Tailgate Hostess Hacks: The Best Game Day Meatballs

Tailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdress

Who’s ready for football season?! As much as I love college sports, Kyle literally couldn’t care less. That being said, he’s a big fan of game day food. So, we love hosting tailgate parties in the fall, and meatballs are a game day staple in our house. They’re ridiculously easy to make (and, more importantly, particularly difficult to mess up), and they provide a much-needed dose of protein to any tailgating spread. If you’re looking for delicious beef meatballs for a crowd, keep reading for my go-to game day meatball recipe. I make them with 2 pounds of lean ground beef from our local grocery store, and they’re to die for! Oh, and fun fact– Missouri ranks third in the nation in cattle production, and 97% of Missouri cattle farms are family-owned! Pretty cool, right? 

Scroll down for a printable/shareable recipe card, along with a rustic faux grass football centerpiece and some quick tailgate party tips and snack ideas.

The Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd

Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce

These delicious baked game day meatballs are the perfect mix of sweet and spicy, and they’ll be a guaranteed hit at your next party. Here’s everything you need to serve 12 (multiply by 2 or 3 for a bigger crowd)–

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef (I buy 94/6, which is American Heart Association Heart Healthy Certified!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I use 365 Everyday Value)
  • 3-4 tablespoons yellow onion, minced (can substitute with dried minced onion)
  • 3/4 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 ounces sweet and spicy barbecue sauce (I love Stubb’s Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce
  • Fresh parsley (for garnish)
  • Cocktail pics for serving (I love these)

Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauceBest Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce

To make a batch, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire baking rack on the baking sheet. I use this set— it’s under $20 and dishwasher safe. If you don’t have a baking rack, you can use a lined baking dish, as well. I prefer using a baking rack, though, because it creates a crispier and all-round more drool-worthy meatball.

While the oven is preheating, combine the ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, onion, Cheddar cheese, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, form into 36 3/4-ounce meatballs (about 1 inch wide) and place on the baking rack. Bake for 20 minutes.

Next, temporarily remove the meatballs from the oven. Replace the baking sheet lining with clean aluminum foil and carefully transfer meatballs from the baking rack to the freshly-lined baking sheet. Warning– they’ll be hot! Cover with barbecue sauce and bake for an additional 7 minutes until the sauce is thick and meatballs are cooked through. Stir meatballs with a spoon or spatula to make sure they’re all evenly coated in sauce. Serve warm with cocktail picks (I love these— they’re so fun and colorful). Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy!

Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauceBest Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauceBest Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce

Another great thing about this baked meatball recipe? They’re great reheated, so you can make these 1 or 2 days in advance if need be! They’re also jam packed with protein, too. For reference, I’ve included a nutritional breakdown down below!

Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauceBest Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce
Best Game Day Meatballs for a Crowd by Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, sweet and spicy football meatballs, meatballs for a crowd, healthy beef meatball recipe, how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce

Sweet and Spicy Game Day Meatballs
Serves 12
These delicious sweet and spicy beef meatballs are perfect for parties and game day gatherings! They make a great family-friendly dinner served over rice, too!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
27 min
Total Time
37 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
27 min
Total Time
37 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds lean ground beef
  2. 2 eggs
  3. 3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  4. 3-4 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
  5. 3/4 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
  6. 1/4 cup ketchup
  7. 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon pepper
  10. 12 ounces barbecue sauce
  11. Fresh parsley (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a wire baking rack on the baking sheet.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, onion, Cheddar cheese, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Using your hands, form into 36 3/4-ounce meatballs (about 1 inch wide) and place on the baking rack.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove meatballs from the oven. Replace baking sheet lining with clean aluminum foil and carefully transfer meatballs from the baking rack to the baking sheet. Warning-- they'll be hot! Cover with barbecue sauce and bake for an additional 7 minutes in the preheated oven until sauce is thick and meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Notes
  1. If you don't have a baking rack, you can use a lined baking dish.
Adapted from All Recipes
Adapted from All Recipes
Diary of a Debutante https://thediaryofadebutante.com/

More Ideas for Your Tailgate Tablescape

Tailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdress

If you’re hosting a game day watch party and need more snack and decor ideas to compliment with your game day meatballs, I’ve found that fresh veggies and popcorn can go a long way. Itty bitty mini cheeseburgers (also made with Missouri ground beef!) are always a crowd favorite, too. For drinks, consider grabbing a combination of beer, wine, fizzy waters, and soda– or ask guests to BYOB! As far as decor beyond the aforementioned football centerpiece goes, try and find cute drink stirrers, banners, napkins, and serve wear in your team colors. Fortunately, game day really should be about the game, so as long as there’s a working TV and yummy food, there’s much less pressure to throw together a perfectly-themed shindig. 

Tailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdressTailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdressTailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdressTailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdressTailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdress Tailgate party hostess tips and tailgating snack ideas from popular Missouri blogger Stephanie Ziajka from Diary of a Debutante, Old Navy chambray shirtdress

Finally, how fun is this DIY football centerpiece? Get the full tutorial here!

Are you excited for football season coming up? I’m a UCF alum to my core (Go Knights!), but after 2 years in Columbia, I’ve started warming up to the Mizzou Tigers, as well. Who do you root for? As long as it’s not the Gators, we’ll still be alright (ha!). 

If you have any questions about my game day meatballs and/or how to make meatballs with barbecue sauce, shoot me an email or leave me  a comment.

This post is sponsored by the Missouri Beef Industry Council. Follow along with them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for updates on Missouri beef and related topics– from the farm to the fork! As always, all opinions are my own. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Debutante possible!

Photography by Catherine Rhodes.

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