Appetizer/ Freezer Friendly/ Holidays/ Wild Game

Cocktail Meatballs

October 1, 2018 (Last Updated: December 7, 2020)

This post may contain affiliate links, see my Privacy Policy.

Party Sized Meatballs with a light apricot barbecue sauce glaze

Cocktail meatballs with bamboo toothpicks on a white platter.

We are about to enter into the official party season! Sometimes it feels like nonstop parties and get-togethers from now until New Years!  All these parties mean great party food! Are you ready? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

These cocktail meatballs are perfect for a formal gathering or an impromptu get-together.

Three small meatballs sitting on a white plate.

These cocktail meatballs can be made ahead of time which makes them even more perfect for the holidays!

If you are a regular reader of Beyond the Chicken Coop you know that I live in a house full of hunters (hubby and all three kids.) Which means I have freezers full of wild game. Many of my recipes are made with elk meat. These Italian Meatballs are one of our favorites.

I made these meatballs with ground elk meat. Now don’t let that scare you away! You can use lean ground beef and your meatballs will be amazing too!

To save time,  use a scoop to shape the meatballs! When making these meatballs I used the smallest scoop I had, because I wanted small meatballs.

Different sized scoops resting on a wooden board.

You could use a larger scoop if you wanted larger meatballs! Use whatever you have or whatever fits your need.

Meatballs on a baking sheet.

Can I make Cocktail Meatballs ahead of time?

Yes, you can make these ahead of time.  To make ahead of time you mix and shape the meatballs, cover and refrigerate.  You could also bake, cool cover and freeze. You can add the sauce when you are ready to serve.

The sauce is just a combination of apricot jam, barbecue sauce and red pepper flakes.

Cooked cocktail meatballs cooling on baking sheet.

When it’s party time, simply mix up the apricot barbecue glaze.  Add the meatballs and you are ready to go!

Cocktail meatballs with an apricot BBQ sauce served with toothpicks.

Other great appetizers you might want to serve at your next party include Coconut Shrimp, Boursin Cheese, Pigs in a Blanket and Baked Brie

Don’t forget to PIN for later!

Mini sized meatballs on a white serving platter.

Three meatballs stuck with toothpicks on a small white plate.

Cocktail Meatballs

Meatballs with apricot barbecue glaze
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 70 meatballs
Calories 37 kcal



  • 1 1/2 pounds ground elk meat (or lean ground beef)
  • 2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes




  • Place meat, bread crumbs and milk into a large bowl. Combine together using your hands or a large spoon.
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let mixture set for 5 minutes and mix again.
  • Use a small scoop to create meatballs. Place meatballs on a lightly greased baking sheet. 
  • Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
  • Allow meatballs to cool. Remove from pan. Use right away, cover and refrigerate or place in freezer safe containers and freeze.


  • Add barbecue sauce, apricot jam and red pepper flakes to a saucepan. Heat over medium low heat, stirring often.
  • Simmer sauce for 3-4 minutes. Add a portion of the meatballs at a time. Heat until meatballs are heated through. 
  • Remove meatballs from sauce letting excess sauce fall off. Place meatballs on a baking sheet and place in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
  • Repeat with remaining meatballs. 
  • Serve warm


To make ahead of time you mix and shape the meatballs, cover and refrigerate.ย  You could also bake, cool cover and freeze. You can add the sauce when you are ready to serve.


Calories: 37kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 2gFat: 1gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 123mgPotassium: 49mgSugar: 1gVitamin A: 25IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 0.5mg
Keyword Cocktail Meatballs, Meatballs in apricot glaze, Party Meatballs
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment and let me know what you think.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    marvina Rose johnson
    January 4, 2020 at 10:40 am

    I love following a cook who tries cooking from scratch. YES!!! I will be making recipes I find on your blog. Thank You

    • Reply
      January 4, 2020 at 11:00 am

      Wonderful! Happy Cooking! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Fred G
    November 21, 2018 at 8:53 am

    5 stars
    Great party idea.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    5 stars
    I don’t have any elk around, but I’m definitely going to try this ground meat. I love the idea of the apricot sauce. This sounds so perfect for parties!

    • Reply
      November 14, 2018 at 5:34 am

      You can use ground beef instead of the ground elk! Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    October 3, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    I’d love to try these cocktail meatballs with elk meat, Kathy! But alas, no elk meat in the freezer. I do however, have some ground moose. Go figure. Speaking of parties, I can’t believe we are in that holiday season already. Here. We. Go! Thanks for a great holiday recipe!

    • Reply
      October 7, 2018 at 6:28 am

      You can definitely make these with ground moose meat! These meatballs are very versatile – you can use your favorite type of ground meat!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2018 at 6:15 am

    5 stars
    This is definitely a recipe to keep on hand for the holidays! Love sweet and savoury combos so that apricot addition is just perfect! I bet these would disappear in a flash ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      October 7, 2018 at 6:26 am

      They do! They are also great because you can do most of the work ahead of time!

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    October 1, 2018 at 9:29 am

    5 stars
    My husband would eat each and every one and not feel one bit bad about not sharing! They look delicious Kathy!

    • Reply
      October 7, 2018 at 6:20 am

      Luckily this makes a huge batch of meatballs! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    October 1, 2018 at 6:09 am

    5 stars
    I’m a huge fan of meatballs so you know I’m all over this one! So much flavor in one little bite! Love it, Kathy!! Pinned!

    • Reply
      October 4, 2018 at 6:39 am

      Thanks, Annie!!!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    October 1, 2018 at 5:09 am

    You know, I remembered that your husband and sons are hunters, but I totally forgot that they hunted elk. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted elk…I’m intrigued! Either way, this is a great recipe for the upcoming holiday season. I feel like I’m always hunting for an easy recipe idea to take to a party…and I’m going to have to keep this one in mind! The apricot-BBQ sauce sounds like a fun one!

    • Reply
      October 4, 2018 at 6:15 am

      My daughter hunts too! ๐Ÿ™‚ They hunt for just about everything around here, elk is just our favorite. It is less gamey than some of the other meat. These meatballs can always be made with ground beef too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating