Jewish Sweet and Sour Meatballs – Traditional holiday recipe with pineapple and chili sauce. A perfect easy appetizer or entree, with dozens of possible variations.
I started this website on January 1, 2010, when food blogs were somewhat new to the web and the internet felt a bit like the “Wild West.” Let’s be real, it still feels that way sometimes. One of the ways I connected with readers was by launching recipe contests, where people could submit their favorite family dishes. Blog reader Susan Fedrow submitted a Sweet and Sour Meatballs recipe back in September 2010. At the time, I launched the contest to encourage readers to share their family recipes and holiday traditions. I loved Susan’s simple recipe made from pineapple chunks and bottled chili sauce.
Over time I developed my own version of this classic dish with a from-scratch sauce and optional modifications for Passover. These Jewish Sweet and Sour Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser, and they couldn’t be easier to make. Though the preparation method is a bit different from Susan’s recipe, the result is every bit as tasty as the original.
Susan’s mother made a similar meatball dish growing up, but she used different ingredients. Susan learned her own twist on the recipe just after she got married:
“I got this recipe when I was a newlywed,” she told me. “We met a few couples on our honeymoon and got together every month at each other’s houses and made a dish… this dish was made by one of the women, and since it was so delicious and easy, it became an instant family favorite.”
Susan usually prepares these tasty mini-meatballs for Hanukkah, but I think this dish would make a great addition to pretty much any holiday buffet. Throughout the years other readers have shared their twist on the dish in the comments. Apparently there is more than one way to make sweet and sour meatballs! However you decide to make them, enjoy in good health. L’shana tova!
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Jewish Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- 40 oz pineapple chunks in their own juice (no sugar added) (2 cans)
- 3/4 cup tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar (for Passover use a KFP vinegar)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder, divided
- 3/4 lb lean ground beef
- 3/4 lb dark meat ground chicken
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3-4 tbsp matzo meal or breadcrumbs (use matzo meal for Passover, or omit breadcrumbs to make gluten free)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 pinch cayenne (or more to taste-- add carefully, it's very spicy!)
- Note: I live in an area with a lot of great kosher markets, so I've never had trouble finding any of the items in this recipe with kosher for Passover certification. However, I'm told that in some places brown sugar and cider vinegar can be tough to track down with a KFP hechsher. If that is true in your area, feel free to swap cider vinegar for wine vinegar or Passover-approved white vinegar (not balsamic), and brown sugar for white sugar. Also, if you need to make this gluten free, use gluten free matzo meal for Passover!
- Drain your two cans of pineapple chunks and reserve the juice.
- In a medium pot, mix together tomato sauce, ketchup, cider vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, onion powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, and the juice from the pineapple cans. Stir together and turn meat to low to let the sauce slowly warm.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl use a fork to mix together the ground beef and chicken, egg, 3 tbsp matzo meal, paprika, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne. I like a little heat in the meatballs, so I add a heaping 1/4 tsp of cayenne. If you don't want them spicy, you can omit it completely-- or just add a pinch for depth of flavor.
- Form the meat mixture into small 1-inch meatballs. If the mixture seems too moist or stick, add another tablespoon of matzo meal to the mixture. Place the meatballs into the warming sauce.
- When all the meatballs are formed, bring the mixture to a boil and stir to cover the meatballs with sauce. Lower the heat to a low, even simmer and cover the pot.
- Let the meatballs cook for 40 minutes, stirring frequently, till sauce thickens and meatballs cook all the way through. If the sauce seems to be reducing too fast or losing too much liquid, lower the heat and add a little water to thin it.
- After 40 minutes, add the pineapple chunks to the sauce and stir to coat. Let the chunks warm in the sauce for 5 minutes.
- Serve. You can serve this as an entree with a Passover-friendly starch, as a side dish, or with toothpicks as an appetizer. Enjoy!