« The Pantry Quiz #66 | Main | The Perfect Pantry's top 12 party appetizers for New Year's Eve »

Sweet Rhode Island coffee-dunked turkey appetizer meatballs recipe (slow cooker)

Sweet coffee (decaf!) meatballs, made in the slow cooker. (The Perfect Pantry)

Did you grow up in a meatball house? In the house where I grew up, there were two kinds of meatballs: big red ones, cooked in sauce made with a packet of Spatini, and small sweet-and-sour ones, made by my dad in nothing smaller than five-pound batches. Never did we have anything approaching the sheer nirvana of these sweet Rhode Island coffee-dunked turkey appetizer meatballs. This recipe, from my e-book A Flock of Meatballs: Easy turkey recipes with around-the-world flavors, pretty much requires that you buy a bottle of real Rhode Island coffe syrup (my favorite local product, hands down, is Dave's All-Natural Decaf Coffee Syrup), used to make Rhode Island's official state drink, coffee milk. You can substitute strong brewed decaf coffee plus molasses, and it will be good, though not authentically Rhody. These meatballs freeze so well that you might want to double the quantity, and stash some for last-minute holiday appetizers.

Make these sweet coffee meatballs ahead for parties!

Sweet Rhode Island coffee-dunked turkey appetizer meatballs

From the pantry, you'll need: chipotle pepper in adobo, rice vinegar, hot sauce, ground turkey, plain dry bread crumbs, plain Greek yogurt, egg, chili powder.

Makes 24 1-1/2 inch meatballs; double the recipe and use a 6-quart slow cooker.


For the sauce:
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped (1-2 Tbsp)
3 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco, or your favorite)
1 cup coffee syrup (I use decaf syrup)

For the meatballs:
1-1/4 lb ground 93% fat-free turkey
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp chili powder (I like Penzeys BBQ 3000)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper


Line a 4-quart slow cooker with a slow cooker liner, or spray with cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the ingredients for the sauce, and pour it into the cooker.

In another large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Use your fingertips to combine everything without overmixing, which makes the meatballs tough.

Using a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, form 1-1/2 inch meatballs (or larger, or smaller, depending on how you plan to serve them), and carefully arrange the meatballs in the slow cooker. You'll need to put some on top of others, as they won't all fit in a single layer.

Cover and cook on LOW for 4 hours, stirring gently at the 3-hour mark to make sure the meatballs are coated evenly with the sauce.

Serve as appetizers on toothpicks. Can be made ahead and frozen.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More ways to use Rhode Island coffee syrup:
Slow cooker coffee-chipotle pulled chicken roll-ups
Slow cooker sweet coffee flank steak nachos
Rhode Island hot chocolate, with faux fluff

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Slow cooker balsamic honey coffee BBQ pulled pork, from Savor the Thyme
Easiest tiramisu, from EatBoutique
How to make a coffee cabinet, from What's Cooking America

Want more meatball recipes? Get A Flock of Meatballs, my e-book packed with amazing, crowd-pleasing, family-friendly turkey meatball recipes, plus full-color photos and a few fun videos. With the FREE Kindle Reading App, great meatballs will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I am a mini meatball fanatic. There's nothing I love more than showing up to a holiday party to find that the host has set a large slow cooker full of mini meatballs on the buffet. And, that's where I usually park myself for the evening. A coffee dunked meatball sounds scrumptious!

TW, I always make a beeline for the meatballs, too. These would be a huge hit anywhere outside Rhode Island, where coffee syrup isn't as common as it is here.

The meatballs sound delicious. I am intrigued by the coffee syrup. I bet it's good in desserts.

Kalyn, the coffee syrup is delicious over vanilla or coffee ice cream!

Wow! after a complete side trip to investigate "Spatini" I have to say these meatballs sound amazing! I love a good meatball and in fact have a retro one coming up in a future blog!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.