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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Mustard & Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls

Ham balls are an Iowa tradition and for good reason, they are delicious! They are a great way to use leftover ham or a great excuse to put a ham on your shopping list. 

pile of ham balls on plate ready to eat

     Ham balls are the perfect mix of sweet and salty.  They are also a great way to turn some leftover ham into something new entirely. Serve them as a hearty appetizer or make them an entree, either way they are fabulous. The state of Iowa already knows how delicious they are, the rest of the country needs to catch on!

     Have you ever heard of ham balls? They are a popular dish in Iowa, which I suppose isn't surprising given all of the pork that is produced here in the midwest. 

     I actually hadn't heard of them until recently. I blame that on the fact that my mom grew up in Chicagoland and not close enough to farmland. 

     Once I discovered that they are a delicacy, I had to give them a try. I am certainly glad I did. 

    The meatballs themselves are pretty savory. Though I have heard of folks using graham cracker crumbs, so they could have a sweet and savory twist as well. 

ham ball ingredients in bowl ready to be mixed

     The glaze is definitely on the sweeter side. It's a mix of mustard and brown sugar with a bit of sharp vinegar acidity. 

      The result kind of reminds me of a BBQ meatball, but with a fun twist. The would be great served as a heavy snack at a party but are also wonderful for dinner. 

     They would make a wonderful filling main dish served with macaroni and cheese and roasted green beans. Or serve them with cheesy potatoes and a nice green salad. 

      I originally shared this recipe back around Easter of 2016. But I figured some of you still hadn't heard of ham balls, so it was time to update this post and show you what you are missing! 

Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

raw ham balls formed and placed in pan, ready to bake

Original post from 2016 

    A couple of month's back Val from Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids shared a recipe for Iowa Ham Balls.  I had never heard of such a thing, so I couldn't help but to share it on my Facebook page to see if I was the only one.

    After all, Iowa is just 45 minutes away from me, how had these passed me by?!  Our friend Lindsey's mom, Betty, chimed in saying ham balls were a family favorite of theirs.  Of course now I was even more intrigued.

bite of ham ball on fork with shiny glaze showing

   Betty was kind enough to send over her recipe.  It was definitely different than Val's recipe, but had a similar idea.

  In fact, they had mostly similar ingredients just put together in a different way. Now I had to give them a try!

   I have been making a lot of ham recipes lately getting ready for our Easter open house. I want to make sure I have something delicious to serve everyone, but that means we have extra ham in the fridge already.

   So I pulled some out and went to work making ham balls.  It seemed a bit of a shame to grind up such good ham, but I couldn't wait any longer.  Besides, this time of year you can get real ham for about the same price as the pressed ham anyway.

      I went for it knowing I have another carving ham in the fridge downstairs just waiting for me to use up the last one... and a whole ham for Easter too... my husband recently accused me of hoarding hams and turkeys!  He probably wouldn't know or care except my stash started spilling into his fridge/freezer so he took notice.

       Note to self, in the future I need to keep my cache somewhere he won't see it!  I can't help it there was a great deal on turkeys, so I put a few in the freezer.

    I happen to have a great source for good ham so I replace them as I use them.  Good thing he was kidding (at least partly!) or he wouldn't get to eat from the bounty anymore! ;-)

Ham balls made by Betty herself

    So, with the help of a food processor, the ham balls really came together quite easily.  The batch filled a 9x13 pan.  Next time I think I will make the balls a little taller so I could baste the balls with the glaze as they cooked, but they were delicious this way.

    If you like meatballs in a sweet sauce, or glazed ham you are going to love these!  I served them at a family dinner and we ate more than half the pan with plenty of other choices to go around!

    You could make these smaller and serve them as an appetizer or make bigger balls and serve them as an entrée.  Either way, they will be delicious!

shiny glazed ham balls and fork on plate ready to eat

More great recipes that use ham

One of our favorite simple ways to use the leftovers is a simple pasta dish with Parmesan, peas and ham. It is light, tasty and a quick and easy complete meal.

Homemade pot pies are always popular at the dinner table as well. A ham, cheese and broccoli pot pie is even more popular! It's all of our favorites together in a pastry crust.

There is a whole collection of recipes using leftover ham, so be sure to check that out if you need more ideas.

small pile of ham balls on plate in front of pan of meatballs

More meatball recipes 

If you love meatballs, you'll have to check out my aunt Marlene's meatball recipe. They us oatmeal as a binder, so you can qualify them as health food. 😏

Or check out the recipe for porcupine meatballs. They are cooked in a sauce that has a secret ingredient. My husband either still doesn't know what it is or at least he won't admit it to himself!

For something different, try swiss steak style meatballs in the instant pot. They are quick and easy and perfect served over egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes. 

Iowa ham balls thumbnail

ham balls, recipes using leftover ham, meatball recipes, bbq meatballs, glazed meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs
Make Your Own Ham Balls Glazed with Mustard and Brown Sugar you ever heard of a ham ball? They are popular in Iowa, but should be taking over the world. This is a great recipe for using up leftover ham, but is a great excuse to pick up some ham as well. The flavorful glaze makes them even better. Serve them as a heavy appetizer, as a tailgate treat or as an entrée at dinner. They are fabulous no matter what!
Yield: 35 ham balls
Author: Cooking With Carlee
Mustard & Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls

Mustard & Brown Sugar Glazed Ham Balls

Ham balls are the perfect mix of sweet and salty. They are also a great way to turn some leftover ham into something new entirely. Serve them as a hearty appetizer or make them an entree, either way they are fabulous. The state of Iowa already knows how delicious they are, the rest of the country needs to catch on!
Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 1 H & 15 MTotal time: 1 H & 35 M


Ham Balls
  • 2 pounds ham, ground in food processor
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs (Betty said she usually uses saltines, but any cracker/bread crumbs should do)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. Mix together ham ball ingredients and form into balls the size of a large egg
  3. Place close together in prepared pan.
  4. Mix together glaze ingredients and pour over ham balls.
  5. Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you are able, base the meatballs a couple of times during the baking time.
  6. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.



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Ham balls are an Iowa tradition and for good reason, they are delicious! They are a great way to use leftover ham or a great excuse to put a ham on your shopping list.


  1. That makes two of us because I have never heard of these either. They look amazing and I do love the glaze. Thanks Carlee.

    1. The funniest part is my grandma randomly mentioned ham balls recently... now I wonder what was in her recipe! Now we know the exist!

  2. Thus looks like a flavor party in my mouth!! That glaze, oh my!!

    1. They are definitely full of flavor. I never even knew I was missing out all this time!

  3. What a surprise to see ground beef and tomato sauce in these. I would have never guessed that.

  4. That glaze sounds to die for! Looks super yummy. Is it bad I want these over regular old Easter ham dinner? :D

    1. I say go for it! Or make a larger ham for the leftovers ;-)

  5. I LOVE ham balls! One of my mothers special dinners when I was growing up in Iowa :)

    1. That is so interesting! It really does seem to be an Iowa specialty. I don't know how I could live so close and not know anything about them!

  6. Oh these sound perfect for a party! Mustard and brown sugar are the best combo for ham balls. Thanks so much for sharing at Inspiration Thursday!

  7. I love love your Ham Balls and can't wait to try this recipe. Hope you have a very special week and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Miz Helen

    1. Thanks, Miz Helen! I hope you love them. Have a happy Easter!

  8. Girl, these are screaming my name! That mustard in the glaze would be so good, I love horseradish on ham also, maybe a horseradish sauce for dipping! This is definitely a must try!!!!

    1. I love the idea of horseradish sauce for dipping! It'd be the whole sweet and heat thing. Yum!

  9. I have never heard of ham balls. But I must admit that they sound interesting. I pinned the recipe so I can try it. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I hope you enjoy them. They are a tasty way to use leftover holiday ham.

  10. I've definitely got to try these. My husband loves ham and this sounds like such a tasty twist.


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I love reading your ideas!