Slow Cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs

These Slow cooker Buffalo Meatballs are an epic game day, holiday or party appetizer you need in your recipe repertoire!

Introducing tender, juicy Slow Cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs simmered in the most tantalizing sweet heat sauce that everyone will go crazy for!  Perfect appetizer or delicious, stress-free, make-ahead meal with rice  – or both!  You can make the slow cooker meatballs early in the day and cook right before serving, or keep warm in the crock pot (yay for stress free entertaining) and even freeze – all instructions included!

Buffalo Meatballs Recipe Video

up close of slow cooker buffalo meatballs in the crockpot

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Buffalo Meatbballs

I made these buffalo meatballs twice in the last two weeks to get the sauce absolutely perfect.  The first time we devoured the slow cooker meatballs for dinner with rice – Ah-mazing.   The second time, I brought them to a friend’s birthday party where everyone practically begged me for the recipe. Everyone, beg no more.

These buffalo meatballs are a cross between my crazy popular  Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Cranberry Meatballs I posted last year and my beloved Honey Buffalo Hot Wings.   Both are ridiculously delicious and easy, always crowd pleasers, and both seeping with sweet heat. So, it only made sense to combine the two for an easy, intoxicating delicious slow cooker meatball recipe AKA Honey Buffalo Meatballs!

The buffalo meatballs themselves are incredibly tender, juicy, and flavorful from an easy splash of spices.  The spices make the ingredient list seem somewhat lengthy, but they just take seconds to throw in and take these meatballs all the way to the end zone; smother them in Honey Buffalo Sauce and you have a touchdown.

Looking for more Meatball Recipes?

How Spicy are Buffalo Meatballs?

A winning aspect of these Buffalo Meatballs is you can completely customize their heat by adding more hot sauce to taste at the end of cooking so they can be more honey or more buffalo.  Either way, these irresistible slow cooker meatballs will have you licking your lips, and strongly tempted to lick the slow cooker itself.  I won’t judge.

Sauce for Buffalo Meatballs

Any meatball recipe, including these buffalo meatballs, are only as good as the sauce, and this sauce is epic. It is a simple whisking of Frank’s Original Hot Sauce, honey, brown sugar, apricot preserves and a splash of soy sauce that simmers with the meatballs for an appetizer that is nothing short of addicting or, as previously discussed, the perfect dinner so you can eat them all the time. 

Buffalo Meatball Ingredients

The meatballs:

  • Ground beef: use lean ground beef so the meatballs will be tender but not greasy.
  • Crackers: 22 saltine crackers or Ritz crackers add a fabulous flavor in place of panko or breadcrumbs.
  • Dried minced onion: I love using dried minced onion because they deliver concentrated flavor. You can find dried minced onions with all the other seasonings at your grocery store.
  • Eggs: 2 eggs will do the trick to bind all the ingredients together.
  • Milk: any kind of milk will work here.   
  • Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin salt and pepper add an oomph of flavor without being overpowering.

The sauce

  • Hot sauce: I use Frank’s Red Hot Original Sauce. You can start with less and add more to taste.
  • Honey: is the “honey” in honey buffalo meatballs!
  • Apricot preserves: adds a fruity, multi-dimensional sweetness that compliments the honey
  • Brown sugar: works with the honey to balance the hot sauce.
  • Soy sauce: grounds the sauce. Use low sodium so your recipe isn’t too salty
  • Cornstarch: thickens the sauce into a glaze.

CAN I USE TURKEY MEATBALLS?

I recommend lean ground beef for its rich, beefy flavor, but you may also use ground chicken or ground turkey, they just won’t be quite as juicy.  Trying adding some beef bouillon to enhance the flavor and a splash of oil to enhance the juiciness.

a wooden spoon scooping up buffalo meatballs in the slow cooker

How do you Make Slow Cooker Meatballs?

STEP 1: COMBINE MEATBALL INGREDIENTS

These Buffalo Meatballs are super easy! First, combine the lean ground beef, eggs, saltine crackers, dried minced onions, milk, and seasonings in a bowl.

I used my mom’s perfect moist meatball recipe that uses crushed saltines instead of breadcrumbs as well as dried minced onion for maximum flavor.

STEP 2: ROLL MEATBALLS

  • Next, roll the meat mixture into balls and place on foil lined baking sheet for easy cleanup.

STEP 3: BAKE MEATBALLS

  • Bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. 
  • Baking the meatballs ensures they don’t fall apart in the slow cooker and seals in the juices for more tender meatballs. Baking is also much easier in a mass batch to cook instead of frying (and healthier too!).

STEP 4: Combine Sauce Ingredients

  • While the meatballs are baking, add all of the Honey Buffalo Sauce Ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Start with only use ¼ cup hot sauce at this point. You can add more hot sauce to taste at the end of cooking).

STEP 5: Layer sauce with meatballs

  • Line the bottom of your slow cooker with meatballs, drizzle with some Honey Buffalo Sauce, then remaining meatballs followed by the remaining Sauce.

CAN I USE A FOOD PROCESSOR OR MIXER TO BLEND THE MEATBALLS?

I do NOT recommend using a food processor or mixer to blend the meatballs because you end up with a mixture that is denser.  The goal is to just combine the ingredients together so they are evenly dispersed but not to over mix which can be easy to do with equipment.  Over-mixed meatballs = tougher meatballs.

How long do you Cook Slow Cooker Meatballs?

Cook Buffalo Meatballs on LOW for 2-4 hours. gently stirring one hour into cooking.   The meatballs will cook and seep in the zesty, sweet, tangy, savory, spicy sauce.

You can keep the crock pot on the WARM setting until you’re ready to serve.

buffalo slow cooker meatballs on a platter

Can I make Buffalo Meatballs on the Stove?

You may also make Buffalo Meatballs on the stove but they require a little more babysitting.  I personally prefer the slow cooker method because the meatballs cook low and slow and emerge crazy tender.

If cooking Buffalo Meatballs on the stove, you will still want to brown the meatballs in the oven first so they don’t fall apart when cooked.  Add honey buffalo sauce and browned/baked meatballs to a large pot and gently simmer over medium low heat for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through, stirring occasionally.

CAN I BAKE BUFFALO MEATBALLS?

Yes, you can bake the meatballs and prepare the sauce on the stove. Here’s how:

  • Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup. Top with a baking rack and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
  • Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet without touching. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, whisk all of the Honey Buffalo Sauce ingredients together in a very large skillet off heat. Once combined, bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  • Add the baked meatballs to the sauce and stir to evenly coat. Transfer meatballs to a serving platter or bowl with either cocktail picks or toothpicks nearby or you can pierce the meatballs. Serve warm. Alternatively, transfer to the crockpot and keep on the “warm” setting until ready to serve.

CAN I USE FROZEN MEATBALLS?

Part of the deliciousness of this Buffalo Meatball Recipe is the homemade meatballs, but you are welcome to use your favorite store-bought meatballs as well.

To make Slow Cooker Meatballs with store-bought meatballs, you will need one 32 oz. frozen fully cooked home style meatballs.

  • SLOW COOKER: Add sauce and meatballs to a 6-qt. slow cooker and cook on low 2-3 hours for THAWED meatballs and 6-8 hours for FROZEN meatballs.
  • STOVE TOP: Add sauce and meatballs to a large pot and gently simmer over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes for THAWED meatballs and 30-35 minutes for FROZEN meatballs, stirring occasionally.

Tips for Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • Slow Cooker Line.  Try using a crock pot liner for effortless cleanup!
  • Saltine substitute.  You may substitute the saltine crackers for Ritz crackers.
  • Uniform meatballs.  I suggest using a cookie scoop to roll your meatballs so they are a uniform size and cook evenly.
  • Meatball Size.  The size of the meatballs is totally personal preference, but I like to make smaller meatballs when using as an appetizer and larger meatballs when serving as a dinner.
  • Meatball quantity.  This slow cooker meatball recipe will make approximately 70 meatballs using 1″ cookie scoop; 35 meatballs using 2″ cookie scoop.
  • Always brown meatballs.  Browning the meatballs in the oven before adding to the crock pot is essential.  It seals in the juices, helps them not break apart in the slow cooker, and speeds up the cooking time.
  • Double sauce.  This slow cooker meatball recipe does not make saucy meatballs, but more of a glaze for appetizer meatballs.  You will want to double the sauce if serving as a main course. 
  • Cooking  time.  The size of the meatballs as well as the size, age of your slow cooker will affect the cooking time so plan accordingly. 
  • Test for doneness. Test a buffalo meatball after two hours by cutting in half to check for doneness. 
  • Plan for longer cooking time. If this is your first time making slow cooker meatballs, plan for the meatballs to take the full 4 hours  cooking time. It is better to start the meatballs early and keep them on the warm setting instead of them not being cooked in time. 

Possible Recipe Variations

  • Double the sauce for extra saucy meatballs.
  • Swap the hot sauce for Gochuchang (Korean chili sauce)
  • Swap the apricot preserves for pineapple or blackberry jam
  • Swap the saltines for Ritz crackers or go gluten free and use your favorite gluten free crackers

What Should I Serve with Buffalo Meatballs?

If serving Buffalo Meatballs as an appetizer, it pairs well with these other popular appetizers:

If serving Buffalo Meatballs as a main course, it pairs well with these sides:

top view of slow cooker buffalo meatballs stacked on a platter

CAN I PREP Slow cooker MEATBALLS IN ADVANCE?

  • Assemble and bake the meatballs for 8 minutes.
  • Let meatballs cool completely.
  • Gently layer meatballs in slow cooker in between layer of sauce per recipe directions.
  • Remove crockpot ceramic insert with meatballs/sauce and refrigerate, covered.
  • Add an additional 30 minutes to cooking time when ready to make OR cook until meatballs are completely cooked through and sauce is hot.

HOW DO YOU KEEP MEATBALLS WARM FOR A PARTY?

Simply keep he cooked meatballs on the warm setting in your slow cooker for up to 2 hours. Keep an eye on them and gently stir occassionally.

CAN I FREEZE Slow Cooker MEATBALLS?

You can either freeze your Slow Cooker Buffalo Meatballs a) after baking but before cooking in the slow cooker or b) once fully cooked in the sauce.

TO FREEZE SLOW COOKER MEATBALLS AFTER COOKING:

  • Let Buffalo Meatballs and Sauce cool completely in the refrigerator before freezing.
  • Transfer to an airtight, freezer safe container.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, let meatballs thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Transfer to a large pot and gently simmer until heated through.

TO FREEZE MEATBALLS BEFORE COOKING:

  1. Bake meatballs according to directions.
  2. Let meatballs cool to room temperature.
  3. Place entire baking tray with the meatballs in the freezer. You will want to make sure the meatballs are not touching so they don’t freezer together.  If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking tray then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours.
  4. When your meatballs are frozen enough that they won’t stick together, then transfer meatballs to freezer safe bags or containers.
  5. Label meatballs and store meatballs in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  6. You can also make the sauce, store in an airtight container and freeze separately from the meatballs.

HOW TO THAW and Cook FROZEN MEATBALLS

When ready to make Buffalo Meatballs, you can cook meatballs either on the stove, crockpot or oven/crockpot:

  1. STOVE: Add frozen meatballs and sauce to a large pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked through, taking care not to stir the first 10 minutes so you don’t break the meatballs.
  2. CROCKPOT: Add frozen meatballs and sauce to crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours or until cooked through and hot.
  3. OVEN/CROCKPOT: Defrost meatballs in the oven by baking at 350 degrees F  for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, defrost sauce in the microwave or stove, stirring often. Transfer meatballs and sauce to crockpot and cook on LOW for 2-4 hours or until completely cooked through.

Looking for more BUFFALO Recipes?

up close of scooping slow cooker buffalo meatballs in the crockpot with a wooden spoon

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Tender juicy slow cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs simmered in the most tantalizing sweet heat sauce that everyone goes crazy for! Perfect appetizer or delicious, easy meal with rice!

Slow Cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs

Tender juicy slow cooker Honey Buffalo Meatballs simmered in the most tantalizing sweet heat sauce that everyone goes crazy for! Perfect appetizer or delicious, easy meal with rice!
Servings: 70 meatballs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 22 saltine crackers, crushed (approx. 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup dried minced onion
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tsp EACH garlic pwdr, onion pwdr, salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH chili pwdr, smoked paprika, ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Honey Buffalo Sauce

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add eggs and gently whisk. Add all remaining Meatball Ingredients and mix until well combined. Roll meat mixture into desired meatball size**. Place meatballs onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, add all of the Honey Buffalo Sauce Ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine (only use ¼ cup hot sauce at this point. You can add more hot sauce to taste at the end of cooking).
  • Line the bottom of your slow cooker with meatballs, drizzle with some Honey Buffalo Sauce, then remaining meatballs followed by the remaining Sauce.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 2-4 hours, gently stirring every hour. When done, taste and stir in additional hot wings sauce (I add 1 ½ more tablespoons which is pretty spicy.) Keep warm until serving.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!
**I recommend DOUBLING the Sauce as most readers find they love the sauce so much they wish they had doubled it – or say they always double the sauce when they make it. 🙂

Tips for Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • Slow Cooker Line.  Try using a crock pot liner for effortless cleanup!
  • Saltine substitute.  You may substitute the saltine crackers for Ritz crackers.
  • Uniform meatballs.  I suggest using a cookie scoop to roll your meatballs so they are a uniform size and cook evenly.
  • Meatball Size.  The size of the meatballs is totally personal preference, but I like to make smaller meatballs when using as an appetizer and larger meatballs when serving as a dinner.
  • Meatball quantity.  This slow cooker meatball recipe will make approximately 70 meatballs using 1″ cookie scoop; 35 meatballs using 2″ cookie scoop.
  • Always brown meatballs.  Browning the meatballs in the oven before adding to the crock pot is essential.  It seals in the juices, helps them not break apart in the slow cooker, and speeds up the cooking time.
  • Double sauce.  This slow cooker meatball recipe does not make saucy meatballs, but more of a glaze for appetizer meatballs.  You will want to double the sauce if serving as a main course.
  • Cooking  time.  The size of the meatballs as well as the size, age of your slow cooker will affect the cooking time so plan accordingly.
  • Test for doneness. Test a buffalo meatball after two hours by cutting in half to check for doneness.
  • Plan for longer cooking time. If this is your first time making slow cooker meatballs, plan for the meatballs to take the full 4 hours  cooking time. It is better to start the meatballs early and keep them on the warm setting instead of them not being cooked in time.

PREP Ahead Slow cooker MEATBALLS 

  • Assemble and bake the meatballs for 8 minutes.
  • Let meatballs cool completely.
  • Gently layer meatballs in slow cooker in between layer of sauce per recipe directions.
  • Remove crockpot ceramic insert with meatballs/sauce and refrigerate, covered.
  • Add an additional 30 minutes to cooking time when ready to make OR cook until meatballs are completely cooked through and sauce is hot.

How to FREEZE Slow Cooker MEATBALLS

You can either freeze your Slow Cooker Buffalo Meatballs a) after baking but before cooking in the slow cooker or b) once fully cooked in the sauce.

TO FREEZE SLOW COOKER MEATBALLS AFTER COOKING:

  • Let Buffalo Meatballs and Sauce cool completely in the refrigerator before freezing.
  • Transfer to an airtight, freezer safe container.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, let meatballs thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Transfer to a large pot and gently simmer until heated through.

TO FREEZE MEATBALLS BEFORE COOKING:

  1. Bake meatballs according to directions.
  2. Let meatballs cool to room temperature.
  3. Place entire baking tray with the meatballs in the freezer. You will want to make sure the meatballs are not touching so they don’t freezer together.  If your freezer can’t accommodate your baking tray then use a small tray and freeze in batches.  Freeze for 1-2 hours.
  4. When your meatballs are frozen enough that they won’t stick together, then transfer meatballs to freezer safe bags or containers.
  5. Label meatballs and store meatballs in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  6. You can also make the sauce, store in an airtight container and freeze separately from the meatballs.

HOW TO DEFROST and Cook FROZEN MEATBALLS

When ready to make Buffalo Meatballs, you can cook meatballs either on the stove, crockpot or oven/crockpot:
  1. STOVE: Add frozen meatballs and sauce to a large pot and simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked through, taking care not to stir the first 10 minutes so you don’t break the meatballs.
  2. CROCKPOT: Add frozen meatballs and sauce to crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours or until cooked through and hot.
  3. OVEN/CROCKPOT: Defrost meatballs in the oven by baking at 350 degrees F  for 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, defrost sauce in the microwave or stove, stirring often. Transfer meatballs and sauce to crockpot and cook on LOW for 2-4 hours or until completely cooked through.

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193 Comments

  1. Celeste says

    I have made these several times during the holidays over the last few years. Even my 4 year-old nephew gobbles then up! I would definitely recommend to take the bit of extra time to make the meatballs from scratch – they are just so delicious!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your awesome endorsement Celeste, I’m thrilled they are a favorite!

  2. Amber Haun says

    When it calls for Frank’s Original Hot Sauce is that really what it should be or do you mean Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce. We love them both but I don’t want to use the wrong one

    • Jen says

      Hi Amber, yes it is the original sauce not the wings sauce. Enjoy!

      • Amber H says

        Thanks it turned out great and worked very well for football Sunday!

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much Amber, I’m so pleased they were a hit!

      • Meredith says

        Is it Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Sauce? I can’t find any that are just called “Frank’s Red Hot Original Sauce.”

  3. Deanna says

    Do you think they would be good with turkey meat balls?

    • Jen says

      Hi Deanna, it totally comes down to personal preference. Turkey meatballs are less juicy and obviously not “beefy” so you may want to add a tablespoon of oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon to the meatballs – that should do the trick!

  4. Reenie says

    Wow these are delicious!!!! I stupidly forgot it was a slow cooker recipe so did them on the stove and they came out excellent. I also doubled the sauce as recommended and glad I did. Will definitely be making these again. All your recipes are sssssoo good, where’s your cookbook????? Thanks again

    • Jen says

      Thanks Reenie, I’m so glad you’re enjoying them! I’m so pleased the meatballs turned out well on the stove!

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