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What Are Cranberry Meatballs?

By B. Miller
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cranberry meatballs are a popular dish to prepare around the holidays, as they have a sweet and savory flavor that is enjoyed by many. They are also a very easy dish to make in a slow-cooker, though there are other ways to make cranberry meatballs by baking them in the oven to save some time. These meatballs are typically made with ground beef for the most flavor, though some people use ground turkey to make them slightly healthier, or even ground pork sausage for a slightly stronger flavor. This is entirely based on taste preference, and does not make too much of a difference in preparation.

The simplest way to make cranberry meatballs, and the recipes most often found online, involve making them in the slow-cooker, or baking them at low heat in a covered dish in the oven, and letting them cook for a few hours to get even more flavorful. The easiest way to do it is to simply prepare the meatballs using a desired recipe; this typically just involves mixing together the meat with eggs, breadcrumbs, and spices, and forming them into the meatballs. They should be browned in oil in a skillet for a few minutes to give them a more appetizing final appearance before they are added to the baking dish or slow-cooker.

Once in the slow-cooker, jellied cranberry sauce may simply be added over the meatballs. Some people add a bit of lemon juice or barbecue sauce to cut the sweetness and give them a slightly more tangy flavor. As they cook, the juices will begin to soak into the meatballs and give them that sweet cranberry flavor. It is important to cook the cranberry meatballs thoroughly, until there is no pink left in the middle, to be sure they are safe to eat. In the slow-cooker, this can take a few hours; in the oven, it will typically take less time.

There is another way to make cranberry meatballs that can take less time. Though they might be less moist, they will still have a stronger cranberry flavor. In this variation, instead of using breadcrumbs to hold the meatballs together, some people choose to use boxed, cranberry-flavored stuffing, many brands of which have actual pieces of cranberry in it. These too can be browned in a pan, and then baked on a baking sheet in the oven. Either one of these methods can lead to delicious cranberry meatballs.

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