Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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These Sweet and Sour Meatballs make a great entree or appetizer. The ground beef is cooked to perfection and then tossed in a flavorful sauce that features a combination of brown sugar, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar. 

Stack of sweet and sour meatballs on a round white plate with golden forks to the side.
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Our sweet and sour meatballs could not be more perfect. They are easy to make, can be paired with a variety of dishes, and feature a thick, flavorful sauce. The savory flavor of the meatballs is complemented by the sweet and sour flavors of the sauce. We like to use a combination of ketchup and brown sugar for sweetness and soy sauce and apple cider vinegar to add some sour acidity.

Whether you are serving these meatballs over a bed of white rice with roasted veggies or as an appetizer, they are sure to be a hit! Being able to throw these meatballs together from start to finish in under an hour makes them a great option for busy weeknights when you want to switch things up.

Golden fork stabbed into one sweet and sour meatball over a stack on a round white plate.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • The entire dish comes together in less than an hour.
  • You can serve these meatballs as an entree or appetizer.
  • The sweet and sour sauce coats the meatballs in plenty of flavor.

Recipe Ingredients

portion bowls each with digitally labeled raw ingredients to make sweet and sour meatballs.
  • Ground Beef—We like to use 90/10 ground beef, but any fat percentage will work!
  • Italian Bread Crumbs—Gives your meatballs texture and flavor.
  • Egg—To hold your meatballs together.
  • Salt—Brings out the natural flavor of the beef.
  • Brown Sugar—Serves as the main sweetener of your sauce. If you need a brown sugar substitute, I have you covered.
  • Water—To help combine the other sauce ingredients.
  • Ketchup—Adds a pop of flavor and color to your sweet and sour sauce.
  • Apple Cider VinegarBalances the sweetness of the brown sugar with some acidity.
  • Soy Sauce—Gives the sauce a hint of savoriness.
  • Cornstarch—Helps thicken the sauce.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How To Make Sweet and Sour Meatballs

portion bowls with each raw ingredient to make sweet and sour sauce meatballs.
clear bowls with raw ingredients to make meatballs.

Step #1. Preheat the oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gather all of the necessary ingredients.

Step #2. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, salt, and egg in a mixing bowl until thoroughly combined.

Baking sheet with raw round meatballs over parchment.
Meatballs in a clear white bowl covered in sweet and sour sauce.

Step #3. Divide the meatball mixture into 15 evenly shaped balls and place them on the baking sheet. Cook your meatballs until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

Step #4. While the meatballs are in the oven, whisk the brown sugar, water, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and cornstarch together in a small pot over medium heat. Stir the sauce until it has thickened. Toss the meatballs in the sauce until evenly coated.

Recipe FAQs

What kind of ground beef works best for this recipe?

It is really up to you. We like to use lower fat beef like 90/10 or 93/7. However, higher fat beef like 85/15 will work as well. It is important to note that using ground beef with a higher fat percentage will cause your meatballs to shrink down a little bit. The kind of ground beef you use will not affect the taste of the overall dish, so feel free to use what you have on hand!

How do I keep my meatballs from drying out?

Using a combination of eggs and breadcrumbs is the key to preventing your meatballs from drying out. The eggs not only bind your meatballs together, but also add moisture to them. As the meatballs cook, the breadcrumbs will absorb any juice they give off and trap it in the meatball. As a result of using eggs and breadcrumbs, you will have juicy, tender, flavorful meatballs that don’t dry out or crumble.

How to Store Your Leftover Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Any leftover sweet and sour meatballs can be stored in the fridge for about 5 days. Make sure you keep your meatballs in an airtight container to keep them fresh as long as possible. You can reheat your meatballs on a plate in the microwave for 45-60 seconds. We like to cover our meatballs with a paper towel to prevent the sauce from splattering as it warms up.

Pan of sweet and sour ingredients in progress.

Expert Tips

  • If you only have plain breadcrumbs then you can add a teaspoon of both onion and garlic powder to your meatball mixture. This will help give the meatballs a little extra flavor.
  • Make sure your meatball mixture is thoroughly combined to ensure the meatballs hold their shape and don’t fall apart after cooking. 
  • You can check to see if your sauce is done by seeing if it coats the back of a spoon. 
  • Make sure your cornstarch is fully incorporated into the sauce so that you aren’t left with any clumps as the sauce thickens. 
  • If you don’t want to combine the meatball mixture with your hands then you can use a large spoon or fork, but it will take a little bit longer. 
  • You can use a cookie scoop to save time when forming your meatballs and ensure they’re evenly shaped. 
Two rows of sweet and sour sauce covered meatballs on a long rectangle plate.

More Beef Recipes To Consider

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Stack of sweet and sour meatballs on a round white plate.
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Sweet and Sour Meatballs

These Sweet and Sour Meatballs, perfect as an entree or appetizer, feature ground beef tossed in a tasty sauce made with brown sugar, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 15 meatballs

Ingredients 

Ingredients (meatballs):

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Ingredients (sauce):

  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, garlic powder, and minced onion in a large mixing bowl using your hands.
  • Once the ingredients are thoroughly combined, divide the meat mixture into 15 evenly shaped balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Cook your meatballs for 20 minutes in the oven, or until they reach 165°F.
  • While the meatballs are cooking, prepare your sauce by using a small whisk or fork to combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Stir the sauce for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
  • Toss your meatballs in a medium sized bowl with the sauce to evenly coat them.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • If you only have plain breadcrumbs then you can add a teaspoon of both onion and garlic powder to your meatball mixture.
  • Make sure your meatball mixture is thoroughly combined to ensure the meatballs hold their shape and don’t fall apart after cooking.
  • You can check to see if your sauce is done by seeing if it coats the back of a spoon.
  • Make sure your cornstarch is fully incorporated into the sauce so that you aren’t left with any clumps as the sauce thickens.
  • If you don’t want to combine the meatball mixture with your hands then you can use a large spoon or fork, but it will take a little bit longer.
  • You can use a cookie scoop to save time when forming your meatballs and ensure they’re evenly shaped.
  • Store your leftover sweet and sour meatballs in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheat them in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.

Nutrition

Calories: 168kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 667mg, Potassium: 161mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 91IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 31mg, Iron: 1mg
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