Köttbullar med Gräddsås: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce

Posted December 11, 2018 by Stephanie
Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Sometimes Mike and I go to Ikea just for the meatballs. And the soft serve, mac and cheese, and hot dogs. I know, I know, we’re animals. Maybe we’ll adult a little while we’re there too and pick up organizational things, but more often than not, a trip to Ikea is kind of like going to a giant food court that just so happens to sell furniture as well. I know that the meatballs at Ikea aren’t the greatest meatballs in the world, but Mike and I love them. They’re super nostalgic for us. Way back when we didn’t cook as much as we do now, we used to buy a bag of them every month or so and meatball night at home was the greatest thing ever.

It’s been a long time since we’ve boughten a bag of Ikea meatballs – like, last month – but since it’s the holiday season, Mike and decided that we were going to do Swedish meatballs right. And we did! If you want to skip ahead and go straight to the recipe, click here, otherwise, settle in because I’m going to tell the story about the first time I ate real Swedish meatballs, how these Swedish meatballs came about, and why you need these meatballs in your life.

stockholm trip -

A few of years ago Mike and I went to Sweden. Of course I had to have meatballs. I did the research thing and found two places that did meatballs: a more modern-ish kind of place called Meatballs for the People and a classy old-school joint called Bakfickan. Meatballs for the People was good, but it was Bakfickan that really stole the show. It was so good that we went twice even though we were only in Stockholm for three days. The first time I had the meatballs and Mike steak frites. But the next time we went, we both had the meatballs, they were that good.

They came eight meatballs to an order, piled high on a plate flooded with a creamy brown gravy. I think that most Swedish places serve everything on the same plate, but at Bakfickan they had a separate side dish of ultra creamy mashed potatoes, cucumbers, and fresh, whole lingonberries macerated in a bit of sugar. The server told me to eat everything together, in one bite. Everyone kind of has their own ratio of meatball to potato to cucumber to lingonberries, but the right way to do it is to make a perfect bite. I tried it and…MIND BLOWN.

I mean, I kind of thought that Sweden was known for meatballs because of Ikea, but really, Sweden deserves to be known for meatballs. The meatballs were savory and crisp on the outside and when I bit into them, juices flooded my mouth with flavor. I was seriously hooked. I feel like since I’ve had that meatball experience, I haven’t had Swedish meatballs that even come close. That is, until we took matters into our own hands and made them ourselves.

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Since we wanted to do it right, Mike and I did a bit of research. For me, that meant scouring the internet for “real Swedish meatball recipes.” For Mike, that meant watching Swedish cooking shows on YouTube. Together, I’m pretty confident that we came up with a solid, real deal Swedish meatball recipe.

It was pretty fun watching all of the Swedish cooking shows. The shows we watched didn’t have subtitles so I had no idea what they were saying. The one thing I kept hearing over and over again was “curly pasta.” I’m pretty sure curly pasta in Swedish means something to do with making meatballs, but I don’t know what. I even tried googling it, but all that came up were Swedish pasta recipes. Shrug. Update: Mike says all the videos I watch with “curly pasta” weren’t about meatballs so I have no idea what “curly pasta” has to do with, LOL.

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Anyway, these meatballs were so good. After I had my first bite, I turned to Mike and said, “It’s like we’re in Stockholm again!” I’m pretty sure part of it was the fact that I fried the meatballs in butter. It has to be done – it’s the way they do it in Sweden. Also, I did like the Swedish do and added a tiny bit of soy sauce to the cream sauce. I think they do it for color, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely not enough to make the sauce salty.

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Here are some other key notes for success:

Don’t be too gentle when shaping the meatballs. Usually with meatballs a gentle hand is needed – after all, if you want tender meatballs, you try to handle the meat as little as possible. But, in this case, all the Swedish YouTube videos I saw had everyone shaping their meatballs quite aggressively, throwing them back and forth between their hands. I did it the Swedish way and made sure that each ball was perfectly compact so that they cooked up nice and round.

Speaking of round, if you want your meatballs round, like Swedish ones are, use a non-stick pan. It’ll let you have the flexibility to roll your meatballs around while they’re cooking before they’ve even begun to form a crust. If you cook your meatballs in a regular pan, you’ll have to brown the meatballs enough they’ll be able to release from the pan, by which time they will have already slumped into a vague one flat-sided ball shape.

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Definitely serve these meatballs with mashed potatoes, cucumbers – Swedish peeps serve them up with pressed cucumbers but I just did a quick pickle, and lingonberry jam. Do not skip the lingonberry. I used to not be down with the lingonberry but after Sweden, I totally get why the lingonberry is there. It adds sweetness and a touch of tart and essentially makes the meatballs sweet and savory and so, so addictive. We got our lingonberry jam from Ikea. It’s cheap and hey, it’s literally Swedish :)

I really, really hope you try these this holiday season! They feel so festive and I know they’ll absolutely be a hit with your or at any party you make them for.

PS – I totally wanted to visit the giant Ikea in Stockholm and have meatballs there, but we didn’t have enough time and really, it was kind of too kitschy, even for me. But one day I hope to do it!

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce |

Swedish Meatballs with Cream Sauce Recipe
makes about 40 meatballs


  • 2-4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Cream Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce, optional

adapted from Swedish Food and Say It in Swedish

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Sauté the onions until soft the remove the heat from the pan and let cool.

While the onions are cooking, place pork, beef, eggs, panko, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large bowl. When the onions are slightly cool, add to the mix then use your hands to mix everything throughly. Shape into 1 inch meatballs, being sure to tightly roll them around so they keep their round shape. Place meatballs on a plate or tray, shaping meat until everything is rolled up.

Over medium heat, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan that you cooked the onions in. When hot, add several meatballs to the pan, cooking in batches, being sure not to over crowd. Immediately start shaking the pan, ensuring that the balls roll around to maintain their meatball shape. Or, if you don’t mind slightly flattened meatballs, just let the meatballs sear. Let the meatballs cook, shaking the pan every so often, until meatballs are golden brown and cooked through. Remove the meatballs from the pan as they cook.

When all the meatballs are cooked, make the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Sprinkle on the flour, whisk and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the beef stock and cream and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and soy sauce if using.

Serve the meatballs with the cream sauce, cucumbers, and ligonberry jam.


  1. Martin says:

    Hi, I’m from Sweden and I really liked the recipe, it’s very traditional. But I’m intrigued by “curly pasta”! Is that how you phonetically heard it? Could it be “kryddpeppar”? That’s allspice and quite common to use in the meatballs! Especially around Christmas time! ?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i’m not sure? it really sounded like curly pasta! maybe allspice though because it is definitely in a lot of the meatball recipes i saw :)

  2. They turned out so well for you – great job!!

    Rebecca |

  3. John says:

    Excited to try! Just curious – is there no allspice or sour cream? I see these in almost every Swedish meatball recipe I come across!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi john,
      i didn’t use sour cream or all spice! the recipes i came across online, some of them had all spice (i went with just nutmeg) and none of them had sour cream. let me know how they turn out for you :)

  4. Johanna says:

    Hi, I am also Swedish and I would say that you would not use allspice in a classic recipe (allspice is not common in Sweden, traditionally we would use white pepper and salt only). Re curly pasta, it could possibly reference snabbmakaroner (literally speedy macaroni), a type of cheap short pasta that boils in 3 mins and that students eat with meatballs and ketchup. Not glamorous but so nostalgic for most Swedes who have been poor students…..

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi johanna,
      thanks for the insight! the curly pasta mystery is still floating around in my head.

  5. Kelly says:

    Hi – Is there anyway I can not use panko (or any other carbs) as a binder to keep it carb free? Is there a carb-free substitute?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi kelly,
      i haven’t tried with anything else as a binder. i would recommend potatoes, but those are a carb as well. you can definitely try them without anything, they’ll just be a tiny bit more firm then with the breadcrumbs. hope that helps a little.

  6. Tara says:

    Just made these meatballs and cream and they were very good. My boyfriend said now we don’t have to go to ikea. Haha. Love the story and great recipe!

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! i was just dreaming about these swedish meatballs the other day :) so happy you guys liked them!

  7. A Johnson says:

    I can’t wait to make these for Christmas Eve dinner! I too went to Bakfickan in Stockholm and had the meatballs. I would have to say that is one of my top 5 meals of all time. I would fly back, just to have those again. I too wanted to recreate what I tasted and went through so many recipes until I found yours. Yours sounds like what I remember tasting. So thanks for publishing!

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