Slow cooker firecracker meatballs come together in minutes, are quickly seared, and then smothered in a sweet and spicy firecracker sauce and cooked low and slow until tender and juicy. Serve these flavorful meatballs over rice as a meal or on their own as an easy appetizer!
I could slather this Asian-inspired firecracker sauce on everything!
I’ve done something similar before with my slow cooker firecracker chicken, and now I’m adding a twist to it in this firecracker meatballs recipe.
Everyone loves meatballs, especially when they’re well seasoned and seared first, then cooked low and slow until tender and juicy. They make a great appetizer but also a tasty main dish.
I often start with frozen meatballs but these chicken meatballs are quickly made from scratch.
The combination of ground chicken, onions, and breadcrumbs are scooped, seared, and coated in a sweet and spicy sauce that is simmered for hours in the crock pot.
These easy firecracker meatballs are similar to my crockpot sweet and spicy meatballs but these have more of that tangy Buffalo flavor.
Why you’ll love Firecracker Meatballs
Easy Weeknight Dinner – These spicy chicken meatballs make a great weekend dinner idea, appetizers for game day, or a dish to bring to a potluck!
Tons of Flavor – The firecracker sauce is made with Asian flavors including brown sugar for sweetness, soy sauce for depth of flavor, and Buffalo wing sauce for tangy heat that is unbelievably addicting!
Make Ahead & Freezer-Friendly – Firecrackers meatballs are great for meal prep and can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge or frozen either cooked or uncooked. When you’re ready to heat and serve, that’s when you add the sauce!
Equipment you’ll need
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Ground Chicken – This is lean meat that doesn’t produce much excess grease. It’s important not to overwork it, or you’ll end up with dry meatballs!
- Panko Breadcrumbs – I use Japanese-style Panko crumbs because they’re a bit lighter and crispier and won’t weigh the meatballs down as much, but regular breadcrumbs will also work.
- Large Eggs – Lightly whisked, the eggs will help bind the slow cooker chicken meatballs together and help to keep them moist.
- Chopped Onion & Minced Garlic – Gives the firecracker meatballs added flavor. You want to make sure to finely chop and mince the garlic, otherwise, you’ll have chunks of each in your firecracker meatballs, and a lot of people don’t enjoy that.
- Scallions, Divided – Used for inside the meat mixture as well as part of the sauce.
- Salt & Pepper – To taste.
- Buffalo Wing Sauce – The pleasant and flavorful tangy heat that we all love about wing sauce. The difference between wing sauce and the original hot sauce is the addition of the smooth buttery flavor. It coats the firecracker meatballs so nicely.
- Brown Sugar – Adds a sticky sweetness to the sauce, giving it great balance.
- Soy Sauce – A signature flavor in any Asian-inspired sauce providing notes of umami, salty, and savory flavors. I recommend using low-sodium.
- Water – Brings the ingredients of the sauce together and thins it out a bit so that the sugars don’t burn while cooking for hours.
How to make Firecracker Meatballs
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: In a large bowl, mix the meatball ingredients together. The ground chicken, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion, garlic, scallions, and salt and pepper. Do not overmix, just combine.
- Step Two: Use a #50 cookie scoop, which is about 1.5 Tablespoons, to scoop out about 2” worth of meat mixture. Roll in your hands and place it into a large greased skillet. Continue scooping out the mixture as many times as balls can fit in the skillet without overcrowding. You may need to work in batches.
- Step Three: Brown the meatballs over medium-high heat on the stove until just browned on the outside. Transfer them all to the basin of a slow cooker. Repeat until you have no more meat mixture remaining.
- Step Four: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the Buffalo sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, water, and the rest of the scallions. Mix together and pour over the meatballs.
- Step Five: Cover with a lid and cook on LOW for 2 hours. Leave the firecracker meatballs on the warm function if you’re serving them as appetizers for a crowd, or enjoy them garnished with additional scallion, fresh parsley, or sesame seeds over the rice.
What to serve with Firecracker Meatballs
Toothpicks, for starters! That is if you’re having firecracker meatballs as appetizers. Don’t forget the napkins.
If you’re making a meal out of them, as mentioned above, rice is always a great option. White rice, brown rice, or fried rice is great.
If you want to keep it low carb, try serving them as lettuce wraps or over zucchini noodles and drizzle some of the remaining sauce over the top.
Tips & Suggestions
- Ground chicken can be sticky when rolling the meatballs. Spray your hands with a bit of cooking spray to prevent sticking.
- If you prefer more spicy less sweet, use less brown sugar.
- For even more heat you can sprinkle some red pepper flakes into the sauce.
- Save some time and use frozen meatballs, if desired. They’re not going to be as tender and flavorful as homemade meatballs, but the sauce definitely makes up for it!
- Not a fan of Buffalo sauce? Use your favorite hot sauce. Sriracha is always an option, as is sweet chili heat.
- I’ve never tried to make these gluten-free, but if you wanted to give it a try, just swap the bread crumbs for gluten-free bread crumbs and use coconut aminos or tamari instead of soy sauce.
How to reheat and store Firecracker Meatballs
How to store leftovers
Keep covered in an airtight container in the fridge. Use leftovers in a sweet and spicy meatball sub, as a pizza topping, in a stir fry, or on their own for a quick lunch with a side salad.
If you know you’ll be making them ahead and storing them for later, I suggest keeping them separate from the sauce. The sauce comes together so quickly, you can even make it just before using it.
How long will slow cooker chicken meatballs last in the fridge?
These are kind of addicting, so even though they’ll last about 3 days in the fridge, they’ll be gone before then!
Can I freeze chicken meatballs?
Certainly, you can freeze chicken meatballs.
Once completely cooled, move the cooked meatballs to a freezer-safe container or bag. Freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to eat them, thaw in the fridge overnight.
How to reheat them
These firecracker meatballs reheat great in the microwave. You can also use a skillet, the oven, or the slow cooker if you’ve got a big batch to heat up.
How many firecracker meatballs does this recipe make?
When using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop, you’ll get 36 meatballs out of this recipe. You can make them smaller to make more (especially great for chicken meatball appetizers), or larger ones that yield fewer balls.
Can I use a different type of meat?
Definitely. You can try a combination of both ground chicken and ground turkey. You can also try them with ground pork and even ground beef.
How do I know when my meatballs are cooked?
Use a meat thermometer to read the internal temperature of the meat. You can remove them from the heat once they reach 160 degrees F, as they will continue to rise to 165 degrees F as they sit. At this point, they are deemed safe to eat according to the USDA.
Crockpot Firecracker Meatballs
Need more meatball recipes? Try these:
Click here for my entire collection of meatball recipes.