Dr Pepper Habanero Meatballs


Dr Pepper Habanero Meatballs

These aren't your momma's meatballs! Add some heat to your favorite meatball recipe with habanero peppers, toned down by a luscious Dr Pepper glaze.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 32 meatballs


Habanero Meatballs

  • 5 habanero peppers, chopped
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Dr Pepper Glaze

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can Dr Pepper (12 ounces)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (We prefer the rich acidity of pasta-style tomato sauce)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Habanero Meatballs

  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat while you're prepping the habanero peppers, onions, and garlic. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the skillet and circle the pan around until the entire surface is covered.
  • Add the habanero peppers and the onions to the skillet. Cook until fragrant and soft. The onions will turn slightly translucent after about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic to the skillet and roast for about 2 more minutes.
  • Remove the vegetables from the skillet and cool in a small bowl. Set aside a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and the beaten eggs. Combine with a wooden spoon or your hands.
  • Add in the cooled peppers, onions, and garlic. Mix well. Begin to roll meatballs in your palms. You should end up with about 32 small meatballs that fit into the palm of your hand, but you can also make larger ones that are the size of your first.
  • In the same large skillet, add the remaining olive oil. Sear meatballs in batches. You don't want to crowd your meatballs, and you also don't want them to stick to the bottom. Sear one side for about 1 minute, and flip to repeat. Remove and set aside.

Dr Pepper Habanero Meatballs

  • In a large Dutch oven, add the additional garlic, Dr Pepper, tomato sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the meatballs to the pot. Stir gently so the meatballs don't break apart, but a few broken meatballs never hurt anyone.
  • Cover with a lid and reduce the sauce by half. This took about 20 minutes on our stovetop, though you should stir the sauce and meatballs every 7 minutes or so to prevent the meatballs from sticking to the bottom and burning.
  • When the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has reduced to a consistency you like (you can go thicker or thinner), you can serve these right up!


For the love of your hands (and your eyes), always wear gloves when handling habanero peppers. Additionally you can slather your hands in olive oil prior to cutting so the capsaicin doesn't ruin your day, but ultimately, gloves are the best choice.
If you want to make these an appetizer, you can remove them from the Dutch oven, add toothpicks, and set on a platter.
We added chives for our final presentation, but if you're not a fan, you can sprinkle with parsley.
These pair well with rice and almost any vegetable you can imagine, though we're partial to these green beans because they bake while you have the stovetop rolling.