Homemade BBQ Meatballs Recipe: this easy recipe for baked meatballs is even better with a sweet BBQ glaze you pour over them! Great as a main dish or an appetizer, these meatballs freeze well so you can always have some on-hand!
Meatballs are one of those meals that it’s so easy to fall into a rut of just buying bags of the frozen meatballs. I know… I’ve been there. But then I’ll make homemade meatballs again and am instantly reminded that they’re also one of those meals that is SO MUCH BETTER HOMEMADE!!
This recipe for baked meatballs is so easy and can be used as a base recipe for so many meals. They also freeze really well, so don’t be scared to double or even triple the ingredients so you can always have some available in your freezer!
I love the addition of this homemade BBQ sauce, but you could easily leave it out and just use the basic baked meatballs with a jar of marinara sauce for spaghetti. Or serve with mashed potatoes or over a scoop of rice. We love a good toasted meatball sauce covered in melted provolone cheese too!
I hope you’ll give it a try at least once with this BBQ sauce, though, because it is really good! This is based off a recipe I pulled out of a Taste of Home maybe 20 years ago, and have tweaked along the way.
I made a batch the other weekend on a day when I had lots of family in and out of the house. These were a hit with everyone! They’re perfect served as a main dish or even as an appetizer!
Ingredients to Make Homemade BBQ Meatballs
- Meat: I normally use ground beef for my meatballs, but you can really use a variety of meats depending on your preferences. A lot of stores sell a meatloaf mix that contains ground beef, veal and pork. That would work well for this recipe! You can also use ground turkey if you want it to be a little leaner. I normally use ground beef with 85/15 ration of meat to fat. This tends to give me the juiciest meatballs without them swimming in their own grease.
- Milk: I use evaporated milk for my meatballs but you can easily use regular milk if that’s all you have on hand.
- Oats: I’ve used both quick-cooking oats and instant oats interchangeably for this recipe. The oatmeal helps bind the meatballs together. A lot of traditional meatball recipes use breadcrumbs, but I’ve always preferred oatmeal (I use it in my meatloaf recipe too). It’s an easy trick for how to make meatballs without breadcrumbs!
- Onion: I always use a chopped sweet onion for this recipe. We’re huge fans of onions but feel free to decrease the amount to 1/3 cup if you don’t want it quite as onion-y.
- Spices: I stick to salt, paprika and garlic powder and that’s it! I want to taste the meat and don’t need anything overpowering it. If you prefer more spices, though, you can add chili powder, pepper, onion powder, parsley or whatever your favorite spices are!
- Sauce Ingredients: The sauce is very basic with ketchup, brown sugar, chopped onion and garlic powder. The magic comes when it simmers in a saucepan and starts to caramelize. It is a fairly sweet sauce, but feel free to add about 1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke to cut down on the sweetness if you want.
How to Make Baked Meatballs
Step One: In a large bowl, first add one egg. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg just to break it up. Then add remaining meatball ingredients: evaporated milk, oats, chopped onion, salt, paprika and garlic powder. Mix everything up really well.
Step Two: After you have that mixed well, add your ground beef to the bowl. You can attempt to mix this with a spoon, but it’s really easiest to just mix it up with your hands. Your hands are going to get dirty anyways when you roll them into meatballs.
Step Three: After you have everything combined well, it’s time to roll them. I use a medium size cookie scoop to make sure they’re all pretty much the same size. This helps them bake nice and evenly too! After I scoop them out, I roll each one into a neat little ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Make sure you use a cookie sheet with sides so that grease doesn’t drip off into the bottom of your oven. You could also line your cookie sheet with foil or a silicone liner if you prefer.
Step Four: Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. or until they’re no longer pink inside.
Step Five: While they’re baking, you can start on the BBQ sauce. In a small sauce pan, add ketchup, brown sugar, chopped onion and garlic powder. Stir well and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, immediately turn it to low and simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
Step Six: When the meatballs are done, remove from the oven and toss with the sauce. Return the meatballs to the cookie sheet and bake for another 10 minutes to get the BBQ sauce nice and caramelized. Remove from oven and serve hot!
Can I Freeze Meatballs?
Absolutely! In fact, not only can you freeze meatballs but you should!! They freeze so well, heat up better than just about any other frozen meat and are so versatile! They’re great to have on hand whether you need a last minute dinner or you have unexpected company and need a quick appetizer!
How to Freeze Cooked Meatballs
Follow the above directions through Step Four. So you’re going to bake your meatballs for 20 minutes and then remove them from the oven to cool. Once they’re completely cool, just place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and flash freeze for about 20-30 minutes. Once they’re frozen, you can transfer to a freezer bag to store for the next couple months until you’re ready to use them.
On serving day, you can either let them sit out for about 30 minutes to thaw or you can cook them directly from frozen. The only difference is how much time you’ll have to leave them in to reheat through the center. I like to let them sit out for a little bit and while they’re defrosting, I make the sauce in the saucepan. Then just toss them with the sauce and bake for about 10-12 minutes. If you’re cooking directly from frozen, you’ll have to bake for closer to 15-18 minutes to make sure they get hot the whole way through.
How to Freeze Raw Meatballs
You could also freeze them after you have rolled them into individual meatballs but before you bake them. Just flash freeze as I described up above and then store in a freezer bag.
On serving day, the process is pretty similar to above. You can set them out for about 30 minutes to start thawing (my preferred method), and then bake according to the recipe. Or you can bake from frozen and just add about 10-15 minutes onto the total time until you test one and see that it’s cooked the whole way through.
What Do You Serve With Meatballs?
If you’re serving BBQ meatballs as your main dish, these side dishes would go well with them:
- Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Brussels Sprouts au Gratin
- Parmesan Baked Potato Wedges
If you’re serving these as a party appetizer, here are some other freezer-friendly appetizers that can be made ahead of time:
- Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls
- Ham and Cheese Sliders
- Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites
- Bacon Crescent Roll Appetizers
Homemade BBQ Meatballs
- 1 Egg
- 5 oz. Evaporated Milk
- 1 cup Quick Cooking Oats
- 1/2 cup Onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1.5 lbs Ground Beef
BBQ Sauce Ingredients
- 1 cup Ketchup
- 2/3 cup Brown Sugar packed
- 1/3 cup Onion finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with sides with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add egg and use a fork to lightly beat it. Then add evaporated milk, oats, onion, salt, paprika and garlic powder to the bowl. Mix until well combined.
- Add ground beef to the egg mixture and use your hands to combine all the ingredients. Using a medium cookie scoop, make meatballs that are about 2" wide. Use your hands to roll them into round meatballs so they hold their shape.
- Place meatballs on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until meat is no longer pink.
BBQ Sauce Directions
- While meatballs are cooking, in a small saucepan, combine all of the sauce ingredients. Heat over medium high until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- When meatballs are done cooking, toss them in the sauce until they're completely coated. Then return them to the cookie sheet and continue baking at 350 for another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and serve hot!