Side Dishes

December 30, 2020

BEST Instant Pot BBQ Meatballs (sugar free!)

Made with only ground turkey, grape jelly, and BBQ sauce, these healthy Instant Pot Barbecue Meatballs are the perfect appetizer for all your dinner parties or holiday parties. They're also naturally gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and egg free!

One of the best ways to make amazing food for a crowd without lots of time or effort is to use a pressure cooker.

(Now, whether you use a stovetop pressure cooker or countertop pressure cooker is up to you, but I'm a huge fan of the electric countertop pressure cooker.)

This appliance practically does all the work for me, and it has 8 different functions like sauté, slow cooker, and even yogurt.

In fact, some of my favorite recipes use my Instant Pot Duo pressure cooker, like this chicken broccoli alfredo or my famous white chicken chili.

So I thought we needed Instant Pot cocktail meatballs for all those holiday parties coming up.

And let me tell you, today's Instant Pot BBQ Meatballs recipe does not disappoint!

They are the healthy version of the popular appetizer and just as sweet as regular cocktail meatballs without any added sugar.

You have to make these for your next party!

BBQ meatballs with a bite out of one


Why you'll love this recipe

Easy to make: no bread crumbs, no eggs, and no mixing bowl. Just a few minutes of prep and 5 minutes of cooking time.

Simple ingredients: four, to be exact. No special ingredients, either!

Classic party appetizer: everyone loves a good cocktail meatball, and now you have the best recipe for cocktail meatballs!

Customizable: want to change the flavor? Easy. Want to change the protein? Easier.

Versatile: these Instant Pot party meatballs double as an easy appetizer and a simple meal.

Allergen friendly: no gluten, dairy, sugar, or eggs in these meatballs!


Ingredients you'll need

  • Turkey burger patties: this is the best way to make tender meatballs without the regular meatball ingredients like eggs and breadcrumbs. Since they're already pressed, they hold together well and they take even less time to shape.
  • Sugar free grape jelly: all the goodness without the blood sugar spike or inflammation.
  • Sugar free BBQ sauce: this brand is my favorite BBQ sauce because there's no added sugars but it's still a sweet barbecue sauce. If you prefer a spicy sauce, you could use Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce, but it has brown sugar in it.
  • Worcestershire sauce: this was originally developed by the British to add a savory flavor to their beef and lamb, and it makes extra tasty meatballs. If you don't have it in your pantry already, it's worth buying! If you absolutely have to use something else, you could use beef broth.
  • Seasonings and spices: totally optional but highly recommended. I like to use garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and fresh thyme for garnish.

Half eaten BBQ meatballs


How to make instant pot grape jelly meatballs

Step 1: season the meat

Whisk together the spices in a small bowl until well combined, then spread over both sides of each patty.

Since we're rolling the patties instead of mixing them in a large bowl, it's important to season both sides so the flavor comes through.

This step can be done up to 48 hours before shaping the meatballs. The longer the seasonings, the more marinated and flavorful the cooked meatballs will be!

A man slicing seasoned burger patties on a cutting board

Step 2: form the meatballs

Working with only one pound of meat at a time, slice each patty into four equal pieces. Spray your hands with olive oil cooking spray.

Take one slice of patty, fold the corners towards the middle (like a dumpling), and roll into a ball.

You should have a total of 32 meatballs using all two pounds of meat.

Meatballs on a cutting board

Step 3: make the sauce

Add the barbecue sauce, grape jelly, and Worcestershire sauce to the bottom of the Instant Pot. Whisk until well combined.

There should be enough to completely cover the bottom of the pot and part of the meatballs.

Step 4: cook the meatballs

Nestle the meatballs in the tangy sauce. It's important to gently set them in and not spread the BBQ sauce off the bottom of your Instant Pot.

If the meat cooks on the inner pot rather than the sauce, you'll get a burn notice on the display.

Cook on HIGH pressure for 5 minutes, allow for 5 minutes natural release, then do a quick release to finish the pressure release.

Note: the total minutes of cook time on the recipe card include the time for pressurization and depressurization.

After cooking, you'll notice the sauce has thinned and has a little water in it. This is normal. In fact, it it good!

Turn on sauté mode and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to thicken the sauce and prevent burning.

BBQ turkey meatballs in the Instant Pot

Step 5: baste and serve

Baste the top of the meatballs with the warm sauce and leave them in the Instant Pot with the keep warm setting on until it's time to eat.

To serve, pierce each meatball with a toothpick and drizzle with extra sauce.

For the best results, sprinkle some cracked black pepper and fresh thyme on top.


Customize your instant pot meatballs

  • Swap out the grape jelly for sugar free orange marmalade, sugar free cranberry sauce, or apricot jelly
  • Turn up the heat by swapping half the BBQ sauce for sweet chili sauce and adding a dash of red pepper flakes.
  • Make these Hawaiian meatballs by adding diced pineapple to the sauce
  • Serve as a quick dinner recipe by making smaller meatballs and serving them with hoagie buns for a sweet and spicy meatball sub.

A hand picking up a half eaten barbecue meatball


Frequently asked questions

Can I use a different meat for these meatballs?

Yes! You can use equal amounts of ground beef patties or ground chicken patties.

Can I use frozen burgers?

Yes, but they need to thaw overnight in the fridge and be pat dry of excess liquid. That being said, fresh is preferred.

Can I use frozen meatballs for this recipe?

You could, but frozen meatballs tend to have lots of extra unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients like saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar. Homemade meatballs are better anyway! If you absolutely have to use frozen, I recommend using chicken meatballs.

Why are my meatballs dry?

You probably let them sit out too long during prep. Only work with meat you can shape right then and there, and keep the rest in the fridge until you're ready to form into meatballs.

Another reason could be using meat that has too little fat. I don't use meat with less than 7% fat because fat is what gives flavor, structure, and moisture to the meatballs.

Can I make this recipe in a crock pot?

Yes! Follow the prep instructions, then add the sauce and the meatballs to a crock pot and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours or LOW for 4-6 hours.

How long do cocktail meatballs last in the fridge?

4-5 days. For the best results, store in an airtight container made of glass.

What to do with leftover meatballs?

BBQ meatballs with a bite out of one


I know these sweet BBQ meatballs will be a hit at your next party! They're easy to make and the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and savory.

Be sure to leave a 5 star rating and review if you made the recipe so other readers know how you liked it!

BEST Instant Pot BBQ Meatballs (sugar free!)

Made with only ground turkey, grape jelly, and BBQ sauce, these healthy Instant Pot Barbecue Meatballs are the perfect appetizer for all your dinner parties or holiday parties. They're also naturally gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, and egg free!

Author:

Brooke Harmer

Prep:

20

min

cook:

25

min

total:

45

min

servings:

8

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. 93% lean fresh turkey burger patties
  • 1 C G Hughes sugar free BBQ sauce*
  • 1 C sugar-free grape jelly
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce*
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and salt.
  2. Remove 1 lb. of turkey patties from the fridge. Place patties on a large cutting board and season each side with the spice mix, then slice each patty into four equal pieces.**
  3. Fold corners of the quartered patty on themselves, then roll into a meatball. Continue until all patties have been rolled into meatballs. You should have 16 equal-sized meatballs.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 with the other pound of turkey burgers until you have 32 total meatballs.
  5. In the bottom of the Instant Pot, whisk together the BBQ sauce, grape jelly, and Worcestershire sauce until well combined. Nestlle the meatballs in an even layer on top of the sauce. (It's ok for the meatballs to touch, just make sure each meatball is sitting in the sauce.)
  6. Secure the Instant Pot lid, turn the valve to seal, and cook on HIGH pressure for 5 minutes. Allow for 5 minutes natural release (the display should read L:05), then manually release.
  7. Switch to sauté mode and cook for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken. Stir occasionally to prevent the meatballs from sticking.
  8. To serve, pierce each meatball with a toothpick and drizzle with extra sauce. For the best results, sprinkle some cracked black pepper and fresh thyme on top.

Notes

*See blog post for substitutions.

**See blog post for step by step photo instructions.

Nutrition facts are a calculated estimate of 4 meatballs, including sauce.

Nutrition