Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs


Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs are sticky, sassy, and saucy. Gluten-free, too!

Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs | iowagirleats.com

Hey y’all! How was your weekend? Ben and I bummed around on Friday evening, saving our energy for a fun night out on Saturday involving mas wine, cheese, and chocolate at a local, well, wine, cheese, and chocolate event. We had (way) too much fun! ; )

Sunday we watched football all day and I got to practice making some Super Bowl eats before the main event in a couple weeks. Yep, last Friday I shared my favorite Super Bowl-friendly dips, bites, and crock pot recipes, and I’m continuing the fun this week with a couple more football-friendly food ideas.

Today I am PUMPED to share gluten-free Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs which Ben deemed, “the best meatball I’ve ever had.” Not even the best “gluten-free” meatball he’s ever had – just the best meatball ever PERIOD. End of sentence. Score!

Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs | iowagirleats.com

Mini meatballs are held together with cooked quinoa instead of bread crumbs to make them gluten-free, then are coated in a sticky, sweet-tart homemade Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce. I’ve been on a meatball bender since giving this quinoa/bread crumb swap a go early last week. I made Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs twice, then these sweet and tangy Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs. If you liked my Honey and Balsamic Onions Chicken Skillet – you will LOVE these meatballs!

Like I said, they’re a little tangy, a little sweet, and the cooked quinoa in the meat mixture gives them a great texture. They’re a great snacking option for the Super Bowl. Keep ’em warm in a saucepan on the stove top or in a crock pot set to warm so guests can go back again and again (which they will!)


Start by making a batch of thick and sticky homemade Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce, which is so easy to make. I sort of wanted to spoon drink this stuff it’s so luscious. Who knows, maybe I did – muwahaha!

Anyway, combine ingredients including balsamic vinegar, honey, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce (check the label to make sure yours is gluten free – I used Lea & Perrins which is GF,) Dijon mustard, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a saucepan then bring to a boil. Lower the heat then simmer for 45 minutes. As it simmers, the BBQ sauce will thicken and sweeten – YUM.


Meanwhile, rinse 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa then cook it in 2/3 cup water for 10 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and water is absorbed. Fluff it with a fork then cool slightly.


Combine the cooked quinoa with 1 whisked egg, 1/2 grated small onion (or 1 large shallot,) 2 microplaned or minced garlic cloves, and lots of salt and pepper.


Finally add  1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (again, I used Lea & Perrins, which is gluten-free,) 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary then mix everything together.


Add 1lb lean ground beef (I used 90/10) then mix with your hands and separate into eight wedges.


Form three meatballs out of each wedge, placing them on a cooling rack sprayed VERY well with nonstick spray, set atop a foil-lined baking sheet. Do NOT skimp on the nonstick spray or you’ll be sorry! Bake for 15-17 minutes at 400 degrees.


Finally, add the meatballs to the Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce then turn the heat down to low to keep warm. Alternatively, you could add the meatballs and sauce to a crock pot set to “warm”. (We’re ignoring the fact that my stove top is a literal hot mess, mmkay?)


Set out tooth picks to pluck the meatballs from the tangy sauce with then enjoy!

Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs | iowagirleats.com

Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs

makes 24 meatballs


Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs are sticky, sassy, and saucy. Gluten-free, too!


  • 1/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 small onion, grated or minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned or minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • For the Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce:
    • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 3/4 cup ketchup
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce  
    • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • salt and pepper


  1. Combine ingredients for Honey-Balsamic BBQ Sauce in a saucepan then stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring every so often, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until sauce is thick and has lost its vinegary bite, stirring every so often.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small saucepan then add rinsed quinoa, cover with a lid, turn heat down to medium-low, and then cook until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork then cool slightly.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil then place a cooling rack on top and spray very well with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl combine cooled quinoa, egg, shallot, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme and rosemary. Stir to combine then add beef and mix to combine using hands. Separate mixture into eighths, then form three meatballs from each segment, to form 24 meatballs. Place on prepared cooling rack then bake for 15-17 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center. Add meatballs to sauce then turn heat down to low to keep warm, or transfer to a crock pot set to "warm".

This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.

Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs | iowagirleats.com

I know “homemade BBQ sauce” can sometimes sound scary or intimidating, but this sauce is incredibly easy to make, thick, sticky, and sweet. Absolutely delicious. Really hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs | iowagirleats.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. I love making honey balsamic sauce! But,I have only ever used it on chicken, meatballs is such a brilliant idea! These pictures are killin’ me….sweet, sticky sauce and fun little bit sized meatballs! We don’t really watch the Superbowl in my household, but we can still eat the food!

  2. Meatballs+balsamic…yum! I can’t wait to try these.

  3. Chicago Jogger 01.20.2014

    These look delicious! I love adding quinoa to meatballs / meatloaf instead of bread crumbs, I just tried it for the first time a few months ago. Will have to give this recipe a try too!

  4. Mind blown by the quinoa in these meatballs – so, so smart!!

  5. Yummy! I eat GF so whenever I see new recipes I need to try it out! I think I will add these to the Super Bowl list!

  6. Madison 01.20.2014

    I’m not a huge meatball fan but you got me at honey and balsamic! :) I shall try these out.

  7. Danielle 01.20.2014

    These look great! Just an FYI some brands of Worcestershire actually contain gluten. I didn’t know this til recently!

  8. Megan 01.20.2014

    Is gluten-free a new requirement in your household? Just curious since I saw the FB post about GF flour and now this GF meatball recipe.

    • Kristin 01.20.2014

      I’ve been experimenting with GF recipes recently due to the amount of reader requests for them. We’re also trying more GF recipes at home because frankly, we feel better eating GF!

      • Megan 01.20.2014

        Great! I am sure many of your followers will love the addition of GF recipes. I am a Hy-Vee dietitian so it is always nice to refer customers to blogs that have GF recipes. I just bought some quinoa flour today to experiment with!

  9. ALexa 01.20.2014

    Please note, the ONLY gluten free Worcestershire sauce is the original brand. Most others contain gluten. Also, watch the vinegar you guy to make sure it’s gluten free, not all varieties are. As a celiac, just have to watch out for people who truly need to be gluten free. =)

    • Kristin 01.20.2014

      Yep! Lea & Perrins, the brand I used, is gluten free!

  10. I am LOVING these so much! My mouth is literally drooling!!

  11. Nancy 01.20.2014

    I was curious about the gluten-free items, like Megan. Is your family doing this, or are more blog followers asking for it?

    • Kristin 01.20.2014

      Both actually! A TON of readers have been asking for more GF recipes, and we’ve been experimenting and enjoying them at home too.

  12. mmmmm everything about these meatballs sounds amazing! I might have to make these for super bowl! xo


  13. Angie 01.20.2014

    Thank you so much for posting a gluten free meatball recipe. As a gluten intolerant foody, I’m always looking for new recipes and ideas. I love your blog and find lots of great ideas on here, some that I modify to fit my GF needs. I also have a son who’s 7-months, so I enjoy hearing about Lincoln and his milestones (and yours). Keep up the wonderful work, I really appreciate what you do!

  14. Dawn 01.20.2014

    Quinoa in meatballs?! How cool. The sauce looks delicious too :) You always have the best meatball recipes

  15. Ohhh wow these sound SO WONDERFUL!!!

  16. Could you be any smarter? Quinoa as bread crumbs!? I’m a little upset I never thought of that. These look delicious. I really love meatballs, had some for lunch in fact!

  17. Alexandra Aimee 01.20.2014

    These look DELICIOUS!! I can’t believe they are gluten free. I am going to have to try to make these this weekend….

    — Alex at Brainy Girls Beauty

  18. Yum! These look incredible – I am definitely bookmarking the recipe to make for Jesse!

  19. WearEatLove 01.20.2014

    Love this meatballs! Delicious!


  20. These sound fantastic! Love the idea of using quinoa!

  21. Katie 01.20.2014

    Meatballs are pretty much my favorite food – I’m sharing one of my new favorite meatballs on my blog this week :) These are a must try…probably this weekend!! I love the idea of adding quinoa – normally I just use GF oats to make meatballs GF.

  22. Jess 01.20.2014

    Speaking of special dietary needs, my husband and I have acid reflux and have been searching for a good meatball recipe that doesn’t use ketchup or tomato sauce (we’re supposed to avoid tomato). Any suggestions on substitutions?

  23. Love that the BBQ sauce (which looks INCREDIBLE) can be made with stuff that I already have in the kitchen. Sure it’s a little more effort than opening up a store-bought bottle, but I’d bet money on the finished product being SO much tastier! And quinoa in the meatballs? I’ve only ever used breadcrumbs, but loving the GF spin.

  24. Kayla 01.20.2014

    Shut up. These look so freaking amazing. I have cut out all grains for now but I am hoping that I can add quinoa back in without any symptoms. I am pinning this now!

  25. […] Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs- I have super bowl snacks on the […]

  26. Jess 01.21.2014

    This looks delicious! That glaze looks so sticky and sweet- will have to try this recipe :)

  27. Melissa 01.21.2014

    I love meatballs and as a Celiac I am always looking for non-breadcrumb options for binding…I am SO excited to try quinoa!!!!!! Thank you so much for posting GF recipes :)

  28. These look amazing – and I love your photography! Great blog, happy I found it today!

  29. JennP 01.21.2014

    Loving the GF recipes! Our house gave up gluten last year as an experiment. My husband had just generally not been feeling good, and I suspected that it might be the culprit. After ONE week, his migraines were gone, his acid reflux disappeared, and he had about 10x the energy. We haven’t looked back. We still love carbs – we just eat brown rice pasta and wraps, polenta, almond flour cookies etc! I was surprised how easy it was to give up wheat!

  30. Love how you can make this right from the pantry! I am always looking for different ways to use ground beef since it is always on sale. Will have to give this one a try :)

  31. […] Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs. […]

  32. Michelle 01.23.2014

    Question from an onion-hater: could you leave the onion out? I didn’t know how prevalent they were or needed to be in the recipe. I can handle small doses, but if the taste of the meatballs was quite onion-y, then I would probably pass on this recipe. Even though it sounds delicious!

  33. That honey balsamic sauce looks so good! I love a good sauce on a meatball, these really look delicious! What a great idea for the quinoa instead of breadcrumbs too. Yum!

  34. […] much flavor!] Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs via Iowa Girl […]

  35. Fun Five Friday 01.24.2014

    […] Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs– Also this for game day food. It has quinoa + meat in it so the guys will love it! […]

  36. Amanda Ogden 01.25.2014

    I am GF and was SEARCHING for a GF meatball because my boys have been requesting them…THANK YOU!!! I never would have thought to use quinoa.

  37. […] Honey Balsamic BBQ Meatballs via Iowa Girl Eats […]

  38. Carrie 01.27.2014

    These are amazing, but if you have a husband, make a double batch. I took 5, went back for more, and they were ALL GONE! Thanks for the great recipe!

  39. […] meatball I’ve ever had! This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Kristin Porter of IowaGirlEats and her use of the quinoa in these meatballs is brilliant! I use half ground beef and half ground […]

  40. These look amazing and I’m going to make them for my Super Bowl party. I think it would work, but I’m wondering if I could pre-make the meatballs and the sauce separately, then reheat them together on game day. Thoughts?


    • Kristin 01.31.2014

      I think you could get away with making the sauce ahead of time. I’d wait to bake the meatballs until the day of, as meat can tend to dry out if reheated!

      • Aw rats. I ended up making both this AM. The meatballs were juuuuust cooked and they felt moist, so I’ll slowly reheat them on Sunday. The BBQ sauce tasted divine, though!

        • Kristin 01.31.2014

          I’m sure it will be absolutely fine and just as delicious! :)

  41. cl 02.01.2014

    are the cooling rocks an absolute a must? I don’t own any :(

  42. […] Eggs and veggies for breakfast, leftover curry for lunch, and trying out these Honey Balsamic Meatballs for dinner with some sweet potato […]

  43. Erin 02.02.2014

    Just made these and they are AMAZING! One question, mine are kind of falling a part as I try to stir them into the sauce, despite being gentle. Any tips? Maybe I have a little too much quinoa in them?

    • Kristin 02.02.2014

      That could be! Did you add more than the recipe called for?

      • Erin Green 02.03.2014

        No I used 1/3 cup. They were mostly fine, I’ll just use a slightly larger saucepan next time. They were a hit!

  44. Inge 02.10.2014

    I think that in the ingredient list you need to specify gluten free for the Worcester sauce. I didn’t realise that mine wasn’t until after I had made the sauce. I hadn’t read the accompanying text. The non-coeliacs enjoyed them.

    • Kristin 02.10.2014

      Hey Inge! I mentioned it in the post text, but added it to the recipe, too. Hope you get the chance to try them sometime!

  45. Susan Pelizzaro 02.12.2014

    Kristin, have you ever made meatballs ahead of time? I’m wondering if I should form them and refrigerate, or cook them and then reheat in the sauce the next day or later the same day. Thanks!

    • Kristin 02.13.2014

      You could definitely make the meatballs ahead of time. I’d wait until the day of to bake them!

  46. […] Recipe and photo credit: iowagirleats.com […]

  47. […] Salisbury steak, meatloaf blend adapted from a barbecue meatball recipe by Kristin Porter of IowaGirlEats.com. I’ve tried gluten-free meatballs, Salisbury steaks, etc. a variety of ways. Store-bought dried […]

  48. WearEatLove 02.18.2014

    Omg…these meatballs are delicious! Thank you for the recipe, I made them this weekend and everybody just loved it!!!


Leave a Comment