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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


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


makes 24 meatballs

  • 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