Ham Balls are a classic Midwestern meatball recipe. It is even more specific to Iowa and Nebraska. It is an unusual recipe that turns out so incredibly delicious. Ground beef and ground ham are mixed with graham crackers crumbs and formed into meatballs, they are then baked with a tomato brown sugar glaze.
I grew up in Iowa and this is a recipe that we had often! It is a typical Sunday night family dinner recipe.
Ground Ham for Ham Balls
Ground ham can be hard to find in the grocery store. Actually I don’t think I have ever seen it in the store, unless you are in Iowa!
We are talking ground ham here, not ground pork! Ground pork is made from the shoulder (aka. pork butt). The ham is cut from the leg and is dry or wet cured and sometimes smoked. Ham has the distinct flavor that you are looking for in ham balls.
You will want to purchase a 1-1.25 lb. ham steak or bone-in ham steak. Once it is ground you will want it to be the consistency of ground beef. You have a couple options to make ground ham.
- Grab a ham steak at the grocery store and ask the meat counter to grind it for you.
- If you have a meat grinder attachment to your stand mixer you can grind the ham steak that way.
- I prefer to “grind” it in my food processor. Cut the ham steak into 2 inch chunks then pulse the processor about 40-50 times. You will have perfectly ground ham! (see the photo above)
Graham Cracker Crumbs
Unless you have had these Ham Balls you are probably thinking that graham cracker crumbs are a really odd choice! Just trust, they add a sweetness to the ham balls that perfectly compliments the salty ham and the tangy vinegar in the sauce.
If you need to make graham cracker crumbs you can crush a couple plain graham crackers into a fine crumb. Or you can pulse them a few times in your food processor.
How To Make Ham Balls
This ham ball recipe is pretty simple, it is just a matter of mixing the ingredients and baking.
In a large bowl lightly mix together 1 lb ground beef, 1 lb ground ham, 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 3/4 cup milk, and 1 egg.
Form large meatballs, about 1/3 cup in size, and place in a 9×13 baking dish. You should have about 12-15 meatballs.
In another bowl mix together 1 can tomato soup, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp dry mustard. Whisk it all together and then pour the sauce over the meatballs.
Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour, basting the top of the meatballs with the sauce once or twice during cooking.
Let the meatballs cool for about 5 minutes and then serve with mashed or baked potatoes and veggies.
Ham Ball Recipe
- 9×13 baking dish
- 1 lb ground ham see note about finding and/or making ground ham**
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs finely ground
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 10 3/4 oz. can condensed tomato soup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350°
- Combine the meatball ingredients. In a large bowl lightly combine the 1 lb ground ham, 1 lb ground beef, 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 3/4 cup milk, and 1 egg. Make large meatballs. Form the mixture into large meatballs, about 1/3 cup in size each. Place into a 9×13 baking dish. You will have about 12-15 meatballs.
- Whisk together the sauce ingredients & pour over meatballs. In another bowl whisk together the can of condensed tomato soup, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1 tsp dry mustard. Pour the sauce over the meatballs.
- Bake 1 hour. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour, basting the tops of the ham balls with the sauce once or twice during cooking.
- Cool & eat! Let the meatballs cool for about 5-10 minutes and then serve with mashed or baked potatoes and veggies.
- Have the butcher grind it for you.
- Use a meat grinder attachment to a stand mixer.
- Grind in a food processor by cutting the ham steak in 2 inch chunks and pulse the processor 40-50 times. (this is the method that I use)
If you love meatballs here are a few other recipes to try: