Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (2024)

Forget the frozen meatballs and whip up a fast and fresh recipe for Baked Sweet and Sour Meatballs in 30 minutes or less. Just add fried rice or lo mein noodles to complete your feast!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (1)

Table of Contents

  • Ingredients
  • How to Make Sweet and Sour Meatballs
    • MAKE THE MEATBALLS:
    • MAKE THE SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:
  • How do you keep meatballs moist?
  • Tips
  • What to Serve with Sweet and Sour Meatballs
  • Common Questions
  • More Meatball Recipes You’ll Love
  • Baked Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe

Homemade meatballs make a weekly appearance at our house and are a dinnertime favorite of my husband and my four kiddos.

And it’s no secret that we’re also big fans of anything sweet and sour. From sweet and sour pork tenderloin to sweet and sour shrimp stir-fry and now, rounding out (food pun count: 1) the lineup: sweet and sour meatballs.

So what separates this recipe from all the other ones out there? A lick-the-spatula-and-your-plate homemade sweet and sour sauce that pairs perfectly with the garlicky meatballs but would work equally as well atop chicken breasts, as a dipping sauce for kale and chicken egg rolls or simply drizzled over white rice, if you’re into that sort of thing. #iam

Toss in a few chunks of fresh pineapple and there will be multiple candidates for President of the Clean Plate Club.

Best of all? The meatballs are baked at a high temp so they’re ready for tossing in minutes, and that means dinner is on your table in 30 minutes or less.

Ingredients

You’ll make a simple panade for this meatball recipe, which is just a mixture of breadcrumbs and a liquid such as milk, water or stock. Panade is the secret to the juiciest, tenderest meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (2)

For the meatballs you’ll need:

  • Breadcrumbs: I recommend using Panko because the extra-crispy crumbs soak up moisture and lend the best texture.
  • Milk: I prefer to use whole milk but any variety works.
  • Ground meat: I recommend using your favorite ground meat or ground meat combo. I’m a big fan of turkey meatballs, but chicken, pork or beef all work, too!
  • Garlic: For an intensified garlic experience, don’t hold back!
  • Yellow onion: The size of the onion pieces will affect the texture of your meatballs so aim for a fine mince, which allows the onion to blend more seamlessly into the mixture. To achieve a fine mince, follow these steps: Cut the onion into thin slices, make horizontal cuts, then vertical cuts, and finally, make downward cuts to create small, uniform pieces.
  • Egg: Serves as a binding agent ensuring the meatballs maintain their shape during cooking. Beat the egg separately before adding, for a more even distribution.

For the sweet and sour sauce you’ll need:

  • Garlic: Finely minced to add depth of flavor.
  • Pineapple juice: If using canned, choose unsweetened juice to control the sweetness in your sweet and sour sauce.
  • Ketchup: Contributes a sweet and tangy flavor profile, which is essential for achieving the characteristic sweet and sour taste. I prefer the no-sugar added ketchup but use whatever you have!
  • Brown sugar: Adds just the right amount of sweetness.
  • Soy sauce: Adds a depth of savory richness, bringing an umami undertone to the sauce. I usually opt for low-sodium soy sauce for better control over salt content.
  • Cornstarch plus water: Mixing cornstarch with water creates a slurry that will thicken the sauce once boiled.
  • Diced pineapple: This won’t go into the sauce but will be tossed together with the sauce and meatballs before serving to add an extra burst of flavor.

Kelly’s Note: I prefer to buy the pineapple juice separately just to make sure I have enough.

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

How to Make Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Getting these baked meatballs on your dinner table takes just 30 minutes and three simple steps: making the meatballs, making the sauce and tossing them together. Let’s dive into the details:

MAKE THE MEATBALLS:

  1. Make a panade. In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 5 minutes. This brief resting period ensures the breadcrumbs fully absorb the liquid, creating irresistibly moist meatballs.
  2. Prepare the meatball mixture. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, garlic, onion, egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumb-milk mixture, mixing with your hands just until combined.
Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (3)
  1. Shape. Using your hands, break off 2 or 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.
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  1. Bake in a 500°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to ensure they reach the recommended internal temp.

MAKE THE SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:

  1. Cook the garlic. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Once the oil it hot, add the minced garlic and cook until golden brown. Stir the garlic frequently to avoid burning.
  2. Whisk in the pineapple juice, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes.
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Pro Tip: Whenever cornstarch is involved, it’s essential to bring the sauce to a boil. Skipping this step will lead to a soupy sauce rather than a thick syrup.

  1. Toss and serve. Transfer the cooked meatballs to a large bowl then add the diced pineapple and prepared sauce. Toss to combine and serve immediately.
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How do you keep meatballs moist?

My secret weapon for moist meatballs? A mini muffin pan! All of the juices released as the meatballs cook get soaked back into them.

No mini muffin pan? No problem! Simply coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and arrange the meatballs in rows. The cooking time is the same whether you use a baking dish or a mini muffin pan.

Tips

  • Keep each meatball about the same to ensure even cooking. A small cookie scoop is my go-to tool for shaping, ensuring each meatball is the same size and it speeds up the process, too.
  • Mix the ingredients just until they are combined. Overmixing can lead to a denser texture, so avoid excessive stirring or kneading.
  • Before shaping the meatballs, wet your hands slightly to prevent the meat mixture from sticking.

What to Serve with Sweet and Sour Meatballs

These sweet and sour meatballs with pineapple need little more than steamed coconut rice, but for a truly takeout-inspired dinner, serve them alongside:

  • Chinese Garlic Green Beans or 10-Minute Garlic Bok Choy
  • Air Fryer Cream Cheese Wontons or Crispy Baked Crab Rangoon
  • One-Pan Bacon and Egg Fried Rice
  • Homemade Fortune Cookies
  • … or any of these other takeout-inspired recipes!

Common Questions

Can I make these meatballs in advance?

Absolutely! I prefer to cook the meatballs, cool them completely and then freeze them in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag (without the sauce). To reheat them from the frozen state, I find they remain most moist by microwaving them in a shallow bowl with a splash of water for 1-minute increments until warmed through.

Why do you put milk in meatballs?

Milk is commonly used in meatball recipes because it contributes to their tenderness and adds moisture. It also acts as a binder and helps to control the texture–more milk results in a softer, more tender meatball, while less milk yields a firmer texture.

Are meatballs better baked or cooked in sauce?

It depends on your personal preference and the recipe you are using. Baking meatballs can give them a crispy exterior while keeping the inside moist and tender. On the other hand, cooking meatballs in a sauce can infuse them with flavor and make them juicier. Some recipes may call for both methods – baking the meatballs first and then simmering them in the sauce to finish cooking. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which method you prefer but I guarantee that once you try these moist baked meatballs, you’ll be hooked!

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More Meatball Recipes You’ll Love

  • Baked Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs
  • Baked Orange Chicken Meatballs
  • Blackberry Jam Meatballs
  • Baked Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
  • Baked Hoisin Chicken Meatballs
  • Baked Turkey Meatballs with Quinoa
  • Cheese-Stuffed Meatballs

Craving more? Subscribe to Just a Taste to get new recipes, meal plans and a newsletter delivered straight to your inbox! And stay in touch on Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.

Main Course

Baked Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less with this easy recipe for extra-moist baked sweet and sour meatballs tossed in a homemade sauce.

Author: Kelly Senyei

4.95 from 75 votes

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (8)

Prep Time 15 minutes mins

Cook Time 15 minutes mins

Total Time 30 minutes mins

Servings 24 meatballs

Print Recipe

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, chicken, pork or a combination
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2/3 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 cup diced pineapple

Instructions

Make the meatballs:

  • Preheat the oven to 500°F. Grease 9×13 baking dish or mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

  • In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 5 minutes.

  • In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, garlic, onion, egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumb mixture, mixing with your hands just until combined.

  • Using your hands, break off 2 or 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture and roll it into a ball. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.

  • Bake the meatballs for 12 to 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. While the meatballs bake, make the sauce.

Make the sauce:

  • Add the olive oil to a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Once the oil it hot, add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown.

  • Whisk in the pineapple juice, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Transfer the cooked meatballs to a large bowl then add the diced pineapple. Add the prepared sauce and toss to combined. Serve immediately.

Kelly’s Notes

  • Keep each meatball about the same to ensure even cooking. A small cookie scoop is my go-to tool for shaping, ensuring each meatball is the same size and it speeds up the process, too.
  • Overmixing can lead to a denser texture, so mix the ingredients just until they are combined.
  • Before shaping the meatballs, wet your hands slightly to prevent the meat mixture from sticking.
  • How to Make Ahead: I prefer to cook the meatballs, cool them completely and then freeze them in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag (without the sauce). To reheat them from the frozen state, I find they remain most moist by microwaving them in a shallow bowl with a splash of water for 1-minute increments until warmed through.
  • ★Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

Nutrition

Calories: 70kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 163mg, Potassium: 139mg, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 50IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 14mg, Iron: 0.4mg

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Recipe by Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste. Please do not reprint this recipe without my permission. If you'd like to feature this recipe on your site, please rewrite the method of preparation and link to this post as the original source.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (30-Minute Recipe!) (2024)

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