Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser at happy hour. You can buy Italian, Asian, Swedish….then there are the multiple varieties of sauce options. Dump the meatballs and sauce into a slow cooker and voila, you have an easy but popular dish. OR, if you want some kitchen swagger, you can make your own. And as a bonus, it costs less to make these Sweet and Sour Meatballs yourself.
I like to use a combination of beef and pork at a ratio of 2 parts beef to 1 part pork. I think it’s the best combination of fat and flavour for Sweet and Sour Meatballs. And that sauce. It’s so much better than something from a can or jar.
How to make Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Start with a couple pieces of bread, white or brown but nothing grainy. Add a small amount of milk to soften the bread. Push it down with a spoon so all the bread gets soaked. Let it sit for a few minutes. Squeeze most of the milk from the bread before adding to the meat mixture.
Add about 1/3 of the ground pork and 1/3 of the ground beef to a food processor along with the bread, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, onion powder, ground ginger, salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture until it’s pureed. Then add it to the rest of the ground meats and combine without over mixing.
Here’s why I decided to puree some of the meat. I read something once that claimed pureeing beef before making Italian meatballs gave them an awesome texture. I wasn’t sure if that made sense to me but I did think that it would be a good way to add the ingredients to the meat mixture without over mixing. The seasonings and bread would be well blended with some of the meat and then you could combine it with the rest without mixing until you get tough meatballs.
Now roll the meat mixture into balls. You can make any size you like, just try to keep them all relatively the same size. I like to make them around 1 ounce each which is about right for one bite. If you have a kitchen scale you can weight the first few, then try to make the rest about the same size. A one ounce meatball is about an inch and a half in diameter. This recipe makes about 60 meatballs.
Place the meatballs on a large baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until most of the fat and water releases from the meatballs. Pre baking them helps them keep their shape while simmering in the sauce. If you have a convection bake setting use that. Tilt the pan so that the liquid drains to one end as they cool, then spoon out the liquid.
Sweet and Sour Sauce for Meatballs
Meanwhile, make up the sauce. You’ll need a large bowl or measuring cup with at least a 4 cup capacity. Drain the juice from the pineapple into a measuring cup and add enough orange juice to make 1 cup. I usually use canned pineapple because there’s lots of juice. Then add lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, honey, ground ginger, cornstarch and Hoisin sauce.
Hoisin sauce is kind of a Chinese barbecue sauce. It’s quite thick and has a salty-sweet flavour. On its own it would be too strong and sticky to use as a sauce. The additional ingredients balance it out and the thinner sauce helps add flavour to the meatballs as they slowly simmer away. If you don’t have hoisin, just use a regular barbecue sauce that isn’t smoky, probably sweet and sour would work best.
You can use lemon or lime juice. You can use regular vinegar if you don’t have rice vinegar. Mince 2 large garlic cloves into the mixture. Heat gently in the microwave to ensure the honey has melted and all ingredients are incorporated. Just for a minute or so. The sauce may start to thicken a bit but will continue to thicken as it cooks with the meatballs. Mince the green onions and add to the sauce. Save some to add at the end.
Place the meatballs in a Dutch oven or slow cooker. Add the pineapple chunks. Pour the sauce over top and gently combine all the ingredients.
You don’t need the liquid to completely cover the meatballs.
Cover and bake at 325 for about an hour. Check and stir after 3o minutes. The mixture darkens and thickens the longer it cooks. Or, if you want to use the slow cooker, cook for about 2 hours on high or 3 hours on low.
Serve hot with party picks or tiny forks. Sprinkle with extra green onions for garnish.
If you have leftovers (which I doubt) you can make some rice, top with meatballs and sauce and serve with steamed broccoli. Easy dinner.
Here’s the recipe:
Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 2 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 slices white or brown bread not grainy bread
- ⅓ C milk
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 can pineapple chunks, drained reserve juice for sauce
Sweet and Sour Meatball Sauce
- 1 C pineapple and orange juice mixture add enough orange juice to reserved pineapple juice for 1 cup in total
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ C hoisin sauce
- ¼ C lemon or lime juice fresh squeezed is best
- ½ C rice vinegar
- ½ C soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 4-5 green onions reserve a few for garnish if desired
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Pour milk over bread and let slices soak. Squeeze excess milk and add to food processor along with about 1/3 of the beef and 1/3 of the pork. Add minced garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Puree until well blended and meat is pureed.
- Add meat mixture to remaining beef and pork and mix in a large bowl until combined.
- Roll into balls, approximately 1 oz each, about 60 balls. Bite sized is best. Place on large baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated 350° oven for 15 minutes until most of the fat and liquid is released. Pour off liquid. Reduce heat to 325°.
- Place meatballs in large dutch oven or slow cooker. Add pineapple chunks.
- Prepare sauce by combining all ingredients well. You may need to heat the sauce slightly to ensure honey and hoisin is melted and well incorporated. Pour over meatballs and stir gently.
- Bake covered for approximately one hour, stirring after about 30 minutes. Or if using slow cooker, cook 2 hours on high.
- Serve with party picks for appetizers or over cooked rice for a main dish. Garnish with reserved green onions.