Ham balls are an Iowa tradition and for good reason, they are delicious! They are a great way to use leftover ham or a great excuse to put a ham on your shopping list.
Ham balls are the perfect mix of sweet and salty. They are also a great way to turn some leftover ham into something new entirely.
Serve them as a hearty appetizer or make them an entrée, either way they are fabulous. The state of Iowa already knows how delicious ham balls with glaze are, the rest of the country needs to catch on!
Have you ever heard of ham balls? They are a popular dish in Iowa, which I suppose isn’t surprising given all of the pork that is produced here in the midwest.
I actually hadn’t heard of them until recently. I blame that on the fact that my mom grew up in Chicagoland and not close enough to farmland.
Once I discovered that they are a delicacy, I had to give them a try. I am certainly glad I did.
The meatballs themselves are pretty savory. Though I have heard of folks using graham cracker crumbs, so they could have a sweet and savory twist as well.
The glaze is definitely on the sweeter side. It’s a mix of mustard and brown sugar with a bit of sharp vinegar acidity.
The result kind of reminds me of a BBQ meatball, but with a fun twist. The would be great served as a heavy snack at a party but are also wonderful for dinner.
I originally shared this recipe back around Easter of 2016. But I figured some of you still hadn’t heard of ham balls, so it was time to update this post and show you what you are missing!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Original post from 2016
A couple of month’s back Val from Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids shared a recipe for Iowa Ham Balls. I had never heard of such a thing, so I couldn’t help but to share it on my Facebook page to see if I was the only one.
After all, Iowa is just 45 minutes away from me, how had these passed me by?! Our friend Lindsey’s mom, Betty, chimed in saying ham balls were a family favorite of theirs. Of course now I was even more intrigued.
Betty was kind enough to send over her recipe. It was definitely different than Val’s recipe, but had a similar idea.
In fact, they had mostly similar ingredients just put together in a different way. Now I had to give them a try!
I have been making a lot of ham recipes lately getting ready for our Easter open house. I want to make sure I have something delicious to serve everyone, but that means we have extra ham in the fridge already.
So I pulled some out and went to work making ham balls. It seemed a bit of a shame to grind up such good ham, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Besides, this time of year you can get real ham for about the same price as the pressed ham anyway.
I went for it knowing I have another carving ham in the fridge downstairs just waiting for me to use up the last one… and a whole ham for Easter too… my husband recently accused me of hoarding hams and turkeys! He probably wouldn’t know or care except my stash started spilling into his fridge/freezer so he took notice.
Note to self, in the future I need to keep my cache somewhere he won’t see it! I can’t help it there was a great deal on turkeys, so I put a few in the freezer.
I happen to have a great source for good ham so I replace them as I use them. Good thing he was kidding (at least partly!) or he wouldn’t get to eat from the bounty anymore! 😉
So, with the help of a food processor, the ham balls really came together quite easily. The batch filled a 9×13 pan. Next time I think I will make the balls a little taller so I could baste the balls with the glaze as they cooked, but they were delicious this way.
If you like meatballs in a sweet sauce, or glazed ham you are going to love these! I served them at a family dinner and we ate more than half the pan with plenty of other choices to go around!
You could make these smaller and serve them as an appetizer or make bigger balls and serve them as an entrée. Either way, they will be delicious!
More great recipes that use ham
One of our favorite simple ways to use the leftovers is a simple pasta dish with Parmesan, peas and ham. It is light, tasty and a quick and easy complete meal.
Homemade pot pies are always popular at the dinner table as well. A ham, cheese and broccoli pot pie is even more popular! It’s all of our favorites together in a pastry crust.
Or try my friend Jennifer’s ham loaf. It uses ground ham to make a super tasty meatloaf style meal.
There is a whole collection of recipes using leftover ham, so be sure to check that out if you need more ideas.
More meatball recipes
If you love meatballs, you’ll have to check out my aunt Marlene’s meatball recipe. They us oatmeal as a binder, so you can qualify them as health food. 😏
Or check out the recipe for porcupine meatballs. They are cooked in a sauce that has a secret ingredient. My husband either still doesn’t know what it is or at least he won’t admit it to himself!
For something different, try swiss steak style meatballs in the instant pot. They are quick and easy and perfect served over egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you grind the ham?
I use a food processor to grind it. Just put chunks of ham in there and pulse it until you have a relatively fine grind. If you have a meat grinder, that would work too. There are grocery stores in Iowa that sell ground ham just for ham balls. Or your can ask your butcher to grind some ham for you.
How do you store leftover ham balls?
Store any leftover ham balls in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. For longer storage, put cooked ham balls and glaze in a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow the meatballs to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then gently heat them in a skillet on the stove until they are heated through.
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- 2 pounds ham, ground in food processor
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 cup cracker crumbs*
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried mustard powder
- Preheat oven to 350° F and grease a 9x13 pan.
- Mix together ham ball ingredients and form into balls the size of a large egg
- Place close together in prepared pan.
- Mix together glaze ingredients and pour over ham balls.
- Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you are able, base the meatballs a couple of times during the baking time.
- Let stand for a few minutes before serving.
Betty said she normally uses Saltine crackers, I have seen several Iowa folks that use Graham crackers. You could even use bread crumbs if you want.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 36 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 104Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 292mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 10g
All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.