Smoked Cranberry Meatballs (in a Cranberry Red Wine Sauce)

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Smoked meatballs braised in a sweet and savory Cranberry Pinot Noir Red Wine Sauce is one of our all time favorite holiday appetizers. These cranberry meatballs are ALWAY a hit at any party or gathering!

The best part is the cranberry wine sauce comes together with 4 simple ingredients!

Smoked Meatballs with a Cranberry and Red Wine Sauce

These Smoked Meatballs in Cranberry Pinot Noir sauce were originally inspired by a recipe we had a thousand years ago at a winery.

Several years ago I was out wine tasting during Thanksgiving weekend, and the owners of a particular winery were putting cranberries — which are overabundant during the holidays — to good use. They were serving up store-bought meatballs cooked in a cranberry and Pinot Noir sauce. A light bulb went on, and we started making our own version, based on what we remembered that original one tasting like.

And of course our meatballs are smoked!

Cranberry Meatballs Appetizer

For this recipe we roll homemade meatballs with a base of ground pork and beef, then cook them on the smoker, and finally add them to a rich, sweet, and slightly savory ingredient cranberry red wine sauce.

If we serve these during the holidays we’ll even add some dried cranberries to the meatball mix. It adds a lovely sweet kick to them.

This recipe is super simple, and oh-so delicious, and the cranberry wine sauce makes for a festive holiday appetizer.

Smoked Meatballs with a Cranberry and Pinot Noir Sauce

How to Make Cranberry Meatballs

  1. Start by smoking your meatballs. These meatballs are a combination of pork and beef, with some additional seasoning ingredients. Sometimes we’ll also add some dried cranberries to our cranberry meatballs (especially if we’re serving them around the holidays). Smoke the meatballs at 225 degrees for roughly 1 hour (or until the internal temperature of the meatballs are 165 degrees F.
  2. While the meatballs are smoking make the sauce. This sauce is so simple (only 4 ingredients!): canned cranberry sauce, red wine (we use Pinot Noir), brown sugar, and Dijon mustard. That’s it! Simmer together and keep warm.
  3. Once the meatballs are done, add them to the sauce. If you’re taking this to a holiday party transfer everything to a slow cooker, and keep it warm.

Catering Tip: If you’re serving the meatballs to a crowd you can use frozen Costco meatballs, or you can go big and make our smoked pork/beef combination meatballs. They are absolutely delicious and really make this all around dish shine.

A tray of smoked meatballs

If you want to make the meatballs stuffed with dried cranberries, just add in a 1/2 cup of cranberries before you form the meatballs.  The meatballs in this recipe are less sweet and more savory (though with the same delicious sauce). You can also make them with turkey meatballs too. Whatever you fancy.

Impress your friends this holiday season, and try these festive meatballs.

If you’re traveling to a party or event and want to keep them warm, just transfer them into a slow cooker. Easy peasy (and oh-so-delicious).

Smoked Meatballs braising in a slow cooker with red wine cranberry sauce

There’s a reason they’re (almost) famous. Believe me!

Wine Pairing 

These meatballs may seem too sweet to pair with wine. But there’s a delicate and intentional balance of smokey, sweet, and savory flavors, along with that acidic bite from the Dijon mustard, that make them rock solid with wine. I promise you these aren’t sugary sweet meatballs.

Smoked Meatballs with Wine Pairing

Since the inspiration for this was in the Willamette Valley wine country we always default to Pinot Noir (ideally a bigger style or one from a warmer vintage). But you can use any fruity wine that is low in tannins. Zinfandel is another one that works well with this dish. It’s also a crowd pleaser if you’re serving these at a party.

At the end of the day, this is meant to be an appetizer, likely at a holiday party, where loads of flavors are going to be competing for one another. So no need to really overthink it. Whatever you used in the sauce is likely a good match for the dish!

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Smoked Meatballs with a Cranberry and Red Wine Sauce
5 from 1 vote

Smoked Cranberry Meatballs in a Cranberry Red Wine Sauce

A simple, delicious, and elegant appetizer idea for the holidays. Smoked meatballs made with pork and beef, cooked on the smoker, and then braised in a sweet and savory cranberry wine sauce.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 20 meatballs


For the Meatballs:

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs, or breadcrumb substitute like Panko
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon each, salt and pepper

For the Cranberry Wine Sauce:

  • 1 16-ounce can cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir, or other fruity red wine like Zinfandel
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard


For the Meatballs:

  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
  • Mix all meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands.
  • Shape into approximately 1-inch balls.
  • Place on the smoker until the internal temperature of the meatballs reads 165 degrees (roughly 1 hour on the smoker). Remove from smoker and add to the cranberry wine sauce (below).

For the Cranberry Wine Sauce:

  • In a medium size saucepan, combine the cranberry sauce, wine, brown sugar and Dijon mustard.
  • Bring to a simmer and whisk continuously for about 5 minutes to allow the sauce to begin to reduce and thicken.
  • Serve, or to keep warm for a long period of time, transfer the sauce to a crock-pot, add the meatballs, and gently stir together. Keep warm.



Alternatively you can cook the meatballs on the stovetop in a heavy pot or large pan, coated with oil and set to med heat. Cook, and rotate the meatballs so all sides get browned (roughly 4-5 minutes). After they are browned transfer to an oven set to 375 for an additional 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature of the meatballs is 165 degrees.
If you don’t have time to make your own meatballs buy frozen meatballs and thaw them in the sauce for a super quick and easy holiday appetizer.


Calories: 116kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 73mg | Potassium: 96mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: appetizer, bbq, BBQ, Barbecue, holiday
Servings: 20 meatballs
Calories: 116
Keyword: Cranberry Meatballs, Cranberry Red Wine Sauce, smoked meatballs
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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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  1. 5 stars
    Made a triple batch of these for our Block Party yesterday and they were the hit of the party. The meatballs after smoking are great by themselves but combining with the cranberry sauce and keeping them warm in the slow cooker is great for a party.

    1. Gary so glad to hear these were a hit and thanks for the feedback, makes it so easy. These end up a go to every year for Superbowl as we can make them the day before and then just add to crock-pot the day of.

  2. So, yeah, my mouth is watering right now. I think if I was making them in the oven, which I would because I don’t own a smoker, I’d add a little smoked paprika to mimic the smoke flavor. The sauce sounds good and without the mustard I wonder if it would be a nice sweet/sour sauce for ice cream, custard, or tapioca pudding. Lots of inspiration here!

    1. Thank you Meg, love all these ideas. And hey, we need to remedy that smoker thing….go grab a weber kettle for $120.00, and you can start smoking right away without dropping tons of money!!

  3. I love cranberry meatballs (which I was planning to make again this week, in fact!) but your addition of pinot noir totally elevates this tasty holiday appetizer. YUM!

  4. Omg Cranberry Pinot meatballs? I need to make these for a holiday party stat as an excuse to make a couple batches of these…