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, ¾ cup milk, and 1 egg.
Form large meatballs, about ⅓ 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, ½ cup white vinegar, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon 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.
Other Meatball Recipes
If you love meatballs here are a few other recipes to try:
- Instant Pot BBQ Meatballs
- Baked Chicken Meatballs
- Instant Pot Turkey Meatballs
- Easy Meatball Sub Sandwiches
Ham Ball Recipe
- 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
- ¾ cup milk
- 1 10 ¾ oz. can condensed tomato soup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon 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, ¾ cup milk, and 1 egg. Make large meatballs. Form the mixture into large meatballs, about ⅓ 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, ½ cup white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon 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 nutrition facts are provided they are calculated as an estimate to the best of our knowledge.
Originally Published December 2019, Copy Updated and Republished December 2020
This sounds super weird, but I need a use for my left over ham. I am going to make and can these ham meatballs. I am trusting in the process and all of your glowing comments. ( the graham cracker portion is really really throwing me )The midwesterners have recipes that sound so out there, but they are always delicious! 🙂
I will report back.
You’re going to love it. Don’t deviate from the graham cracker crumbs. I promise they work!
Wow! Where have these been all my life? First let me say I don’t remember how I heard about ham balls. Maybe something popped up on Facebook. After looking up a few recipes I decided to try this one. The ingredients sounded so far out I wasn’t sure what to expect. After following the recipe as written, I was extremely surprised at the finished dish. These are unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. I love the sweet and savory aspect. The sauce is amazing and definitely complements the ham balls perfectly. I used some fully cooked diced ham and just pulsed them in my food processor until they were broken down into an almost granular texture but not to the point of becoming a paste. I was a little worried because after mixing the ham ball ingredients it looked a bit too soft and I wasn’t sure they’d hold their form but they did and came out very nicely. Thank you for this recipe. I will be making these for friends and family to try.
Hamballs are also found in Lancaster County, PA…where you can buy the ham mixture already ground. You add the eggs and bread crumbs and then make ham loaf or ham balls with sweet and sour sauce (pineapple usually.) Thanks for sharing.
Smoked at 300 degrees for 1.5 hours with the sacue on them. Sliced into thirds and then made ham ball sliders with pepper jack cheese and some sauce drizzled in the middle. Also added some raw chopped onion with some green pepper chopped up. Very good gameday food! Thank you
OOOOHHHHHH… nice rendition!!
Delicious!! I’ll be making these again!
Can u freeze
I have not tested freezing the ham balls. However I think they would freeze perfectly, just like a beef meatball, but I am not sure about the sauce.
hey i have frozen the ham balls theyre good for up to 2-3 months.! just make sure you wrap them and then put a plastic bag in them. sonce i add onions to the hamballs the onion smell can reall be pungent
They turned out great and they were yummy.
Best ham balls going.
Do I use 80/20 ground beef or 85 ground beef.
I would use 85 since it is less fat content. You don’t want the sauce to get greasy.
I followed your recipe exactly and it turned out perfectly!!
This is EXACTLY like my grandmother’s famous hamballs—-they are DELISH!!!!!!! She grew up in Northeast Nebraska❤️
I had never heard of these before but they are awesome!!!!
I live in Iowa and my mom’s recipe is exactly like this one! Our local Fareway grocery store make ham loaf or balls for us! Hy-Vee will not mix the ham and beef together! Kinda strange!
I live in Kansas City. I’ve never seen hamballs here before but today they had them at Hy-Vee already to eat. I’m in heaven. Just like home (Iowa).
LOVE!!!! I am from Iowa too and live in KC! I love ham balls.
Hy-vee sells pre packaged Fricks ground ham 1lb. Packages.
We also go to Fareway and get the ham loaf for this recipe. Delicious!
That’s where I get my ham loaf as well. In Greenfield, Iowa. I grew up in Iowa and my German grandmother passed this down to my Mom and now I pass it on to my girls.
Janna, can you make the balls a day ahead and refrigerate them in their baking dish?
Love some ham balls! Our grocery will ground the meat together for me!
This sounds amazing. I was wondering if anyone has tried it with Frick’s ground ham? https://frickmeats.com/our-meats/ground-ham/
I think that could absolutely work.
I have made them with the Frick’s and it is fantastic!
I have used Frick’s ground ham to make ham loaf, which is a similar recipe that uses ground pork and ham, ritz crackers and a similar glaze. It works fine. Kind of the Indiana version of ham balls! Thinking of trying these for Easter 🙂
I have used Frick’s before and it works just as good as fresh ground ham.
This is the recipe handed down from my Mom. Best Ham Ball recipe out there!!!