Full confession—I’ve never known what Swedish meatballs were. I knew of them of course, but I never knew what really made them Swedish, or at least “Swedish”. So I did a little research. In Sweden meatballs are called köttbullar (which is now the first and only Swedish word I know), and usually made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef, pork and sometimes veal, sometimes with some bread crumbs soaked in milk, mixed with minced onions, and finished in a sauce of broth and cream. That sounded like something my family could get down with.
And apparently they should also be served with lingonberries, which I did on the third round (jarred lingonberry sauce, to be accurate); it lent a lovely Thanksgiving-ish quality (think turkey and cranberry sauce) to the meal. There are other Northern European meatball recipes that combine a gravy of sorts with meatballs, but I think it’s safe to say that most people will associate these meatballs with Sweden (and, in our country and perhaps others, Ikea) above all.
I made these once using the combination of ground beef and pork listed in the ingredients, and once using 1 ½ pounds of the “meatloaf mix” you can find in the meat section (either the packages meat case, or the butcher department) of many supermarkets, which is a combination of beef, pork and veal. Both worked perfectly.
Panko bread crumbs are packaged dried Japanese bread crumbs that are a little larger and flakier then their Italian cousins. You can find them in the supermarket either in the International or Asian food aisle, or with the rest of the breadcrumbs. I love their texture, which is a little lighter than the more coarsely ground version.
The sauce on these meatballs is quite thick, thicker than perhaps many people are used to for their Swedish Meatballs. The reason for that is that once I shaped the meatballs, I gave them a little roll in some flour before browning them, a trick suggested by my friend and right hand cook Mandy. This allowed them to brown a bit, and also created a nice toasted floury coating on the bottom of the pan (called a “fond” if you want to get all culinary-like) which then allows the cream and beef broth to thicken up nicely when heated.
I served the saucy meatballs over orzo for friends and family, and then over couscous for a twist, and then again over bulgur wheat with parsley and onions, all to high acclaim. You could reduce the amount of broth to 1 cup and the cream to 1/4 cup if you wanted more of a glaze than a sauce. I’m planning to do that when I make them for a holiday cocktail potluck party, and serve them with cute little skewers.
Swedish Meatballs Recipe: Tender little meatballs coated with a lovely creamy sauce—you can give Ikea a run for its money right in your own kitchen!Tweet This
More Meatball Recipes!
And do check out 10 Things To Make With Leftover Ground Beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ¾ cup milk preferably whole
- ¾ cup Panko bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons minced parsley
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ cup cream
- 1 ½ cups low-sodium beef broth
- Handful minced fresh parsley or chives optional, but adds nice color and freshness
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a large deep saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 5 minutes until they are softened, but not browned.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the egg, milk, Panko, parsley, allspice, salt and pepper. Add the beef and pork and the shallots and use your hands to combine until very well blended. Form the mixture into small meatballs, less than 1-inch in diameter.
- Heat the same saucepan over medium high heat, 2 more teaspoons olive oil, and brown half the meatballs on all sides, turning them carefully, about 6 minutes. They will be almost but not quite cooked through. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined baking sheet. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and brown the rest of the meatballs the same way. Add them to the baking sheet.
- Pour off any remaining fat in the pan and return it to medium heat. Add the bay leaf, cream and broth and bring to a simmer. Return the meatballs to the pan, heat until the sauce thickens and coats the meatballs well, and the meatballs are cooked through.
- Serve hot, over grains, small pasta, couscous or rice if desired. Top with minced parsley or chives if desired.
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