Swedish Meatballs

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One of our most popular recipes around the holidays is this one—Swedish meatballs. They’re terrific over egg noodles for a main course, or served as individual appetizers.

My first experience of Swedish meatballs came in the form of room service at a hotel in Stockholm. I was traveling alone for business, holed up in my room in comfy clothes with books to keep me company.

I ordered the only thing on the menu that looked familiar—meatballs—that first night. They were so good I think I licked the plate clean. I stayed in and ordered the meatballs every night for the rest of the trip!

Since then I’ve been on a quest to find a Swedish meatball as good, and we’ve done it here. If you like the meatballs at IKEA, be prepared; these are a hundred times better.

Flavored with nutmeg and cardamom, these little beef-and-pork meatballs are best served with a rich meat gravy spiked with sour cream and a little lingonberry jelly. You can either serve the jelly on the side or mixed right into the sauce, which is what we’ve done here.

Do you have a family favorite recipe for Swedish meatballs? If so, please let us know about it in the comments. I’ve noticed several recipes calling for allspice, which we haven’t used in this recipe, but you could certainly use it in place of or in addition to the cardamom or nutmeg.

Swedish Meatballs Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 8 to 10

Lingonberry jelly is traditionally used with Swedish meatballs; you can substitute cranberry, red currant or raspberry jelly if you can't find lingonberry jelly.

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled, grated (use the large holes of a box cheese grater)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 4-5 slices of bread, crusts removed, bread cut into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

Sauce:

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Salt
  • 2 to 4 Tbsp of Lingonberry, red currant, raspberry or cranberry jelly, less or more to taste (optional)

Method

1 Sauté grated onion: Melt the butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Stir in the grated onion and cook until translucent and softened, 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2 Soak bread in milk, shred: Place the pieces of bread in a large bowl and mix with the milk. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes for the bread to absorb all of the milk. Once the bread has soaked up the milk put the bread in a food processor and pulse until it has been completely broken up (or shred by hand). Return the pulverized milk soaked bread to the bowl.

3 Make meatball mixture with bread, onions, eggs, meat, spices: Stir the cooled onions into the milk bread mixture. Add the eggs, ground pork and beef, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom. Use your (clean) hands to mix everything together until well combined.

4 Form meatballs: Use your hands to form the meatballs about an inch-thick and place them on a plate or sheet pan. This recipe should make between 40 and 50 meatballs.

5 Brown meatballs on all sides: Heat 6 Tbsp of butter in a large sauté pan on medium heat. When the butter is melted and foamy, start adding some meatballs to the pan. Working in batches as to not crowd the pan, slowly brown the meatballs on all sides. Handle the meatballs gently so they do not break apart as you turn them.

swedish-meatballs-1.jpg swedish-meatballs-2.jpg
Once the meatballs have browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and set aside. You do not need to cook the meatballs all the way through at this point, you only need to brown them. You'll finish cooking the meatballs in the sauce later.

Once you have removed the meatballs from the pan, keep the remaining butter in the pan. You'll use this butter to make the sauce.

If the butter in the pan has become burnt through the browning of the meatballs, remove and discard it, and add 6 Tbsp of fresh butter to the pan. Otherwise use the existing pan butter, you should have 6 Tbsp total of butter in the pan. If not add more.

6 Add flour to butter in pan to make roux: To make the sauce, first make the roux. Heat the butter in the pan on medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour. Stir until smooth. Continue to stir, allowing the flour mixture to cook, several minutes, until the roux is the color of coffee-with-cream.

swedish-meatballs-3.jpg swedish-meatballs-4.jpg

7 Add stock to roux to make sauce: When the roux has cooked to a lovely shade of light brown, slowly add the stock to the roux, stirring as you add the stock.

The stock will sputter at first and the roux may seize up, but keep adding the stock slowly and keep stirring. Eventually the sauce will loosen and become silky.

swedish-meatballs-5.jpg swedish-meatballs-6.jpg

8 Add meatballs to sauce: Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and lower the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. You may need to work in batches.

swedish-meatballs-7.jpg

9 Stir in sour cream and jelly: Transfer the meatballs to a serving dish to serve. Stir in the sour cream. Either stir the jelly into the sauce or serve it on the side.

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Links:

Baked Swedish Meatballs - from Anne's Food

Gluten Free Swedish Meatballs - from Going Gluten Free

Swedish Meatballs with Paprika Gravy - from Kayln's Kitchen

Swedish Meatballs made with Moose and Highbush Cranberries - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Swedish Meatballs

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Showing 4 of 182 Comments

  • Ed

    Added allspice and ginger (per The Nordic Cookbook). Otherwise followed recipe. Results were excellent. Glad you were hooked on meatballs in Sweden, Elise. Great recipe. Thanks.

  • Steve

    fried in the pan with 60% butter/ 40%oil mix added a little Marcella wine to to the white sauce, basically I stuck to the recipe, just added a few things…used red onion (love the red onions grated) used a 80% lean pork mix/ 100% beef mix100% added Wiltshire sauce to the meat mix (just 2tbl spoons) and POW wow..there is a PARTY in MY Mouth now…GREAT RECIPE! one of the best i have made and all the neighbors love it as well…Mabuhi Philippines!

  • C.B.

    Hubby and I love this recipe. The ground cardamom adds a nice unexpected zing to the meatballs. I enjoy them on their own but hubs loves the sauce with lingonberries. I make the roux and sauce in the same frying pan and strain the black bits out before returning the sauce to the burner to reheat; and then fold in the sour cream. I just hate to waste the flavourful fond at the bottom of the pan. Thank you Elise!

  • Melanie

    Not good at all as they have way too much cardomon and I love cardomon in Indian food. (2 types of cardomon and it is not specified, I used the green Indian kind)
    Labor intensive directions – I baked to meatballs as frying them in small batches would have taken an hour. Baked at 425 for about 15 min. turning halfway through. That worked well.

    The sauce tasted nominal at best. Now to be fair, I used full fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream but it usually is an ok substitution. Also it would so much easier to brown or toast the flour in a dry pan and then add butter. Also adding “roux” to the stock works much better than adding stock to the roux. If you have stock in bigger pot, you can put all the meatballs in at once to simmer.

  • James

    Simply Amazing, an astounding savory smell, I cooked as you suggested but instead of a slow simmer I actually slow cooked in a crock pot. Also not only did I brown the meat as directed I actually used the very same pan I used for the mornings bacon. Such a flavor the sauce has and also added a touch of ACV.
    Wow….even my nephew who hates everything not pizza loved them. TYvm

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