Sweet and Sour Meatballs


5 from 12 votes
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These sweet and sour meatballs are bursting with sweet, hot, sour, and garlicky flavors! It’s perfect for a quick and easy dinner that tastes like takeout!

sweet and sour meatballs.

I love quick, hearty, flavorful dinner ideas. And when you crave takeout dishes like honey walnut shrimp or Empress chicken, this sweet and sour meatballs recipe fits right in.

The tanginess from the vinegar, sweetness from the brown sugar, subtle heat from the chili sauce, and fragrance from the garlic make these sweet and sour meatballs incredibly satisfying!

Table of Contents
  1. Why this recipe works
  2. Ingredients Needed
  3. How to make sweet and sour meatballs
  4. Can I use a crockpot?
  5. Tips to make the best recipe
  6. Storage instructions
  7. More delicious ways to enjoy meatballs
  8. Frequently asked questions
  9. Sweet and Sour Meatballs (Recipe Card)

Why this recipe works

I tend to make these meatballs for quick dinners, but they are also great for entertaining too. When I have to feed a crowd, it’s so easy to double or triple this recipe, and there are NEVER any leftovers.

  • Easy to make. If you think making meatballs would be time-consuming and tedious, try this recipe. Trust me, it’ll soon become your kitchen regular.
  • It tastes like takeout. This copycat recipe tastes like the one from your favorite takeout but is homemade, healthier, and cheaper.
  • Quick to make. It takes about 30 minutes to make, so it’s perfect for busy weeknights or when you want something fast.

Ingredients Needed

These sweet and sour meatballs are so easy to make: besides the meat and some seasonings, there isn’t much else that is needed. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Ground beef. I have used ground beef, but feel free to combine ground beef and pork to make your meatballs. Ensure your ground meat has a little fat in it so the meatballs remain juicy.
  • Bread crumbs. Any regular breadcrumbs will do, but I like to use Italian flavored ones because they work so well with the sauce.
  • Onion. For the flavor. Personally, I find grating the onion really adds some depth of flavor compared to mincing or chopping them up.
  • Egg. To bind everything together.
  • Salt and pepper. To taste.
  • Italian seasoning. To flavor the meatballs.
  • Oil. To sauté the meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • Oil. To sauté the aromatics. Any neutral oil will work for this step.
  • Garlic. For a smooth sauce, I prefer using minced garlic.
  • Water. To make the sauce. If I have leftover vegetable or chicken stock, I use it instead of water for added flavor.
  • Vinegar. For the acidity. White vinegar is best, but apple cider vinegar will also work. If you don’t have either on hand, use some lemon juice.
  • Sweet chili sauce. This slightly spicy and sweet sauce is my absolute favorite. Buy Thai or Asian sweet chili sauce from any grocery store.
  • Light brown sugar. It adds a lovely color and the necessary sweetness to the recipe.
  • Salt. To taste.
  • Cornstarch. To thicken the sauce.

How to make sweet and sour meatballs

You don’t have to wait hours to enjoy this mouthwatering recipe. Making my favorite version takes a little over half an hour and six simple steps. Here’s an overview!

  1. Make the meatball mix: Combine the sweet and sour meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Shape the meatballs: Make roughly 1-1/2 inch wide meatballs using your hands.
  3. Cook the meatballs: Cook the meatballs with oil over medium heat until evenly browned on all sides. Then, remove them from the pan.
  4. Make the sweet and sour sauce: Clean your skillet, heat oil, and sauté garlic until fragrant over medium heat. Add the water, vinegar, sweet chili sauce, sugar, and salt, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Thicken the sauce: Add cornstarch slurry (1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp water) to the skillet, stir well, and simmer until it thickens.
  6. Coat the meatballs: Add the cooked beef meatballs back into the skillet and stir until all are coated with the sweet and sour sauce. 
sweet and sour meatballs on rice.

Can I use a crockpot?

You can totally make this dish in the crockpot. Crockpot sweet and sour meatballs are more hands-off, but the meatballs still turn out extra juicy and tender. Also, it requires even less clean up!

To slow cook, combine meatballs with a sauce in the crockpot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Tips to make the best recipe

  • Use a stand mixer: To mix the ingredients efficiently, combine the meatball mixture in a stand mixer on a paddle attachment. 
  • Chill the mixture: While it is not essential, chilling the mixture helps it bind better and easier to handle. 
  • Make the sauce ahead of time: Make the sauce up to a week in advance to save time. When ready to eat, prep your meatballs and toss them with the premade sauce. Or use store-bought sweet and sour sauce to save time.
  • Adjust the sweetness: Reduce the sugar quantity if you like your sauce a little less sweet. Substitute brown sugar with honey, agave, or maple syrup instead for a deeper flavor. 

Storage instructions

Leftover meatballs soak up all the sauces and taste better the next day. Here’s how you can store them:

To store. Refrigerate the leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days.  

To freeze. Freeze the leftover meatballs in freezer-safe containers for 4-5 months.

To reheat. Allow the frozen sweet and sour balls to thaw in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave before serving, and serve hot.

recipe for sweet and sour meatballs.

More delicious ways to enjoy meatballs

Frequently asked questions

Can I bake my meatballs in the oven?

Bake the shaped meatballs in a preheated oven at 375°F for 20-30 minutes until set. You can also use an air-fryer to bake the meatballs.

How many meatballs does this recipe make?

Depending on the size of the rolled meatballs, you can expect to make 12-15 meatballs using this recipe.

What side goes with sweet and sour meatballs?

Anything that soaks up the glorious sauce makes the perfect side dish. I love white rice, mashed potatoes, or even mashed sweet potatoes.

sweet and sour meatballs recipe.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

5 from 12 votes
These sweet and sour meatballs are bursting with sweet, hot, sour, and garlicky flavors! It's perfect for a quick and easy dinner that tastes like takeout!
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon oil

Sweet and sour sauce

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons water divided
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce optional
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, grated onion, egg, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning and mix well. 
  • Using your hands, shape them into small meatballs, around 1 1/2 inches wide.
  • Add oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook the meatballs until evenly browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the pan.
  • Wipe the skillet, add oil, and place back over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add 2/3 cups of the water, vinegar, sweet chili sauce, sugar, and salt and allow everything to simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Mix the cornstarch with the remaining two tablespoons of water to create a slurry. Add it to the skillet and stir well. Continue simmering everything until it thickens.
  • Add the meatballs back into the skillet and gently mix until completely coated in the sweet and sour sauce. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 328kcalCarbohydrates: 26gProtein: 30gFat: 10gSodium: 773mgPotassium: 501mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 78IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 84mgIron: 5mgNET CARBS: 24g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Arman Liew
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

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5 from 12 votes (10 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight after saving the recipe 21 weeks ago. I made the meatball mix in my food processor as I didn’t want to grate the onion. Onions first, then fresh breadcrumbs (let the onion juices do its thing), then added in the rest of the ingredients.
    This is a do again recipe

  2. Hey Arman,
    I was wondering about how many would this make, and about how many would you suggest as a healthy serving size?