Whether you’re cooking with kids, for kids, or making appetizers for a grown-up party, these handy little meatballs on sticks with three zesty (and quick) dipping sauces are the perfect fun and easy finger food. Adults and kids alike can polish off platefuls of these with astonishing speed! (Skip to recipes.)
Cooking with Meredith
One of the easiest projects for kids to cook is making meatballs. It’s fun to squish all the ingredients together with your hands, then it’s fun to roll them into little balls. With these meatballs, you get to poke little sticks into them. And stirring together the sauces is simple, yet makes you feel like you’re a food scientist, making up delicious potions.
And then there’s eating them – the most fun of all!
It’s a type of fun that adults definitely go crazy for, too! I’ve made these meatballs as appetizers often, and they’re gobbled up greedily each time. I took a platter to a ladies’ lunch not so long ago, and they were a hit. So keep reading, even if you’re a grown-up. After all, we’re just kids with bigger shoe sizes.
The trick of adding the sticks to the meatballs before they bake ensures that the meat attaches to the sticks and you don’t get meatballs sliding off the sticks and plopping into the dressing bowl – or worse yet, plopping onto the floor so the dog gets them first!
Let’s Make Meatballs
Mush up the meat mixture, then roll it into little balls. Plop ’em in the pan.
Poke a wooden stem into each meatball.
The meatballs look better if you scrape off the cooked juices that collect at the bottom of each little meatball.
Then whip up two or three dipping sauces and nibble away.
Below are recipes for three easy peasy dipping sauces Meredith and I made, but these little meatballs on sticks are great with any of your favourite sauces – even just some ranch dressing to dip them into or hot sauce to drizzle over them.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: I found great sticks at the dollar store. They’re half-length wooden popsicle sticks used for crafting – very inexpensive and just the right size. Check dollar stores or craft stores for these. Otherwise, short wooden or bamboo cocktail picks will work, or even the regular round wooden toothpicks.
Baking the wooden sticks with the meatballs ensures they don’t slip. The meat sticks and bakes on to the sticks. If you push the sticks in after baking, they’ll slip out of the meat more easily, making it hard to hold onto the meatballs.
For the meatballs:
- 1 lb (454gms) lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (20gms) rolled oats (small flake quick-cooking oats)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 20 short wooden or bamboo skewers (half-length popsicle sticks work well)
Curry Ketchup Dipping Sauce
- ¼ cup (60ml) ketchup
- ¼ cup (60ml) unsweetened applesauce
- 1½ teaspoons mild curry powder (less if you only have spicy curry)
Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- ¼ cup (60ml) mayonnaise
- ¼ cup (60ml) Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard (the bright yellow kind)
- 1 tablespoon liquid honey
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Orange Pepper Dipping Sauce
- ¼ cup (60ml) orange marmalade
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Set out a baking dish and the wooden skewers. Line the baking dish with a piece of parchment paper or tin foil that is bigger than the pan and sticks up a bit on each side. This will make clean-up a breeze.
Put all the ingredients for the meatballs (except the sticks) into a large bowl. Mix well with your hands until everything is combined.
Roll the mixture into 20 balls that are about 1½ inches (3cm) in diameter and lay them on the baking dish so they have at least ½ inch (1cm) of space between them. Push a wooden skewer down into the middle of each meatball so that it stands straight up.
Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes. (Prepare the dipping sauces while the meatballs bake.)
Remove the pan from the oven. You will find that some of the protein-filled juices have leaked from the meatballs and thickened up around the bottom of the meatballs. Lift each meatball by the stick and scrape off the baked proteins with a butter knife. Place the meatballs onto a serving plate.
Serve warm with the dipping sauces above or your favourite dipping sauce as an appetizer, snack, or part of a meal.
Makes 20 meatballs.
Preparing the Dipping Sauces
For the Curry Ketchup: stir together the ingredients in a small bowl. Curry powders come in different levels of spiciness, so add ½ teaspoon of curry powder first and taste it. Keep adding another ½ teaspoon at a time until it tastes right for you.
For the Honey Mustard: stir together the ingredients in a small bowl.
For the Orange Pepper Sauce: if your marmalade has big chunks of orange peel in it, plop the marmalade onto a cutting board and chop it up until the peel pieces are small. Then scrape it into a bowl and add the other ingredients. If your marmalade has just small shreds of peel in it, you won’t need to chop it first – just stir the ingredients together in a small bowl.
For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.
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