These Crock-Pot chicken meatballs made in tomato sauce are one of my go-to appetizer recipes for parties. They taste great, you can make them ahead of time and they can stay in the slow cooker on warm for a few hours without losing their flavor.
As you may know (if you’ve been here before), I love to entertain.
And I always get carried away decorating for my parties, so I never have time to make food that is too complicated.
Which is why these Crock-Pot chicken meatballs are one of my all-time favorite appetizers.
You can make them a day or two ahead of time.
Then on the day of the party, plug them in a few hours ahead of time and forget about them.
And they’re easy to serve. I just put out some toothpicks beside the slow cooker and everyone helps themselves.
Oh, and did I mention they taste great? There are never any left at the end of the day.
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- Oil: 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Fresh ingredients: 2 yellow (or sweet) onions, 3 garlic cloves
- Dried spices: pinch red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dried parsley, 3 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- Canned vegetables: 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes – tomato sauce will also work
- Bread: 1 cup bread crumbs
- Dairy: 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Eggs: 1 large egg
- Meat: 2 pounds ground chicken or turkey – you can also use beef if you prefer
How to make chicken meatballs in tomato sauce
The Prep Work
Start by chopping 2 onions.
Reserve 1/2 cup of chopped onions for the meatballs. The rest will go in the tomato sauce.
Then mince 3 cloves of garlic. You’ll need 2 of them for the tomato sauce and 1 for the meatballs, so you might want to keep them separate so you know how much to put in each.
In a small bowl, beat a large egg with a fork.
Make the tomato sauce
The first step in this dish is to make the tomato sauce.
For the best flavor, I like to cook this in a large pot on the stove.
However if you want to make it in the Crock-Pot, combine all of the ingredients (leaving out the olive oil) in your slow cooker and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.
To make the tomato sauce in a pot, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Add in the chopped onion (minus the 1/2 cup reserved for the meatballs), 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried basil and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Then mix in 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and 2 Tablespoons dried parsley.
Lower the temperature to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Make the meatballs
While the sauce is simmering, put the meatballs together.
In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup milk, 1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons dried parsley, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, the beaten egg and 2 pounds ground chicken, turkey or beef.
Mix well. You will probably have to dig in with your hands to get everything combined.
Form 1 to 2 inch balls from the mixture.
Try to make them all about the same size so that they cook evenly.
Using a round Tablespoon works well for making consistently-sized (and round) meatballs.
Cook the meatballs in tomato sauce
When the sauce is finished, it’s time to combine the two.
Line the Crock-Pot with a slow cooker liner* if you have one. They make clean up so much easier!
Put a single layer of meatballs in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Pour half of the tomato sauce over the top. The meatballs should be covered.
Then add a second layer of meatballs and pour the remaining sauce over the top.
Put the lid on the Crock-Pot and cook on high for 3 hours, or until the meatballs are no longer pink in the middle.
These can easily stay in the slow cooker on the “Warm” setting for a few hours, which is one of the reasons I love to serve them at parties.
To make the meatballs ahead of time
If you want to get this dish ready a day or two in advance, you can prepare the tomato sauce and the meatballs.
Then store them separately in the refrigerator until the day of the party.
Follow the same instructions for cooking them, but increase the cook time to 4 hours.
Other appetizer recipes you might like
Crock-Pot Chicken Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
- measuring cups and spoons
- Large pot
- large bowl
- Small bowl
- mixing spoon
- 5 to 7 quart slow cooker
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes Tomato Sauce also works
- 2 Tablespoons dried parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 pounds ground chicken or turkey
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- In a large pot, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.
- Add a chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves (minced, 1 teaspoon dried basil and a pinch red pepper flakes.
- Saute until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons dried parsley, 1½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Simmer on low for 45 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine 2 pounds ground chicken (turkey or beef), 1 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup milk, 2 teaspoons dried parsley, ½ cup chopped onion, 1 large egg (beaten), 1 clove garlic (minced), 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.
- Mix well.
- Form 1 to 2 inch balls from the mixture.
Combine and cook
- Add a single layer of meatballs to the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Spoon half of the sauce over the top of the meatballs.
- Put any remaining meatballs on top of the first layer and cover with the remaining sauce.
- Cook the meatballs on high for 3 hours, or until no longer pink in the middle.
- Using your hands to combine the meatball mixture ensures that the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout.
- A round Tablespoon measuring spoon works well for making consistently-sized and round meatballs.
- Lining the Crock-Pot with a slow cooker liner will make cleaning up so much easier. You can find them HERE* (on Amazon).
- These chicken meatballs can easily stay in the slow cooker on “Warm” setting for a couple of hours, making them a great option for parties.
- To make a day or two ahead of time, make the tomato sauce and meatballs and store separately in the refrigerator. Then combine and cook in the slow cooker as described for 4 hours.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
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This post was originally published on January 18, 2015 but was updated with new content on April 26, 2021.