Sweet and spicy, and topped with a festive cranberry sauce, these Slow Cooker Gluten Free Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce are made in the slow cooker for an easy recipe perfect for the holiday season. Serve them as tasty appetizers or as part of a main course for holiday parties, game days, and more!
I’m Just Here for the Meatballs
I don’t know about you, but I love a good gluten free meatball recipe. Whether it’s Honey Sriracha Meatballs, Saucy 5 Spice BBQ Meatballs, or Vegan Mushroom Meatballs in Pepper Sauce, they’re always delicious and serve as the perfect appetizers! So, with the holiday season upon us, I thought creating gluten free meatballs would be the perfect easy recipe for all your holiday parties and family gatherings! Plus, leftovers warm up for great game-day snacks.
I didn’t want to create any old slow cooker meatball recipe, though. Oh no! Instead, I spiced things up (pun intended) with a combination of seasonings and jalapeno peppers. Then, I added just a dash of sweetness to balance out the heat, and topped them with a beautiful red cranberry sauce for a bit of festive flair! What resulted were the most delicious cranberry meatballs you’ll ever taste! Even better, they’re super versatile to fit all your dietary needs and can be made with several cooking options to keep meal prep simple. Keep reading to find everything you’ll need to make this gluten free meatball recipe!
How to Make a Slow Cooker Meatball Recipe
Making the meatballs themselves is super simple and will only take a few minutes! Then, the only hard part is deciding whether to make them in the slow cooker or air fryer. Take a look at the options below to determine which method is best for you!
For the Meatballs
- Combine. Place the meatball ingredients (except for the honey) in a bowl, and mix until they are well-combined. Then, add the honey if you choose to use it, and mix again.
- Shape. Using your hands, roll the meat into 1-inch balls, and place them on a prepared baking sheet.
- Broil. Place the baking sheet in the oven, and let the meatballs broil for 5-6 minutes.
For the Cranberry Sauce
- Combine. Add the fresh cranberries, BBQ sauce, chipotle, honey, and spices in a food processor or high-speed blender, and pulse the ingredients until a smooth sauce is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Baking Tips for Gluten Free Meatballs
I did my best to keep these cranberry meatballs as easy as possible. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can be used to make sure you get perfect meatballs every single time. Keep reading to learn more!
To Keep Meatballs from Falling Apart: If your meatballs crumble, it’s likely due to an imbalance of ingredients. If they are too dry, try adding another egg or more honey. Or, if your meatballs are too wet, add a bit more almond flour or Parmesan until the meat mixture sticks together.
Baking Tip: Don’t skip broiling your meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker — similar to “browning” the meat. This step helps keep them from falling apart in the slow cooker!
To Keep Gluten Free Meatballs Moist: This slow cooker meatballs recipe works to lock in moisture, keeping your meatballs tender and moist even after they’re cooked. However, for even juicier meatballs, try implementing a few of the tricks below:
- Choose a Fattier Meat – Chicken, beef, and pork all work with this gluten free meatballs recipe. However, the leaner the cut of meat used, the drier your meatballs will be.
- Keep Ingredients Cold – Using cold ingredients will prevent the fat in the meat from breaking down before it is cooked.
- Don’t Pack the Meatballs – When forming the meatball shape, be sure to pack the mixture loosely. Instead of packing it tightly like you would a snowball, you want to squeeze the meat together just enough for it to hold.
Pro-Tip: Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to form perfectly-sized meatballs with ease!
Slow Cooker – Place your prepared meatballs in your slow cooker, and pour the cranberry sauce on top, making sure they are well-coated. Then, add the lid, and cook your cranberry sauce meatballs on low for 2-3 hours or high for 60-90 minutes.
Air Fryer – Place the meatballs in a prepared air fryer, and let them cook for 12 minutes at 400 degrees. Just be sure to flip them over halfway through cooking! Then, add them to a saucepan with the cranberry sauce, and let them warm on medium-low heat.
Meat Options for Cranberry Meatballs
Typically, ground beef is used for meatball recipes. However, for these cranberry sauce meatballs, feel free to get a little creative! You can use any ground meat you like including sausage, turkey, beef, chicken, and chorizo! Just keep in mind that the flavor will alter slightly depending on what you choose.
Far from your average meatball recipe, these gluten free meatballs can be served a wide variety of ways including:
- On their own as an appetizer or snack
- With veggie noodles
- With rice
- With mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower
Tips, Trick, and Reviews: See How Our Team Made Them!
At Cotter Crunch, we’re dedicated to giving you the absolute best recipes. That means the members of our team all try, test, and taste each and every recipe to make sure they’re perfect before we give them to you. (It’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.) For these gluten free meatballs, we all added our own spin, using ingredients we had on hand, resulting in several different delicious variations including:
Ketchup Sauce: No BBQ? No worries! Shyanne, our editorial manager, ran out, too and used ketchup instead! The results? “Magical meatballs” according to her fiance and official taste-tester. Just replace the BBQ with equal parts ketchup for slightly less smoky flavored meatballs, perfect for a super kid-friendly option!
Sriracha: No chipotle peppers? Use spices and a dash of sriracha instead! Lindsay tested this version, and they turned out just as tasty as the original. Just use ¼-½ teaspoons of smoked paprika and 2 Tablespoons of diced tomatoes instead. Then, mix with a few tablespoons of sriracha, and you’ll be good to go!
Once cooked, be sure not to let your meatballs sit at room temperature for any longer than 2 hours! Instead, store them in the fridge or freezer for tasty leftovers.
Fridge: When stored properly, cooked meatballs will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days. For the best results, place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with aluminum foil.
Freezer: Stored in the freezer, leftover meatballs will last up to 3-4 months.
Note: If thawed in the refrigerator, meatballs can be kept for 3-4 additional days upon thawing.
Reheat: For the best results, reheat leftover meatballs in the slow cooker, oven, or air fryer.
No, If you buy pre-made meatballs, they will be missing key ingredients and won’t have the sweet and spicy flavors we’re looking for with these cranberry meatballs! Answer goes here…
Meatballs are fully cooked when the outside has browned and they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once cooked, the crock pot will switch to the “warm” mode and will keep your meatballs warm and safe to eat for up to 1 ½ hours.
Slow Cooker Gluten Free Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce
- Total Time: 3 hours, 5 minutes
- Yield: 20 1x
- Diet: Gluten Free
The perfect combination of sweet and spicy, these Slow Cooker Gluten Free Meatballs with Cranberry Sauce are a festive and kid-friendly recipe perfect for holiday parties, game days, and more!
- 1 pound ground meat or sausage, pork, chicken, turkey, or chorizo
- ⅓ cup blanched almond flour
- ¼ cup grated parmesan (or nutritional yeast, see notes for substitutes)
- 1 large egg
- 2 small garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon onion salt (or ¼ teaspoon salt + ¼ teaspoon onion powder)
- ¼ teaspoon to ½ teaspoon cayenne (adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 2 teaspoon honey (optional), adjust to taste
- 2 Tablespoons diced jalapeno
Mix together and form into balls/patties (broil 5 minutes)
For the Sauce:
1 cup fresh or previously frozen cranberries + extra for pot/slow cooker
1 ¼ cup BBQ sauce (gluten free) *
1 Tablespoon + diced chipotle in adobo sauce. *(Don’t have chipotle? See notes for substitutes)
1 Tablespoon honey
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
In the Slow Cooker:
1 handful of fresh cranberries
Chipotle cranberry sauce (above)
Preheat the broiler, and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Place the ground meat, almond flour, parmesan, egg, garlic, spices, oregano, and jalapeño in a bowl. Mix the ingredients until they are well-combined. Add the optional honey, and mix again.
Shape the meat into 1 inch meatballs, and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Broil the meatballs for 5-6 minutes or until they are browned but not cooked all the way through. Set them aside.
To make the cranberry sauce combine the fresh cranberries, BBQ sauce, chipotle, honey, and spices in a food processor or high speed blender. Pulse the ingredients until they are smooth and a sauce is formed. Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust as needed.
Place the prepared meatballs in the slow cooker, and pour the cranberry sauce evenly on top of the meatballs.
Place the lid on the slow cooker, and cook on LOW for 2-3 hours or HIGH for 60-90 minutes, making sure to stir twice. Check for doneness after 45 minutes. The cranberry sauce will thicken during the cooking process.
Replace the BBQ with honey sweetened ketchup if desired. Just note that the taste will not be as smokey.
Replace the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce with ¼-½ teaspoon smoked paprika + 2 Tablespoons of diced tomato.
Air Fryer Option: Air fry the meatballs (minus the sauce) at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through. Then, add them to the prepared cranberry sauce in a large sauce pot on medium-low heat, and toss to coat.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1 meatball
- Calories: 93
- Sugar: 3.8 g
- Sodium: 189.6 mg
- Fat: 2.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 0.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 9.5 g
- Fiber: 1.1 g
- Protein: 6.3 g
- Cholesterol: 29.3 mg
Keywords: gluten free, slow cooker, meatballs, cranberry, appetizer
Have you ever had cranberry sauce meatballs? I can’t get enough of them! What are your favorite type of meatballs? Let me know in the comments below!
The cranberry adds so much flavor! Love this recipe so much!