A Pre-Meal Warm-Up: This Year’s Thanksgiving Recipe

This blog was only a couple months old last Thanksgiving when I marked the holiday by sharing the corn pudding recipe that I usually prepare for a Turkey Day side dish.

For 2022, I’m posting the recipe for another dish we’ve had annually on Thanksgiving for at least the past 30 years; but as an hors d-oeuvre rather than part of the main meal: my mother’s Spicy Cocktail Meatballs. The name of the dish is actually misleading. It’s not really that spicy – although each home chef has the discretion to turn up the heat by adding more of the hot ingredients. Rather, it’s somewhat similar to various Jewish-style sweet & sour meatball recipes I’ve tried, but different enough to not go by the same name. 

There has been a lot of discussion among the friends and family who make up our regular Thanksgiving dinner crowd over whether my mother puts out too much food while people are sitting around watching football and chatting, before we sit-down for dinner. We used to start to feel full before the meal. She’s cut back on the hors d-oeuvres in recent years, but the meatballs will never be discontinued. They’re too popular. 

I’m one of the few red meat eaters in our group, so my mother always makes this dish with ground turkey.

Spicy Cocktail Meatballs

The number of meatballs you’ll wind up with will depend on how big you make them and can vary widely.


For the Sauce:

1½ cups ketchup

1 cup water

½  cup cider vinegar

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

¼ cup minced onion (or 2 tablespoons dried minced onions)

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons dry mustard

Tabasco to taste

Cayenne to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

For the Meatballs:

1½ pounds ground beef or turkey

1½ cups fine bread crumbs

½ teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

¼ cup finely minced onions (or 2 tablespoons dried minced onions)

1 teaspoon drained bottled horseradish

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

2 tablespoons unsalted butter for browning

Cooking Steps:

1. Make the sauce: In a wide pot whisk together the ketchup, water, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, Tabasco, cayenne, salt and black.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Make the meatballs: In a bowl combine gently the ground beef or turkey, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, onion, horseradish and eggs. When the ingredients are well-blended, form meatballs of your desired size with the meat mixture.

3. Perform the next step in batches if necessary: In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons of butter over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. Brown each batch of meatballs, shaking the skillet over the flame to maintain the round shapes. Transfer the browned meatballs with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and repeat the process with the next batch.

4. Transfer the meatballs to the pot containing the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally on the stove top until meatballs are cooked through. Can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated when ready to serve.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday. I may be back with one more cheesesteak post before the clock strikes Thursday.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

6 thoughts on “A Pre-Meal Warm-Up: This Year’s Thanksgiving Recipe

  1. Those sound good! I’ll bet they’d travel well in a crockpot, too.

    In my family something like this would be more likely to end up on the Christmas Eve buffet. Thanksgiving nibbles were usually along the lines of cold and room temperature things like cheese and sausage (with crackers, of course), mixed nuts, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We usually have a mix of hot and cold pre-meal snacks, although not as many hot as we used to have. It may have just been the meatballs this year. Someone else brought some good homemade hummus.


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