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The Best Swedish Meatballs

633 reviews / 4.9 average

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

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!

Can I make this vegetarian?

We do have a different recipe for Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs that is equally delicious and popular!

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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Swedish meatballs in a bowl with gravy, cranberries, and cucumbers

The Best Swedish Meatballs


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 56 servings 1x

Description

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


Ingredients

Units Scale

Swedish Meatballs:

  • 4 slices white bread, no crusts
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound ground beef (I use 85/15)
  • 1 pound ground pork (you can also sub with another pound of ground beef instead)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • a few shakes of black pepper

Gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons butter (you can also use some drippings from the baked meatballs)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth (more as needed)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (more to taste)
  • 12 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste – I recommend adding it last so you can taste and adjust for how much you want)
  • Very slight dash of nutmeg (optional)

Instructions

  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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795 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Great recipe! That gravy looks amazing!
    And I’ve never seen a soaked bread and the cooked onion/garlic mixture mixed into meat to make meatballs. Will have to try this

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    caroline

    This looks great. For a shortcut I use fresh white breadcrumbs, just a couple of tablespoons of cream then grate a small pre-frozen onion straight into the mix – gives you the moisture plus the oniony taste spreads easily throughout the meat mixture. Also white pepper, white sugar and just ground pork, but my family is a Danish – Swedish hybrid so we probably do things a little differently 🙂

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Nina

    Do you have a recipe for the cucumber situation? This all looks amazing and I want all of the parts 🙂

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        Emily

        This was so good. Can’t go wrong with Swedish meatballs, my family devoured this meal.






    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Karen R.

      As the intro to this recipe states, there are a lot of different recipes for Swedish meatballs. This one looks quite tasty! They are popular all over Scandinavia–family recipes get passed down to generations! I have a 1955 cookbook of Swedish recipes that is a collection by members of the American Daughters of Sweden. There are seven different recipes for Swedish meatballs (köttbullar). Some are made with pork and beef, some all pork, some all beef. Some have nutmeg or allspice and some don’t. All are made by browning in butter on top of the stove. Gravy is made using pan drippings and flour for the roux, and then adding milk or light cream. There’s usually not tons of gravy with this method, but it’s enough to coat my egg noodles! Notably, no recipe uses garlic. A quick perusal of current recipes online for Swedish meatballs shows that many folks are adding garlic because they like it to enhance the flavor. I see that this recipe does add a pinch of nutmeg to the gravy which would give it that Scandinavian taste. I would say it’s a modernized American version, but yummy all the same!

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jessica Pchajek

    I want to make the cranberry sauce from scratch too but I don’t know which package you’re referring to. Is it on the back of a fresh bag of cranberries? (I’m in Vancouver, Canada so might not be familiar with any brands, btw)

    My grandma is coming to visit this weekend and I’d love to make this for her!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Linda Alvarez

      Hi, Swedish girl here!! The real deal to eat with Swedish meatballs are lingonberry. Bye raw frozen lingonberries and just stir with a bit of sugar, it will resolve with the juice from the berries. If you can’t find lingonberries, it might just work with cranberries but I have never tried it! 🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Karen R.

      Easy cranberry sauce: 1 bag of cranberries; 1 c. sugar; 1 cup water (or ½ c. water and ½ c. orange juice). Rinse cranberries under cold water. Put in pot with sugar and liquid. Stir together and bring to boil. You will hear the cranberries start to pop/split open. Lower heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Melissa

    These look delicious. My husband does not eat beef. Would you substitute ground turkey for the beef?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Tarcy

      Melissa,
      Did you try with turkey ? Half turkey/ half pork? How did they turn out? Thanks!

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Koren

    I was wondering if you had a solution for a full large crock pot full of just the meat balls. I would like to make them for Christmas day.






  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I love Swedish meatballs, they are our families go-to quick comfort food, but this is because we use the frozen Ikea meatballs and I’d rather make them from scratch. It looks like the beef and pork is quite smooth, was it also put in the food processor?






  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Kristal

    I just stopped to say beef AND sausage are the right way to go. Legit swedish meatballs.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo
    gwyn

    I was so confused for a moment because I was like “but you already have the perfect swedish meatballs recipe?” and then I realized that I’d gotten so caught up in how awesome the wild rice ones are that I’d legitimately forgotten that meat existed.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Julia

    Made these for Christmas Eve dinner. They turned out very tasty. I ended up adding black pepper and red pepper flakes to the gravy to add a hint of heat. Thanks Lindsay!






  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Lana

    I have been making this dish but there is a little difference between how to make your dish and how to make min. i have felt that your way is good. I will also try to make this dish in the same way.






  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Virginia D. Jorgensen

    You miss the point of being Swedish by not adding the spices. Living in Minnesota you would think you had the ability to pick up some local Norwegian or Swedish cookbooks to compare the correct ingredients. You may call them meatballs but not ethnic Swedish or Norwegian with out the correct spices.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Linda Alvarez

      No no no, I am Swedish, living in Sweden. No nutmeg in our meatballs please! It is just minced beef and minced pork (like 70/30), bread crumbs, milk/cream, union, bouillon, salt and black pepper. Absolutely no nutmeg or any other spices. Allspice is a traditional Christmas spice and is only used in Christmas meatballs.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Louise

    I am curious about the addition of brown sugar. In Australia we do not use as much sugar in our cooking as Americans. I love Swedish meatballs but have always included allspice and yet you use no spices apart from pepper.

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        Lex

        I love this recipie!and have it made if several times. I finally thought ahead to freeze half and was wondering if i cook from
        Frozen or let the meatballs thaw first?






  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    TJ

    Thyme, Allspice, and Nutmeg. If your Swedish Meatballs don’t contain these things, you aren’t Swedish-Meatballing hard enough.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Linda Alvarez

      Well, I am Swedish and here in Sweden 🇸🇪 we never use those spices, and most certainly not together! Allspice is a traditional Christmas spice and is only used in meatballs during Christmas. Read my comment above and THAT is the real Swedish meatballs ingredients!!!

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Shiela

    I made my own Swedish meatballs for the first time!!! And gosh it wasn’t difficult at all! Thank you so much for the amazing recipe.






  16. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Shannon

    Smells heavenly. Everything was going well until I was browning the meatballs. Then they started to fall apart. Do I need more bread in the onion garlic cream mixture?

    Thank you!

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      So sorry to hear this, Shannon. 😕 It’s hard to say why they fell apart without seeing them. You could try a little bit more bread next time to see if that helps. Let us know how this goes for you!

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        Shannon

        Will try again and update. Can I ask how big the meatballs are supposed to be? The ones I made were big. Approx 2”. Maybe that’s too big?

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Gretchen

    My husband and I loved these! These really are the perfect Swedish meatballs. The brown sugar and salt work together very nicely and the gravy with the addition of Worcestershire sauce was wonderful. The acidity of the pickled cucumbers works so well with it all too. Looking forward to adding a little lingonberry jam to the mix next time! Thank you!!