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Serve these easy BBQ meatballs alongside mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, rice, or cornbread for a family-friendly weeknight dinner, set them out at as an appetizer at your next Game Day gathering, or offer them on a holiday Open House buffet. The moist and tender oven-baked, homemade meatballs are smothered in store-bought barbecue sauce for a quick, hands-off dish that always wins rave reviews!

Close overhead image of bbq meatballs in a cast iron skillet

Meatballs in BBQ Sauce

If your family loves classic Italian meatballs in marinara sauce, then you’ll enjoy this fun twist! The homemade BBQ meatballs are easy to prepare, full of sweet, zesty, and tangy flavor, and can even be made in advance. They’re great for meal-prep and convenient weeknight dinners, and equally popular as party appetizers. Hosting a gathering? Keep the meatballs warm in a slow cooker while you mingle with your guests!

Should you brown meatballs before baking?

Browning or frying meatballs in a skillet adds color, flavor and a seared texture to the outside — but it’s definitely not necessary! Sometimes we just don’t have the time or energy for that extra step, and baking is also healthier. Since you’re adding these meatballs to a pan of sauce at the end, and since they’re already loaded with so much great flavor, no one will ever know that you took a little shortcut!

Ground meat mixture in a large white bowl

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a batch of meatballs in bbq sauce. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground “meatloaf mix”: a combination of ground beef, ground pork and ground veal. See my suggestions below for substitutions.
  • Plain dry breadcrumbs: act as a binder to hold the meatballs together.
  • Egg: gives the meatballs structure.
  • Milk: combines with the breadcrumbs to create a “panade,” which acts as a binding agent and (more importantly) prevents the meatballs from drying out. The milk activates the starch in the breadcrumbs to form a gel. This behaves similarly to a fat by lubricating the meat’s protein fibers and preventing them from becoming tough.
  • Worcestershire sauce: gives the meatballs salty, umami flavor.
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and seasoned salt: classic seasonings that give the meatballs their classic barbecue flavor.
  • Salt and ground black pepper: enhance the other flavors in the dish.
  • Barbecue sauce: use a bottle of store-bought sauce for a convenient shortcut, or prepare your favorite homemade recipe. I used Stubb’s brand here, which is a thinner, tangier, sauce with a strong vinegar flavor. For a thicker, sweeter sauce, we also like 1776 Redneck Riviera BBQ Sauce or Bull’s Eye BBQ Sauce.
Homemade meatballs on a baking sheet before going in the oven

How to Make BBQ Meatballs in Oven

Skip the package of frozen meatballs and the grape jelly, because this post offers a step-by-step guide and a few helpful tips to show you how to make the best bbq meatballs in the oven from scratch in just minutes. Tender and light on the inside, and touched with subtle notes of zesty spices, the easy bbq meatball recipe comes out perfectly every time. A hearty, cozy, and delicious supper is just minutes away — and it will make you the hero at the table!

  1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Chill the meat mixture for 1 hour, if time allows. This will make it easier to roll them out.
  3. Roll the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch balls.
  4. Bake the meatballs in a 425°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
  5. Transfer the meatballs to a large skillet.
  6. Pour the barbecue sauce over top, stir gently to coat, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Pouring barbecue sauce over meatballs in a skillet

Crockpot BBQ Meatballs

Bake the meatballs as instructed, and then transfer them to a slow cooker. Pour the barbecue sauce over top, cover the Crock Pot, and keep them on the “warm” setting for up to 3 hours. This is a great option when hosting a party, and it also makes dinnertime easy on busy nights!

What to Serve with Homemade Meatballs in BBQ Sauce

The zesty barbecue meatballs are delicious alongside any of these sides:

Close up side shot of bbq meatballs with bbq sauce on a white plate

Make Ahead BBQ Meatballs

You can shape the meatballs, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you need a quick dinner, just pull them out and pop them into the oven! You can also freeze the raw meatballs to enjoy them at a later date (see the freezing instructions below).

Overhead image of a white plate with barbecue meatballs and coleslaw

Storage

Leftover meatballs will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave, just until warmed through.

How to Freeze

You can freeze the meatballs before or after cooking. To freeze raw meatballs that you’ll bake later, arrange the raw meatballs on a baking sheet, freeze until solid, and then transfer to a large Ziploc freezer bag. Freezing them on the baking sheet first will prevent the meatballs from sticking together or falling apart. You will need to add a few extra minutes to the total baking time if you’re baking the meatballs directly from the freezer.

To freeze cooked meatballs, bake as instructed in the recipe, cool to room temperature, and then freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. When the meatballs are frozen, transfer to a Ziploc freezer bag. The meatballs will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Close up front shot of a pan of homemade meatball recipe with barbecue sauce

Recipe Variations

  • Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 22 meatballs. If you’d like to prepare a larger batch to feed a group or to save leftovers in the freezer for another meal, just double all of the ingredients.
  • Use other Meats. I prefer the “meatloaf mix” because the blend of three different types of meat yields meatballs with so much flavor! That said, you can substitute with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork, or use all ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork. Just make sure that the meat totals 1 lb. and is about 85% lean. If using chicken or turkey, cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 165°F instead of 160°F.
  • Instead of using a store-bought barbecue sauce, make your favorite homemade version from scratch.
  • Include ½ cup finely-minced or grated fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
  • Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.
Side shot of a plate of bbq meatballs with a side of coleslaw

Tips for the Best BBQ Meatball Recipe

  • Combine the meatball mixture with your hands — not with a wooden spoon. The more gentle you can be, the more light and tender your meatballs will stay. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with tough, dense, and dry meatballs.
  • If you have some extra time, chill the meatball mixture for at least 1 hour before shaping. I don’t always do this (it’s not necessary), but it does make the shaping easier if the mixture is more firm.
  • A cookie dough scoop helps form even meatballs that cook in about the same amount of time. Scoop, roll gently in your hands, and then fry!
  • Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil periodically as you’re shaping the meatballs. The oil prevents the meat from sticking to your hands, and also helps the outside of the meatballs brown when they’re in the oven.
Overhead shot of a skillet full of bbq meatballs on a wooden dinner table

More Meatball Recipes to Try

Close overhead image of bbq meatballs in a cast iron skillet

BBQ Meatballs

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 17 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 32 minutes
Servings 22 meatballs
Calories 99 kcal
Serve these easy BBQ meatballs alongside mashed potatoes, rice, or cornbread for a family-friendly weeknight dinner, set them out at as an appetizer at your next Game Day gathering, or offer them on a holiday Open House buffet.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. ground “meatloaf mix,” a combination of ground beef, pork and veal (see my note below for substitutions)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s brand
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 18 ounce bottle barbecue sauce

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, use your hands or a fork to gently combine all of the meatball ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. If time allows, cover the bowl and chill for about 1 hour (this is optional, but will make the meatballs easier to shape).
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Use a scoop to shape the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. Tip: rub your hands with a little bit of oil to prevent the meatballs from sticking. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the meatballs reach an internal temperature of 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Transfer the meatballs to a large skillet. Pour the barbecue sauce over top; stir gently to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce it hot and bubbly.

Notes

  • Combine the meatball mixture with your hands — not with a wooden spoon. The more gentle you can be, the more light and tender your meatballs will stay. Don’t overmix, or you’ll end up with tough, dense, and dry meatballs.
  • If you have some extra time, chill the meatball mixture for at least 1 hour before shaping. I don’t always do this (it’s not necessary), but it does make the shaping easier if the mixture is more firm.
  • A cookie dough scoop helps form even meatballs that cook in about the same amount of time. Scoop, roll gently in your hands, and then fry!
  • Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil periodically as you’re shaping the meatballs. The oil prevents the meat from sticking to your hands, and also helps the outside of the meatballs brown when they’re in the oven.
  • Double the Recipe. Using 1 lb. of meat yields about 22 meatballs. If you’d like to prepare a larger batch to feed a group or to save leftovers in the freezer for another meal, just double all of the ingredients.
  • Use other Meats. I prefer the “meatloaf mix” because the blend of three different types of meat yields meatballs with so much flavor! That said, you can substitute with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground pork, or use all ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork. Just make sure that the meat totals 1 lb. and is about 85% lean. If using chicken or turkey, cook the meatballs to an internal temperature of 165°F instead of 160°F.
  • Instead of using a store-bought barbecue sauce, make your favorite homemade version from scratch.
  • Include ½ cup finely-minced or grated fresh onion for moisture and flavor in the meatballs.
  • Add crushed red pepper flakes for spicy meatballs.
  • Crockpot BBQ Meatballs: Bake the meatballs as instructed, and then transfer them to a slow cooker. Pour the barbecue sauce over top, cover the Crock Pot, and keep them on the “warm” setting for up to 3 hours. This is a great option when hosting a party, and it also makes dinnertime easy on busy nights!

Nutrition

Serving: 1meatball with sauceCalories: 99kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 5gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 390mgPotassium: 70mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 79IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: bbq meatballs, meatballs in bbq sauce
Course: Appetizer, Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These are so much better than the frozen ones from the store. I encourage you to make your own bbq sauce too for a dish completely homemade and uniquely you! Simple versatile recipe for entertaining as well as a family dinner. A keeper for sure!