My first experience with 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.
That first night, I ordered the only thing on the menu that looked familiar: meatballs. They were so good, I think I licked the plate clean. I stayed in and ordered Swedish meatballs every night for the rest of the trip!
How to Make Swedish Meatballs
Better Than IKEA Swedish Meatballs
Since that time in Stockholm, I've been on a quest to find a Swedish meatball as good, and we've done it here. What has resulted is one of our most popular recipes around the holidays: Swedish meatballs.
If you like the Swedish meatballs at IKEA, be prepared; these are a hundred times better! They're terrific over egg noodles for a main course or served as individual appetizers with a Swedish meatball sauce.
It's All About the Sauce
Flavored with nutmeg and cardamom, these little beef-and-pork meatballs are best served with a Swedish meatball sauce—a rich roux-based and beef stock gravy, spiked with sour cream and a little lingonberry jelly.
For the record, it's not strictly traditional to serve sauce with Swedish meatballs in Sweden. But somehow, in the transition from Europe to this side of the Atlantic, we have become accustomed to serving the meatballs with sauce. And thank goodness; it's terrific!
How to Serve Swedish Meatballs
Lingonberry jelly is traditionally served with Swedish meatballs. It's a delicious jelly, but can be hard to find. Feel free to substitute with red currant jelly or raspberry jam. 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 in place of, or in addition to, the cardamom or nutmeg.
More Ways to Enjoy Meatballs
Make-Ahead Tips for Meatballs
If you're making these for a party, you can make the recipe up to Step 7. Cool and refrigerate the meatballs and sauce separately. Gently reheat the meatballs in the sauce, and add the sour cream and jelly, if using, right before serving.
If you'd like, you can instead freeze the shaped, uncooked meatballs on a tray until firm, then pop into a freezer-safe, zip-top bag for up to a month in advance. Just be sure to defrost the meatballs in the refrigerator at least a day or two beforehand.
How to Store This Recipe
If you have any leftover meatballs, be sure to cool them down to room temperature. Then, place in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Cooked meatballs will last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Alternately, you can freeze cooked meatballs in a freezer-safe, zip-top bag. Be sure to remove as much air as possible to keep them fresher longer. Let the meatballs thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or heat them in low heat in the sauce until heated through.
Lingonberry jelly is traditionally used with Swedish meatballs. You can substitute cranberry, red currant, or raspberry jelly if you can't find lingonberry jelly. You can easily double (or triple) this recipe for a party.
For the meatballs
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 large yellow or white onion, grated using the large holes of a box grater
1 large egg
3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
For the sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
1/4 cup sour cream (use full-fat or the sauce may curdle)
2 tablespoons lingonberry, red currant, raspberry, or cranberry jelly, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Soak the bread in milk, then shred:
Place the cubed bread in a large bowl and mix with the milk. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the bread has soaked up all the milk, shred with the tines of a fork or by hand.
Sauté the grated onion:
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Stir in the grated onion and cook until translucent and softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a minute.
Make the meatball mixture:
Stir the cooled onions into the milk bread mixture. Add the egg, ground beef and pork, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cardamom. Use your (clean) hands to mix everything together until well combined.
(If you have extra time, chilling the mixture for 20 or so minutes will make it easier to roll out the meatballs.)
Form the meatballs:
Use your hands to form the mixture into meatballs about 1 1/4-inch to 1 1/2-inch wide and place them on a plate or sheet pan. This recipe should make about 40 meatballs. Note that the meatballs will be a bit on the wet side.
Brown the meatballs on all sides:
Heat 3 tablespoons 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. Use a wooden spoon or tongs to turn them. Handle the meatballs gently so they do not break apart as you turn them.
Once the meatballs have browned on all sides and are just cooked through, remove them from the pan to a bowl. You'll warm the meatballs in the sauce later.
Once you have removed the meatballs from the pan, wipe out the butter and blackened bits with a paper towel.
We'll want to start with fresh butter so we don't pick up any burnt bits from the pan. This way, we will be able to more accurately gauge the amount of fat in the pan for making the meatball sauce in the next step.
Make a roux:
Add 3 tablespoons of fresh butter to the pan. Heat the butter in the pan on medium heat until it melts and starts to bubble.
Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of 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.
Add stock to make the sauce:
When the roux has cooked to a lovely shade of light brown, slowly add the stock, stirring as you do.
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.
Stir in the sour cream and optional jelly:
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sour cream. If you are including jelly, either stir it in now or serve it on the side. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper to taste. (I use about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.)
Heat the meatballs in the sauce:
Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and cook on low heat to warm them through for a few minutes.
Serve fresh from the pan:
Serve over mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Or serve individual Swedish meatballs dipped in gravy as an appetizer.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 32g||41%|
|Saturated Fat 15g||74%|
|Total Carbohydrate 14g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||5%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|