This recipe for Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs is easy and delicious and does double duty as either a meal or as an appetizer!
Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs are tender, bite sized, and wrapped in a deliciously sweet sauce. Served on a toothpick or a bed of rice, these little bites are delicious and super easy to make. The slow cooker literally does all the work and who doesn’t love a recipe like that?
All about the meatballs
I have all sorts of appreciation for frozen meatballs. Available at most grocery stores and at Costco (in a gigantic bag), they are one of the most versatile ingredients that you can have in your freezer!
The meal idea possibilities are infinite and making your own make ahead meatballs is a budget friendly alternative to buying the premade, more expensive ones.
For this recipe, you can use premade meatballs, homemade meatballs, thaw them out, or keep them frozen. Whatever works for you!
The slow cooker does the majority of the work and dinner is delicious. These also make a great appetizer. My favorite kind of recipe!
About the Ingredients
- Meatballs – Fresh, frozen, ground beef or turkey… whatever you want to do here is fine. I keep a bunch of make ahead meatballs in the freezer so this comes together quick and easy.
- Peppers – This recipe is pretty with multicolored peppers but there is no need to make them with any specific color. I always like to cut up a few pieces into smaller pieces and save them to stir into the finished product. The pepper chunks in the slow cooker will cook down so adding a few small pieces of uncooked peppers at the end adds a nice crunch.
- Vinegar – This recipe calls for rice wine vinegar (rice vinegar) or apple cider vinegar. I almost always have the seasoned rice vinegar available in my pantry but if you don’t have either of those, you could also substitute plain white vinegar.
- Soy Sauce – It doesn’t matter if you use low sodium soy sauce or regular soy sauce to make this. Also, I often substitute coco aminos here because the flavor is the same and the product is allergy friendly, contains less salt and is a lot less expensive than soy sauce!
- What to Serve With – As an appetizer, serve with toothpicks. As a dinner, serve over any kind of rice (absorbs the sauce) or over egg noodles (weirdly good).
How to Make Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs
Lightly spray the bottom of the slow cooker with cooking spray and set to low heat (planning to cook 6-8 hours) or high heat (planning to cook 3-4 hours).
You may use as many meatballs as you like, however they need to be able to form a single layer on the bottom of the slow cooker*.
*This is especially important if you are not thawing the meatballs and just want to toss them in frozen because the heat from the bottom of the slow cooker being in direct contact with the meatballs will help them to cook evenly.
Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and then add the peppers and the garlic. Saute until the peppers begin to soften, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes.
Add onion powder, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil and stir to combine.
Then add the oranges, increase the heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a small container, stir the reserved 1/4 cup mandarin orange juice together with the cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved. I usually mix it with a fork so there aren’t many lumps.
Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the boiling sauce and it will thicken immediately. Remove from heat.
Pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slow cooker and cover. Cook 6-8 hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. (You can cook on high 3-4 hours if more convenient for your timeline!)
Serve with toothpicks as an appetizer or over rice as a meal. Enjoy!
Other Slow Cooker Recipes You May Enjoy
Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew – Bite sized chunks of beef, tender potatoes, and all of your favorite vegetables slow simmered in a delicious beef gravy.
Crockpot French Onion Soup – Overnight French Onion Soup made easy!
Crockpot Taco Chili – Delicious dump, stir and walk away recipe. Dinner is ready.
Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Ribs – fall-off-the-bone delicious!
Mississippi Pot Roast Sandwiches – Flavorful slow cooked shredded beef, tender and tangy with just a hint of heat.
Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs
- Slow Cooker
- 20-24 frozen meatballs or 1 recipe Make Ahead Meatballs
- 1 tbsp oil
- 3 large bell peppers any color, cut into bite sized chunks
- 1 tsp minced garlic one medium clove
- 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp sesame oil
- 1 can mandarin oranges 11 ounce drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved.
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- Set the slow cooker to low heat and place a single layer of frozen meatballs evenly on the bottom.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped peppers and minced garlic. Saute until tender, 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the onion powder, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar and sesame oil and stir to combine. Add the drained mandarin oranges. Increase the heat to medium-high and heat the sauce to a boil.
- In a small bowl combine the reserved 1/4 cup juice from the mandarin oranges with the cornstarch. Once combined, whisk into the sauce. It will begin thickening immediately.
- Remove from heat and pour over the frozen meatballs in the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low (or 3-4 hours on high) stirring occasionally.
- Serve over any type of cooked rice or over egg noodles for dinner, or serve with toothpicks if serving as an appetizer. Enjoy!