Traditional Swedish Meatball Recipe: Easy and Delicious (2024)

From my Minnesota kitchen, this authentic Swedish Meatballs recipe is easy to make and BETTER than the IKEA version. A traditional family favorite and star in our Pantry Budget Rescue Series!


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Ole and Lena were eating dinner when Ole yelped and exclaimed…”Lena, vat did ya put in da food, it’s dam spicy!”. Lena said “Dat neighbor down da street gave me something and told me it would make da food da best food we ever had. Cripes, I knew he vas no good.” Ole…” What vas da spice?”. Lena…”Pepper.”

And that, my dear friends, sums up the whole spice profile of Swedish cooking. Okay, so there IS pepper and salt used in Swedish recipes. But that’s about all the spices good, traditional Swedish recipes have. They tend to be very bland by most other cuisine standards.

How do I know this? Well, I worked in a local cafe for quite sometimeas a teenager in a MN town called Mora. Mora is all things Swedish. Mora is the home of a gigantic Dala horse, and a Mora clock commemorating the town’s Swedish roots. Mora’s sister city and namesake is Mora, Sweden.Mora DOES Swedish. And that little local cafe I worked at knew how to cater to its locals! Which meant it knew Swedish dishes inside and out.

At that cafe, I learned how to make many a Swedish recipe. Yes, even lutefisk. Gah!! Try getting that smell out of your clothes!

AND…AND…Nate is 1/4 Swedish. I remember when we first married and I met his great-uncles Raymond and Russell. They were 100% Swedish, spoke Swedish, cooked Swedish, and one was dressed in overalls every time you saw him. And they were huge, tall men. Nate’s grandpa and these great uncles were children of Swedish immigrants.

Quite a few years back Nate’s great-uncle was becoming too elderly to stay in his home by himself and wanted to clean out some of his belongings. I was utterly thrilled to be able to get one of the trunks that traveled with the family on the boat from Sweden. That, along with an original Swedish hymnal and Bible are treasures in our home. The stories and history those items have must be incredible!

Nate’sparents stick to meat and potatoes, salt & pepper as the only spices, and lots of cream in their dishes. Standard Swedish cooking. I am often looking for the salt and pepper shakers when we are at their home for dinner. The Swedish roots are strong with those two :).

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Swedish Meatballs have their roots as leftovers. No really, it’s true! The meat came from whatever scraps of meat and fat were leftover from the week, and then ground. Which is why Swedish Meatball recipes feature a blend of multiple meats. Onions were readily available because of the ease of storing them in the winter. Breadcrumbs were the leftover pieces of bread that had become stale or not used. And cream? Well, what is a Swede without good cream?

Truly, Swedish Meatballs are the ultimate in leftover use!


  • Ground beef. I like to use 80% lean for thisrecipe.
  • Ground pork. Or calledpork mince“back in the day” :).
  • bread crumbs.White breadcrumbswill give you the most authentic flavor and texture but feel free to usepankobreadcrumbsif that is what you have on hand.
  • nutmeg.Allspiceis a great substitute if you don’t havenutmegon hand. But don’t skip…this is thesecretfor authentic tasting meatballs.
  • Whippingcream. You need that full fat from whippingcreamto get the authentic flavor and texture.
  • Eggs. Eggs act as the binder andcombine ground beefto stick together.
  • onion. You can’t have aSwedish Meatballwithoutonion. And often theonionwould have been grated. I can’t stand that process so I just chop it up as fine as I can with my good ol’ knife.
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Why did they cook them in a pan, on the stovetop, you wonder? Well, I’m thinking that they weren’t terribly concerned about perfect ball shapes for their leftovers. AND…ovens. Yeah, they weren’t quite as available, in that time, as a plain ol’ fire or cooktop.

Instructionsfor creating the Meatballs:

  1. Mix thecream&breadcrumbsin a largebowland set aside.
  2. Saute theonions.
  3. Mix thecooked onionswith the remainingingredients.
  4. Form the meatballs into about 1 inch balls.
  5. Cook in meltedbutterfor about 1-2 minutes.
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How to form the meatballs:

YOu can use damp hands to create your meatballs like Grandma would have done. Or keep it easy (and less messy) and use the 2 spoon method OR the icecreamscoop method.

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Traditionally, Swedish meatballs use the scrapings of the pan with a bit of cream and flour added to create the gravy that you pour on them. And, of course…serve with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.

Instructionsfor thecreamy gravy:

  1. Mix thecreamwith theflourto create a bit of a slurry.
  2. Slowlywhiskthe mixture into the drippings of thepan.
  3. If desired, addbeef brothfor more liquid.
  4. Simmeruntil thickened.,stirringoften. Add salt totaste.
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Tips for making Swedish Meatballs:

  • The meatball mixture can be really soft and easily fall apart when handled. Use a small cookie scoop to portion the meat out, then wet your hands before rolling them to help.
  • Add your beef broth slowly to help your sauce stay thick.
  • Don’t let your cream come to a boil or it may separate—just let it simmer.

Notes about making Swedish Meatballs:

  1. Traditional Swedish Meatballs are soft in texture, this is normal.
  2. Balls that are only 1 inch in size is traditional. Probably because of how quick they were to cook.
  3. Traditional Swedish Meatballs aren’t really balls. More like triangles. They are cooked on a side and then turned, resulting in more of a triangle shape. Perfect.
  4. Traditional Swedish Meatballs are rather bland, almost sweet (because of the nutmeg) in flavor. Feel free to adjust the recipe as you prefer.

This is a largerrecipebecause…leftovers! I make this largebatchand freeze about ½ for a later meal. Soooo good! To make theSwedish meatball sauceI usebeef brothin place of the drippings from thefrying pan.

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What makes Swedish meatballs different than Italian meatballs?

Well, lots, actually. Traditional Swedish meatballs, made with ground pork and beef, are often smaller and less round than Italian meatballs, usually made with just ground beef (and sometimes sausage). The seasonings are totally different—Italian ones use things like parmesan and oregano while Swedish ones use allspice or nutmeg. The way they are served is also totally different. Italian meatballs are usually served with tomato-based sauce and noodles, but Swedish meatballs are served with creamy brown gravy, mashed potatoes, and lingonberries.

What is a good side dish for Swedish meatballs?

Personally, I have to have mashed potatoes and lingonberries (or lingonberry jam) with my Swedish Meatballs. It’s the Swedish way! I’ve known some people who use egg noodles or rice instead of potatoes. Roasted veggies—brussels sprouts or broccoli—are also great on the side.

Make ahead Swedish Meatballs:

Sometimes, doing a little bit ahead of time makes a big difference when that evening crunch time rolls around! You can make your Swedish Meatballs in advance and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a couple of days. Pull them out when you’re ready to make the sauce. Of course, you can also make the meatballs and sauce in advance and reheat them, too.

How do I store leftover Swedish Meatballs?

Store your leftover Swedish Meatballs in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium-low heat or put the meatballs and sauce in a covered dish and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. –>You may need to thin the sauce with a little water or cream as it tends to thicken in the fridge.

Can I freeze Swedish Meatballs?

I do not recommend freezing the sauce—it separates and just never really comes back together right when thawed and reheated. But you can freeze the meatballs! Allow them to cool completely, then place them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also freeze them uncooked on a parchment-lined cookie sheet before transferring them to an airtight container and putting them in the freezer. Before cooking, allow them to thaw in the fridge.

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Authentic Swedish Meatball Recipe

| 48 1 inch meatballs

Prep Time | 15 minutes mins

Cook Time | 30 minutes mins

Total Time | 45 minutes mins

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

From my Minnesota kitchen, I'm sharing the authentic Swedish recipe for Swedish meatballs BETTER than the IKEA meatballs. These meatballs are delicious as an appetizer or with mashed potatoes. And that creamy gravy…oh so delicious!


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs beaten.
  • 1 tablespoon butter.
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon


  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons beef bouillon, optional

Check out our Kitchen Reference Guide for help with unfamiliar terms.


  • Put the cream into a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs, set aside.

  • In a large skillet melt the butter and add the chopped onion. Cook for about 3 minutes.

  • Add the onion, meat, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the breadcrumbs and cream.

  • Mix everything together only until well mixed…do not overmix.

  • In the same skillet as the onion, melt 4 tablespoons of butter on medium heat.

  • Using two spoons, damp hands, or a small ice cream scoop, form the meat mixture into 1 inch balls and place into the skillet. Leave room around each meatball.

  • Cook on each side turning to the next side after about 1-2 minutes. Set cooked meatballs into a pan in a low-heat 200 degrees oven while cooking the remaining. Cook meatballs to 165 degrees internally.

To make the gravy

  • To make the gravy, mix 3/4 cup of cream with 1 tablespoon flour into a slurry and slowly whisk into the hot drippings of the pan. If desired, add beef broth for more liquid.

  • Simmer until thickened. Add salt & pepper to taste.


Many recipes for traditional Swedish Meatballs call for white pepper. Try using white pepper in place of black.

Use your hands or a wooden spoon for mixing the meat…don’t over mix!


Calories: 57kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 71mgPotassium: 58mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 23IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 7mgIron: 1mg

“Delicious! My young kids loved the meatballs even without the homemade gravy. We made the whole batch and our family of five ate all, but two meatballs!
Thank you”

Traditional Swedish Meatball Recipe: Easy and Delicious (2024)


What is Swedish meatball sauce made of? ›

The sauce for Swedish Meatballs is a creamy gravy that is made with butter, beef broth/stock, thickened with flour and made creamy with cream. But the most important flavour for the a really good creamy gravy is the pan drippings after searing the meatballs.

What is the difference between Swedish meatballs and regular meatballs? ›

Swedish meatballs are slightly smaller than traditional meatballs — think the size of a golf ball — so that they can be easily picked up by a toothpick and popped into your mouth. As for the sauce, Swedish meatballs are cooked in a rich, creamy gravy that is most often created from bone broth and cream.

What is the secret of a tender meatball? ›

They are super flavorful but what makes them so so tender and moist is this: Plain Greek Yogurt. The lactic acid from the yogurt tenderizes the meat while adding subtle flavor. The addition of egg and parmesan cheese help keep the meat together so that you get delicious weeknight meatballs in minutes.

How do you keep Swedish meatballs from falling apart? ›

Add a lightly beaten egg, but not too much. Egg acts as a binder for the ingredients, but you only need a small amount. One small egg will do for one pound of minced meat. Alternatively, if you're following an egg-free diet, you could soak fresh bread in milk, squeezing out any excess milk, to use as a binder.

Why do Swedish meatballs taste so good? ›

The Seasoning

While both varieties include ingredients such as grated onion and panade (milk-soaked bread) or bread crumbs, plus the usual salt and pepper, Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices like allspice, nutmeg, white pepper, and sometimes ground ginger as flavoring.

Do Swedish meatballs contain sour cream? ›

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.

What goes with Swedish meatballs for dinner? ›

Mashed Potatoes - The creamy gravy on Swedish Meatballs is perfect with potatoes! Egg Noodles - Spaghetti isn't a bad idea either. Green veggies - I love to serve green peas with Swedish meatballs. Roasted Vegetables - Skip the starch and serve the meatballs with a combination of roasted vegetables.

Why are Ikea meatballs so tasty? ›

They're loaded with salt (and salt is delicious)

According to Ikea's website, the 12-meatball version of their KÖTTBULLAR plate packs a pretty serious amount of salt into your bloodstream, to the tune of 1,520 milligrams.

Why is my Swedish meatball sauce not thickening? ›

How to Thicken Swedish Meatball Sauce. The all-purpose flour in this recipe should do the trick to thicken your Swedish meatball sauce to the right consistency. But if it doesn't, you can add a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of water) to thicken it up.

How does Gordon Ramsay make meatball sauce? ›

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan and gently fry the shallots, garlic and chilli for 2-3 minutes until soft. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine, then add the tinned tomatoes along with the basil, oregano and some seasoning.

Why do you put milk in meatballs? ›

Milk: Adds moisture and tenderizes the meat, making our meatballs juicy and tender once cooked. Egg: Adds more moisture and helps the mixture firm up once cooked. Parmesan: My secret ingredient for the best meatballs! Parmigiano-Reggiano adds flavor and salt to our mixture.

Why do you soak breadcrumbs for meatballs? ›

The Key to Tender Meatballs

Here, we're soaking fresh or dried breadcrumbs in a little milk until the bread becomes soggy, then mixing that right into the meat. This binder (aka panade) helps add moisture to the meatballs and also prevents the meat proteins from shrinking and becoming tough.

What not to do when making meatballs? ›

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Meatballs
  1. Not seasoning the meat.
  2. Not adding any moisture to the meat.
  3. Over-mixing the meat.
  4. Not shaping the meatballs correctly.
  5. Not forming evenly-sized meatballs.
May 1, 2019

What happens if you put too much breadcrumbs in meatballs? ›

Using the wrong amount of bread crumbs (or flour)

Bread crumbs are another popular binder for meatballs that can become problematic if used incorrectly. Adding too many bread crumbs to the mix will cause your meatballs to become loose and fall apart. The same applies to flour.

Do they eat Swedish meatballs in Sweden? ›

Swedish meatballs are as close to a national dish that we have in Sweden. Everyone has their own favourite recipe and many celebrity chefs serve their own versions in their restaurants. Most people will say that their mum's recipe is the best of course!

What is Ikea meatball sauce made of? ›

Iconic Swedish cream sauce: Melt 40g of butter in a pan. Whisk in 40g of plain flour and stir for 2 mins. Add 300ml of bouillon (or consommé) and continue to stir. Add 150ml double cream, 2 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of (Dijon) mustard.

Are Swedish meatballs pink inside? ›

Form the meat mix into 2 inch diameter meatballs, rolling them lightly between your palms to form them, then place them about an inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the outside of each ball is a nice light brown, but the center is still a rosy pink.

What's the difference between meatball sauce and Bolognese sauce? ›

Meatballs are not a sauce, they are balls of meat. A sauce has to be runny, or at least flowing. Done correctly, a bolognese sauce isn't particularly meaty. The meat is meant to be finely ground and incorporated into a standard spaghetti sauce, and the meat so fine it should stick onto the pasta in little specks.

Are Swedish meatballs are traditionally served in a red tomato based sauce? ›

Explanation: False, Swedish meatballs, known as 'köttbullar,' are traditionally not served with a red, tomato-based sauce. While there are regional differences and personal cooking styles, Swedish meatballs are typically served with a creamy brown gravy, lingonberry sauce and potatoes.


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