Want to try out something better than IKEA meatballs? Make your own Swedish meatballs at home; homemade meatballs have a bit softer consistency, are juicy, and are perfect for a cozy family dinner or if you are hosting a gathering.
With a perfect blend of ground meat, traditional spices like allspice, and a creamy sauce, each bite promises a taste of Sweden's culinary heritage.
Why you´ll love this recipe?
- Perfect to bake in the oven if you are cooking for a crowd.
- It freezes well, a great recipe for meal-prepping.
- Authentic Sweden on your plate. This dish is a part of the traditional Swedish husmanskost-traditional home-cooked meals.
About Swedish meatballs
Meatballs began to be eaten more commonly in Sweden during the middle of the 19th century. Did you know that before meatballs, köttbullar were "invented" similar meat patties were called frikadeller, but first they were boiled in water and then fried in pan to get some color.
Type of meat to use: In my recipe I have only ground beef. This is very common nowadays. I used the more fatty variation of 17% to make extra juicy meatballs. The other option is to use 50% pork and 50% beef. In Sweden, you can buy ground beef-pork mix in stores. It is even traditional to mix in lamb, veal, or moose ground meat to make meatballs. Especially at the Easter table meatballs are made with a mixture of beef and lamb.
The binder: The meatball mixture needs a binder. In Swedish meatballs, white bread, breadcrumbs, boiled potato, and egg are all commonly used binders. You use what you have at home. I always keep some breadcrumbs and eggs in my pantry, and they are a perfect binder for meatballs.
The sauce: Swedish meatballs are served with gräddsås or some type of brunsås. They are usually cream-based sauces consisting of cooking cream, veal bouillon, soy sauce, and spices, and thickened with flour. A common ingredient to replace self-made beef stock is *meat stock cubes. My recipe is flavorsome even without beef stock-but if you have some at home, it does add another layer of flavor profile to the sauce.
Ingredients and Replacements
- Ground beef. Or use half beef and half pork
- Onion. Can be replaced with shallot
- Breadcrumbs-or white bread (even boiled potato)
- Milk-or replace with heavy cream
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Even a pinch of nutmeg can be added.
For the cream sauce
- Heavy cream or cooking cream
- Soy sauce-gives color, saltiness, and flavor
- Dijon mustard
- Black pepper
- *Beef stock or cubes-if you have at home, but you do without them also.
Cream is quite essential in the recipe. Heavy cream is always a good option, but if you want to make a bit lighter version, use cooking cream. Cooking cream usually has less than 20% fat content while heavy cream has over 30%. Our favorite cooking creams in Sweden are, for example, Arla Matlagningsgrädde 13%.
To make milk-free meatballs, replace the milk with a plant-based option or use beef stock. As a cream, use plant-based cream.
For gluten-free meatballs, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or white bread soaked in milk. And check that your soy sauce is gluten-free also.
- Finely chop the onion. My tip is to use an onion chopper.
- Fry the onion in a dab of butter until it takes on color. You can flavor it with some soy sauce. Set aside and let cool.
- Mix breadcrumbs, milk, and spices in a bowl and leave to swell for 5 minutes.
- Add in the onion and ground meat. Massage the mixture thoroughly for a minute or two. Let stand in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. Wet your hands and roll even-sized, round meatballs.
- Start by searing your meatballs in some oil on medium-high heat and space out the meatballs on the pan. Let the rest of the meatballs chill in the fridge.
- Fry the meatballs until they brown. For extra flavor, add a knob of butter and keep on frying your meatballs. The browned butter adds more flavor. You can check if they are done by cutting one open. Remove from the frying pan and set aside.
- In the same frying pan in which you fried the meatballs (do not wash it out), add the flour. Gently grind the flour for a few seconds while stirring. Mix in cream, soy and the spices and bring to a boil while stirring. Let simmer slowly for 5 min.
- Pour in the meatballs so they are warmed up in the sauce. Alternatively, you can serve the sauce separately for the meatballs.
Tip: My best tip is to fry a test meatball-this way you get to know the consistency and flavor and can make adjustments if you like-for example, add more allspice, blackpepper or salt.
How to avoid meatballs falling apart?
- Use very finely chopped onion. Large onion chunks make your meatballs fall apart.
- Don't overcrowd the pan. It is very important you keep the meatballs spaced out, otherwise you will risk that they mush together and everything just falls apart on the pan.
- Don´t cook them in the gravy. Swedish meatballs are not bake din the gravy like Italian meatballs. They are quite soft, so cooking them in gravy can make them fall apart.
- Knead the batter a bit longer. To make a bit firmer meatballs you can massage your meatball mixture a bit longer.-Be cautious since this can make them too chewy.
How to keep meatballs round?
- Use a scoop to portion out the meat mixture. This ensures that each meatball is approximately the same size and helps maintain a consistent round shape.
- Wet hands: Wet your hands with water before rolling the meatballs. This prevents the meat mixture from sticking to your hands and helps create smoother, round shapes.
- Chill the mixture: Before forming the meatballs, chill the meat mixture in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This helps firm up the mixture and makes it easier to shape into round balls.
- Roll quickly: Roll the meatballs quickly between your palms. The heat from your hands can soften the fat in the meat, making it harder to maintain a round shape. You can also chill your hands in cold water.
- Preheat the pan: If you're pan-frying the meatballs, make sure the pan is well-heated before adding the meatballs. This helps sear the exterior quickly, setting the shape.
- Rotate while cooking: Gently roll them around to ensure they cook and brown evenly on all sides. Use tongs or a spatula to turn them. Make sure you don't have too many meatballs in the same pan.
- Bake in the oven. Baking in the oven, you get the most round-shaped balls.
How much salt for meatballs?
My best tip is the importance of salt to the recipe. The first time I made meatballs, they came out very bland, and it was that I did not have enough salt in the recipe. You know, most Swedish recipes have the description- en nypa salt-meaning a pinch of salt. -but how frustrating it is to know how much that actually is..
The secret- Swedish meatballs need to have around 1,5% salt measured with the weight of the meat. So if you have one pound of meat-add around 6-7 grams of salt. 1 level teaspoon of salt weighs 6 grams. Some chefs like to use up to 2% of salt in their recipes.
If you are making a large batch of meatballs-for example 4 pounds you need 4-5 teaspoons of salt a total of 27 grams.
What to serve with
In Sweden, meatballs are traditionally served with potatoes. Modern variations is to serve them with boiled pasta, a kids favorite, with some ketchup of course. At schools meatballs are often served with macaroni or rice. A nordic side is to boil whole oats as a side(a bit like rice).
Meatballs are connected with holidays where smörgåsbord are regular—particularly, with Christmas. at Christmas table, the cream sauce is served separately. Some brown cabbage is essential in Southern Sweden, while braised red cabbage is common in all Sweden and Denmark.
Store leftovers in fridge for up to three days. You can freeze your meatballs and gravy with mash or without it for up to three months.
Traditional Swedish Meatballs
- 1 pound ground beef (or mix of beef and pork)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt, 6 grams
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon oil and butter for frying
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoon (remaining oil and butter from pan)
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 2 cups heavy cream or cooking cream
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon reduced beef broth. -optional
- Finely chop the onion, fry in oil until it is soft. Add the soy sauce. You can brown the onion a bit for extra flavor. Set aside and let cool.
- Mix breadcrumbs, milk, and spices in a bowl, leave to swell for 5 minutes. Add in the onion and ground meat. Massage the mixture thoroughly for a minute or two. Let stand in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
- Wet your hands and roll even-sized meatballs. Heat up your pan and some oil, and space out half of the meatballs on your pan. Sear them in medium-high heat. Add some butter and keep on frying until they have color and are done. Remove from the frying pan and set aside. Do the same with the rest of your meatballs.
- In the same frying pan in which you fried the meatballs (do not wash it out), add flour. Gently grind the flour for a few seconds while stirring. Mix in cream, soy and bring to a boil while stirring. Let simmer slowly for 5 min.
- Pour in the meatballs and let them warm up in the sauce. Alternatively, serve the sauce separately.
- Serve the meatballs with mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam and a side salad or pressed cucumbers. Also, boiled fresh peas, steamed broccoli or baby carrots go well as a side.