These Sweet and Spicy Meatballs are super easy to make and pack a ton of flavor! Tender mini meatballs are tossed in a sticky spicy soy and apricot sauce that is hard to resist! Serve them with toothpicks for the perfect little party treat or over rice for a hearty meal.
We love these meatballs. I made them 3 days in a row trying to get the recipe just right and when I asked my husband if he was sick of them yet, he responded that he would eat them for dinner tomorrow night too. If that’s not a big endorsement of these meatballs I don’t know what is!
They’re perfectly tender little mini-sized meatballs coated in a sticky sweet and savory sauce that packs a good bit of heat. I mean, what’s the point in calling them spicy if they’re not?
However, if spicy isn’t your thing, you can definitely reduce the amount of red pepper flakes to suit your preferences.
Ground Beef – I used 85/15 ground beef for this recipe which results in tender and moist meatballs.
Panko Breadcrumbs – Mixed with a bit of water to hydrate them, panko adds moisture to the meatballs.
Egg – Helps bind the meatballs together.
Garlic Powder – Adds a nice garlic flavor to the meatballs without having to mince anything.
Apricot Preserves – The sweet part of the sauce. Apricot has a nice fruity sweetness that tastes great with soy sauce.
Soy Sauce – I suggest using low-sodium soy. It still has plenty of saltiness to create a flavorful sauce without all the extra sodium.
Red Pepper Flakes – The spicy part of the sauce. This recipe calls for 2 teaspoons which results in a good kick of heat. Of course, you can use more or less depending on your heat tolerance.
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full list of ingredients, their amounts, and instructions can be found in the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and set it aside.
In a large bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs with water and let it sit for 1 minute or until the panko fully absorbs the water.
Add the ground beef, egg, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the hydrated panko and mix with your hands until well combined. Avoid overworking the meat mixture.
Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the meatball mixture and roll it between your palms to create the meatball. Place it on the foil-lined baking sheet. Continue making the rest of the meatballs leaving an inch or two between them on the baking sheet.
You should have about 34 to 36 mini meatballs.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the apricot preserves, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and continue simmering while the meatballs bake.
Note: Sometimes there are large chunks of apricot in the preserves. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break them up as they cook for a more uniform sauce.
Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, leaving behind the juices, and gently toss to coat. Allow them to simmer in the sauce for 1 minute or until well coated and the sauce has thickened.
Serve warm and enjoy!
These meatballs can be served with toothpicks as an appetizer/party food or over steamed white rice and topped with sliced green onions for a meal.
Tips & Tricks
- Line your baking sheet for easy cleanup.
- Use your hands to combine the meatball ingredients and make the meatballs. It’s the easiest way and will result in the most uniform meatballs.
- Avoid overworking the meatball mixture. You want to mix just until everything is combined.
Substitutions & Variations
- This recipe will work with any ground meat. Ground pork, chicken, and turkey would all be good substitutions.
- I like the simplicity of these meatballs without minced onion or garlic. But, you could add a bit of each if you prefer some fresh veggies in your meatballs.
- For some greenery in the meatballs, finely chop up parsley or cilantro and mix it in.
Storage & Reheating
Store the meatballs and their sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
These are best reheated on the stove over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
They can also be microwaved in 30-second increments until warmed through.
These meatballs are great frozen. You can freeze them unbaked, baked but without the sauce, or already coated in the sauce. Freeze them for up to 3 months and allow them to thaw in the fridge before baking or reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
I find it to be easier to bake the meatballs while making the sauce. However, they can be cooked in the skillet over medium heat until cooked through. You’ll want to drain away drippings before adding the sauce ingredients so that the sauce isn’t too watery.
Adding water to the panko before mixing them with the meat helps to create a more moist meatball. It also helps with binding them together. For this recipe, water is the perfect liquid for the job. For Italian-style meatballs, I would use milk to achieve the same result. Broth would also be a good option.
Tough meatballs are almost always due to overworking the meat. When combining the meat with the other ingredients you want to mix them just until they are combined to avoid tough meatballs.
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Sweet and Spicy Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper preferably freshly cracked
- 1 cup apricot preserves
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes see notes
- sliced green onions optional, for serving
- steamed white rice optional, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and set it aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the panko with the water and let it rest for 1 minute or until the panko has absorbed all of the water.
- Add the ground beef, egg, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the panko crumbs. Using your hands, mix until well combined.
- Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the meatball mixture and roll it into a ball. Place it on the lined baking sheet leaving an inch or two between them. Continue making the rest of the meatballs. You should have 34 to 36 meatballs in total.
- Bake the meatballs for 12 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, place the apricot preserves, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes in a large skillet and heat over medium-high stirring often. Once the mixture has come to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium and continue simmering until the meatballs are done cooking and the sauce has thickened a bit.
- Place the meatballs into the sauce, leaving behind any juices, and toss to combine. Simmer in the sauce for 1 minute.
- Serve warm with toothpicks for an appetizer or with sliced green onions over white rice for a meal.
- This sauce has a good bit of spice to it. Reduce or increase the amount of red pepper flakes to suit your preferences.
- Break up large pieces of apricot with a wooden spoon or spatula as the sauce simmers.
- Store the meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.