Looking for an alternative to your usual beef meatball recipe? Try making Swedish meatballs (Svenska köttbullar) instead! Perfectly seasoned and spiced, these pork and beef meatballs are scrumptious, packed with flavor, and smothered with a cream sauce.
If you’ve ever been to IKEA, you may be familiar with their infamous Swedish meatballs. When I first came to America, my parents were so excited to take my sister and I to IKEA. They wanted to introduce us to these meatballs, and of course, we absolutely loved them. This became one of my fondest memories from my younger years. Almost every Sunday as a family: go to church, go to IKEA, eat meatballs.
I’m not usually big on eating meatballs by choice, but these were always an exception. When I went to college, I didn’t drive, so it wasn’t always feasible for me to go to IKEA just to eat in their cafeteria. Eventually, I learned they sold them frozen, so I would stock up on them. Getting the frozen ones to quickly make at home was okay, but it was not the same as eating it fresh. They didn’t include the creamy gravy with it so it did not always satiate my Swedish meatball craving. So I thought, why not make them myself? After much research and recipe development, I finally landed on this recipe and dare I say, these taste even better than IKEA’s!
What makes these different from regular meatballs?
Swedish meatballs, or Svenska köttbullar, are made with a combination of ground beef and ground pork. Mixing these two meats together gives the meatballs the right balance of fat and flavor. And if you eat Swedish meatballs for the first time without knowing what’s in it, it may be hard to distinguish what exactly gives it its distinctive flavor. The answer is that these meatballs are spiced — not spicy, but spiced. With a bit of allspice in the meatball and nutmeg in the cream sauce, it just adds a certain je ne sais quoi.
Also, instead of regular ground black pepper, we’re going to use ground white pepper. White pepper is more typical in Swedish cuisines compared to its black counterpart because it adds the peppery taste and flavor without the heat of black pepper. It also helps with the visual look of their dishes (especially in cream sauces and soups) because it won’t have the typical black specks of black pepper.
Lastly, these meatballs are super tender and moist on the inside. This is because Swedish meatballs are traditionally made with panade (puh-NOD). Panade is a sort of paste that is formed by soaking bread in milk. When cooking ground meat, the panade provides a gel-like barrier to help prevent the protein fibers from tightening, shrinking, and getting tough. I don’t always have white bread on hand, so I used panko breadcrumbs with my panade instead. If you only have regular breadcrumbs, those will work as well.
Don’t know what to pair this with?
The great thing with Swedish meatballs is that you can pair them with a lot of different starch options. Traditionally though, they’re served with potatoes and lingonberry jam. However, you can use noodles or pasta, rice, or even pearled couscous. My husband prefers eating them with mashed potatoes, but I prefer eating them with egg noodles. If you’re going to make them with noodles or pasta though, you’re going to want to double the cream sauce recipe to fully coat the noodles. But whatever starch you choose, these Svenska köttbullar will taste delicious regardless!
Tools you’ll need
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 2/3 panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup onions (finely chopped)
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- 3 tbsp butter (separated, for sautéing the onions and browning the meatballs)
- 1 tbsp olive oil (for browning the meatballs)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup parsley (chopped)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl, soak your breadcrumbs in milk to make a paste. Set aside.
- On the stove, sauté your finely chopped onions in butter in a medium-sized pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, ground pork, sautéed onions, bread-milk paste, egg, white pepper, salt, and all spice. With clean hands, carefully mix everything together until all ingredients are evenly distributed and fully incorporated. Do not over mix.
- Using a small ice cream or cookie scooper, form your meatballs and set aside for browning. I use the smallest of these scoops, but if you don't have one, just make you sure you form your meatballs with about 1.5 tbsp (0.8 oz) of meatball mixture each. You can always make them slightly bigger if you want, but this is traditionally the size used for Swedish meatballs.
- In the same pan where you sautéed the onions, heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter until the butter is melted and the pan is hot enough for browning. Brown your meatballs in the pan on all sides, making sure your pan is not overcrowded. You can do this in batches if you need to because if you put too many meatballs in at once, they might end up steaming instead of frying and getting browned. Place your browned meatballs in a lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 8 minutes. If you ended up making larger meatballs, you may need to bake them for a little longer to ensure they're cooked all the way through.
- While your meatballs bake, use the same pan on the stove to make your cream sauce. Melt 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the flour and keep stirring, making sure to scrape the browned bits from browning your meatballs, until the flour is cooked through. Carefully add the beef broth and stir until the butter-flour mixture is fully incorporated with the broth.
- Add the heavy cream, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, and let it simmer until the cream sauce is reduced and slightly thickened up. Add salt and white pepper to taste, but just remember that your meatballs are well-seasoned already. You wouldn't want to put too much salt in your cream sauce because it may get overwhelmingly salty once the meatballs are smothered in it.
- Add the chopped parsley and stir. At this point, your meatballs should already be done cooking in the oven. Add the meatballs to the pan and thoroughly coat with the cream sauce. Serve with your choice of starch and enjoy!
- You can easily double this recipe to feed more people.
- You can make just the meatballs ahead of time and freeze them raw for up to 6 months. Just make sure to thaw them thoroughly and have them room temp before browning.
- If you're going to make these meatballs with noodles or pasta, you're going to want to double the cream sauce recipe to fully coat the noodles.