The Best Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs that are perfectly tender and spiced, served with creamy, savory, tangy gravy. Comfort food at its best!

Swedish Meatballs Pin

All hail tender, savory, creamy Swedish Meatballs!

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I grew up eating a lot of Swedish meatballs, and I have to say – Swedish meatball recipes are varied and they all kind of have their own personality. But after testing several ingredient combinations and methods, this is the one that I like best:

Cream-soaked bread mixed with ground beef and ground pork with plenty of salt and pepper, baked to golden meatball perfection, and finally rolled around in a rich and savory cream-based gravy. It is mellow, ultra comforting, and deeply flavorful all at the same time.


In This Post: Everything You Need For Swedish Meatballs


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Swedish meatballs in a pan with gravy.

What Are Swedish Meatballs?

Whether it’s from frequent IKEA trips, Christmas dinners at grandma’s, or the generally strong Scandinavian pride of the midwest, Swedish meatballs feel synonymous with Sweden.

Traditionally, Swedish meatballs are made with pork and beef, cream, egg, and onion, and are served alongside mashed potatoes, lingonberries, and tangy pickly cucumbers. It’s the perfect balance of savory, sweet, and tangy.

If you want to REALLY dig deep, back to be beginning of the history of these beautiful little bites, Swedish meatballs are actually based on a dish brought back from Turkey in the early 18th century by King Charles XII of Sweden. Which means… they might actually be Turkish meatballs? Excuse me? Intrigue!

Swedish meatballs in a bowl with cucumbers and cranberries.

How To Make Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs may or may not be something that you want to make on a random Tuesday night because they’re gonna take a little time to make. You’ve got the rolling, you’ve got the baking, you’ve got the gravy-making…

But they are SPECIAL. And they aren’t hard. They are perfect for holiday meals or dinner club or just a little something extra when you’re looking for a good reason to live your best life.

Here are the basics:

  1. You’re going to mix up your meatballs (pork, beef, BREAD, butter, onions, garlic, all that’s good).
  2. Then you’ll roll them and bake them until they’re done.
  3. Next up you’ll build and whisk the gravy: butter, flour, beef broth, Worcestershire, little bit of nutmeg (and/or allspice if you want), and some heavy cream for that delicious creaminess. (Some recipes will use sour cream, but traditionally the creaminess comes from cream!)
  4. Pop those meatballs back in the pan with the gravy and stir and…

HELLO SWEDISH MEATBALLS. ❤️

Tips For Making The Best Swedish Meatballs

Like I said, this isn’t exactly a made-for-a-weeknight recipe, so let’s talk about some tips.

  • The meatball mixture will be a little wetter than most meatball recipes you’ve probably made, and that’s how it should be! This is what makes for the most tender, delicious, meatballs.
  • When baking your meatballs in the oven, make sure they’re not touching. This will ensure the meatballs get crispy instead of steamy!
  • SAVE YOUR GREASE! After the meatballs are made, save that grease to make your gravy for the BEST flavor. (Don’t worry, the recipe reminds you to do this!)
  • Make the sides. I repeat: MAKE THE SIDES! These meatballs are so delicious and savory and go so well with creamy mashed potatoes, but the balance of it with the tangy/sweet lingonberries* and zippiness of the cucumbers truly brings this all together.
  • If you need a vegetarian option for this recipe, whether for yourself or someone at your table, this Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs recipe is the ticket!
Swedish meatballs in a bowl with cucumbers and cranberries.

What To Serve with Swedish Meatballs

The meatballs in and of themselves are a world wonder, but let me fill out the plate for you for what to serve with Swedish meatballs.

  • Creamy Mashed Potatoes <– I like these, obviously, because they’re very easy and have so much garlic herb flavor. (If you’re not into potatoes or don’t have the time, you’ll often see Swedish meatballs served over egg noodles, though we are VERY much partial to the mashed potatoes.)
  • Tangy Lingonberry Sauce, for which we use the recipe on the back of the lingonberry package.
  • Vinegary Cucumber Salad, which seems a little strange at first glance but is so delicious and essential for cutting through everything. It wakes the whole plate up.

May your gravy be creamy and your meatballs be extra-savory and your special dinner be one to remember. ♡

Swedish Meatballs: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use all pork or all beef?

Yes! The flavor combo of the two meats is really good, but I’ve also enjoyed the all-beef versions that I’ve made.

How do I make the gravy?

You make a basic roux and add cream and Worcestershire to it – and if you want to add all the pan juices from the meatballs in there, too, that’s delicious! If you like a smoother gravy, don’t add all the juices because they will create some flecks in the gravy. (But I don’t mind the flecks personally! And the flavor is top notch.)

What’s the meatball mixture like?

The meatball mixture is pretty wet! That’s normal, especially because there’s not any dry elements in this, like cheese or breadcrumbs. The reason for the wet texture is that the cream-soaked bread makes for a very tender meatball once it’s cooked. If you get your hands slightly wet, you’ll have an easier time rolling them. 

Can I use sandwich bread?

You can! If you are using thin, plain white sandwich bread, you may want to use 6-8 slices instead to make a thicker bread mixture.

Can I freeze this recipe?

The meatballs in the recipe freeze amazingly well. Just cook them as the recipe states and then freeze in a bag. Keeps for up to two months, and then you can easily whip up a batch of gravy and toss the meatballs in!

How can I prep this ahead of time?

The best way to prep this ahead of time is to make the meatballs! That way, when it comes time to serve, all you need to do is make your sauce and then pop them out of the fridge or freezer and add to the pan.

The mashed potatoes and lingonberries also prep beautifully and will keep in the fridge for a few days!

A previous version of this recipe used raw onions and garlic in the meatball mixture; we’ve since changed that as we felt the whole process was made significantly easier by using granulated onion and garlic with no sacrifice in flavor! Find the previous version here.

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Description

Swedish Meatballs that are perfectly tender and spiced, served with creamy, savory, gravy. Comfort food at its best!


Swedish Meatballs:

Gravy:


  1. Meatball Mixture: In a small bowl, soak the white bread in the heavy cream for 5-10 minutes. Mash with a spoon or you hands. Mix the bread paste in a large bowl with the garlic and onion powder, beef and pork, egg, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. When it’s all well-mixed, roll into smallish meatballs. (If you find the mixture is too wet to handle, you can add a bit of panko or a tablespoon of cornstarch to help them hold a bit more. But don’t panic – wet is normal for this mixture. It makes for very tender meatballs!)

  2. Bake the Meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place meatballs on a sheet pan or baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. 

  3. Gravy Time: In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. (You’re going to add the meatballs back into this pan so make sure it’s a nice big skillet, saute pan, or braiser casserole dish.) Whisk in the flour; let it bubble for 2-3 minutes. Add the beef broth, slowly, stirring after each addition. Gradually a smooth gravy should start to form. Stir in the heavy cream and season with Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, and a bit of nutmeg if you want. Taste and adjust to get it just right! That’s where the magic happens.

  4. Add meatballs in with the gravy. Cover to keep warm until you want to serve them, or transfer the pan to the oven where they can hang out on low / warm heat and continue to get tender and delicious. (The meatballs are already great on their own, but the longer they soak in sauce, the more tender and  delicious they get.) Serve over mashed potatoes, with a cucumber salad and lingonberries.

Notes

If you prefer, you can use all ground beef in this recipe instead of half beef, half pork.

The gravy thickens and the meatballs get more tender as you let them rest in the sauce. I like to make this in the afternoon so it has a few hours to settle in before I serve it in the evening – I just keeping it warm if it’s for 2-3 hours, or put in the fridge if it’ll be longer. If it will be in the fridge, the gravy will probably need an extra 1/2 to 1 cup of broth to help it get back to a saucy consistency!

A great make-ahead option for this is to make the meatballs, and either bake them and freeze them, or just freeze them raw and bake day-of. That way, when it’s time to serve day-of, all you really have to make is the gravy! 

For a real easy version of this, use your favorite store-bought meatballs! I’ve had many readers tell me they do it that way and love it!

The cucumber salad (or just any salad with a vinegary punch) is very important in balancing this meal! I would highly recommend doing a simple Swedish cucumber salad – the flavors and textures were just made to create a beautiful balanced plate!

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Swedish

Keywords: swedish meatballs, meatballs, swedish food, gravy recipe

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