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
Absolutely delicious! This is the best way ever to use my ham leftovers. Thank you for such a flavorful, delicious recipe.
I have a batch in the oven right now. It was strange putting them in the oven without browning them first and pouring the sauce over while they were raw. I used a pound of leftover baked ham that I pulled out of the deep freezer from last year. The only alteration to the recipe I made was adding 1/8 tsp of ground cloves to the meatballs (I wonder if that should have gone in the sauce instead)
I think this would be good made with SPAM instead of ham. But those are only about 12 ounce cans, I think.
Follow-up. The recipe was great! The cloves I added tasted “hammy” but were distracting, I will leave them out next time. I might add a little dried minced onion. I will also use leaner hamburger meat; I used 80% because the ham was so lean, and there was a lot of fat that cooked out into the sauce. The balls were not greasy and I could spoon the sauce out around the fat, but 85% lean (ground chuck) would be better.
I just made a half recipe to try out. Delicious! I even goofed because I was perusing another recipe for ham loaf and mistakenly added 1/2 cup of minced onion and it worked out great. Would do it that way next time. Saucy enough to also serve over rice. Try this recipe.
Hello! I followed the link for this recipe from your page written about “20 RECIPES USING LEFTOVER HAM” and I was just wondering if this recipe could definitely be made using already cooked ham since the ground beef would be raw before cooking? Would the balls form alright and not then taste overcooked? Sorry if that’s a weird question. I’d genuinely like to try this recipe over here in the UK 🙂
Definitely! I’m not sure how ham is in the UK, but in the US ham is always “already cooked or smoked” in the store.
So if you have leftover cooked ham just grind it and then mix it with the raw ground beef.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
My Mother In Law’s recipe called for half the meat be ground ham, and the other equal half calls for ground ham!
I stole the recipe from my Iowa built Mother In Law. I want to try your recipe because I cannot locate the written recipe I had saved in “The Freakin Cloud”.
My M.I.L.(who has won hundreds of blue ribbons over the years in the IA State Fair,) gave me her recipe. I have improved with lots of practice. I will give feed back after I use your recipe while visiting my Daughter / Son In Law for Christmas this year in VA.
Amazing! I would love to hear your comparison! Merry Christmas
Also- LOL “The Freakin Cloud”
Can I form the hamballs the day before I bake them?
Ok. So I was at Walmart & found ground pork (ugh) and just noticed your comments. We asked the meat department and they said it’s the same thing. So now here I am. Are these ham balls going to be decent??
They will definitely be different because ham has such a specific flavor. I would maybe use ground saltine crackers, the sweetness of the graham crackers balances the saltiness of the ham. So I think using ground pork it could use the saltiness of saltines instead. Basically this time I would make them more like a traditional meatball with the yummy ham ball sauce. Definitely get ground ham or a ham steak and grind it yourself in a food processor next time.
My family loved these. Personally I thought the graham crackers added abit of an odd flavor that I don’t find when I buy ham balls from a deli. Don’t get me wrong- they’re very good, the sauce is perfect, I just feel like something is a tad bit “off” in the balls and I don’t know what. I made them a 2nd time today, they’re cooking now, this time I did half graham crumbs, half regular cracker crumbs. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes the taste. Anyway, it’s still a big hit and I’ll continue making them, they’re very easy and good for my meal prep for the week, thanks!!!!
It is an odd recipe, that is for sure!! We absolutely love them too. Let me know how the half graham and half cracker crumb works!
Can you make this recipe with canned ham?
I have not used canned ham, but it should work.
You can purchase Fricks ground ham at your local grocery store. I have purchased from Hyvee, Walmart, Cub…. 1lb chub
Can to use all ground ham and no beef?
I think that might give it a funny texture. If you can’t eat beef you could try using ground pork or turkey in it’s place.
Can you freeze these cooked and uncooked
I have never tried to freeze them but it should work cooked and uncooked. If you freeze them uncooked I would wait and make the sauce when you are ready to cook them.
I have made a large batch and froze extra prior to cooking and they were perfect when needed to fix a meal quickly, worked great, I have not frozen them after cooked as we always eat them all with just a few for leftovers the next day! Our kids LOVE them and I actually made them and formed them tonight, put in cake pan/refrigerated and will cook tomorrow for daughters birthday per her request. I also made smaller batch for my other “gluten free” daughter, made the same way but had to use gluten free graham crackers!
I made a double batch of these Saturday (one for a friend’s family and one for us!) and they are delicious! Would encourage the basting suggestion as it gives the meatballs that gooey and satisfying finish. So glad I came across your recipe and this will definitely be on rotation in our home!
I made these meatballs yesterday! I was a bit concerned about what seemed like an odd list of ingredients. We were pleasantly surprised, they were delicious! It was a great way to use up leftover ham.
I so glad you tried them anyway!! The ingredients are SO bizarre, but they turn out so delicious. Glad you loved them.
Could you cook in the crock pot? If so, any recommendations on setting and length? I’m assuming I would still pour sauce over top before starting?
I think you can definitely cook them in the crock pot. Definitely pour the sauce over the meatballs at the beginning. I would recommend cooking them on high for 3-4 hours. But make sure they are about 160-165 degrees F in the center before serving.
Can the balls be made a day ahead and stored in the fridge?
That should work just fine! You may need to add 5 minutes to the cooking time if you are baking right from the fridge.