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Cranberry glazed meatballs recipe

It’s cranberry season! Well, it was back around the holidays a month or so ago. And now that it’s over, as much as I love cranberries, it’s hard to get people enthusiastic all over again. And that’s made even harder when you live in a place where cranberries don’t hold the same sway over Parisians, as they do with Americans.

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

People often express dismay that expats exalt certain foods that “foodies” (which doesn’t have a translation in French) would otherwise find reprehensible, such as stuffing mix, canned pumpkin, and tinned cranberry sauce. (I still don’t know why the expat food shelves at stores in Europe have powdered cheesecake mix. Is that really a thing? I’ve never ever seen that back in the states.)

But we all need a break, especially around the holidays – (me especially) – except I think everyone should take a pass on anything labeled “cheesecake mix” – and while kale-sweet potato casseroles and “best-ever”, newfangled ways of roasting (and brining, and deep-frying) turkey invade magazines, newspapers, and websites around the holidays, sometimes you just want to be goofy, and present a little reminder of your past, such as store-bought cranberry sauce.

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

I had a few cans that I’d brought back from the states, because finding fresh cranberries can be a challenge in Paris (although they usually are available…for a price…) While I gazed on them lovingly for the few months leading up to Thanksgiving, I ended up making my own fresh cranberry sauce, once again, especially when I saw that two of the four ingredients in the canned cranberries were high-fructose corn syrup and corn syrup.

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

It’s not like it’s something I’m eating every day, so I’m not all that concerned about a once-annual spoonful of dubiously sweetened cranberry sauce. However since I had gone the DIY route, I had those cans lying around that needed to be used. Because come Thanksgiving, I have a few friends that loaded me up with fresh cranberries, so I have a bogs-worth in my freezer, taking up about 45% of the space in there.

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

Most recipes for cranberry-glaze meatballs use frozen meatballs (…and those are a thing?) and sometimes, grape jelly in place of the cranberry sauce, as well as chili sauce, a tomato-based condiment that is somewhat similar to ketchup. And while ketchup is now omnipresent, chile sauce is another thing that you don’t find in Paris.

So I took a slightly different route, adding a dash of sriracha (which my Parisian partner loves – yay!), some orange juice, a handful of freshly chopped ginger to add some zing, and a few shots of cider vinegar made locally, which cleared my conscious of using cranberries from somewhere far, far away.

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

Cranberry-Glazed Meatballs

You can either fry the meatballs in a skillet with some oil, or bake them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet at 375ºF (190ºC) for 12 minutes, or until just cooked through. I used a Lebanese 7 spice mixture, which isn’t something you’ll find in your local grocery store most likely. You can make your own, use allspice, or use another spice blend, such as pumpkin pie spice. Although these are considered cocktail party fare, speared with toothpicks from a chafing dish, I served them with noodles and they were quickly gobbled up and enjoyed.

For the meatballs

  • 2 pounds (900g) ground pork
  • 3/4 cup (80g) bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice, or a spice mixture, such as pumpkin pie spice (see headnote)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • optional: 1/2 – 1 fresh chile pepper, seeded and finely diced

For the sauce

  • One 14-ounce (396g) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons sriracha, or another hot sauce, to your liking
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • To make the meatballs, in a medium bowl, mix the pork, breadcrumbs, milk, eggs, allspice or spice mixture, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, fennel, garlic, a few turns of black pepper, and the chopped chili, if using.
  • If planning to bake the meatballs, preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, roughly the size of an unshelled walnut, and place them on the baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 12 minutes. (If you want to pay fry them, heat some oil in a large skillet and fry them until cooked through. You may need to work in batches, depending on the size of your pan.)
  • While the meatballs are cooking, make the glaze by pureeing the cranberry sauce in a blender or food processor. Pour it into a large, wide saucepan or Dutch oven. Stir in the vinegar, orange juice, brown sugar, mustard, ginger, sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Heat the mixture, stirring, until it comes together. Add the warm meatballs and cook, stirring to glaze them in the sauce.


Serving: These are cocktail party fare so you can serve them as is, or they can be served with rice, polenta, or pasta, as a main course.
Storage: Once cooked, the meatballs are best eaten right away, although they can be rewarmed in a covered skillet or in a microwave oven. The meatball mixture can be made up to three days ahead and refrigerated.

Related Recipes

Meatball Sandwich

Patty Melt

Party Pan Pizza



    • Todd

    These look great! I’m going to make these using the cranberry sauce I made and froze.

    Can’t wait to get your balls in my mouth!!!

    • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    When I first read the title of this post I thought…hmm, wonder if those would be anything like those old fashioned meatballs made with grape jelly and chili sauce and thank you for addressing that very thing!

    I love using cranberries and can empathize…I bought 6 huge bags of them at Costco right after Christmas and now my freezer has to do without other treasures as a result but I’m OK with that. No canned here but no matter…I can do this!

    • joan prime

    David: These sound good and would be great for my catering menus. I do not eat pork, however, and wonder if ground turkey would be a acceptable substitute.

    Love your posts,

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Joan: Thanks! We don’t get ground turkey (or chicken) in Paris, but it would be fine. One could also use beef or lamb as well.

    • Marl

    When making stuffing for turkey I cut up some fresh cranberries and add them raw into the mixture. The color is wonderful, too.

    If making these meatballs, I would probably use fresh rather than canned cranberries. It’s easy to make fresh, plus there would be leftovers after making the meatballs.

    How you are well and safe.

    • Vicki Bensinger

    Yum these sound delicious and would be perfect to serve while everyone is gathering around the tv to watch the upcoming SuperBowl

    • Mario

    Jell-O makes a powdered “no bake” cheesecake mix that is widely available in the U.S. so yes, it exists here but it’s something that you probably never looked for at your average Safeway when you lived in Northern California ha ha.

    • Jan

    I know that pork seems to be the “other white meat” now-a-days, but I prefer not to eat pork and wonder if this recipe might be made with ground chicken or turkey. If so, would you add a mild olive oil to the mix?

    • Wade

    I couldn’t help smiling when I read this, as cranberry meatballs like these were a regular staple, and a favorite of my childhood diet.

    • Susan

    Oh, I have a soft spot for those cocktail meatballs, grape jelly, chili sauce and all! Although, in later years, I did sub canned cranberry sauce for the jelly, not that it really made it any more sophisticated! Could you toss a handful of fresh cranberries into the sauce to sort of candy them before tossing the meat in?

    • Liz

    Although 99% of the time I love what you do, here is where we part ways sharply. You have just described the centerpiece of every office holiday potluck I’ve ever attended. Invariably some nice lady will dump it all in a crockpot and plug it in at her desk, filling the office with the aroma of sweet and sour meatballs. Just thinking about it makes me sort of queasy. I loved My Paris Kitchen, but I’ll have to pass on this one.

    • Jolena @TheRubyKitchen

    I love that you used sriracha and ginger – what a wonderful twist! I agree that homemade meatballs are always the way to go. Thank you for sharing!

    • John Wm Schiffeler

    Your photographs appear to be as delectable as the entrées they depict.

    • farmerpam

    I’d have to agree with Liz, I love 99.9% of what you do and live vicariously through your travel posts. However these meatballs remind me of my mother- in- law’s horrid concoction that involves a slow cooker, meatballs and a jar of grape jelly, a dish reserved for the holidays. Really. Coming from an Italian family it was something I’d never seen or heard of. And I’m thankful for that. ;)

    • ItalianGirlCooks

    I like the ingredients going into this recipe – a refreshing change from the usual stuff you try at parties etc. and don’t go back for 2nds!

    • sandy

    David – what a delightful recipe! I make turkey meatballs and to keep them moist I add onion and carrots that I put through the food processor until almost mush. I also bake my meatballs.

    • Victor

    Interesting idea to use cranberry glaze on meatballs. I’ve used cranberry sauce on roasted turkey and on pork chops – they taste delicious! Cranberries can really compliment the meat.

    Looking forward to try this recipe.

    • soozzie

    Frozen meatballs are very much a thing. The ones from Costco are quite tasty and will go with almost any kind of sauce — sweet/spicy, cream, barbecue, pesto. Think super bowl, neighborhood open house, potluck offering.

    • Bernadette

    They look mahvelous dahling! Will be trying these and passing the recipe along. Happy new year and many congratulations on the book, David, each one gets better and better.

    • Suzy @ The Mediterranean Dish

    I have always made my own meatballs of beef or lamb, never bought the frozen bags. My go-to spicy sauce is harissa; I would imagine it could be incorporated here? At any rate, I think your recipe is divine even with the use of canned cranberries. I’m actually comforted you used something canned; it makes the rest of us feel okay with taking some shortcuts when needed.

    • Rebecca @ Bring Back Delicious

    A freeze full of cranberries? What a treat! I have a tree full of lemons I need to do something with. So many ideas, so little time!

    • Elena

    Beautiful recipe!

    Thank you!

    • Oksana

    Sounds and looks devine! David, any ideas where we can get cranberry sauce in France?

    • claudine Sherman

    Looks delicious ! I am having a birthday party at the end of the month and i am serving different appetizers,i will make your cranberry meatballs.
    Thank you David for the recipe.

    I have heard that FAUCHON sells cranberry sauce…Is it true?

    • Lail | With A Spin

    Delicious meatballs. I made jalapeno cranberry sauce during Thanksgiving and it was a super hit that I had to make again about 2 weeks ago. I am thinking that sauce would go very well for this glazed meatball recipe. I’ll skip the siracha when making. Thanks for the idea.

    • Lydia

    These sound good and I might actually try them- “actually” because I hate making meatballs, even though I prefer choosing a better quality meat than one finds in frozen. But frozen meatballs are a thing for me! I like turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s, or here in Canada I buy them at Superstore.
    I have a nostalgia for canned cranberry sauce too, but I never buy it because it’s so easy to make fresh.

    • Matea

    Cranberry sauce goes so well with savory dishes! Can’t wait to try these meatballs :)

    • mumimor

    This recipe is so delicious, but so are all your recipes.

    I’m just checking in because so many are writing about their surplus of cranberries. I make a cranberry cordial every time I can get cheap fresh or frozen cranberries. It’s so much fresher than the industrial version, healthy for ear-infections, and excellent for cocktails.

    • Carol

    Wow, that glaze would be excellent on duck! With or without the hot sauce. My mum’s 1960s recipe for sweet and sour meatballs has spoiled me for every other meatball since, I have not tasted another I have cares for(and I have had plenty) but, where this is on pork it sounds pretty good! I would have to have it with Basmati or Jasmine rice, some wax beans, and a delicious egg roll. Thanks!

    • Catherine Saxton

    WOW, just this week I had a hankering for canned cranberry sauce. Somehow or other, there is was in the deep dark back of my pantry…. I made curried turkey loaf which doesn’t taste right without french green beans and canned cranberry. Now, I’m gonna have to try this. New to your blog, glad my daughter told me about it!

    • Mark

    While we didn’t have any stuffing mix, we did make up a batch with some leftover baguette for our neighbor here in Burgundy. We served it with pintade on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Safe to say that my biggest surprise of 2014 was that he — a certified Frenchman trained to find at least one fault in everything!– approved of bread mixed with butter, stock, carrots, onions, celery, and spices and baked in the oven. I’m pretty sure he’s never seen a cranberry…will have to try these out on him next.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I hear you on being well-trained to find a fault ; )

      However I can relate because my partner loves American-style stuffing. That’s his favorite part of Thanksgiving. (And maybe mine, too!)

    • Adriana Rabinovich

    When this appeared in my inbox I had a sudden rush to the heart. My beloved Aunt Molly had a two dish repertoire. One was her brisket, the other her cranberry glazed meat balls. For years I have tried to re-create this recipe to get the right mix of sweet and sour. A bit Chinese takeaway a bit Jewish Barmitzvah/wedding staple. It’s never quite tasted the same as hers. Thank you for giving me a heads up on this. Will try it out on the kids tonight and hopefully Aunt Molly’s (and David Lebovitz’s ) cranberry glazed meatballs will be on the weekly rota.

    • ELLIE

    I use Lingonberry preserves instead of canned cranberry sauce. Hafi preserves are imported from Sweden and are not too sweet. Ikea used to sell them but now they sell some other brand which is not as good, IMO.
    I am not fond of hot/spicy sauces or peppers. Would there be some way to enhance the flavor of these meatballs made without the heat?

    The recipe is enticing as a dinner dish. I’d serve them with rice pasta.

    • Bebe

    That sauce with the whole cranberry sauce (which works better than home-cooked cranberry sauce for this purpose), wine or cider vinegar, brown sugar, is very close to a recipe a friend gave me for her delicious cranberry chutney. Her recipe includes white raisins (Sultanas), dry mustard, etc. She gifts it every Christmas and now I make my own. Yummy with poultry and on sandwiches.

    Will have to try this meatball recipe… the taste should be close. And very good.

    • Bebe

    Re last comment, the chutney also includes curry powder.

    • Phillip ||

    Can you direct me to where the powdered cheesecake aisle is, sir?….

    Now… canned cranberry sauce is my jam.

    • Ginnie

    My mom made quite a few of those powdered cheesecake when I was a kid … ha ha. They were quite popular in Wisconsin;) She was a great cook otherwise!

    • BananaBirkLarsen

    A classic I’d completely forgotten about! This is going to be my dinner tomorrow night, made with a jar of “red chile cranberry sauce” that I’ve had in the cupboard for a while. Thanks for the reminder and the recipe.

    • NJ cook

    Ms Rabinovich, substituting ground beef for ground pork would be more likely to replicate Aunt Molly’s recipe, I’ll bet.

    • Cate

    Oh, I sure wish you had made these before Christmas! I made my own version but had to make homemade chili sauce and used myrtielle jelly instead of grape jelly. They turned out pretty good I must say… ;)

    • margot nightingale

    Sriracha in Paris? Help. No luck at la grande epicerie at bon marché (which is turning more and more into a circus and less and less into a satisfying food market of hard to find items which is was at one time…dommage)

    • Marcia Goldberg

    i have fond memories of my mom’s cocktail meatballs. We made yours tonight, served over rice and they were delicious – forgive me for using whole cranberry sauce in the can but i had one in the apartment and decided to use it. Completely worth it. These balls will be made again. really love the lebanese 7 spice mixture, that was new for me.

    • Alice

    Mr. Lebovitz,
    I absolutely adore you! You make me so happy with your post, pictures, and your expression of joy when you cook all these wonderful dishes. I wish I could cook all the foods you suggest, but for now, I will use my imagination and senses to the fullest as I drool over my keyboard on each new post. You are truly a beautiful person. Thank you, monsiuer.

    • Colleen

    David, you can make cranberry shrub with some of your cranberries ( and either put it in sparkling water or cocktails. I did a 1:1 swap for blueberries. Cranberries just need to be mashed a bit more aggressively.

    I think that I might try some of the meatballs with the leftover home made cranberry sauce that I have, or just make the glaze for some pork chops.

    • marian

    Hi David,
    I’m sorry, but this recipe is a no-go for me. I tried it last week and the sauce is gorgeous and the meatballs are good, sort of Scandinavian flavour. But the two together was horrible. I’d never heard of the grape jelly recipe but it also sounds awful. Very North American. Growing up I was raised on a European cuisine and we had pork with prunes but never anything like this.

    Most of your recipes are lovely and I always look forward to trying them.


    • Trang’s corner

    I’m so excited to try this recipe. So delicious! So inspirational!

    • darla

    My mom got a recipe from her friend years ago that uses canned cranberries, sour kraut, and chili sauce. While it sounds awful, it is quite wonderful. I make it for my daughters class and they literally flip out, so do all her teachers at school. I never tell the students what is in the sauce, I just make 10 pounds or more of meatballs and they eat them all as if they were candy! I will try your recipe next time I make the class meatballs and see what they think of your recipe.

    • Melanie

    Ooh. Nice. Going to try these with GF breadcrumbs.

    • Denise

    Unable to find cranberries in Paris, I found a jar of cherries in a supermarket and took them off in a mulled wine direction, whizzed and reduced then dipped in my Christmas meatballs (turkey, pancetta and sage). I gave up on trying to keep my meatballs round.


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