Farmhouse Ham Balls

Smoky ham seasoned with easy ingredients and shaped into balls before cooking in a sweet glaze makes this delightful Ham Balls Recipe!

Our family recipe for ham balls is moist and glazed with a sauce that is slightly sweet and tangy.  These ham balls are a delicious treat!

Warm ham balls with a brown sugar glaze in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish on a red and white napkin.

If you enjoy this recipe you may also like our family favorite Sweet and Sour Meatballs.

Ham Ball Recipe

A special tradition, this Ham Ball Recipe is one that my mom makes regularly for parties and at the holidays like Christmas and Easter. The brown sugar glaze creates an extra juicy component that tenderizes and flavors each ham ball so wonderfully.

My Grandma shared these ham balls many years ago and it has been a favorite recipe ever since.  I even made them for a 4-H project called All-American Foods and won a nice prize at the county level.

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Another variation we have with ground ham is our Farmhouse Ham Loaf which has graham cracker crumbs in the meatloaf and is topped with a sweet pineapple glaze. We love all of the options available to create a variety of flavor combinations.

Also know as Iowa Ham Balls we love how this versatile recipe works well as an appetizer or in an easy family meal. This is a perfect Sunday dinner served with green beans and Instant Mashed Potato Casserole.

Yellow plate with five Iowa ham balls, mashed potatoes and green beans to make a great homestyle meal.

Just like in our Cocktail Meatballs or these Teriyaki Pork Meat Balls the cookie scoop helps ensure that I get the same amount of meat in each ball.  After dividing up my meat I always roll each ball in my hand to help bind the meat together better.  This helps prevent the cooked balls from falling apart.

A two tablespoon sized scoop yields about 40 meat balls and a larger scoop will yield 24 balls. Ham balls in this size range cook in a similar amount of time.  Ham is pre-cooked, but ground pork is raw and safe to eat after reaching an internal temperature of 160°F.

Why This Ham Balls Recipe Works

  • We typically make the ham balls to enjoy as appetizers, but they make a great main dish too! 
  • For appetizer-sized balls I use a regular size cookie scoop.  For a meal-sized portion, I use a large cookie scoop.
  • Keep the brown sugar glaze and leftover ham balls freeze and reheat really well.
  • This recipe creates a great conversation piece for parties and brings back memories for many people.
Yellow plate full of juicy ham balls with toothpicks sticking out the top to serve as appetizers at a party on a pastel napkin.

Ingredients Needed

  • Ground ham – purchase at a butcher shop or use a food processor with leftover holiday ham to grind your own.
  • Ground pork – unseasoned pork helps balance the smoky ham, do not use seasoned sausage.
  • Eggs – helps bind the ingredients together.
  • Onion – we like sweet, white, or yellow onion. Using very small pieces will yield best results.
  • Milk – adds a little richness.
  • Cracker crumbs – A sleeve of saltines is our preference.
  • Salt and Pepper

Brown Sugar Glaze Ingredients

  • Brown sugar – the sweet ingredient that compliments the smoky ham.
  • Dry mustard – wonderfully compliments pork.
  • Apple cider vinegar – tenderizes the meat even more and lightly flavors while baking.
  • Water – may omit if ham has water added as the vinegar may provide enough moisture.
Ingredients to make ham balls are ground ham, minced onion, brown sugar, crushed saltine crackers, ground mustard, eggs, apple cider vinegar, ground pork and milk on a wooden counter top.

Where to Find Ground Ham

Growing up we would go to a local butcher and purchase ground ham.  I recently found tubes of ground ham in the ham case at Kroger that taste great.

When purchasing ham of any kind I always take a look at the label to see how much water has been added.  The ground ham I found only had its natural juices in the package, so that’s a signal of quality meat.  The meat to fat ratio was also reasonable.  Fat equals flavor, so I like meat that has a little fat, but I certainly don’t want more fat than meat in my meals.

Large silver serving spoon lifting three ham balls above the baking dish full in a light sauce.

Leftover ham can be ground in a food processor to make your own and use up any extra ham that you may already have.  Just work with small quantities of ham at a time and make sure to run the food processor until the ham is properly ground.

How To Make Ham Balls

Using a large mixing bowl add ground ham, ground pork, lightly beaten eggs, finely minced onion, milk, finely crushed cracker crumbs, salt and pepper.

White mixing bowl with ground ham, ground pork, onion, crushed saltine crackers and eggs to make a recipe for ham balls.

Mix well. This process typically requires mixing by hand for best results.

Allow a good 5 to 10 minutes to mix up and take care to mix all ingredients thoroughly.

Red spatula in a bowl of ground pork and ground ham stirring the meat together.

Shape into balls ranging from using 2 to 4 tablespoons of meat each.

Use hands to roll and press balls together before arranging in a single layer in a glass baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350°F and partially bake hamballs for 30 minutes.

Brown sugar, dry mustard, apple cider vinegar and water in a sauce pan to make a ham ball sauce or glaze.

Measure glaze ingredients into a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Pour over ham balls and return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes or until a digital thermometer reads 160°F.

Brown sugar and apple cider vinegar glaze poured over partially baked ham balls in a glass baking dish.

Allow ham balls to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Can place meat in a slow cooker and cover with glaze set to keep warm to serve over a longer period of time at a party.

Overhead view of freshly baked ham balls kept moist by baking in a brown sugar and vinegar based sauce on a red and white plaid napkin.

Recipe Tips

  • Store leftovers in an air tight container with some extra glaze in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Reheat and serve with crushed pineapple for a twist on a new meal.
  • Use a cookie scoop to create evenly sized meat balls.
  • Serve or transport in a warm slow cooker to extend the serving time.
Round ham loaf balls in teal baking dish with a layer of glaze to keep them moist.

More Easy Recipes with Ham

Close up of ham balls with a sweet and smoky flavor and a light golden brown finish on a yellow plate with green beans and mashed potatoes in the background.

Farmhouse Ham Balls

Servings 24 ham balls
Jennifer @ Plowing Through Life
Smoky ham seasoned with easy ingredients and shaped into balls before cooking in a sweet glaze makes this delightful Ham Balls Recipe!
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients
  

Ham Balls

  • 2 pounds ground ham
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs I use saltines
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9×13" pan.
  • Mix ham balls ingredients well. Shape into balls of desired size.  Bake for 30 minutes.
    2 pounds ground ham, 1/2 pound ground pork, 2 eggs, 1 medium onion, 1 cup milk, 1 cup cracker crumbs, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Mix glaze ingredients in a saucepan and heat for about five minutes until the glaze begins to boil.  Remove from heat and baste over ham balls.  
    1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water
  • Return ham balls to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until a digital meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 160°F.

Nutrition

Calories: 201kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 9gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 164mgPotassium: 178mgFiber: 1gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 36IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Plowing Through Life” is not a dietitian or nutrition professional. Any nutritional information shared is an estimate and can vary greatly depending on specific products are used. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator of your choice.

Tried this recipe?Mention @PlowingThroughLife or tag #PlowingThroughLife!

Originally shared on April 1, 2019 with updates made on February 12, 2024.

Collage of Farmhouse Ham Balls as appetizers and a main dish

10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This will quickly become a family favorite!

  2. What kind of vinegar do you use?

    1. Great question! I typically use white vinegar. Hope you love the recipe as much as we do!

  3. Please someone tell me what I did wrong. When I took the ham balls out of the oven, the whole dish was soupy. I then suctioned it out before putting the glaze on. When finished baking I had more liquid in the dish and the ham balls were not at all firm. They taste good but fall apart.

    1. Jennifer @ Plowing Through Life says:

      Hmm, so sorry to hear about this. I’m not sure of the exact problem, but I’m wondering if the ham had a lot of water added? Sometimes we have to adjust the cracker to milk ratio a little bit too. I hope that you’re able to make them again and it works out better. So glad they tasted good!

  4. 5 stars
    Great recipes for using up leftover ham!

    1. Jennifer @ Plowing Through Life says:

      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the ham balls!

  5. Cynthia Hegarty says:

    5 stars
    Finally! This is the right recipe from my childhood that my own kids now make every Thanksgiving and Easter. Most seem to use graham crackers and ketchup! This is the best recipe and a little nostalgia from rural Iowa in the 1970s.

  6. 5 stars
    Excellent! I make them every Easter.

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