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Slow Cooker Barbecue Meatball Subs are sub sandwiches filled with easy dump and go slow cooker barbecue meatballs!

Meatball and Sandwich

The slow cooker has to be one of the greatest inventions of all time…maybe that’s why I own 2?  I use it year round because it always makes meal time so much easier.

Sometimes I do some prep on the stove top beforehand, but not this time.  These Slow Cooker Barbecue Meatballs don’t require you to brown the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker, which saves you even more time.

And less dishes to wash, because that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ™‚

This meal does require you to make homemade barbecue sauce, but it really couldn’t be simpler.  

I picked up some Hunt’s tomato sauce and tomato paste at my local Walmart store, added a few other pantry staples to flavor up the sauce, and it was ready to go!

Slow cooker barbecue meatballs ingredients

The best part about making your own barbecue sauce is that you can customize it to your liking, and you know every single ingredient that’s in it.  

Here we’ve got Worcestershire sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, and garlic powder to go along with our Hunt’s tomato sauce and paste.

As for the meatballs, I love using ground turkey, but you can use any kind of ground meat.  Turkey does have a tendency to become dry, so I’ve added some milk, panko breadcrumbs, and fresh onion to keep them nice and moist.

Slow cooker barbecue meatball subs on cutting board

And here’s a little kitchen hack to make things easier — I grated my onion for the meatballs.  Not only is it easier than chopping the onion, but the onion is in smaller pieces so there aren’t big chunks of onion in your little meatballs.  

The grated onion also cooks up much more quickly while it helps keeps the meatballs moist and juicy.

Slow cooker barbecue meatballs process collage 1

To me, there’s nothing worse then biting into a meatball and encountering a big piece of onion that’s on the crunchy side, so this hack will keep this from happening!

I mentioned earlier that browning these slow cooker barbecue meatballs on the stove top isn’t required, because sometimes I just want to be able to pop everything into the slow cooker without doing a whole lot.  

And you can also make the sauce ahead of time, and form the meatballs ahead of time as well!  

This meal just aims to please. ๐Ÿ™‚

Slow cooker barbecue meatballs process collage 2

Just mix up the ingredients in one big bowl, form them into 1 1/2″ meatballs, and pop the meatballs into your greased crockpot.  I poured the sauce right over the top, and cooked them on high for almost 4 hours.

I grabbed my sub rolls in Walmart’s bakery department as well.  When the meatballs were done, I simply preheated my broiler, split the rolls, filled them with meatballs, and placed them on a baking sheet.

Slow cooker barbecue meatballs process collage 3

I topped the meatballs with a bit more sauce and cheese, then placed them under the broiler until the cheese had melted and the roll was nice and toasty.

My kids were extremely excited about this meal — what’s not to love?  It’s the perfect low maintenance meal for busy weeknights and it’s nice knowing that the whole family will love it as it really appeals to picky eaters.


Slow cooker barbecue meatball subs on cutting board with cheese on top

More meatball recipes:

Paleo turkey meatballs

Turkey zucchini meatballs

Love barbecue sauce?  Try these recipes:

Barbecued chicken sandwiches

Barbecue pulled pork sandwiches

BBQ pulled chicken sliders

Slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken

Turkey meatloaf with homemade barbecue sauce


Yield: 6 servings

Slow Cooker Barbecue Meatball Subs

Meatball and Sandwich

Slow Cooker Barbecue Meatball Subs are sub sandwiches filled with easy dump and go slow cooker barbecue meatballs!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes


For the barbecue sauce:

  • (1) 32 ounce can Hunt's Tomato Sauce
  • 6 tablespoons honey*
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Hunt's tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. lean ground turkey or your choice of meat
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved, and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

For the subs:

  • sub sandwich rolls
  • cheese


Prepare the sauce:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the tomato sauce, honey, vinegar, tomato paste, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion, liquid smoke if using, and salt and pepper to taste together until well combined. Set aside.

Prepare the meatballs:

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray. Place the ground turkey, grated onion, garlic, bread crumbs, milk, egg, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Crumble gently together with your hands until combined, being careful not to overwork the meat. Form the meat into 1 1/2" meatballs and place in the slow cooker. Pour the barbecue sauce over the meatballs, reserving about 1 cup for serving if desired. Cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours or high heat for 2-3 hours or until the meatballs are no longer pink in the center.

Prepare the subs:

  1. Preheat the oven broiler. Split the sub rolls and fill with meatballs and place on a baking sheet. Top with cheese, and broil until the cheese has melted and the bread is toasty. Serve and enjoy!


  • The sauce thins as the meatballs cook in the slow cooker, but it does thicken back up as it cools once the meatballs are done. Reserving about 1 cup of the sauce is a good idea to have some nice, thick sauce ready for serving right away.
  • *If you like your barbecue sauce sweeter, add more honey. The honey may also be substituted with your choice of sweetener.


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