Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!

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These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!Truthfully, I felt a little guilty when I put these meatballs into the slow cooker and covered them with barbecue sauce.  You see, this is my go-to meatball recipe, and we always keep a bag of these in the freezer.  Usually they go into marinara sauce for easy meatball subs, or occasionally we’ll put ’em over pasta like with this Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe.  However, this time I was feeling barbecue.

With the outside temperatures firmly planted in the “holy crap, it’s cold out here” range, I haven’t been doing a lot of barbecuing lately.  But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying barbecue flavor.  Earlier this week, it was this Brunswick Stew.  Now it’s these Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs.  I might have to put on a huge jacket and snow pants when I go outside, but darn it all I’m still going to enjoy my barbecue!

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs

To be fair, the meatballs for these subs need to be cooked in the oven.  If you don’t have any meatballs on hand, then that will add a bit of prep time to this recipe.  However, you can use any meatballs you’d like.  Make up a batch of homemade meatballs.  Pick up a bag of frozen meatballs from the store.  It’ll taste good no matter what!  I’ve included my go-to meatball recipe below (it’s a really good one!), but feel free to adjust.  Tip: If you’ve got the space in the freezer, I highly recommend keeping a bag of meatballs around.  There are so many nights where we just pull out a couple of meatballs and have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!Aside from making the meatballs themselves, this recipe really is quite easy.  Just start with your favorite BBQ sauce and doctor it up a bit.  I like adding a splash of Worcestershire sauce for that extra layer of umami.  A little bit of honey balances the sauce well, and I stirred in some smoked paprika for a nice smoky flavor, too.  Let that slow cooker simmer away on low for several hours, and those meatballs will absorb a wonderful BBQ flavor.  From there, all you need is some toasty buns, and you’ve got dinner ready!

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs make for an excellent comfort food meal on a cold winter night.  However, these would also be a great party food.  Super Bowl party.  Game night.  March Madness party.  You name it, these subs would be an easy way to feed a crowd.

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!A quick note about the slow cooker temperature here.  I recommend cooking these meatballs in the slow cooker on low temp for just a couple of hours.  That’s plenty of time for the meatballs to absorb that BBQ flavor.  After I shot these photos, I left the meatballs in the slow cooker for a bit longer in order to keep them warm for dinner.  The meatballs were fine, but the sauce continued to cook, and the flavor ended up being a bit intense.  So a couple of hours is all you need on low temperature!

If you’re cooking these while you’re out of the house, I’d recommend a slow cooker that you can program to switch over to ‘warm’ after a few hours.  Either way, I hope you enjoy these Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs as much as we do!  Cheers

Did you make these Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs?  Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog)!

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!

Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 536kcal


For the Meatballs

For the Sauce

For the Subs

  • 6 sub rolls


For the Meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 400°Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Using a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk; let soak for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a medium frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the diced onions and cook for 6-7 minutes, or until onions begin to soften.
  • Transfer onions and soaked bread crumbs into a large mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining meatball ingredients (beef, pork, egg, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper and Parmesan cheese). Mix until just combined. (Tip: Take care not to overmix or the meatball may be tough.)
  • Shape mixture into 1” balls and place meatballs 1” apart on prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes, or until meatballs are no longer pink in the center.

For the Sauce

  • Using a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients (barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, honey and smoked paprika). Transfer mixture into a slow cooker.
  • Add cooked meatballs and stir gently until meatballs are well-coated.
  • Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

For the Subs

  • Set oven to low broil.
  • Open sub rolls and lay flat on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Using a slotted spoon, place 4-5 meatballs onto each sub roll. Add a spoonful or two of sauce on top of meatballs.
  • Broil subs for 3-5 minutes, or until rolls are lightly toasted.

These Slow Cooker BBQ Meatball Subs are an easy and delicious comfort dinner.  Perfect for cold winter days!

Looking for other tasty slow cooker recipes?  Check out some of these favorites, too:

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!Slow Cooker Chili Mac

Make Thanksgiving easier with this Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes recipe!  (Plus, these mashed potatoes are seriously delicious!)Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

Starting with a classic chuck roast, these Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches make for an easy and delicious comfort food meal!Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

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  1. 5 stars
    David – I think you are missing your BBQ right now! I know you can bundle up and still strike up that grill, but it’s not the same as the summertime. I’m so glad you’ve figured out a way to still enjoy all that great BBQ taste. These meatball subs look so delicious and I love how easy they are to make!

    1. Haha…how can you tell that I’m missing my grill!? Maybe it’s all of the grilling flavors in recent posts? I’m thinking I might have to break down and head out to the grill today…it’s been too long. The only problem is we’re in the low-teens for temperature all day. Brr!

    2. I haven’t tried this yet but is there a way to use frozen meatball with this?

      If so, what would you suggest as the cook time?

      1. Hey Spencer! Yes, you could certainly use frozen meatballs for this recipe. As far as cooking time, that will vary based on the size of the meatballs. Most frozen meatballs are already fully cooked, so you would just be looking to make sure they are heated through. I would guess a couple of hours should do the trick. Let me know what you think once you make this recipe!

    1. Ohhh…you need to have lunch! You need to have a BBQ Meatball Sub! 🙂 Just think, since these are in the slow cooker, you could set up in the morning and let ’em cook until lunch. The timing would be perfect!

  2. 5 stars
    That sub has a huge yum factor for me. Meatballs, no problem I live in Sweden. BBQ sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s, yes it’s sold over here. Hoggie or sub rolls, nowhere to be found. But, I have a plan. I’m thinking your BBQ meatball subs wrapped in tunnbröd with a little scoop mashed potatoes and spoon of cold slaw. We’ll call it a “Spiced slow-cooked BBQ meatball tunnbrödrulle”….

    1. Of all the things, I would never have expected sub rolls to be the item you couldn’t get over there. (I would’ve guessed Sweet Baby Ray’s.) However, with that said, I remember your post about tunnbrod…I think this could work out quite well in that form! The cole slaw on top would be a great addition!

    1. I’m all about the slow cooker when it comes to meatballs! You gotta be careful not to overcook the meatballs, but the slow cooker is pretty forgiving in that department. And since it’s a slow cooker, the meatballs are hot and ready whenever you are! Give the BBQ version a shot sometime, Dawn. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    I’m always looking for some slow cooker recipes I can use, and who doesn’t love a good meatball sub. Good tip about not putting it in too long, I wonder if you could add a bit of water to the sauce so you could have a longer cooking time? Either way, my family would love these!

    1. You know, you might be onto something with the water in there. The sauce was excellent when I took the pictures, but I let it go ~2-3 more hours on low for our dinner…and the flavors had concentrated too much. Water might eliminate that problem. Excellent brainwork there, Matt!

  4. 5 stars
    These would be so fun for March Madness! I’m planning a lot of game-watching parties because my Ducks are gonna kill it this year (fingers crossed). I always have dessert covered but I’m never sure what else to serve, haha, so this recipe will be perfect!

    1. Oregon is indeed off to a good start this year. Dana Altman has a good group out there. We’ll see what happens if they matchup against my Blue Devils in the tourney! 🙂 (Also, Albany is one of the 2nd and 3rd round hosts this year – I just found that out last night. So if Oregon gets shipped out to the East Coast – doubtful – then you better come up! I’ll make you a green cake. Haha!)

  5. 5 stars
    BBQ meatballs in the slow cooker? Yes please! These look so hearty, filling and just DELISH! Perfect for game day or weekend eats alike! Love green onion on ’em for a pop of colour and freshness! Have a lovely weekend ahead, my friend 🙂

    1. I’m all about some easy comfort food, and these BBQ meatballs are just that…crazy easy comfort food! And, yes, these would indeed be great to serve for gameday. In fact, I might need to do that! Hope you have a great weekend ahead, too, Dawn! 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    We are big meatball fans in our house so I definitely need to try your recipe. Thanks too for the timing tips on infusing them with that delicious BBQ flavor to make these delicious subs!

    1. Definitely put this meatball recipe on your list, Marissa. I learned this one from my mother-in-law who cooks for a huge Italian family. It’s legit. 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend ahead, my friend!

  7. 5 stars
    I agree that having a bag of frozen meatballs in your freezer is a lifesaver. I can’t tell you how many times we came home from preschool late or tired and we had baked meatballs and steamed veggies for dinner. A delicious healthy option, if you ask me! These subs look fabulous I have to say, and I have no doubt we’d all devour these. Enjoy the cold!

    1. Oh man, you’re describing our nights to a ‘t’. We often have leftovers around, but when the leftovers are gone, the meatballs have saved dinner on more than one occasion!

      So while I can’t say I’ll be enjoying the cold, I’ll definitely be enjoying the warming comfort food indoors…like these BBQ meatball subs. 🙂 Thanks, Katerina, and I hope you have a great weekend ahead!

  8. 5 stars
    I love these slow cooker BBQ meatball subs David! As you say they’re an easy and delicious comfort dinner. And yes it’s pretty darn cold here too so they are just perfect for these winter days. I haven’t done meatballs in my slow cooker yet. And that BBQ sauce is making my mouth water. Yum!

    1. You’ve totally got to pull that slow cooker out and make some meatballs! This is a serious comfort food meal…you know, the kind that’s just required for cold winter days! Stay warm, my friend!

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