Ham Balls Recipe


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These delicious ham balls are a classic midwestern meatball recipe, and they’re one of my favorite holiday appetizers! They have the perfect blend of flavors, and are topped off with the most incredible homemade brown sugar glaze

Ham Balls

These ham balls are seriously the best you’ll ever make! They’re super popular during the holiday season, and for good reason. You’ll often see them on the Christmas dinner table, but they are also a great way to use up some leftover ham from Easter and Thanksgiving. These ham balls with glaze are so delicious that I bet you’ll want to make them all year round!

This recipe for ham balls is made with a combination of chopped ham and ground pork, which gives them a great texture. They’re seasoned with a perfect blend of sweet and savory from the combination of brown sugar and dried thyme. They hold together so well because they have the perfect amount of panko breadcrumbs and egg. Then they’re rolled into 12 generously sized ham balls, and topped with a delicious sweet and tangy glaze.

The glaze is made from a simple blend of ketchup, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and brown sugar. It caramelizes in the oven, which creates a beautiful glossy finish and adds that extra layer of flavor that is so irresistible.

This quick and easy ham balls recipe is normally served as an appetizer for a crowd. It’s also perfect as a main course for a hearty dinner, especially if you serve it with a side of mashed potatoes and veggies.

So, whether you’re cooking for a regular weekday dinner or a special holiday feast, these old fashioned ham balls are sure to impress.

If you’re looking for more comforting old fashioned recipes that are perfect for the holidays, be sure to check out Pioneer Woman’s chocolate pie. It’s a family favorite and has so many 5 star reviews!


Leftover Ham: Leftover ham gives the ham balls their unique flavor and texture.

Ground Pork: Ground pork adds depth of flavor and gives the ham balls a smoother texture.

Panko Bread Crumbs: Panko bread crumbs act as a binder, and help keep the ham balls moist and tender. If you’re out of panko breadcrumbs, regular breadcrumbs or even crushed crackers can do the trick.

Whole Milk: Whole milk works with the breadcrumbs to keep the ham balls moist and bound together.

Egg: A beaten egg acts as another binder, which helps hold all the ingredients together so they maintain their shape while cooking.

Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds a layer of sweetness and hint of molasses that balances out the salty ham.

Dried Thyme: Dried thyme adds a subtle earthy flavor, which enhances the overall taste.

Ketchup: Ketchup is the base of the glaze. It provides the tanginess that balances out the sweetness of the brown sugar.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds a bit of acidity to the glaze.

Garlic Powder: Garlic powder adds a savory depth to the glaze.

Ground Ginger: Ground ginger adds a warm and slightly spicy note.

The labeled ingredients for ham balls.

How To Make Ham Balls

Prepare the baking dish: Lightly spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)

Prepare the ham: Cut the ham into chunks then place it into your food processor. Pulse until it’s the texture of ground pork.

Adding ham chunks to a food processer, and then blending until a consistent ground pork texture.

Mix the ingredients: Transfer the chopped ham into a large mixing bowl with the ground pork, breadcrumbs, milk, beaten egg, brown sugar, and dried thyme, then thoroughly mix together.

Mixing the processed ham and ground pork together in a large mixing bowl, and then adding in panko, sugar, thyme, and egg.

Form the balls: Use a measuring cup to scoop out even amounts of the ham mixture, then shape it into balls with your hands, and place them into the prepared baking dish.

Thoroughly mixing the ham ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, and then placing the uniform balls in a casserole dish.

Bake the balls: Begin to bake the ham balls in the preheated oven. While it’s baking, prepare the glaze.

Prepare the glaze: In a medium saucepan, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and ground ginger. Bring this mixture to a gentle boil, then simmer for a few minutes.

Adding ketchup, vinegar, sugar, and spices to a hot sauce pan, and then simmering.

Glaze the balls: Remove the ham balls from the oven and spoon the glaze evenly over them. 

Taking the partially cooked balls out of the oven and covering with homemade glaze before putting them back in the oven.

Final bake: Place them back into the oven, remembering to baste them halfway through.

Pulling the covered ham balls out of the oven half way through, and then basting with additional glaze before putting back in.

Rest and serve: Once they’re done and have reached an internal temperature of 160F, remove them from the oven and let them rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy! See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, cooking times, and helpful tips, etc.

An overhead image of glazed ham balls on a large serving tray without garnish.

Pro Tips

  • Make sure your ham is a fine even ground so you can easily form the ham balls.
  • Use a measuring cup to scoop out the mixture to make sure they are the same size so that they cook evenly.
  • Spread the glaze evenly over each of the balls to make sure each one gets a good coating, and be sure to baste once while cooking to get a sticky caramelized glaze.

What Are Ham Balls Made Of?

Ham balls are a combination of ground leftover ham and ground pork, mixed with breadcrumbs, whole milk, and a beaten egg. They’re flavored with brown sugar and thyme, and topped with a glaze that’s a blend of ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and ground ginger.

What Do You Eat With Ham Balls?

Ham balls pair well with so many side dishes. You can serve them with creamy mashed potatoes, seasoned rice, or even a fresh, crunchy salad. I am also known to make these to bring to a potluck or serve as an appetizer.

A side image of perfectly round ham balls plated on a white dish with a napkin in the background.

How Do You Reheat Ham Balls In The Oven?

Baking ham balls is the best way to reheat them without drying them out or changing the texture. Just place them in a baking dish and reheat at 350F for about 15 minutes, or until they’re warmed through.

How Long Do You Cook Ham Balls?

The cooking time can vary depending on the size of the balls and your oven’s temperature, but this recipe bakes for about an hour in a 350F oven. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the ham balls have reached an internal temperature of 160F.

What Do Ham Balls Taste Like?

Ham balls have a lovely blend of sweet and savory flavors. The salty ham pairs perfectly with the tangy-sweet glaze, and the flavors of ginger and thyme really take it to the next level.

A close up image of a ham ball cut in half showing the inside texture.

Where Did Ham Balls Originate?

Ham Balls are a beloved dish in the Midwest, especially in Iowa. They’re often served during holiday gatherings and potlucks, and are a delicious way to use up leftover ham.

Can I Use Other Meats Instead of Pork and Ham?

I definitely prefer this recipe made with ground pork and ham. Some other recipes use a combination of ground beef and ham though, so feel free to try that if you prefer.

How Do I Store Leftover Ham Balls?

Leftover ham balls can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

A close up image of a bunch of ham balls on a large white platter freshly garnished with parsley.

Can I Freeze Ham Balls for Later Use?

Yes, you can! Once they have cooled down, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them until they’re solid. Then you can transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container and store them for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to eat them, defrost them in the fridge overnight and reheat them in the oven or microwave.

Keep In Touch

I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe in the comments or on Instagram! @KeyToMyLime #KeyToMyLime

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A Pinterest pin image with a picture of ham balls with title text at the top.

Holiday Recipes

If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other Christmas recipes. Some reader favorites are:

Yield: 12 servings

BEST Ham Balls Recipe

The best ham balls recipe.

Ham balls are the best midwestern holiday appetizer! A delicious blend of sweet and savory flavors topped off with the best brown sugar glaze.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes


Ham Balls:

  • 1 pound leftover ham, cut into 2 inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves


  • 1 1/4 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray, and set it aside.
  2. Add the chunks of leftover ham to your food processor and pulse until it’s the texture of ground pork (on my food processor it takes about 25-30 pulses to reach this texture, but yours may take more).
  3. Transfer the ground ham to a large mixing bowl. Add the ground pork, panko bread crumbs, milk, beaten egg, brown sugar, and dried thyme. Thoroughly mix together using a spatula or your hands.
  4. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop out the ham mixture, then form into balls using your hands. Place the balls into the greased casserole dish as you go.
  5. Once all of the ham mixture has been rolled into balls, place the casserole dish uncovered into the preheated oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. While the ham balls are in the oven, prepare the sauce. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and ginger, and whisk together. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn heat down to low and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  7. Take the ham balls out of the oven after 15 minutes, then pour the glaze all over the top.
  8. Place them back into the oven for an additional 40 minutes, basting the ham balls after 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the ham balls from the oven, check to make sure they’ve reached an internal temperature of 160F, and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272Total Fat: 12.3gCarbohydrates: 19.5gFiber: 0.3gSugar: 12.7gProtein: 20.7g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.


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I hope you enjoy making and eating these ham balls as much as I do!

The best ham balls recipe.

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