Crockpot Cocktail Meatballs for a Potluck or Tailgate Party

Spanish-style meatballs, called albondigas, are a popular tapas item, a small snack served alongside drinks before or in place of the main meal. Spanish-style meatballs differ from Italian meatballs as they do not contain Parmesan or Romano cheeses and are meant to be eaten alone rather than with pasta.

When served with a savory sweet and sour barbecue sauce, they also make delicious appetizers and tailgate food.

Sweet and sour meatballs can be prepared at home using an oven and skillet or can be prepared ahead and transported to the big game or potluck party in a crock pot or chafing dish. Either way, they are sure to be devoured in short order.

Sweet and Sour Barbecue Sauce for Meatballs


  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

Combine all ingredients into a crock pot on high heat. Stir to combine. If not using a crock pot or slow cooker, combine in a sauce pot on medium heat.

Crockpot Meatballs Party Appetizer Recipe


  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten


  1. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Sauté onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine beef, pork, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and paprika. Mix in onions, garlic, and egg until well combined. The mixture will be slightly wet.
  3. Form mixture into 1″ meatballs.
  4. Return sauté pan back to stovetop on medium heat. Lightly brown meatballs on all sides, pan frying for 2-3 minutes each.
  5. Place in a crock pot or slow cooker along with sweet and sour barbecue sauce. Heat on high for about 2 hours until meatballs reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). Reduce heat to a low or “warm” setting to maintain a temperature of at least 140 degrees F (60 degrees C) while serving.

Makes 36 meatballs

Alternate Oven Baked Barbecue Meatball Directions and Serving Suggestions

Individuals who do not have a slow cooker can bake meatballs in an oven heated to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 20-30 minutes. Meatballs can then be tossed into the sauce and kept warm on the stovetop.

For serving directly out of the crock pot, use a ladle or serving spoon to place onto plates. For tailgate or Superbowl parties, where the ability to eat with the fingers standing up is imperative, serve with pretzel sticks or toothpicks to create bite-size party appetizers.