These sticky, sweet and savory Hoisin-glazed Cocktail Meatballs are the ultimate party snack. 

There’s a reason why cocktail meatballs have been a perennial party favorite since the 1960s. They’re incredibly tasty and exactly the kind of snack you want to munch on while holding a martini glass in one hand.

Warm and savory, these little meatballs are pretty much always the first things we run out of at every holiday party we’ve ever hosted.

If you’re grimacing and shaking your head right now, it’s probably because you’ve only had the decidedly unglamorous classic version (frozen meatballs drowned in a cloying sauce of grape jelly and a whisper of chili sauce). While I admit I have an embarrassing nostalgic fondness for them, the updated, modern version requires no such disclaimers. They’re fantastic and your guests will love them un-ironically.

Serve any extra sauce on the side for dipping

We found a 50/50 mixture of beef and pork yielded the most tender and flavorful meatballs but all-beef works well too. Dark meat turkey was not bad but ultra-lean white meat turkey dried out rather quickly and had a noticeable chalky texture.

While these are extremely easy to make, there is a little bit of finesse involved. When mixing the meatball ingredients together, you want the seasonings to be well combined but you don’t want to over-mix, which can make the mixture gummy and tough. The best way to do this is with clean hands. Add everything to a large bowl and, using your fingers, swirl the contents of the bowl until the beef and pork are combined (if using both) and the sauce and the seasonings are evenly distributed. Don’t squeeze and mash the meat.

Using a tablespoon, or even better, a portion scoop, make even mounds and then gently roll those into balls using slightly wet hands (to keep them from sticking). Once they are are baked, they can be glazed and served right away or chilled in the refrigerator (or even frozen) until the day of the party. No need to defrost, just heat them on a parchment-lined baking tray in a 325ºF oven until warmed through. They should take about 10-12 minutes out of the refrigerator or 20-25 minutes if frozen. Then glaze and serve.

Speaking of the glaze, this is what it’s all about, people. Hoisin sauce, sometimes referred to as Chinese barbecue sauce, is the main flavor agent and its sweet, salty, vinegary flavor is a perfect fit for the meatballs. The simple glaze is ready in just a few minutes and can be made several days in advance. The colder it is, the thicker it will get so take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you’re ready for it. If it’s still too thick, stir in a teaspoon or two of hot water. Both the glaze and the meatballs can be easily doubled (or tripled) for a crowd.

Hoisin-Glazed Cocktail Meatballs
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 25 small meatballs
Ingredients
  • ½ lb ground pork (230g)
  • ½ lb ground beef (230g)
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin (15ml)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (30ml)
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (5ml)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (15ml)
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (30g)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Hoisin Glaze:
  • ¼ cup hoisin (60ml)
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup (30ml)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (15ml)
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar (30ml)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (5ml)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (15ml)
Garnish:
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (2g)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F / 190ºC
  2. Place all the meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, mix together until blended (but don’t over-mix).
  3. With wet hands (to keep the meatballs from sticking), form 1 – 1½ tablespoon sized meatballs (Using a small portion scoop makes this easier but you could do it by eye). Place balls about an inch apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes or until just cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile combine all glaze ingredients in small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until mixture is slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
  5. Brush glaze onto meatballs and top with scallions and sesame seeds. Serve with extra hoisin glaze on the side for dipping.
Notes
Meatballs can be cooked ahead and refrigerated or frozen. About 30 minutes before you want to serve them, heat them on a parchment-lined baking tray in a 350ºF oven until warm. No need to defrost, just heat them on a parchment-lined baking tray in a 325ºF oven until warmed through. They should take about 10-12 minutes out of the refrigerator or 20-25 minutes if frozen. Then glaze and serve.

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