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 are authentic Swedish meatballs made of? ›

Meat – mix of pork and beef is part of the authentic flavour of Swedish Meatballs, and pork makes the meatballs extra soft and juice. But you can use all beef or all pork. You could also make this with chicken or turkey! 3.

What is the secret of a tender meatball? ›

Egg and breadcrumbs are common mix-ins to add moisture and tenderness. Another binder option that people swear by is a panade, which is fresh or dry breadcrumbs that have been soaked in milk. “The soaked breadcrumbs help keep the proteins in the meat from shrinking,” as food writer Tara Holland explained in the Kitchn.

What makes Swedish meatballs different? ›

No, they're basically the same things, with a different sauce. Italian meatballs are flavored with garlic and parmesan cheese, Swedish with onion and nutmeg. The first gets tomato sauce, the latter beef gravy. Just choose the one you prefer, they're both tasty.

How do you keep Swedish meatballs from falling apart? ›

Roll your meatballs in flour

Roll the finished meatballs in plain flour before frying. This is, hands down, one of the easiest ways I've discovered to prevent meatballs from falling apart when cooking.

What is the sauce for Swedish meatballs made from? ›

Whisk together stock, cream, flour, soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon rosemary in a large saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in thawed meatballs, and continue cooking until meatballs are heated through, about 5 more minutes.

What's the difference between homestyle and Swedish meatballs? ›

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.

What is the best binder for meatballs? ›

You can use eggs, breadcrumbs, grated or creamy cheeses (think ricotta or feta here), ground nuts, or a mixture of these ingredients to bind the balls and help them stay together while you cook them and as you eat them—no one wants a meatball that breaks apart all over the plate.

Is it better to fry or bake meatballs? ›

Baking will result in meatballs with a crunchy exterior, though the caramelisation achieved from frying will be superior. Baked meatballs take the least amount of effort, as you'll only need to turn them once or twice throughout the cook and you can make a larger batch at once.

Why do you put milk in meatballs? ›

When it comes to adding liquid to meatball mixtures, milk is often used for its versatility, depth of flavor, and richness. Without the use of milk, you may be faced with a plate of dry meatballs. Milk adds a certain level of moisture that helps produce perfectly tender meatballs.

What do Swedish people eat with meatballs? ›

In their most traditional form Swedish meatballs ('köttbullar') are made of ground pork and beef, cream, egg and onion, and are served with creamy mashed potatoes, a thick, brown gravy, lingonberry jam and pickled cucumber. The latter adds bitter sweetness as a perfect complement to the savoury meatball.

What do you eat with Swedish meatballs? ›

Buttered egg noodles (or spaetzle) or alternately buttered and parsleyed boiled potatoes, steamed green beans. Or go with mashed potatoes, green peas and lingonberry jam.

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

Should I roll my meatballs in flour before baking? ›

A traditional size for this sort of meatball is 2 to 3 inches across, but you can make them any size you want. Once you roll the meatball in your hands, roll it in the flour to give it a good coating. Set each one on a baking sheet as you work.

Should you chill meatballs before cooking? ›

Chill your meatballs: refrigerating your meatballs an hour before cooking helps them hold their shape throughout the cooking process. They can chill in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking, making meatballs a great make-ahead dish, too.

What meat are Ikea Swedish meatballs made of? ›

Combine beef and pork mince until all lumps are smoothed. Add finely chopped onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg and mix. Then add milk and salt and pepper to taste. Grab small handfuls and roll into a ball shape.

What is the difference between Swedish and Norwegian meatballs? ›

Norwegian recipes are made with all beef, while some Swedish recipes also use pork. Norwegian meatballs tend to be larger and flatter than their Swedish cousins.

Does 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 is the difference between Swedish and Danish meatballs? ›

The Danish meatball is a little rugged in texture and can be served in multiple ways – with a lightly spiced curry sauce, for example, or a rich gravy. A Swedish meatball, in comparison to the crispy, pan-fried Danish version, is often a little smaller, with a very smooth, even texture and a rounder shape.


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