Grilled BBQ Meatballs are the perfect appetizer featuring simple ingredients and a delightful homemade sauce that is ideal for parties and events. Your guests will love them!
Table Of Contents
I absolutely love grilling when the temperatures are warmer, and this Grilled BBQ Meatballs recipe is a favorite. Nothing beats their perfect flavor and homemade sauce on a summer day.
- TASTE: These meatballs are smoky and savory. They’re smothered in a tangy, sweet BBQ sauce that’s better than any store-bought one.
- TEXTURE: With grill marks for a slightly crisp outer layer, they are incredibly juicy on the inside. And the sauce is thick and rich.
- TIME: This dish will take about an hour and 20 minutes.
- EASE: This step-by-step recipe is really easy to follow and with only a handful of ingredients and spices, it’s nice and simple.
What You’ll Need
- Meat- I used a mixture of ground beef and ground pork to add extra flavor. The fat in the meat also makes these meatballs deliciously juicy.
- Plain bread crumbs– These will help bind everything together so your Grilled BBQ Meatballs aren’t falling apart as they cook.
- Grated Parmesan cheese- This salty, nutty cheese adds yummy flavor to this dish. Freshly grated is even better.
- Olive oil- This ingredient will keep everything moist and help get a nice crisp on the outside of the meatballs. It’s also used in our homemade barbecue sauce.
- Shallots- This is also for the sauce. They are mild-tasting and a little sweet.
- Liquid sauce ingredients- Ketchup, molasses, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and dijon mustard are the liquid base of this homemade sauce. They bring tangy, sweet, salty, and umami flavors.
- Seasonings- We’ll be using cayenne pepper and garlic powder for a little extra heat and flavor.
- Liquid smoke– This ingredient adds lots of smokiness to these BBQ meatballs.
Add-ins and Substitutions
- Make it allergen-friendly- Use gluten-free breadcrumbs or gluten-free Panko, and substitute nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan cheese in this recipe.
- Add diced onions- Saute them first so they are soft and caramelized for a tasty addition to these already delicious meatballs.
- Make it spicy- Add chopped jalapenos, red pepper flakes, or extra cayenne pepper to this dish for spicy Grilled BBQ Meatballs.
- Stuff with mozzarella- Make these extra special by wrapping the ground meat around some mozzarella before grilling. You have to love gooey cheese!
How to Make Grilled BBQ Meatballs
- Make the sauce. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the chopped shallots, stir, then add in the rest of the ingredients for the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Make the meatballs. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, pork, pressed garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and water. Mix it with your hands, wearing food-grade gloves if you can.
- Shape the meatballs. Once the meat is mixed well, begin shaping it into 2-inch balls.
- Grill them. Preheat your grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and grill the meatballs on high heat until they are fully cooked.
- Add them to the sauce. Add the meatballs to a heavy-bottomed pot and pour the sauce over them. Keep the pot over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a grill, heat a skillet on your stovetop, grease it well, and cook these BBQ meatballs there. They will still turn out delicious!
- Soak the breadcrumbs- Soak your breadcrumbs in milk before adding them to the meat to add moisture and keep the meat proteins from shrinking and getting tough.
- Chill the meat- To make shaping the meatballs easier, chill the meat in the fridge for about an hour. You can also coat your hands with olive oil to keep it from sticking to your hands.
- Mold them with your hands- Using your hands rather than a spoon keeps the meat from becoming overworked and tough.
- Make extra- These tasty Grilled BBQ Meatballs are so good, you won’t want to run out. So make a double or even triple batch and stash the extras in the freezer.
Frying, baking, and grilling are all great ways to make meatballs. But grilling and baking are a little healthier as they don’t introduce a lot of oil and fat to the meat. Grilling and frying also give the meatballs a nice crisp outer layer
Breadcrumbs actually make meatballs softer. They act as a binder in the meat, suspending the water in it so it becomes moister and more tender.
These Grilled BBQ Meatballs are versatile enough to be an appetizer, side dish, or the main meal. Here are some great ways to serve them.
- Meats: Serve these meatballs with other grilled favorites, like Grilled Chicken Kabobs, Smoked Chicken Wings, Ribeye Steak, and Smoked Ribs.
- Salad: Pair these with summer salads, such as Cucumber Radish Salad, BLT Pasta Salad, Potato Salad with Baked Salmon, and Tri Color Pasta Salad (VIDEO).
- Sides: Serve them with sides like Easy Homemade Mac and Cheese, Super Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Crispy Air Fryer French Fries, and a bowl of Homemade BBQ Sauce for dipping.
- Appetizers: Enjoy these Grilled BBQ Meatballs along with other appetizers, like Eggplant Appetizers (Roll-ups), Zucchini Fritters, Mushroom Puff Pastry Appetizers, or Fried Spring Rolls (VIDEO).
Make This Recipe in Advance
Make ahead: Prep these meatballs ahead of time by making the mixture and forming them. Place them on a sheet pan and cover with foil or plastic wrap, storing in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.
Storing: Store any leftover Grilled BBQ Meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat them in the oven, microwave, or on the stovetop.
Freeze: Allow them to cool before putting them into freezer storage bags or containers to freeze for future use. They should last for up to 3 months.
More Yummy Barbecue Dishes!
Full Recipe Instructions
Grilled BBQ Meatballs
- For the sauce: In a medium-sized saucepan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the chopped shallots and stir for about 3 minutes. Then add in the rest of the ingredients for the sauce: ketchup, molasses, honey, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and liquid smoke.
- Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes making sure to stir occasionally.
- For the meatballs: In a large bowl combine the ground beef, pork, pressed garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and water. I find that using my hands is the easiest way to get it mixed well. Use food-grade gloves if can.
- Once the meat is mixed well, begin shaping it into balls (about 2 inches in diameter).
- Preheat your grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grill the meatballs on high heat until they are fully cooked.
- Add the meatballs into a heavy-bottomed pot and pour the sauce over them. Keep the pot over low heat for 30 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally. Serve them as an appetizer on a toothpick or as a meatball sub in a hoagie roll.
This recipe was originally posted March 9, 2015, we’ve tweaked it a bit since then.