Slow Cooker BBQ Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

This year will be my first year hosting Thanksgiving and I’m SO FREAKIN’ excited. Granted, there will only be a small group of family at our house but I’m eager to spend the day cooking and making sure everything looks festive and beautiful.

Admittedly I do feel slightly prepared now that I’ve made an entire Friendsgiving for 15 people which included 3 pies, an 18 pound turkey, homemade gravy and 6 different sides.

However, we can’t forget about the most critical way to start Thanksgiving (besides lots of wine): APPETIZERS!

slow cooker bbq cranberry turkey meatballs on a platter with toothpicks

Essential Thanksgiving appetizers

There are a few essential appetizer recipes that I love to make each year and always find myself coming back to:

  1. Bacon wrapped dates: I make these every year and everyone always raves about how delicious they are. YOU MUST MAKE THEM.
  2. A really good charcuterie board: grab a few cheeses, crackers, grapes, dried fruit, nuts and other fun goodies and pile them onto a board for all your guests. This is also a great option to offer to bring if you are a guest.
  3. Crostini combos: I adore a good little toast with something fun on it. You could do something fancy like this brie, honey & roasted grape crostini or just add apricot jam & brie to a crostini and call it a day.
  4. Nut mixes. Who doesn’t love crunching down on some sweet and spicy nuts?
  5. MEATBALLS. All the men love meatballs and honestly the ladies do too. So let’s make-a-ze-meatballs!

meatballs in skillet

Ingredients in BBQ cranberry meatballs

Meatballs always seem to be a hit at parties, game days and family gatherings, These BBQ cranberry meatballs are made in the slow cooker them for everyone to nosh on throughout the day. Just slow cook them up, then place on the warm setting until ready. They’re saucy, sweet thanks to the cranberry bbq sauce, spicy from a hint of cayenne, moist, tender and BEAUTIFUL.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the bbq cranberry meatballs:

bbq turkey meatballs in the slow cooker

How to make meatballs in the slow cooker

These sweet and spicy bbq cranberry turkey meatballs are super easy to make in the slow cooker. Here’s how to do it in no time at all:

  1. First you’ll need to make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce, which only takes 15 minutes, but can also easily be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you are ready to tackle these meatballs.
  2. Stir together all the ingredients for the sauce in the slow cooker: cranberry sauce, BBQ sauce, apple cider vinegar, worcestershire, water and cayenne.
  3. Form your meatballs into balls, then brown them in a skillet. This helps to keep their shape and gives the meatballs additional flavor. You do not need to cook them all the way, just brown them on all sides.
  4. Add the meatballs to the slow cooker and use a spoon to gently cover them with the BBQ cranberry sauce. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 6-7 hours.
  5. Once meatballs are done cooking, place on warm setting and allow guests to serve themselves or place on a platter/plate with toothpicks. YUM.

turkey meatballs with toothpicks on a marble board

A few notes about these delicious BBQ meatballs:

  • If you want to serve these meatballs for dinner, they’re perfect for dinner with a side of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes + green beans or broccoli.
  • If you have leftover sauce, I recommend adding it to turkey sandwiches, dipping chicken fingers or sweet potato fries or using on top of meatloaf.

If you make anything from AK, be sure to tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram. I love seeing your creations and featuring followers!

P.S. Don’t forget to check out all of our other delicious Thanksgiving recipes here!

Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy BBQ Cranberry Turkey Meatballs

Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes

Incredible sweet & spicy BBQ cranberry turkey meatballs made right in your slow cooker! This delicious slow cooker meatball recipe has a seasonal twist with homemade, naturally sweetened cranberry sauce to make the perfect party appetizer for the holiday season.

  • For the bbq cranberry sauce:
  • 1
    batch homemade cranberry sauce
  • 1 ½
    spicy bbq sauce (or bbq sauce of choice)
  • 1
    apple cider vinegar
  • 1
    worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3

  • teaspoon
    cayenne (for a hint of spice, if desired)
  • For the meatballs:
  • 1
    93% lean ground turkey (or ground chicken)
  • 1
  • 3
    garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • ½
    panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2
    fresh ground sage
  • ½
    dried thyme
  • ½
    ground cumin
  • ¼
  • 1/2
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1
    olive oil
  1. In the bowl of a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker, add the homemade cranberry sauce, bbq sauce, apple cider vinegar, worcestershire sauce, water and cayenne (if using). Stir together until well combined.

  2. Next make the turkey meatballs: in a large bowl, add the ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, sage, dried thyme, cumin, allspice and salt and pepper. Use clean hands to mix and form into 20 meatballs.

  3. Place a large deep skillet over medium high heat and add in olive oil. Add meatballs and brown on all sides, using tongs or a fork to gently turn them every few minutes for about 4-5 minutes total. You may need to do this in batches depending on how many meatballs you can fit in your skillet without overcrowding them. When meatballs are done browning, transfer to the bowl of the slow cooker with the cranberry sauce

  4. Use a small spoon to gently spoon some of the bbq cranberry sauce over meatballs. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Once ready to serve, turn slow cooker to warm, and allow guests to use toothpicks to serve themselves, or simply place meatballs on a plate and set out. Makes 20 meatballs.

This recipe calls for a batch of my homemade cranberry sauce, which only takes 15 minutes, but can also easily be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until you are ready to tackle these meatballs.

To make meatballs gluten free: make sure you are using a gluten free BBQ sauce. You’ll also need to use gluten free breadcrumbs or chickpea breadcrumbs.


Servings: 10 servings (2 meatballs each)

Serving size: 2 meatballs

Calories: 202kcal

Fat: 5.1g

Saturated fat: 1.3g

Carbohydrates: 28.9g

Fiber: 2.4g

Sugar: 20g

Protein: 10.3g

Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats

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