Real deal Swedish meatballs, just like in Sweden.

A couple of years ago Mike and went to Sweden and the number one item on my Swedish bucket list was eating real Swedish meatballs. We went to a little place called Bakfickan, tucked into a corner of the Royal Swedish Opera House in Stockholm.

stockholm trip - www.iamafoodblog.com

The meatballs were UNREAL. I swear, they were and still currently are one of my all time favorite food memories. They were so good we went back the very next day. Super juicy and bursting with meaty flavor, served up with the creamiest mashed potatoes, a rich creamy gravy, lightly picked cucumbers, and freshly crushed lingonberries. Every bite was a revelation. If you like, you can read more about our trip to Sweden here.

What are Swedish meatballs?

Swedish meatballs are, you guessed it, meatballs, from Sweden. They’re called köttbullar, which means meat buns, literally the cutest name ever. Swedish meatballs tend to be on the smaller side and are made with a mix of beef and pork, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and a touch of nutmeg.

Swedish Meatballs Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Are Swedish meatballs Swedish?

Yes! Swedish meatballs are definitely Swedish and they’re eaten on the regular over in Sweden, both as an everyday meal and sometimes as a special one on holidays such as Christmas.

What is special about Swedish meatballs?

Everyone knows about Swedish meatballs from Ikea – Ikea meatballs are pretty famous. I mean, Mike and I used to go to Ikea just to eat the meatballs. And I admit, I’ve bought a frozen bag or three before. But now that I have this Swedish meatball recipe in my back pocket, no more! Homemade Swedish meatballs for the win!

Swedish meatballs are super savory and full of deliciousness. They’re crisp on the outside with a buttery-meaty crust and tender and soft on the inside. When you bite into them, the juices flood your mouth with flavor and everything is right with the world.

By the way, I’m pretty sure the secret to why Swedish meatballs are so good is the fact that they’re fried in butter. Mike and I watched hours of youtube cooking videos – in Swedish, with subtitles! – and all of them stressed the importance of frying your meatballs in butter, in a non-stick pan (more on that later), as well as shaping the meatballs aggressively.

Swedish Meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to make Swedish meatballs

  1. Sauté the onions – cook the onions until just soft in a bit of butter.
  2. Mix the meatballs – throughly mix together ground pork, ground beef, eggs, panko, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and the cooked onions.
  3. Make the meatballs – shape into 1 inch meatballs, tightly rolling so they are nice and round.
  4. Cook the meatballs – melt a bit of butter in a non-stick pan and add the meatballs, cooking in batches, making sure to shake the pan so the meatballs stay round.
  5. Make the sauce – in the same pan as you cooked the meatballs, melt a bit of butter and stir in some flour. Whisk in beef stock and cream and simmer until slightly thick. Season with a dash of soy sauce (it’s traditional!), salt and pepper.
  6. Enjoy! – make a meatball plate with the meatballs, gravy, mashed potatoes, thinly sliced cucumbers, and lingonberry sauce.

Swedish Meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com

Ingredients

Swedish meatballs have some pretty standard ingredients: diced onions, ground pork, ground beef, eggs, panko, salt, and pepper, and nutmeg.

  • Onions – the finer you dice your onions, the more uniform and pretty your meatballs will be. If you have a food processor, feel free to pop them in and give them a whirl.
  • Eggs – eggs are the binder that help keep the meatballs together.
    Panko – I like using panko as the breadcrumbs because panko is larger and flakier than regular breadcrumbs. Meatballs made with panko are lighter than meatballs made with regular breadcrumbs.
  • Nutmeg – there’s just a tiny hint of nutmeg in these guys. They give the meatballs an authentic Swedish flavor with just a background hint of warmth.

swedish meatballs recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Swedish meatball sauce

The creamy sauce makes these meatballs next level, but did you know that apparently (according to the internet anyway) Swedish people traditionally did not eat their meatballs with meatball sauce!??! Now, thanks to Ikea, everyone thinks Swedish meatballs come with a creamy brown sauce and to be honest, even the meatballs we had in Sweden did. The sauce is almost the best part?!

Swedish meatball sauce is super simple, a butter and flour roux with beef stock and cream, finished off with a tiny bit of soy sauce for color and a touch of umami. I got the soy sauce trick from all the Swedish youtube cooking shows we watched. It’s a sauce game changer.

swedish meatball sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Pro tips for the best Swedish meatballs

  • Shape. Don’t be gentle when shaping these meatballs. Unlike giant, super tender, fall apart meatballs you get in tomato sauce, the key to the roundness of Swedish meatballs is the fact that they’re compacted enough to be firm on the outside and tender on the inside. Use a cookie scoop to help you portion out the right amount, then roll the balls between the palms of your hand and toss the them back and forth so they come out perfectly round.
  • Use non-stick. Using a non-stick pan helps keep your meatballs nice and round. Non-stick gives you the freedom to shake and roll the meatballs while they’re still raw, before they form a crust. If you use a regular stick pan, you’ll have to brown the meatballs before they release and by the time they’re ready, they’ll have slumped down due to heat and gravity and be vaguely lopsided.
  • Fry in butter. Frying in butter gives you SO MUCH FLAVOR, it’s insane. I don’t typically fry things in just butter because it has the tendency to get too hot and scorch, but it’s they way they do it in Sweden and trust me when I say, it makes so much sense.

frying swedish meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com

What to serve with Swedish meatballs?

Swedish meatball plates usually come with creamy brown sauce, mashed potatoes, lightly pickled cucumbers, and lingonberry sauce.

I hope you try this recipe. It’s truly one of my favorites. And if you do, please do like the Swedish do and get a little bit of everything in one bite: a meatball, a bit of mash, some gravy, cucumber, and lingonberry. It’ll be like that moment in Ratatouille when Remy gets the fireworks from combining flavors.

Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes forever,
xoxo steph

PS – If you want to read more about my love for Swedish meatballs, please visit this post!

swedish meatball sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Swedish Meatballs Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Swedish Meatballs Recipe

Real deal Swedish meatballs, just like in Sweden.
Serves 4
4.88 from 8 votes
Prep Time 50 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 2-4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 medium onion finely diced, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Cream Sauce

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  • Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large non-stick frying pan and sauté the onions. When the onions are soft and translucent, move the pan off the heat and allow the onions to cool.
    sauteed onions | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Combine pork, beef, eggs, panko, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a large bowl. When the onions are slightly cooled, add to the mix then use your hands to mix everything throughly.
    making swedish meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    uncooked meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Over medium heat, melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan that you cooked the onions in. When hot, add meatballs to the pan, cooking in batches without overcrowding. Immediately shake the pan as you add a batch of meatballs to ensure the balls roll around and maintain their meatball shape.
    frying swedish meatballs | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Fry, shaking the pan every so often, until meatballs are golden brown and cooked through. Remove the meatballs from the pan as they cook.
    swedish meatballs recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    swedish meatball sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Serve the meatballs with the cream sauce, cucumbers, and lingonberry jam.
    Swedish Meatballs Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

adapted from Swedish Food and Say It in Swedish
If you don’t mind slightly flattened meatballs, just let the meatballs sear, no shaking needed.
Makes about 40 meatballs, roughly 10 per person.
Estimated nutrition is for meatballs and sauce only.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Swedish Meatballs Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 580 Calories from Fat 221
% Daily Value*
Fat 24.5g38%
Saturated Fat 11.5g72%
Cholesterol 295mg98%
Sodium 1193mg52%
Potassium 1071mg31%
Carbohydrates 15.6g5%
Fiber 1.2g5%
Sugar 2.3g3%
Protein 70.4g141%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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6 Comments

  1. Tim Partridge says:

    I’m going to try your recipe out but I’m sticking to the traditional cast-iron frying pan what my family been using for the last 60 years plus hand me down from my grandma to my mom and now to me. where many thousands or meatballs I’ve been fried over the years without any problems. A lot of my Swedish family and friends still use them regularly. The secret of a cast-iron pan it’s well seasoned and well used i’m not a fashion accessory. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe out I hope it’s as good as my grandmas.

  2. Sabrina says:

    yay, I love all meatballs, a very nice Swedish meatball recipe, haven’t had them in years, so thank you!

  3. Nancy says:

    5 stars
    These are so so good. I made a lot of adjustments (I’m Lactose and gluten intolerant and my husband doesn’t eat pork), I’m also living in Tokyo, and I generally don’t like classic European food. But I do like trying new recipes so I thought I’d give these a go and it was truly magical. We used wagyu mince, brown rice crumbs and spring onions for the meatballs. And then we used butter, almond milk and leftover sukiyaki broth for the sauce. Wow wow wow, so so good. Even made it twice already (which is super rare) including today for Christmas lunch! Thank you!

  4. Meredith says:

    Do you have a recipe/site for the pickle you did on the cucumber? Wondering how it stayed so green and fresh looking. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi meredith,
      i thinly sliced them and added a tiny sprinkle of sugar and salt and massaged them. that’s it!

      1. Meredith says:

        Oh cool, thanks!

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