Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe is bursting with tangy pineapples and peppers. It’s an easy, 20-minute version of Chinese takeout.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of all things sweet and sour. Sweet and Sour Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Sweet and Sour Sauce, and these Sweet and Sour Meatballs are favorites – something about the combination of sticky sweetness and mouth-puckering tartness!

Close up of sweet and sour meatballs topped with green onions.

Quick and Easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs 

These Sweet and Sour Meatballs are one of my favorite weekday meals when I’m craving those flavors. 

The sauce has all the complexity, richness, and balance of a takeout dish. But because it uses pre-made meatballs, it takes less than 20 minutes to make. So anytime I’m craving Chinese takeout, I just make this easy Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe instead! 

This recipe has a lot going on. There’s a rich sweetness from brown sugar and ketchup, some tang from the vinegar, pineapple chunks, and pineapple juice, and a fresh element from peppers and scallions.

It’s not as good as takeout – it’s better! 

The sauce in a dish for sweet and sour meatballs.

What Kind of Meatballs to Use

Use almost any type of premade meatball that you like. Try to find meatballs that are all-purpose, or neutral in flavor. Meatballs that have a strong flavor added to them might clash with the Chinese sauce.

Meatballs. I find ground pork meatballs are the best with the Sweet and Sour Sauce, but beef meatballs work just fine, too. For a healthier option (but one that’s still juicy and packed with flavor), use chicken or turkey meatballs.

Homemade meatballs. Part of the beauty of this dish is its simplicity. By using store-bought meatballs, you’re able to make this recipe in under 20 minutes.

That said, To make these Sweet and Sour Meatballs a little bit more gourmet, make your own meatballs. Here’s my go-to Easy Meatball Recipe. Use ground turkey, ground beef, or ground sausage.

A bowl of frozen meatballs for sweet and sour meatballs.

How to Make Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This recipe is so easy to make and takes less than 20 minutes!

SAUCE. Add brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, and 2 cups of pineapple juice to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and the remaining ¼ cup pineapple juice together, whisking to get out all the lumps.

MEATBALLS. Whisk into your skillet and add meatballs and chopped red bell pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are heated through.

SERVE. Stir in pineapple chunks. Serve warm over rice.

Thicken the sauce. For a thicker Sweet and Sour Sauce, add more cornstarch.

  • In a separate bowl mix together 1-2 teaspoons of cold water with an equal amount of cornstarch. Pour the mixture into the sauce and simmer. 
Cooking meatballs for sweet and sour meatballs.

Variations 

This Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe is pretty perfect as is, but sometimes it’s also fun to change it up.

Make it spicy. Chinese food and spice go hand in hand. Turn up the heat with chili flakes or minced chilis when you add the meatballs and peppers for a deep, spicy kick. Or replace some of the ketchup with sriracha. 

Veggies. Sweet and Sour Sauce for Meatballs goes well with meat, but it also goes well with veggies. To make this recipe a little healthier, add more vegetables.

Carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and onions will all go wonderfully with this sauce. Add them at the same time that you add the peppers.

Balance the flavor. Some people love a sweeter sauce, while others prefer a more sour sauce. Adjust the sweet and sour flavor by reducing or increasing the amount of pineapple juice or rice vinegar used.

Cooking meatballs for sweet and sour meatballs.

Storing Info

How much to serve. These meatballs can be served alone as an appetizer or paired with sides and served as the main entree.

  • Appetizer: 2-3 (2-inch) meatballs
  • Main entree: 4 (2-inch) meatballs per serving

Keeping meatballs warm. This recipe comes together so quickly that I don’t have a crock pot version. However, I will make this recipe and then keep them warm in a crock pot set to warm.

STORE. Sweet and Sour Meatballs will last in the fridge for up to 4 days if stored in an airtight container.

Reheat. The best way to reheat meatballs is in the oven, for 8-10 minutes at 350°F. This will help the meatballs retain their juicy consistency. However, if you’re in a rush, the dish reheats just fine in the microwave. 

FREEZE these easy Sweet and Sour Meatballs in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating in the oven, stovetop, or microwave.

What to serve with Sweet Sour Meatballs

My favorite way to serve this Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe is simply over white rice. That’s really all it needs!

But it’s also fun to serve it alongside some other Asian dishes. Here are a few of my go-to dishes for pairing with this meatball recipe:

Close up of sweet and sour meatballs topped with green onions.

More Meatball Recipes to Try:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

4.94 from 131 votes
This Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe is bursting with tangy pineapples and peppers. It's an easy, 20-minute version of Chinese takeout.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Chinese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 325 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup Rice Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 1/4 cups Pineapple Juice
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 25 All-Purpose Meatballs (frozen is fine)
  • 2 Bell peppers chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup Drained Small Pineapple Chunks
  • 2 tbsp Sliced Green Onions for garnish
  • Rice for serving

Instructions
 

  • Add brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, and 2 cups of pineapple juice to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  • In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and the remaining ¼ cup pineapple juice together, whisking to get out all the lumps. Whisk into your skillet and add Meatballs and chopped peppers. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are heated through.
  • Stir in pineapple chunks. Serve warm over rice.

Video

Adapted from foodnetwork.com

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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

  1. 5 stars
    Very quick and easy recipe! We loved it! I added a couple tablespoons of Sriracha to give it a nip and to counter the sweetness a bit. Will be making this again for sure, I’ll just cut the amount if sugar for our liking! I’m sure this will be excellent with chicken as well! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe. A little sriracha sounds tasty. Thanks for sharing what you did.

  2. 5 stars
    My Quilting Club loved this and several quilters asked for the recipe!! (I added red, yellow, and green pepper pieces and sprinkled the top with sesame seeds just before serving.)

  3. 5 stars
    The recipe says this serves 6 with 25 meatballs. Looking at the picture that’s only 4 small pineapple chunk size meatballs per person. Assuming the portion sizing is meant for children only?

    1. The meatball size will depend on which meatballs you get… or you can make homemade, too. With the peppers and pineapple and rice, we’ve found about 4-5 meatballs per serving feeds an adult. But you can definitely increase the amount of meatballs. You may want to double the sauce if you love lots of sauce. But, adding a few extra meatballs to the recipe would be just fine if you feel like you need more.

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