These Cranberry Meatballs are one of my most requested appetizers! Orange juice and orange zest give them another wonderful depth of flavor! They are tart, sweet and very fruity! Also, they are gluten and lactose / dairy free!
If you are feeding someone with severe allergies to lactose or gluten. Shop carefully for ingredients. There are lots of options now, but be sure to read labels.
But when in doubt, a few simple substitutions will work wonders for your recipes too.
These Cranberry Orange Meatballs are always a huge hit! Zero left by the end of a party!
Mincing the garlic and onion directly over the bowl adds lots of flavor and keeps your meatballs moist.
What you need
- ground beef
- dairy free milk
- gluten free binder (I use corn chex)
How to make them
- Whisk egg
- Grind up cereal in food processor.
- Get the cereal ground finely.
- Add meat, milk, spices, egg, cereal to a medium bowl.
- Grate garlic directly over the bowl.
- Grate onion directly over the bowl.
- Once everything is added to bowl, mix well.
- Mixed up meatball mixture.
- Use a cookie scoop to portion out meatballs.
- Roll between the palms of your hands. Place on cookie sheet.
- Bake at 375°F / 190°C for 25-35 minutes until browned and internal reaches 165°F / 75°C. You can also air fry your meatballs.
Ingredients for sauce
- jellied cranberry sauce
- soy sauce (be sure to buy tamari or GF soy sauce)
- brown sugar
How to make the sauce
- Add cranberry, sherry, soy and brown sugar to a small saucepan.
- Grate ginger directly over pan.
- Zest orange directly over pan.
- Squeeze orange juice
- Add to pan. Cook down over medium low heat, stirring often, until thickened.
When sauce is as thick as you would like it, add the meatballs and the sauce to a medium saucepan or to your slow cooker or crockpot. Turn on low and heat through. Serve with toothpicks.
You can use a variety of substitutions for bread crumbs. In this case I used corn chex that I ground up with my food processor. You can also use rice chex, corn flakes or cornmeal. There are also commercial gluten free bread crumbs available now. I have even used leftover cooked rice for the bread crumbs.
Pro tips for your success
- Use a cookie scoop to portion meat out so that your meatballs are approximately the same size.
- Bake, air fry meatballs or fry in a cast iron pan.
- Grating the onion and garlic results in juicy meatballs with tons of flavor and meatballs don’t have large chunks in them.
- You may want to try these meatballs with less orange zest. If you use the zest from a whole large orange they are very fruity. Most people love that. A few like them better when I use only half of the zest.
- Serve as an appetizer or over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles as part of a meal.
Everyone that has tried these cranberry orange meatballs raves about them! They are extra moist and tender, and very, very fruity! Try these!
Other delicious appetizers
Tools I use for these Cranberry orange meatballs
This cranberry meatball recipe is so easy. It is always the first bowl empty at any party or potluck that we take them to.
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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today!
Enjoy. And have fun cooking!
Cranberry Orange Mini Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef or a mixture of beef pork, venison, lamb, chicken or turkey
- 4 small cloves garlic about 2 teaspoons
- 2 tablespoon Onion
- 1 egg whisked
- 1/2 c rice chex or corn chex, corn flakes, corn meal
- 1/4 c cashew milk
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon sage, dried
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
For the Sauce
- 1 can jellied cranberry sauce (14 oz.)
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce Make sure you use GF soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- Juice and zest from one orange preferably a juice orange NOTE: Using all of the zest from the orange gives the sauce a strong orange flavor. 90% of taste tasters loved it. The other 10% preferred the sauce when I only used about 2 tsp. of Zest!
- 2 tablespoon sherry
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger grated
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- Place the beef in a medium mixing bowl.
- Grate the onion and garlic directly into the same bowl to collect the juice too.
- Add egg.
- Pulse the chex in a food processor until fine; Soak chex in the milk for a few minutes. Add to meat.
- Add sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly but gently. Don’t over work.
- Shape with a tablespoon so the meatballs are all approximately the same size.
- Place meatballs on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through, 165°F.
For the Sauce
- While meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce
- Place all ingredients In a small saucepan over medium low heat, stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Sauce will thicken up nicely and should be ready about the same time as the meatballs are cooked through.
Originally Published 7/6/16 updated 1/23/22
Oooh these look so yummy! What do you recommend I use for binder if allergic to corn?
You can use leftover cooked rice, any bread product, oats and the like. Thanks for checking out the recipe KErri!
The sauce, orange , everything worked so well together. We enjoyed making and eating these meatballs. Thanks as well for providing such a comprehensive recipe with detailed steps.
Thank you so much Kate! I’m so glad that you enjoyed them!
The meatballs look so delicious! I love the cranberry orange combination, perfect for both summer and Thanksgiving.
They are actually made all year long around here. They go as fast as I can make them. Thanks Biana!
Yum!! These meatballs turned out to be moist and had the perfect texture!! My whole family loved them!
I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks for letting me know, Anjali!
These meatballs are wonderful for parties. What a great way to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.
Thanks so much Mairead! I’m so glad you liked them!
Too tempted to try the combination of orange and cranberry. Pinned it.
Thank you so much, Renu!!
Thank you for all the information you shared about lactose-free ingredients. Luckily I don’t have any allergy in the family and I don’t have this constraint, but Francesco was lactose intolerant when he was a baby. I like your idea of substituting bread crumbs with rice. I will try
It really works out very well. The meatballs stay nice and moist! Thanks, Laura!
They look amazing, I love the flavours you have got going on here… We’ll likely be eating out for Easter after a trip to a thermal spa, so no need for cooking for a change 😀
Wow! That sounds like fun! Thanks, Brian!
Thank you for the recipe. Perfect timing! I am going to visit a friend next week. I should bring this Cranberry Orange Meatballs.
They are great to bring to serve with company! Thanks, Melve!
I love appetizer meatballs and these look outstanding! Makes me want to pick up a few eat them. But since I don’t live near you, I’ll just have to make your recipe! Yummy Beth!
They are sooo good! You will love them Elaine! Thanks!
Using corn flakes in your meatballs is brilliant and so flavourful! I love how juicy these are too! Definitely a fun way to switch it up from the usual breadcrumbs 🙂
I use corn flakes a lot in meatballs. It adds a great flavor! Thanks Joyce!
I’m sooo loving your recipe and it’s so easy to make too. Thanks for sharing the step-by-step process and I hope to try this soon.
Thank you Molly! So glad you enjoyed it!
These would be great for a party! Thanks for sharing
I have to take them to every party! They are always requested~ Thank you Jaime!
What an informative article! I didn’t even realize those products contain lactose…it’s always best to make your own when you can so you know everything that goes into what you make. Thank you for sharing. These cocktail meatballs look delicious!
Thank you so much, Catherine! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Yes, homemade is always best!
These cranberry meatballs look outstanding! Great idea for a holiday party. Thanks.
Thanks Dan! We love them! You are right, they are great for the holidays! I hope you enjoy them too!
Great article Thanks for sharing.