Thanksgiving Meatballs & Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

Thanksgiving Meatballs & Cranberry-Mustard Sauce
Photo Credit: Mary Kuster-Shell

November. Halloween is over and everyone is jumping right into Christmas. Music, movies, decorations, shopping …

Not me. I’m a Thanksgiving girl. I love everything about this holiday. I love the hymns we sing at church, the story of the Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal to celebrate the bounty of the land, getting together as family and friends without feeling like you have to exchange presents, and the anticipation of the feast to come.

I don’t complain about “slaving over a hot stove” to prepare a meal that is much too much for one family or making everyone’s favorite dishes. The greatest disappointment for me is that it’s over too soon and another year must pass before the smell of turkey, sage dressing, and pumpkin pie fill the house again.

I just couldn’t wait that long this year. Why not have a simpler version of a Thanksgiving feast to tide me over? So, how do you get the flavors of turkey, sage dressing, and cranberry sauce into a simpler form?

Meatballs, of course!

What goes into sage dressing? Bread, onions, celery, sage … it’s the perfect set up for a meatball. No brining, no basting, no defrosting or carving involved. And, since every meatball needs a sauce, we will be serving these with a simple cranberry-mustard sauce.

Thanksgiving Meatballs with Cranberry-Mustard Sauce

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 36 meatballs


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon Salt divided
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork sausage or ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
  • 1/2-1 cup Milk


  • Saute the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil until tender.
  • Add half the salt, half the pepper, the sage, and the bread crumbs; stir until well combined and bread crumbs are lightly browned. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, combine turkey and sausage and add the bread crumb mixture, eggs, Worchestershire Sauce, and remaining salt and pepper. Add just enough milk (start with 1/2 cup) to hold the meatballs together but not too much to make the mixture soggy.
  • Scoop out meatballs with a large cookie scoop (about 1 1/2″-2″ in diameter).
  • Place in a baking or roasting pan. If you have fresh sage, place several leaves between meatballs.
  • Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and discard fresh sage leaves (if using).
  • Serve with Cranberry-Mustard Sauce.


1. Not all bread crumbs are created equal. Different brands have different textures and different textures will change the texture of the meatballs. Look for "flaky" breadcrumbs rather than coarse or dense kinds.
2. Add the milk last and in moderation. The different types of ground meats vary greatly and some will require less/more milk than others. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if the meat mixture is not holding together well when meatballs are formed.
3. Meatballs can also be made on the stove top. Start by adding a light layer of olive oil/butter over medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium-low to finish the cooking process.

Special thanks and credit to Mary Kuster-Shell for the recipe photos!

Since my favorite accompaniment to turkey is cranberry sauce, I decided to experiment with the combination of cranberries and BBQ sauce. When I went to the refrigerator to choose a sauce, I noticed this Georgia-Mustard Sauce from Famous Dave’s as well as a bottle of apple cider. Cranberries … mustard … apples …

Cranberry Mustard Sauce

Cranberry-Mustard Sauce


  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 ounces fresh cranberries washed
  • 1/2 cup Famous Dave’s Georgia Mustard Sauce or favorite BBQ sauce


  • Bring cider to a boil in a sauce pan; add honey and cranberries. Return to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook cranberries 10-15 minutes.
  • Cranberries will pop/break as they cook. Smash the cranberries against the side of the pan with a large spoon, if needed.
  • Add Georgia-Mustard (or BBQ) sauce and stir to combine and heat through.
  • Stir in a little more honey if you like a sweeter sauce.

There are always so many sides to choose from when deciding on a Thanksgiving menu. Celebrating a little early allows us to have some of those sides that don’t make it on the official holiday table. To kick off November and the season of gratitude, here’s a simple menu for a special meal:







Thanksgiving Meatballs
Cranberry-Mustard Sauce
Fried Apples
Parsley-Mustard Glazed Carrots
Cornbread Muffins
Pumpkin Parfait Cups

Now, if I could just get the Hallmark Channel to make more Thanksgiving movies. Until then, I’ll stick to Charlie Brown … never underestimate the power of popcorn, jelly beans and toast!

Sage dressing meets turkey and pork to create the perfect balance of all the best Thanksgiving flavors … as long as you don’t forget the cranberries which make their appearance in the sauce.

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