Side Dishes

December 30, 2020

Instant Pot Sweet and Spicy Turkey Meatballs

These Instant Pot Sweet and Spicy Meatballs are a healthier version of cocktail meatballs made with ground turkey and a 3 ingredient sauce. They're also gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, high protein, and ready in under an hour!

Wow. All I can say is WHAT A YEAR. 2020 has been full of unexpected news, crazy adventures, and lots of personal growth. When I look back on everything I've experienced this year, I'm humbled that my husband was willing to be alongside me for all of it.

This year, I quit my college degree to pursue Ka Pai Cooking full time, Tyler switched to another university to pursue a career with the Department of Homeland Security, and we spent more time together than we ever had before (yay!).

I've never been so excited for the new year; not because all the troubles of 2020 will magically disappear, but because my mentality is better than ever and I'm anxious to give myself a fresh start. I've never been so excited to set goals, conquer the world, and dream big.

This year, we're spending the holidays with Tyler's family (we had two birthdays, Christmas, and a wedding!) and I wanted to share one of my own recipes with the in-laws.

I realized I didn't have any appetizers on the blog, so I dreamt up these Healthy Sweet and Spicy Meatballs and boy do they deliver!

They're the perfect blend of sweet, savory, and spicy, they're naturally gluten free and dairy free, they're low sugar, and they're perfect for any celebration, big or small.

Better yet, there are no breadcrumbs or eggs involved in these Instant Pot turkey meatballs, just pure meat!

Ingredients You'll Need for Sweet and Spicy Meatballs

When writing this recipe for spicy BBQ meatballs, I really wanted it to be as easy as possible, and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

I knew there had to be a way to make meatballs without breadcrumbs or eggs, and my husband found the perfect solution: burger patties!

The sauce is also incredibly easy - 3 ingredients to be exact! To make these simple cocktail meatballs, you'll need:

  • Lean ground turkey burger patties: my new favorite hack to easy meatballs! Check out the step by step photos below to see exactly how to make the meatballs! My go-to brand for lean ground turkey is Jennie-O, but you can use any brand, as long as the meat is at least 90% lean.
  • Stubb's Spicy BBQ Sauce: this is my absolute favorite barbeque sauce because it has NO high fructose corn syrup and very little added sugar, but the flavor is still incredible! You can get a three-pack of this amazing BBQ sauce here on Amazon for a great price.
  • Sugar-free grape jelly: just as much flavor and texture without all the added sugar. Grape jelly is key for the "sweet" in these Sweet and Spicy Meatballs!
  • Worcestershire sauce: a savory sauce originally developed by the British traditionally used in dishes with meat and cheese. 2 tablespoons will add the perfect flavor to these Instant Pot turkey meatballs!
  • Seasonings and spices: paprika, garlic salt, dried thyme, and fresh thyme (pictured) round out the sweet, spicy, and savory flavors of these incredible cocktail meatballs.

A tray of sweet and spicy turkey meatballs

Expert tips for gluten free cocktail meatballs

Before we dive into the "how" of these Instant Pot Turkey Meatballs, there are a couple tips and tricks to review that will make all the difference:

  1. Do not use frozen patties: I know this seems intuitive, but I really do mean it. If you're worried about the meat spoiling before it's time to make your party appetizer, don't buy the burger patties more than 48 hours in advance. If you happen to have a stash of frozen burger patties in the fridge, thaw them in the fridge at least 48 hours in advance so they are "fresh." We don't want any excess liquid here!
  2. Only remove one pound of meat at a time: these cocktail meatballs are unique because they don't require eggs or breadcrumbs. The best way to preserve the "pressed" nature of the burger patties is to make sure they don't come to room temperature during preparation. Since the recipe calls for two pounds of meat, I recommend only working with one pound at a time. When you've formed the first pound into meatballs, remove the second pound from the fridge and repeat the process.
  3. Season both sides of the patties: most of the flavor in meatballs comes from marinating, seasoning, and rolling in spices. Since we're changing the process of making meatballs, we need to make sure they are still seasoned. Whisk together the spices to make a "dry rub" and press into both sides of the patties. If you'd like to do this first, then marinate for up to 48 hours in the fridge, that's even better!

How to make spicy BBQ meatballs

Prepare the patties

Remove one pound of burger patties from the fridge and place on a large cutting board. Whisk together the dry rub seasonings, then press into both sides of each patty. Slice each burger patty into quarters.

A man cutting turkey patties

Form the meatballs

Gently fold each quartered patty on itself (like a dumpling) and begin to roll into a meatball in the palm of your hand. If the meat seems to fall apart rather than hold together, it's probably too warm. Place back in the fridge for 15 minutes to stiffen, then resume forming the meatballs. Repeat with the second pound of meat until you have 32 meatballs.

Turkey meatballs on a cutting board

Pressure cook

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

Gently place the cocktail meatballs into the sauce. It's ok if the meatballs touch, just make sure each meatball is sitting in the sauce!

Close the lid of the Instant Pot, switch the valve to "seal," and cook on HIGH pressure for five minutes. Allow for five minutes natural release (the display should read L:05), then turn the valve to "vent" and manually release.

Turkey meatballs nestled in a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce in the Instant Pot
Turkey meatballs nestled in a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce in the Instant Pot

Reduce the sauce

Switch to "saute" mode and allow the sauce to simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding.

Allow the sauce to thicken.

When the timer is finished, place your Sweet and Spicy Meatballs on a serving platter and pierce with toothpicks.

Drizzle with additional sauce and enjoy!

A man picking up a bbq turkey meatball with a toothpick

Why you'll love this recipe

  1. Cocktail Meatballs means it's time to party! Just having them on the table tells everyone you're ready to celebrate with good food.
  2. These Instant Pot Turkey Meatballs are also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, which means everyone can have them! No more worrying about allergies or missing out on the yummy appetizers.
  3. They're also made in the Instant Pot! (If you don't have one yet, you need one right now! I got mine from Amazon for a great price, so click here to get yours today!)
  4. I love using the Instant Pot because it does all the work for me. If that sounds like you, be sure to try my Sweet Chili Lime Pulled Pork Tacos and this Hearty 60-Minute Beef Stew for your next family dinner.

A sweet and spicy bbq meatball with a bite out of it

I can't wait to see these Instant Pot Turkey Meatballs at your next celebration! I know they'll be a hit with all the guests and you'll be glad the recipe was easy, healthy, and affordable. That's what Ka Pai Cooking is all about!

If you try these Sweet and Spicy Meatballs, be sure to leave a star rating and review below so other readers know how you liked it, then tag me on Instagram @kapaicooking so I can see you enjoying them!

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Instant Pot Sweet and Spicy Turkey Meatballs

These Instant Pot Sweet and Spicy Meatballs are a healthier version of cocktail meatballs made with ground turkey and a 3 ingredient sauce. They're also gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, high protein, and ready in under an hour!


Brooke Harmer













  • 2 lb. Jennie-O 93% Lean Turkey Burger Patties (fresh, not frozen)
  • 1 C Stubb's Spicy BBQ
  • 1 C sugar-free grape jelly
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ½ tsp dried thyme


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together paprika, garlic salt, and dried thyme.
  2. Remove 1 lb. of turkey patties from the fridge. Place patties on a large cutting board and season each side with prepared spices, 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 meatballs.
  5. In the bottom of the Instant Pot, whisk together the BBQ sauce, grape jelly, and Worcestershire sauce until few clumps remain. Place 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 saute mode and cook for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken. Stir occasionally to prevent the meatballs from sticking.
  8. Serve with toothpicks and extra sauce. Enjoy!


*See blog post for further instructions, tips, and step-by-step images.

**This is easiest when the patty is fresh out of the fridge.

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