Sweet Heat Meatballs

Manly Kitchen Sweet Heat MeatballsMeatballs and I go way back. We’re old, old friends. You know, like your bestest friend from grade school that you still keep in touch with? And even if it’s been months since you talked, whenever you get together it’s as comfortable as that old sweatshirt your girlfriend hates. And the friendship may well have been through just as much as that HookaPooka U keepsake.

Mom introduced me to meatballs; They were Swedish and were plopped on top of noodles, with a creamy sauce! Oh. My. DOG!! It was the perfect dinner! You couldn’t even mess it up that much by serving broccoli… which I hated as a kid but love now. Then, I met their distant Italian cousins, thanks to my best friend’s mom. Again, here come the noodles! And her red sauce was simply stellar!! She always – and I mean always! – had a pot simmering on the back of the stove. When she got down to a half-gallon, she’d add more tomatoes and spices and fill the pot again. And they never had a dinner that didn’t include spaghetti and Marinara sauce. So, yeah… meatballs. And noodles. And that secret family recipe that went back to a month after Marco Polo brought noodles back from the orient. And garlic bread!! Grand Slam, all y’all! GRAND. SLAM!

Mom would often make a double batch of meatballs, the half of them would go into the fridge, naked, so to speak. Friends and regular visitors know that I began experimenting in the kitchen as a kid, and often used leftovers as my starting point. I always cheered in my head (the crowd goes wild!!) when Mom did an extra batch of meatballs. Because… MEATBALLS!

Manly Kitchen Sweet Heat MeatballsI mean, come on! A meatball is a burger bit without the bun. It’s a meatloaf of bite-size proportions. It’s beefy and juicy and I want some right now!

One of the great things about basic meatballs is that you can play with them. No, not catch or tennis (messy) or anything like that. Play with your food kind of thing. Throw some stuff together, see how it comes out, and if it’s edible, pour it over the meatballs. If not, try again. Or, go to the fallback position and just drown them in barbecue sauce. For me, it was a relatively safe way to learn without wasting too much money on failed experiments.

So, now you know why I love meatballs. Let’s get to the recipe. This is an easy variation of a recipe that’s been around for a good while. And, truth be told, you can do the basic, three-ingredient version in ten minutes. But if you’re willing to take two more minutes, it ups the ante enough to notice. Honestly, be a Real Man (or Real Woman) and slice an onion, OK? Onward…

Manly Kitchen Sweet Heat Meatballs

As seen on TV! Leave a comment below if you recognize the show.


1 medium onion
3-4 cloves garlic
3-5 lb. bite-size meatballs (see below)
2 12-oz. jars Heinz Chili Sauce
1 32-oz. jar Welch’s grape jelly


In a pot large enough to hold them easily, heat chili sauce and grape jelly over medium-low heat. Stir the two together as much as possible in the beginning, then keep an eye on it as the grape jelly liquefies, stirring occasionally until thoroughly blended.

While the sauce is heating/blending, turn your slow cooker to HIGH and cover. This just gives it a few minutes’ head start. No biggie… By the way, this recipe is enough to pretty much fill a 5-quart slow cooker. If you have a 3 quart model, cut the recipe in half just to be sure you don’t overflow.

Finely mince onion and place in bottom of slow cooker, and cover. This is one recipe where I think it’s very important to mince the onions as finely as possible. You want them to disappear into the sauce, so to speak. That won’t happen unless you mince the onion finely.

Peel, crush and chop garlic; add to cooker.

Add meatballs and cover cooker again. Continue to heat sauce (stirring so it doesn’t scorch) until blended.

Pour sauce over meatballs – s l o w l y. Cover slow cooker and leave them alone!

When sauce is bubbling along nicely, reduce heat to LOW and continue to cook for another 3 hours or more.

Serve hot.

Manly Kitchen Sweet Heat MeatballsNotes:

Meatballs – certainly you can make your own. However, everyone I know that prepares this recipe (or similar) starts with store-bought, frozen meatballs. This one isn’t so much about showing off your culinary acumen; rather, it’s about an easy-to-d0 appetizer that tastes great without too much fuss.

Most meatballs will be beef and/or pork, but feel free to try chicken or turkey meatballs as well. I’m sure you’re results will be just fine.

About the jelly – I don’t know why, but jelly seems to work better than jam. Go figure…

Thickening the sauce – If you’d like the sauce to thicken somewhat, remove the cover from the slow cooker for about the last hour.

You can cut this recipe in half, using 1.5 to 2 pounds of meatballs.

This recipe isn’t all that hot. If you want to heat it up a touch, just add your favorite hot sauce or some cayenne pepper to the sauce as you’re heating it.


For a bit of extra zing, add up to 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the sauce.

For a redneck twist, substitute barbecue sauce for the chili sauce.

For a different kind of sweetness, substitute jellied cranberry sauce for the grape jelly.

The last time I did these, it was for a local weekly Blues jam that I run. We do a free-for-all pot luck every week, and everyone brings whatever they feel like contributing. I brought five pounds of these babies, and they were gone in less than an hour! I have no doubt your friends will react in very much the same way. Next time you need something great to serve, but don’t want to spend much time making it, put a pot of these babies on to simmer. the hardest part will be keeping your hands out of them until your friends arrive. Have fun, and don’t forget:

Play with your food!


Did you like this recipe? What recipes would you like to learn? Leave me a comment and tell me your thoughts! (And don’t forget to LIKE this post!) Share it using the tiles below.

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About Lane

Lane Baldwin is a an internationally-acclaimed singer, songwriter, author and food lover. He wasn't trained in France, and he doesn't have his own TV show. He just loves to cook, and loves sharing what he's learned over the years. In his "real life," Lane has toured the world, bringing his special brand of Blues-infused Americana to millions of fans. At home he leads a quiet life filled with good books, good food and good friends.