This Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs Recipe packs a ton of flavor in every bite. The meatballs are smothered in a tangy sweet and sour sauce, then topped with sesame seeds and sliced green onion. They make a great appetizer or main dish for any night of the week!
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Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs
Meatballs are one of those foods that always taste so much better when they are cooked low and slow in a crockpot. And these Hawaiian-style meatballs are no different! They come out super tender and loaded with flavor.
These meatballs are the perfect blend of sweet and sour, flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, and onion. They are smothered in in a thick, tangy sauce made up of pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar.
And there’s not much binder in these meatballs; just enough Panko breadcrumbs and egg to hold them together.
The meatballs cook low and slow in the crockpot for 2 hours to heat through. This keeps the meatballs tender and juicy. I do like to brown the meatballs in a super hot skillet before adding them to the slow cooker. This adds flavor and gives the meatballs a nice caramelization on the outside.
This dish is a great option for busy weeknights when you want something super flavorful and with that cooked-all-day taste without having to actually cook it all day. These Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs also make great appetizers for football parties and weekend get-togethers!
Store-Bought Meatballs Vs. Homemade Meatballs
If you’re wondering if you can skip making your own meatballs from scratch and just use store-bought, you definitely can. But the flavor and texture won’t be nearly as good as using homemade. However, I get that sometimes you just need to dump dinner in a slow cooker to eat later and go about your day.
And in their defense, store-bought meatballs have come a long way. You can find a wide variety of beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and even plant-based options in most grocery stores today. This is great if you’re in a pinch and need a quick entree for dinner.
Can I Turn These into Make-Ahead Hawaiian Meatballs?
If you’re a planner, try making these meatballs ahead of time and storing in your freezer! That’ll speed up the process on the day you plan to serve them. Simply follow the directions for making the meatballs below, but instead of stopping at browning them, continue to sauté them thoroughly so they’re completely cooked. Set aside to cool completely, then store in an airtight container or freezer-safe Ziplock bag until you’re ready to use and label with the name and date of freezing.
You can even make the sauce ahead of time! Just make it using the instructions below and allow it to cool completely. Then store with the cooled meatballs or separately. It will last longer on it’s own, but the meatballs will be good for three months in the freezer.
Preparing them this way is a great option if you want to make dinner even faster or give them to a loved one in need of a tasty, comforting meal.
Key Ingredients for Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs
- Lean Ground Beef: You’ll use two pounds total for this recipe. Opt for lean so that there’s not much grease left in the slow cooker.
- Binding Agent: A half of a cup panko breadcrumbs and two large eggs serve as the glue that helps these meatballs keep their round shape and not fall apart when you bite into them.
- Veggies: In total, you’ll use a half of a cup minced onion, one teaspoon minced ginger, and two minced garlic cloves to help season the meatballs.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste.
- Olive Oil: To keep the meatballs from sticking.
- Canned Pineapple: You’ll use one 23.5-oz jar of pineapple chunks for this Hawaiian Meatballs recipe. Make sure to save the juice!
- Asian-Style Sauce: Combine light brown sugar, low-sodium soy sauce, vinegar, water, cornstarch, and reserved pineapple juice in a saucepan to make the sauce.
- Sesame Seeds: For garnish.
How To Make Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs
- Make beef meatballs: In a large bowl combine beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion, ginger, and garlic. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and form into 24 meatballs.
- Brown meatballs: Heat a large skillet with oil. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Make the sweet and sour sauce: Meanwhile, to a medium saucepan add in the reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, whisk together water and cornstarch. Slow whisk in the cornstarch mixture to sauce. Whisk constantly until thickened. Season with salt to taste.
- Cook: Grease the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place meatballs in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over the meatballs. Add in the pineapple chunks, and cook on low for 2 hours.
- Serve: Warm with sesame seeds and green onions for serving, if desired.
What To Serve with Slow Cooker Asian Sesame Meatballs
Enjoy these on their own as an appetizer or as the main course of a weeknight meal with any of these sides:
- White or Brown Rice
- Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Steamed Vegetables
- Chow Mein Noodles
- Roasted Potatoes
- Vegetable Fried Rice
How To Store, Freeze, and Reheat These Slow Cooker Meatballs
- To Store leftover Hawaiian Meatballs, keep refrigerated in an airtight container with sauce for up to three days.
- Freeze cooked meatballs with sauce in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to three months. (You can also freeze sauce separately to use in other dishes.)
- Reheat frozen meatballs by allowing them to thaw in the fridge overnight and place in the slow cooker until warmed through. You can also microwave thawed and chilled leftovers at 30-second intervals until warmed through, but it could affect the texture of the meatballs. Another option is warming in a skillet until desired temperature is achieved.
Can I Make Hawaiian Meatballs in the Instant Pot?
Yes! And the method is similar to making them in the slow cooker; just faster and in less steps.
To make Instant Pot Hawaiian Meatballs, follow these four simple steps:
- Prepare the meatballs, and brown them in your Instant Pot on the SAUTE setting. Remove from the insert, and set aside.
- Make your Hawaiian-style sauce in the Instant Pot by adding the reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar to the insert. Bring to a boil, then add the water and corn starch mixture. Slowly whisk the two liquids together until combined and thickened. Season with salt to taste.
- Return the meatballs to the Instant Pot with sauce, and secure the lid. Turn knob to SEALING.
- Select PRESSURE COOK or MANUAL, and set the timer for 7 minutes.
- Turn the knob to VENTING when the timer goes off. Allow steam to release naturally to complete the cooking process. Remove the lid, stir, serve over rice, and enjoy!
More Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed these Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs, then you’ll love these other meatball recipes:
- Thai Red Curry Chicken Meatballs
- Teriyaki Beef Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Asian Meatballs
- Turkey Meatballs with Arugula and Mushrooms
- Asian Style Chicken Meatballs
- Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
Slow Cooker Hawaiian Meatballs
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 jar, 23.5 ounces pineapple chunks, reserve juice
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- sesame seeds for garnish, if desired
- In a large bowl combine beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion, ginger and garlic. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Form into 24 meatballs.
- Heat a large skillet with oil. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Meanwhile, to a medium saucepan add in the reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- In a small bowl whisk together water and cornstarch.
- Slow whisk in the cornstarch mixture to sauce. Whisk constantly until thickened.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Grease the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place meatballs in the slow cooker and pour the sauce over the meatballs. Add in the pineapple chunks. (I reserved some for topping for garnish)
- Cook on low for 2 hours.
- Serve warm with sesame seeds if desired!