Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Meatballs

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Make takeout for cheap at home with these easy slow cooked, sweet and sour meatballs. 

Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Meatballs | Good Cheap Eats

My kids are big fans of Chinese food. I can’t blame them. So am I. The mere sight of a Chinese food take-out box in the stands of the hockey rink this weekend prompted my youngest to ask if we could have Panda tomorrow. Unfortunately, the answer is no. For our family, that’s easily a $40 meal. When I can make a meal at home for about a fourth of that cost, it doesn’t make sense to do it that often.

Instead, I’m working to recreate Asian-inspired dishes at home — at a fraction of the price.

My kids were a little surprised when I served up these Sweet and Sour Meatballs. The sauce tastes just like Chinese food, Mama!

Well, good. That was the effect I was looking for. This meal is pretty easy to make, especially when you have frozen meatballs on hand ready to go. I make my own, but you could use commercially made meatballs as well.

While I made these with beef, next time around I’ll use ground pork or chicken as I think the flavors in the sauce will really complement those proteins. Let us know what kind of tweaks you try.

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Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 15 mins
Make takeout for cheap at home with these easy slow cooked, sweet and sour meatballs. The sauce cooks in the slow cooker and mimics the flavor of restaurant Chinese food.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: meatballs, slow cooker, sweet and sour meatballs
Servings: 4
Calories: 355 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 24 frozen meatballs
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 onion (for 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 1/2 bell pepper (for 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  1. Place the meatballs and pineapple chunks in the crock of a 3-quart slow cooker.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add this to the crock.
  3. In a small dish, whisk together the pineapple juice, chicken broth, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Pour this mixture into the crock.
  4. Cover the slow cooker and cook 4 hours on high.
  5. Remove the meatballs, pineapple, and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Cover to keep warm.
  6. Whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water. Add this mixture to the liquid in the crock, whisking until well blended. Cook until thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Add the meatballs, pineapple, and vegetables back to the crock. Stir gently to coat with the sauce. Serve with white rice and steamed vegetables.
  8. To freeze: cool the mixture. Wrap, label, and chill well before freezing. Reheat before serving.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and are based on 1/4 of the recipe. Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 4 days.

Nutrition Facts
Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 355 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 7g44%
Cholesterol 60mg20%
Sodium 934mg41%
Potassium 438mg13%
Carbohydrates 21g7%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 15g17%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 532IU11%
Vitamin C 29mg35%
Calcium 30mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. annie says

    this is a welcome idea recipie. i have all the ingredients on hand, so this passes our family’s GCE’s litmus test. i’m going to make bread crumbs with Udi Gluten Free bread so i can eat them too.

    jessica, why do you think ground beef wasn’t the best choice for these? did the flavor really fall flat? thanks.

    • It was good with beef. But, I think that pork and chicken are better foils for the pineapple.

    • isa says

      any way this could be done in an oven?

      • I haven’t done it, but I have for similar recipes. I would mix all of the sauce ingredients, add to meatballs in a baking dish and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. That should be enough time to reheat the meatballs and thicken the sauce. Glad you asked. I’m going to try it this way!

  2. I haven’t made sweet and sour meatballs in much too long, but I think I need to make these again soon! I don’t always add the peppers and onions, but the recipe is always good. And I always use ground beef. I haven’t considered changing my meatballs to use pork or chicken. Hmm.

  3. Trish says

    This sounds great! I have a great recipe from one of the taste of home magazine for a sweet and sour sauce – it has a mexican flair, but kind of reminds me of sweet and sour safe – you combine salsa and apricot jam and pour it over chicken that has been seasoned with chili powder. One of my favorites and so easy.

  4. lisa s says

    I love Asian food. But since March, we’ve had to cut soy from our diet due to sensitivities in the family. I’ve tried to come up with a substitute to soy sauce so we can still enjoy our favorite recipes, but I just can’t think of anything. Any recommendations?

  5. Cathie says

    If I am planning on making my own meatballs how many lbs would this be? Also, if I am making this for a fam of 6 (with 4 hungry kiddos) would I double the sauce if I double the meatballs?

    • I think this was 1 to 2 pounds of meat. And yes, I would double the sauce if you’re going to make more than 2 pounds of meat.

  6. Wow what a perfect recipe! Sounds delicious.

  7. Alison says

    We made these for dinner tonight, and my kids LOVED them- all 7 of them!! The meat ball recipe was very good, though we did sub in some grnd pork. Thanks for this site & for Life as Mom, they are so helpful!

    • Thank YOU for the nice words. I’m glad you liked them. Good to know about the pork. That’s what I thought….

  8. Christine says

    Looking for some advice in maybe how to adapt this recipe… this looks like a great recipe, THANKS!!!

    There is a group of us at church that meet to make freezer meals that then get shared with those that might be in need of a meal, however I am thinking that this would be way too hard if we had to cook it before we froze it (that would be way too may crock-pots plugged in at church)… would we be able to mix and package all the items together and freeze it (or should we keep the meatballs separate from the sauce, as well as the cornstarch and rice – thaw the sauce, but leave meatballs frozen?). And if this does work, then what would be the instructions/modifications for cooking this. Thanks for your help!!!

    • Yes, if I was making this as a freezer meal, I would package the meatballs and sauce ingredients separately. Keep the cornstarch separate also. I like to thaw food before putting it in the slow cooker, though I know lots of folks differ from that.

  9. Sclark says

    Were you meatballs already cooked through?

  10. Jenny D. says

    I need a longer cook time as I won’t be home to put them in 4 hrs before dinner…Have you tried cooking these on low? How long and would they turn out okay? Thanks!

    • I think they would be fine on low.

      • Robin Conradi says

        I had the same question, I leave the house for 12 hours for work. If cooking on low, will 12 hours be too long?

        • It might be? I’ve never tested it that long. Does your crockpot have a timer? Mine will switch to warm after a certain time.

  11. courtney says

    These look so good. Question for you, my son is allergic to sesame. If I omitted the sesame oil do you think that the end product would still be good?

  12. Whitney says

    I really want to give these a try! Do you drain the pineapple before measuring 1 cup? (Then can you use the drained liquid for the pineapple juice)? Thanks!!

  13. Jonathon S says

    I had to improvise a bit. Currently sitting in my crockpot is the recipe with orange marmalade in place of the pineapple, and white wine vinegar in place of the rice vinegar. I don’t know how it will compare, but it smells amazing!

    • I think that sounds like a pair of fabulous improvisations! I can’t wait to hear how it tastes!


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