This family recipe for Swedish Meatballs has a creamy sauce and a hint of nutmeg to give them their distinctive flavor.Jump to Recipe
Did you know that in Sweden, August 23rd is Kötbullens Dag or “Swedish Meatball Day”?? When people think of Swedish food, Swedish Meatballs seem to be one of the first things to come to mind. I admit that I have been eating Swedish Meatballs for as long as I can remember, and they were one of the first things I learned how to make in my grandmother’s kitchen. My mother and I made hundreds of them for my wedding buffet and every Christmas they grace our holiday table. Every family of Swedish descent seems to have their own version of Swedish Meatballs and the preferred way of eating them. There are variations on the meat itself (beef/pork/veal), the seasoning (allspice/nutmeg/ginger), and most certainly the sauce. While most people are familiar with the brown gravy-sauced balls at IKEA, my family recipe produces a thicker, white sauce that clings to the meatballs without being too saucy. This makes them especially good for next-day meatball sandwiches!
Making the Swedish Meatballs:
This is a very “rustic” recipe with plenty of room for variation. For the breadcrumbs, any sort of bread may be used. We often had a combination of leftover bits and pieces, mostly rye. The crumbs should be of the soft variety (rather than dried) and are soaked in milk before mixing with the meat and other ingredients.
The onion in the recipe is cooked first in butter rather than added raw to the meat. This softens both the texture and flavor, mellowing out any sharpness.
All the ingredients are then mixed together in a matter of minutes.
Once a cohesive mixture is formed, it is time to make the meatballs!
My grandmother would form her meatballs by hand and put them straight into the pan to cook. I developed my own technique of shaping the balls with a cookie scoop, then baking them to prevent the meatballs from breaking apart in the pan.
If I am feeling really particular, I will grease a pair of latex gloves and individually roll each ball to make them smooth ;0
The meatballs are now ready for the oven.
Bake the meatballs at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned and wonderfully fragrant.
To finish the meatballs, you need to create a quick pan roux. A roux is equal parts of fat and flour cooked together, typically for thickening a sauce. The remaining 2 tablespoons of butter are heated in a skillet. Add the meatballs and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour, then gently stir until all of the flour has been absorbed into the fat.
Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. This will minimize the starchy taste of the flour.
Carefully add 1 cup of milk (I typically use whole but you could use half-and-half for a richer sauce), stirring until smooth.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook the Swedish Meatballs until the sauce has thickened. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
The meatballs are now ready to serve with their clingy sauce. Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley or chives for color.
It is traditional to serve Swedish Meatballs with mashed or boiled potatoes, however my family prefers a side of the roasted variety. Lingonberries and cucumber salad or Swedish Refrigerator Pickles are a must!
Leftover meatballs are delicious reheated. You can freshen the sauce by adding a bit of milk to the pan. Swedish Meatballs also make an incredible sandwich layered with a slather of those lingonberries and pickles! Happy Swedish Meatball Day!
- 2 cups soft bread crumbs
- ⅔ cup milk
- ¼ cup butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- Freshly chopped parsley or chives, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- In a large bowl, soak breadcrumbs with ⅔ cup milk for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a small sauté pan and cook the onion over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Add the ground beef, salt, nutmeg, paprika and beaten eggs to the breadcrumb mixture along with the cooled onion. Mix well.
- Using a small cookie scoop or 2 spoons, form small balls out of the meat mixture and place on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake the meatballs for 12-15 minutes until brown.
- In a large sauté pan or skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and sprinkle with the flour. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes until all of the flour has been absorbed.
- Slowly pour the 1 cup milk into the pan, stirring constantly but carefully so that the meatballs do not break apart.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Uncover the meatballs and stir, adding a little more milk if needed for a thinner sauce. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Serve the meatballs sprinkled with parsley or chives alongside potatoes, lingonberries and pickled cucumbers.
Tips for Success:
- After baking the meatballs, they may be cooled and frozen at this point in an airtight container in a single layer or in ziplock bags placed flat in the freezer. Thaw and finish with the sauce.
- When reheating the meatballs, add a bit of milk to loosen up the sauce.
- To make the Swedish Meatballs gluten-free, try using gluten free bread for the crumbs.