These BBQ Chicken Meatballs are one of my favorite easy party appetizers, but they also make a delicious dinner when served with a couple veggie sides!
If you're anything like me, when it comes to throwing parties, you get WAY too ambitious and end up ridiculously stressed for no reason. It's exhausting. So, how about instead of choosing five overly complicated and impressive dishes, you make five super easy and impressive dishes? Then you can actually enjoy having people over.
Lucky for you (and me), I have a super easy party appetizer to share with you today. These BBQ chicken meatballs only require one bowl and one skillet and can be made in under 30 minutes. While they're perfect for sticking toothpicks in and serving at parties, they also make a delicious easy dinner with a nice big salad or a couple of veggie sides.
Whenever you serve the, one thing is for sure... These BBQ chicken meatballs will be a hit!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
You're going to love these BBQ chicken meatballs because they'll make your life much easier when it comes to party planning. Or making a simple weeknight dinner. They're so quick and simple to prepare.
And they're absolutely packed with flavor and super tasty. Your guests and family will love them.
Plus, they involve a special secret ingredient. Can you guess what it is??
You don't need much for these BBQ chicken meatballs... Just a few simple ingredients! Here's everything required (be sure to view the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions):
- Ground chicken
- Large egg
- Applesauce: Yup, this is the secret ingredient!
- Diced onion
- Chili powder
- Olive oil
- Barbecue sauce: I like to use Sweet and Spicy from Sweet Baby Ray, but you can use your own favorite BBQ sauce
🍎 Why add applesauce?
What makes these BBQ chicken meatballs a little bit special is the addition of applesauce. That adds a little bit of sweet in addition to the heat from the chili powder and BBQ sauce (depending on what kind you use... I like to use a Sweet and Spicy variety from Sweet Baby Ray).
The applesauce also adds a bit of extra moistness into the meatballs. If you're worried about chicken meatballs being dry, you certainly don't need to be!
👩🍳 How to make BBQ chicken meatballs
Though I made a couple simple changes, this recipe for barbeque chicken meatballs was originally spotted on the Epicurious website. I was initially looking for a delicious, one-bite appetizer for a football watching gathering, but something other than the usual chicken wings and potato skins type football food.
Of course, I had to test the meatballs out first and made them for dinner one night. That's when I realized how ridiculously easy and incredibly delicious they are! Bonus points for the fact that if you make them for dinner, you don't have to share them with a whole party full of people!
Want to see how easy they are to make? All you have to do is combine the ground chicken, panko, egg, applesauce, onion, chili powder, salt, and paprika in a big mixing bowl.
Mix all the ingredients together until well combined (I use my hands... but take my rings and watch off first!) and form into golf ball sized balls.
Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat and add in the meatballs.
Brown them on all sides until they're cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. The internal temperature of the meatballs should be 165 degrees.
Then add the barbecue sauce to the skillet and continue cooking until the sauce has reduced and sticks to the meatballs, about 1 minute.
Stare at the beauty of the BBQ chicken meatballs for roughly 5 minutes before inhaling. Or serving to your guests who are patiently waiting and wondering why you're standing in the kitchen staring at a plate full of meatballs.
You don't need too much for garnish; a sprinkling of green onions looks great!
I definitely recommend making these for any gathering you're having as they will add no additional stress to your life! They're also great for bringing to parties.
I think two important things to keep in mind when making an appetizer for a gathering at someone else's house are 1) make something that transports well and 2) make something that can be eaten in a clean way. These meatballs definitely fit the bill.
⏲️ How to make ahead of time
And yes, you can certainly conduct most of the work for these meatballs ahead of time! I recommend cooking the meatballs in the skillet and then letting them cool.
Once cooled, place them in an airtight container and place in the fridge. They can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
When ready to serve, add the meatballs to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to low and add the BBQ sauce. Stir to coat meatballs in sauce and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce is heated and has thickened a bit.
You can also store the meatballs after you sauce them, but you'll still have to re-heat them before serving and I think they're best when you sauce right before serving!
🥶 Can I freeze?
Yes, you can freeze the meatballs and you can even do it after you sauce them if you prefer.
I recommend placing them on a baking sheet and freezing them before adding them to an airtight container or large freezer-safe bag (this way they won't all stick together). Just make sure the meatballs are completely cooled before you put them in the freezer.
When you're ready to enjoy, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. You can reheat them in a skillet and add the sauce if you haven't already or you can put the sauce meatballs in the oven or in the microwave.
And I'm about 110% sure if you make these BBQ chicken meatballs for a party, your friends will love you ten times more than they already do. Make them for your husband or boyfriend's football watching buddies and they'll love you, too. Not that they already don't.
When I made them for an entree, I served them with a side of roasted broccoli and green beans for a nice light and healthy dinner. And then proceeded to eat way too many of them.
But I didn't feel too bad because they're made with chicken and are fairly light!
You could also serve them with brown rice, mashed potatoes, or even a side of sweet potato fries.
🎉 Variations on recipe
I love the simplicity of this BBQ meatball recipe and I also love that there are so many ways you can alter them to make them your own or suit them to your tastes! Here are some ideas:
- Instead of using ground chicken, you can make this same recipe with ground turkey or ground beef.
- Add any of the spices or seasonings you love! You can add garlic powder, onion powder, your favorite seasoning blend, or red pepper flakes for an extra kick.
- If you want to "fancy" these up, make them with a homemade BBQ sauce!
- You can use this recipe in conjunction with your favorite air fryer or slow cooker recipe.
🫒 More fun party appetizers
If you're planning a party, you might want to serve a few more options for finger food in addition to these mini meatballs! Here are some of my favorite fun appetizer recipes:
What's your favorite appetizer to serve at parties? I aways love buffalo wings!
If you're looking for more delicious chicken meatball recipes, check out my Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and my Garlic Habanero Chicken Meatballs. I'm also really excited about these Chicken Piccata Meatballs from Ways to My Heart!
BBQ Chicken Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- ⅔ cup panko
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp applesauce
- ⅓ cup diced onion (from 1 small onion)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup barbecue sauce (I use Sweet and Spicy from Sweet Baby Ray)
- In a large bowl, mix together ground chicken, panko, egg, applesauce, onion, chili powder, salt, and paprika until well combined.
- Form golf ball-sized balls with the mixture.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs to skillet and cook on all sides until completely cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
- Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet and continue cooking for another minute until the sauce reduces and begins sticking to the meatballs.
- Recipe slightly adapted from Epicurious.