The Best Swedish Meatballs Recipe

The best Swedish meatballs are made from scratch with an easy homemade gravy. Make a huge batch of meatballs and keep them in the freezer for a quick meal!

Serve Swedish Meatballs and gravy with the Best Mashed Potatoes, Creamy Cucumber Salad, and Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Apples. When the craving for comfort food hits, no one gets it quite like Culinary Hill. From readers' favorites like Easy Cold Pasta Salad, to totally worth it Baked Macaroni and Cheese (with garlic breadcrumbs), you might just rediscover that long lost recipe you loved as a kid.

The best Swedish meatballs in a white bowl.
Pin Now To Save! PIN IT

Roll up your sleeves! Made from scratch, bite-sized, tender and cloud-like, homemade meatballs and an easy sauce are on your horizon. This recipe is way better than the frozen bags sold at IKEA, so consider yourself warned. From this point on, you'll probably never buy anything but furniture and towels at the huge blue and yellow warehouse.

But anyways, back to the meatballs. In Sweden, they're a favorite at any party or get-together. Unlike Italian meatballs, they're held together with something called a panade, a paste made of bread and milk (or cream). Instead of Italian herbs and spices, Swedish meatballs use warming spices like allspice and nutmeg, which make the ground meat mixture taste unique but also somehow familiar. In a homey, even cozy way.

The creamy gravy--not mandatory, but I promise you'll love it--is next-level delicious, too. Perfect for the mountain of buttered egg noodles or potatoes you'll be serving alongside your new favorite dinner.

But the best part? Double or triple the recipe and bake the meatballs in the oven in big batches. Then let them cool and freeze them for later. Reheat for last-minute dinners or your own get-together, and they'll disappear before you know it.

Making Swedish Meatballs to freeze for meal prep? Excellent idea. Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

Swedish Meatball ingredients:

  • Egg.
  • Heavy cream.
  • White sandwich bread.
  • Ground beef.
  • Ground pork.
  • Onion.
  • Allspice.
  • Nutmeg.
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Vegetable shortening. Only needed for pan frying. Skip it if you're planning on baking the meatballs.
    The best Swedish meatballs ingredients in various bowls.

What you need to make an easy sauce for Swedish meatballs:

  • Butter.
  • All-purpose flour. Go gluten-free, if you want.
  • Chicken broth. Or beef broth, if you have it.
  • Beef base. This can be paste or powder form. I like the Better Than Bouillon brand, which has a great taste.
  • Heavy cream. Or sour cream works, too. Full-fat, plain Greek yogurt can work, also.
    The best Swedish meatballs ingredients in various bowls.

What kind of meat for Swedish Meatballs?

Because it's easy to find, I use a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground pork. That doesn't mean that you can't use all beef, or all pork--go ahead.

Some meatball enthusiasts love making Swedish meatballs with ground veal, which is amazing and worth it, if you can find it. Other recipes include venison, lamb, or chicken.

No pork Swedish meatballs? Use an equal amount of ground beef, chicken, and veal. In other words, this is your meatball, so make it the way you like it.

How do you make Swedish Meatballs?

Cook's Illustrated recommends mixing the meat in a standing mixer, but you can absolutely do this by hand in a big bowl.

    1. To start, make the panade by beating the egg, cream, and bread together in the bowl. Mash it together to make a paste.
      Bread, cream and egg mixture in a clear bowl.
    2. Then, add in both ground beef and ground pork, some grated onion, salt, pepper, and spices.
      Meatball ingredients being combined in a glass bowl.
    3. If you'd rather use the standing mixer, use the paddle attachment for this.
    4. When everything is combined, form the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. You can portion them out using a portioner, tablespoon, or by hand. Wet your hands so the meat mixture doesn't stick to them.
      Uncooked meatballs on a baking sheet.

Making Baked Swedish Meatballs in the Oven:

I always bake my meatballs on a rack set over a baking sheet lined with foil. It's cleaner (no spattering mess on your stove top), it's convenient (no baby-sitting or flipping meatballs), and it's effective (you get even all-over browning). If you don't have a rack, you can place them directly on the foil, but you might have to flip them halfway through cooking.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then set the rolled meatballs directly on the rack. Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until brown and crispy looking at the edges. How can you be absolutely sure? They're done when an internal thermometer reads 155 degrees for 15 seconds.
    Baked meatballs on a baking sheet.
  2. At this point, you can either move on to making the gravy and immediately devouring the meatballs, or you can freeze them using the instructions below.

Swedish Meatballs on the stove:

One added benefit of using a skillet to fry the meatballs is that you are left with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which will punch up the flavor of the gravy. Use a skillet with a smooth bottom--not a grill pan--so you can whisk up every last bit.

If you don't usually use vegetable shortening, you can use butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two.

  1. To begin, melt the shortening over medium-high heat in the largest skillet you have. Fry the meatballs in batches, being careful not to crowd them too much, until browned on all sides. This should take 5 to 7 minutes per batch, depending on the size of the meatball. They're done when an internal thermometer reads 155 degrees for 15 seconds.
  2. Once the meatballs are fried, keep the meat juices in the pan and melt the butter to start the gravy.

Swedish Meatballs in the crockpot:

Slow cooker Swedish meatballs are always a huge hit. The best way to do it: cook the meatballs using the oven or skillet method, then make the gravy and move everything to the slow cooker once you're finished. That ensures that they're beautifully browned and fully cooked for your guests.

How do you make Swedish Meatball sauce?

The creamy, irresistible brown sauce for the meatballs uses a roux, beef base, and stock. This is quick, super easy, and ready in about 10 minutes.

  1. To start, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter stops foaming, add the flour, and stir (a wooden spoon works well, here) for a minute or so.
    The best Swedish meatballs ingredients cooking in a black skillet.
  2. Then add the broth, beef base, and brown sugar. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes until the mixture reduces by about a third.
    Broth being added to a black skillet.
  3. Next, stir in the cream and return the gravy to a simmer. Add the browned meatballs, cover, and simmer until the meatballs are heated through and the gravy has thickened. Then season to taste with salt and pepper.
    The best Swedish meatballs sauce in a black skillet.

Tips for making tasty Swedish Meatballs:

  • Gluten-free. Use a gluten-free bread, for the meatballs, and a GF flour (or almond flour) and cornstarch in the gravy. Use 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water to replace the flour in the gravy sauce. Just add the cornstarch mixture at the end, while continuously stirring over low heat until sauce has thickened.
  • Dairy-free Swedish Meatballs. I might use unflavored cashew milk or oat milk instead of coconut milk in the ground meat mixture.
  • Mushrooms. Some cooks love adding sautéed mushrooms to the gravy, just to make it healthier.
  • Parsley. Chopped parsley tastes great sprinkled over everything.
  • Healthy Swedish Meatballs. Several things you can do, here. Omit the sugar, if you're counting carbs. Make the gravy with full-fat plain Greek yogurt, but be careful not to boil, which may separate the sauce. Lighten up the meat mixture with ground turkey or ground chicken. Or better yet, make the meatballs and gravy exactly as-is, and serve with cauliflower mashed potatoes.
  • Swedish Meatballs, no egg. Some cooks have success with using a chia or flax egg in this recipe. Pick your egg substitute:
    • To make a chia seed egg, mix together 1 tablespoon chia seeds + 2.5 tablespoons water, and let sit for 5 minutes until thick and gel-like.
    • To make a flaxseed egg, mix one tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with three tablespoons of water. Mix together, and let sit in your fridge for 15 minutes to set up and thicken.

What is a good side dish for Swedish Meatballs?

In Sweden, traditional sides include simple boiled or roasted baby potatoes, lingonberries, (or lingonberry jelly) and pickled cucumbers. I can't always find lingonberries, the tart tiny berry that grows on a shrub, so I almost always use a simple cranberry sauce. Thankfully, fresh cranberries freeze just as beautifully as these meatballs, so I have them year round.

However, I also love eating Swedish Meatballs with either mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

The best Swedish meatballs in white bowls.

Freezing Swedish meatballs:

A bag of KÖTTBULLAR, the famous Ikea brand meatballs, come to you already browned, so all you have to do is warm them up. Same with the homemade variety--just brown them before you freeze them. Don't make the gravy until you need it, however. It doesn't freeze as well.

  1. First, bake the Swedish Meatballs according to directions. Since you're making them to freeze, the oven works best for large batches.
  2. Once baked, let the meatballs cool to room temperature.
  3. Place the cooked meatballs close to each other, but not touching, on a tray that can fit in your freezer.  Freeze for at least 60 minutes.
  4. When the meatballs are frozen enough that they won’t stick together, you can  transfer them to freezer safe bags or containers.
  5. Label and date the bags. Meatballs keep well in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Reheating frozen meatballs:

No need to thaw out beforehand. As long as they're pre-browned, Swedish Meatballs are ready when you are.

Making the easy meatball gravy? Throw the frozen meatballs directly in the sauce, but allow extra cooking time (another 10 or so minutes) to heat the meatballs through.

The best Swedish meatballs cooking in a black skillet.

If not, they warm up in the oven just fine. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven until heated through. Your meatballs may differ in size than mine, so this may take more or less time. The best way to tell if your meatballs are cooked is with an instant-read food thermometer; they should register 155 degrees on the inside.

Or do it in the crockpot. Get everything ready and hot on the stove, then transfer to the crockpot for the party. Keep warm using the low heat setting.

The best Swedish meatballs in a white bowl.

The Best Swedish Meatballs Recipe

The best Swedish meatballs are made from scratch with an easy homemade gravy. Make a huge batch of meatballs and keep them in the freezer for a quick meal!
5 from 12 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Swedish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 677kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (omit if baking meatballs)

For the Gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon beef base
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Mashed potatoes or cooked egg noodles for serving
  • Cranberries for serving

Instructions

To make the meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a rack coated nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl, mash together egg, cream, and bread until a smooth paste forms. Add beef, pork, onion, allspice, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Mix well using a strong rubber spatula or your hands (I always wear latex gloves). Or, combine all ingredients in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until uniformly combined.
  • Using a strong spatula or your hands (I like to wear latex gloves), mix well. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (you should have about 24 total). 

To bake the meatballs:

  • Arrange on rack and bake until browned with crispy edges, about 15 to 20 minutes (an internal thermometer should read 155 degrees for 15 seconds).

To fry the meatballs:

  • Heat vegetable shortening in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned on all sides and the meatballs are cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes per batch (an internal thermometer should read 155 degrees for 15 seconds). Add more shortening between batches if the skillet looks dry.

To freeze the meatballs (optional):

  • Arrange meatballs in a single layer on a baking sheet, not touching. Freeze until solid, about 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe container. 

To make the gravy:

  • In a large skillet, melt butter until the foaming subsides. Stir in flour and cook for one minute.
  • Add chicken broth, brown sugar, and beef base. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until reduced to about 2 cups.
  • Stir in heavy cream and return to a simmer. Add meatballs, cover and cook until the meatballs are heated through and the gravy has thickened (allow about 10 minutes if the meatballs are frozen). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes or egg noodles and cranberries (or lingonberries, if you can find them).

To serve as an appetizer:

  • Transfer meatballs and sauce to a slow cooker. Keep warm over low heat.

Video

Notes

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated January & February 2009  edition (Real Swedish Meatballs) .

Nutrition

Calories: 677kcal
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *






This form collects your name, email, and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.
This form collects your name, email and content so that we can keep track of the comments placed on the website. For more info check our privacy policy where you will get more info on where, how and why we store your data.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Jill

    Just like IKEA. SO good! 5 stars

  2. Maggie

    This does not read like any Swedish meatball recipe I’ve ever seen, not even close to my Swedish grandmas recipe. I am from Karlskrona, Sweden. However, I plan to give this recipe a try and I hope it measures up! ;-)

  3. Melissa

    Can frozen meatballs be used? If so, how do you reccomend we cook them?

    1. meggan

      Hi Melissa, yes definitely! I’m sorry this info isn’t in the post, I thought it was but maybe it got lost. Skip all the instructions about making meatballs, obviously, and just go to the “to make the gravy” section. Follow the instructions to make the gravy and add the frozen meatballs to the skillet with the gravy as directed in Step 3 of the gravy section. It should take about 10 minutes to heat them through. That’s really all it is – the easiest thing ever. I love making this recipe with frozen meatballs. If you have anymore questions, just let me know! Thank you! -Meggan

  4. Brayden Keith

    oh yeah i love sweden5 stars

  5. Surya-Patricia Lane Hood

    My understanding that “beef base” means the meat and sauce are all made with beef. Every Swedish meatball I have ever eaten in Sweden and Denmark were made of 1/3 beef, 1/3 pork and 1/3 veal. I can see that Inaya Shujaat has a real challenge as a Muslim and I am very interested in hearing how her combination of beef and chicken turn out.5 stars

    1. Inaya Shujaat

      When cooking at home, it’s not quite the challenge that people may think it is. Basically, any recipe that calls for the addition of ground pork, ground chicken can be used as a substitute. 

      The real challenge comes from eating out. I can never try the IKEA Swedish meatballs, but that’s okay. They probably don’t come close to homemade. 😊

  6. Inaya Shujaat

    I have a question: what is “beef base?” I’m not familiar with this term at all. 

    Also, I’m Muslim, so I’ll be substituting chicken for pork when I make these. I live in New York City, so finding ground veal won’t be a problem (all the kosher markets have it), so I’ll try the 1/3 chicken, 1/3 beef, 1/3 veal combination. 

    I’ll let you know how it turns out! 😊5 stars

    1. Inaya Shujaat

      I just made the meatballs, and they turned out amazing! I used equal parts ground beef, chicken, and veal. I really do think the veal is what made it. My hubby and kids were impressed with the results and gobbled them up. 

      This is definitely going into the “rotation!”5 stars

  7. Mark Hamill

    I would like to purchase (Item #646357)#32 Meat Mixer/Grinder,in your store/company i would be happy if you can get back to me again with the prices and dimensions you having available in a moment,and also do you take all types of Credit Cards as your payment required?Kindly get back to me here or on phone so that we will work together as one panther. All the best and stay blessed.5 stars

  8. Surya-Patricia Lane Hood

    I only mentioned it because you gave it the title “best”. I, too, really like veal and you are so right; it is difficult to find in supermarkets.

  9. Surya-Patricia Lane Hood

    Having lived in Sweden a number of years, I can tell you that Swedish Meatballs are made from 1/3 pork. 1/3 beef, and 1/3 veal. Anything less than that is not a good Swedish meatball.

    1. Surya-Patricia Lane Hood

      I only mentioned it because you gave it the title “best”. I, too, really like veal and you are so right; it is difficult to find in supermarkets.

    2. meggan

      I actually agree with you. I just find it’s REALLY hard to locate ground veal at your average grocery store. I happen to have a meat grinder, but I try to make recipes that an average cook in middle America might be interested in. I feel like if I have trouble tracking down ground veal in LA, someone in rural Wisconsin doesn’t have a chance. But man, veal is so delicious….!

  10. Jennifer Kennedy

    Is adding sugar key to the deliciousness and auththenticity of the Swedish meatball taste?

    1. meggan

      Hi Jennifer! Swedish meatballs are like chili or chai – a recipe for every cook. To me, that little bit of sugar IS KEY to something truly special in the world of Swedish Meatballs. It tastes like it belongs there, and without it, it’s just another meatball. The cream is another example: To me, Swedish meatballs must be served in cream gravy. But not everyone does that. It, too, is optional. I realize I didn’t answer necessarily answer your question! But yes – to me, the deliciousness of Swedish Meatballs lies in that little bit of added sugar. It changes everything!

  11. kimberly baumgarten

    I have always made Swedish meatballs without the creamy sauce just beef bouillion or beef broth can not find a recipe without the creamy sauce5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Kimberly! I’ve never seen Swedish Meatballs in broth, but it sounds delicious. I will see what I can find and reply again if I track something down for you!

  12. Diane Nuzzi

    Hi Meggan .. Wondering if you ever made with beef broth instead of the chicken. If so does it give it a completely different taste5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Diane, I have not made it with beef broth. I imagine it would taste great, maybe a little stronger depending on the broth you used. I will have to try it that way next time so I can update the recipe with the info. Good question. Thank you!

  13. Michelle

    Can you make this ahead of time and freeze it?

  14. Kim

    I’m trying this recipe now my gravy doesn’t seem to be getting thick, will it thicken as is cooks?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Kim, I usually let the gravy simmer to evaporate extra liquid if I don’t think it’s thick enough, but otherwise it generally thickens as it cools. I realize you are probably done by now so I hope it turned out okay (or at least tasted good). I am going to add some more notes about the recipe, I think it helps if your chicken broth is on the cooler side rather than the warm side (chilled broth, even). But, I realize the recipe isn’t written that way yet. I think it might help though. I will retest and update the recipe. I hope it worked out okay for you and I’m sorry for the issue!

  15. It goes without saying that this recipe is a winner in my eyes, Meggan. I love how you’ve simplified the recipe. Hey, why not? 

    Thanks for mentioning my version in your post! (but I’m not sure my recipe is all that authentic either!) Authentic doesn’t matter one bit, I don’t think – so long as it’s tasty and easy to make, and this sure ticks both those boxes!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hello my dear Helen! You know me, always looking for lazy short cuts. :) But your recipe really is the ultimate. I for sure love making the meatballs from scratch, and when I do, your my source! xoxo

  16. Oh, tell me again of those pre-kid days…dreamy sigh. I mean, kids are good and all, but danged if they don’t suck up every minute of every day. I defnitely need more kid-friendly (and time-friendly!) recipes in my life!5 stars

  17. Holy moly! This will give the IKEA food court a run for it’s money! :) 5 stars

    1. meggan

      And you know how much I love Ikea. :)

Scroll to top