My grandmother’s tried and tested sweet & sour meatballs recipe; a family favourite and super quick and easy to make too. Leftovers freeze very well, and this recipe can be batch-cooked.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
You know those meals that take you right back to your childhood? Those dishes with their scents and flavours reminiscent of happy moments with your family gathered around the dining table, joking with your grandfather, giving your little brother grumpy looks because he’s just eaten the last meatball and you really wanted it, helping with the washing up afterwards?
This is one of those recipes for me.
We always had these sweet and sour meatballs on Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother would batch-cook them in advance and keep them in the deep freeze until needed. This made it easier to prep Christmas dinner the evening before.
Oh my goodness, I loved these sweet and sour meatballs as a child. She always served them with plain boiled rice (the only time I ever ate rice during my childhood, too) and that in itself felt rather exotic.
This is not a recipe I make very often, as, in all honesty, with its sugar content, it’s really not on the healthy spectrum of family meals. It makes for a nice occasional treat though, and I’ve been craving them recently. It’s nostalgic comfort food that takes me back to a place of safety and security, a time when life didn’t feel so… fragile.
I brought this recipe with me when I immigrated from Canada, written down in cup measures in my old notebook. The original recipe didn’t include the recipe for the meatballs themselves, just the sauce, so the meatballs are my own. In all honesty, you could always just buy a couple of packets of ready-made meatballs at your local butcher to save a little bit of time and effort.
The sauce is super easy to make with simple store cupboard ingredients. Measure all the ingredients into a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and thicken with cornflour. It only takes a few minutes. Pour the sauce over the browned meatballs in a casserole dish and pop in the oven for half an hour while you get on with the rice and veg.
You could freeze the browned meatballs (make sure they’re cooked through first) with the sauce at this stage, defrosting and baking in the oven later.
Despite its high sugar content, these sweet and sour meatballs are really quite savoury. The vinegar and dry mustard powder counteract the sweetness of the brown sugar and tomato ketchup (a classy ingredient, I know, but it totally works!).
If these meatballs aren’t quite what you’re looking for, you could always try some of my other meatball recipes. You can find some links below.
What recipes bring you back to your childhood? Let me know in the comments!
Recipe Difficulty Levels
Requires basic cooking skills and ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen.
Requires more experience, preparation and/or cooking time. You may have to source special ingredients.
Recipes requiring more advanced skills and experience and maybe some special equipment.
Grandma’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs Recipe
for the meatballs
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- Preheat oven to 180 C/ 160 C fan.
- To prepare the meatballs combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato puree, salt, pepper and egg together in a large bowl using your hands. Make sure everything is well combined so that the meatballs don’t fall apart when cooking.
- Form the mixture into 36 one-inch round meatballs and set aside on a plate.
- Heat a nonstick frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches until browned on the outside. Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish.
- Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar, vinegar, water, mustard and ketchup in a medium sized saucepan. Whisk over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to bubble.
- Thicken the sauce with the cornflour dissolved in a little cold water and pour the sauce over the meatballs.
- Transfer the casserole dish to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Serve with plenty of rice and a green vegetable on the side.