek Pita, rolls. It was worth a try.

  25. Colleen Reply

    Just tried the sauce yesterday as I had some meatballs in the freezer that I made last week. The sauce is excellent! So good that I am making it today and putting it over a roast pork that I have in the crockpot.

  26. Ursula Roberts Reply

    Made these last night. It was absolutely delicious! Both my kids, one of whom is quite picky, loved them. Will definitely be making it again.

  27. Tina Rusch Reply

    Oh my goodness! This recipe is amazing! I thought it was good the first time I made it, but I made a double batch, both with double sauce. It heated up great with your instructions! This is definitely going into our weekly rotation! Thanks!

  28. Mel Reply

    Hi Could I make this ahead of time? How would you do that if can?

    • Mel Reply

      Yes, you could make the meatballs and sauce and store separately in the fridge until ready to bake.

  29. Kay Reply

    I made this tonight and it was a hit with all three kids (ages 13 to 2 years). My reccomendation is to summer the sauce on the stove while the meat balls are cooking. Then toss the balls in the sauce afterwards. Next time I am going to x3 or x4 the sauce recipe as there wasn’t nearly enough for everyone.

  30. Cate Reply

    Can you put this in a slow cooker ?

    • Mel Reply

      I haven’t tried, but you could definitely experiment!

  31. Crystal wozniak Reply

    double the sauce! excellent!

  32. Sheri Smith Reply

    Next time I will double the sauce

  33. Rachel Kazancioglu Reply

    I made this tonight for dinner. You were right about doubling the sauce. I liked it a lot. I actually made the meatballs in the morning and let them sit in the fridge until dinner. I also didn’t cook them in the sauce, I was afraid with so much sugar in it that it would stick to my pan and I’d never get it clean. Instead I warmed the sauce on the stove and added the meatballs when they were cooked through.

    I also added minced garlic, fresh parsley and cayenne pepper to the meatballs for extra flavor.

  34. Rachel Willson Reply

    What can i use instead of flour or oats? My husband is sensitive to oats and i am gluten free right now.

    • Mel Reply

      You could try subbing in gluten free flour or bread crumbs.

      • Ashley Reply

        We used bobs red mill old fashioned rolled oats (yes they are gluten free!!) and it worked great!

  35. David Perkins Reply

    Yes, these are terrific. I didn’t have lean ground beef, so I half-baked the meatballs in a foil-lined Pyrex baking dish for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Then, I removed the meatballs to a bowl with the sauce mix. I discarded the grease and the foil, and put the sauced meatballs back into the same baking dish and continued baking until the meatballs cooked through and the sauce got bubbly. This way, you can use a less expensive meat with delicious, non-greasy results.

  36. Jordan Reply

    I don’t know why, but these taste so much better when they are simmered in the pan than baked in the oven. So so yum. My favorite meatballs!

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Sweet and Sour Meatballs (2024)


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