These cranberry orange meatballs are the perfect holiday dinner recipe, made with delicious leftover Homemade Cranberry Sauce. Everything comes together in this recipe in about 30 minutes because you can bake the meatballs while you make the pan sauce. These baked cranberry sauce meatballs are perfectly sweet, spicy, savory, and tangy and pair with creamy mashed potatoes like they were meant to be.
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Baked meatballs with orange cranberry pan sauce to use up leftovers
This isn't a three-ingredient cranberry meatball crockpot recipe but I promise you this recipe is worth the little bit of extra effort!
Today I'm sharing my Orange Cranberry Meatballs, a savory dinner recipe using leftover cranberry sauce. Read my other blog posts to make my easy 2 ingredient Homemade Cranberry Sauce, and these pretty Cranberry Sweet Rolls I made with it.
For this recipe, we'll be making an easy main dish. The whole thing comes together in about half an hour because I always bake my meatballs - it's just so easy to mix and bake them! While the meatballs are baking you can start any side dishes. I always start boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes because they are simply a must-have for me with this dish. Next, you make the pan sauce and by then everything is almost done.
I'm also sharing my basic meatball recipe and method below so you can use that as a starting point and mix up whatever kind of meatballs you fancy by switching up the flavors.
So this Thanksgiving and Christmas if you have leftover cranberry sauce, be sure to use it for this recipe. And then make my Cranberry Sweet Rolls for dessert – the orange cream cheese icing is fantastic.
About the ingredients for this recipe. See the recipe card below for exact amounts.
- For the meatballs, you'll need ground beef, an egg, some bread crumbs, and some seasoning.
- For the sauce, you'll need half of a recipe of my homemade cranberry sauce or 1 cup of your favorite cranberry sauce. You'll also need the zest and juice of an orange, onion, garlic, and ginger, some brown sugar, soy sauce, and Sriracha hot sauce.
- Cranberry Sauce: I'm sure you could sub out the homemade for storebought if that's more your thing - my thing is making things from scratch and teaching people how easy it is! Use whichever cranberry sauce is your favorite.
- Ground Beef: I'm sure that ground turkey or ground chicken would work really nicely in this recipe instead of ground beef if you prefer.
How to make meatballs
- slice a green onion
- preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)
- line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or tin foil
This is my go-to recipe and method for making meatballs. This is how I make meatballs every time, just switching out flavors to match my dish.
Line a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or foil.
- The silicone mat helps prevent the meatballs from sticking.
- The foil helps prevent the meatballs from sticking to the pan and makes washing up easier.
Mix 1 pound of ground meat with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ½ a teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 large egg, and ½ cup of bread crumbs.
Add in the spices and flavor boosters. For this recipe, it's the Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and green onions.
Mix just until combined.
Use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop to portion the meatballs evenly and then roll them between your hands to round them out. Place the rolled meatballs on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes. Bake longer for larger meatballs.
While the meatballs are baking, make the sauce and whatever sides you're having. For example, you could boil potatoes, make rice, etc.
How to make an orange cranberry pan sauce
To make the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat. I use my favorite cast iron pan but you can use a stainless steel pan or nonstick pan if you prefer!
Add a tablespoon of oil to the hot pan and start off with frying your onions. I like them softened with a bit of color on them and that takes about 8 minutes or so. Cook them to your preference and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook while stirring for about a minute.
Add the brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, and cranberry sauce. Stir and heat through. Turn to low and keep warm until meatballs are done.
When the meatballs are done add them to the pan and stir to cover them in the sauce. Serve.
RECIPE TIP: For a smoother sauce, you can chop your onions smaller, or blend the sauce either in a stand blender or with an immersion blender. Just be careful, it'll be hot!
What to serve with Orange Cranberry Meatballs
- Mashed Potatoes
- Instant Pot Brown Rice
- Garlic Parmesan Fries
- Green Beans
- Roasted Broccoli and Carrots
- Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables
- Spicy Mac and Cheese
- Crispy Cauliflower Bites
I also use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop to portion out my meatballs - this is super helpful for getting even sized meatballs so they all cook the same.
Tips + Tricks
- If you've never made meatballs by baking them, give it a try! Just mix and bake for 20 minutes at 400°F (200°C), it takes all the fuss out of making meatballs. Line your baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
- Use a cookie scoop for perfectly portioned meatballs.
- Blend the sauce for a smoother sauce.
Store cooled leftovers in the fridge in a container with a lid for up to 4-5 days. Reheat in a skillet with a bit of water or in the microwave.
Yes, a lot of people make meatballs in a crockpot. I haven't tried that with this recipe, but if you were going to try it, bake the meatballs first, then add everything to the slow-cooker and cook on low for about 2 hours.
The Government of Canada recommends that ground beef be cooked to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F) for safe consumption. Be sure to use a reliable meat thermometer to check your meatballs, especially if slow cooking.
More meatball recipes
I love making meatballs for easy weeknight dinners. I have recipes for beef meatballs and turkey meatballs. I also have the most perfect veggie ball recipe which I use in Mediterranean Grain Bowls and Veggie Ball Subs.
Orange Cranberry Meatballs with Leftover Cranberry Sauce
For the Meatballs
For the Meatballs
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or foil.
- Mix together all of the ingredients for the meatballs, just until combined.
- Scoop by 1 ½ tablespoon portions onto the prepared baking sheet. Leave rustic in shape or roll into smooth ball shapes with your hands.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Bake longer for larger meatballs.
For the Sauce
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. (I use my cast iron skillet).
- Add oil and onions. Cook for about 8 minutes, until softened and beginning to brown.
- Add garlic and ginger, cook for about a minute.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cook until heated through. Turn to low to wait for the meatballs to finish cooking if needed.
- Add meatballs to the sauce and stir to coat them in the sauce. Serve.
- Try ground turkey instead of ground beef.
- Substitute any other cranberry sauce.
Nutritional information is an estimate. Values vary based on products used.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you.
This post was originally posted on December 04, 2020, and updated on December 28, 2022.
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