Cranberry Meatballs and Cranberry BBQ Sauce

I’ve become fascinated with the humble cranberry ever since my partner in crime, the Thoughtful Cave Dad suggested roasting them with squash.  I’ve roasted with Brussels sprouts and bacon, cauliflower and other veggies as well as squash – fantastic flavor.  This dish came to me while I was thinking about what to take to a friends house for a party.  The sauce is a variant from another recipe from Whole Foods but I’ve eliminated the refined sugar and amped up the flavor profile somewhat.  Next time I plan on using dates for the sweetness.  This sauce is really savory with a bite as I like a more savory flavor profile but if you like sweeter, go ahead with some additional honey or your favorite sweetener!   The meatballs are really good as is but I like the addition of the sauce.  We’ll see how the party guests like it!  BTW the meatballs do include a nut flour to help with binding but you really don’t have to use it.


Cranberry Meatballs and Cranberry BBQ Sauce

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1 ½ lb ground turkey
2 Italian Sausages (casing removed)
2 eggs
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup cranberries
1 really big handful baby spinach
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp freshly minced sage
½ cup almond flour (omit if desired or sub other flour – coconut, arrowroot, etc.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper


Preheat oven to 400 Deg.

Mince all the veggies and berries.  To get a really fine mince, I used a food processor and put in the onion, garlic, spinach and cranberries but you can hand chop as well (if you’re a masochist).  Mix all ingredients thoroughly (use your hands – no really, use your hands – put that spoon down).  I use a small scoop to form the meatballs and put them on a greased baking pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until meatballs are lightly browned and 160 deg internally.  You can stop here and enjoy them as is, they would be really good with some spaghetti squash.  Alternatively you can make the BBQ sauce below, put the meatballs in a slow cooker on low put in BBQ sauce and let simmer for 2-4 hrs.


Cranberry BBQ Sauce


3 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 6oz can tomato paste (read the labels – should just be tomatoes)
1 Tbs dry mustard (can also use Dijon)
1 ½ cup cranberries
¼ cup molasses (could also use dates for sweetness, will do that next time)
¼ cup + 2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne
1 ½ cup chicken stock
½ tsp Tabasco
1-2 Tbs honey (if desired can add more if a sweeter sauce is desired)

In a 1 qt pot over medium heat sauté onions and garlic until golden brown. This will take about 15 minutes or more.  Don’t rush it, this will provide a real sweetness to the sauce and huge flavor.  Watch as it gets brown as you can go from caramelized to charcoal in seconds.

Add the tomato paste and molasses (or dates), stir briskly and cook for about 5 minutes to get some color on the paste.  Add cranberries, apple cider vinegar, cayenne, mustard, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally and cook for about 5-7 minutes, you will start to hear the cranberries pop.  Add in the stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Blend the mix with an immersion blender (if you want to paint your walls) or stand blender (if you’re a wimp) adding honey in this step if desired. Add a little more stock or water if too thick.  This would be good on chicken or pork or a perfect match for those meatballs you just made!

Note: This recipe was featured in Divine Heath From the Inside Out’s Gluten-Free Slow-Cooker Roundup!

Updated 1-21-2013

Copyright © 2013 “The Culinary Cave Dad”

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