The Best Swedish Meatballs


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!

I used to worry that no one would bother to make meatballs from scratch on a weeknight.

But then I realized that if a recipe is good enough, you might make them on a weekend, freeze them, and pull them out on your busiest weeknights.

So that’s my goal here: Make some AMAZING meatballs from scratch, when you have the time, and save them for when you need them the most. Which for me is always. I always need Swedish meatballs!

Swedish Meatball Gravy - a photo of several meatballs accompanied with mashed potatoes with gravy and a cup of jelly on a white plate - click photo for full written recipe

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What is different about Swedish Meatballs?

Swedish Meatballs are different from Italian meatballs because they are made with a mixture of beef and pork (veal or venison could also be included in the mix).

They are also held together with a panade, a paste made of bread and milk or cream. They are often seasoned with warm, fragrant spices such as allspice and nutmeg and served in a creamy gravy.

How do you make Swedish Meatballs?

Cook’s Illustrated recommends mixing the meat in a standing mixer. While I think that’s fun and relaxing, I usually just mix everything by hand. No big deal.

Start with your panade: egg, cream, and bread. Mash it together to make a paste. Then, add in both ground beef and ground pork, some grated onion, and spices.

Form the meat mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs.

Swedish Meatball Gravy - a photo of many meatballs on a black grid on a silver cooking pan - click photo for full written recipe

How to Bake 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).

At this point, you can either move on to making the gravy and immediately devouring the meatballs, or your can freeze them.

How to Freeze Homemade Swedish Meatballs

To prepare the meatballs for the freezer, make enough space in your freezer to accommodate a baking sheet (I always use the smallest one I have).

You want to freeze the meatballs individually so they don’t stick together. After 30 minutes or so, you can transfer them to a freezer-safe container.

Swedish Meatball Gravy - Four pictures showing the addition of ingredients in a cast iron skillet - click photo for full written recipe

How do you make Swedish Meatball sauce?

Swedish Meatballs gravy is FAST, ready in about 10 minutes. If you are cooking the meatballs straight from the freezer (which is what I always do), allow another 10 minutes to heat them through.

What is a good side dish for Swedish Meatballs?

I love eating Swedish Meatballs with either mashed potatoes or egg noodles. SO GOOD. Lingonberries are hard to track down, so I always substitute cranberries. I make them from scratch when cranberries are in season. Otherwise, you’ll have to crack open a can.

Swedish Meatball Gravy - a photo of several meatballs accompanied with mashed potatoes with gravy and a cup of jelly on a white plate next to skillet with meatballs inside - click photo for full written recipe

 

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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!
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The Best Swedish Meatballs

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!

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, Swedish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 694 kcal

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:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a rack coated nonstick spray.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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:

  1. 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:

  1. 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):

  1. 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:

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter until the foaming subsides. Stir in flour and cook for one minute.

  2. Add chicken broth, brown sugar, and beef base (if using). Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes until reduced to about 2 cups.

  3. 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.

  4. Serve with mashed potatoes or egg noodles and cranberries (or lingonberries, if you can find them).

To serve as an appetizer:

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

Recipe Notes

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

This post contains affiliate links. For more information on my Affiliate and Advertising Policy, please click here.

The best Swedish meatballs are made from scratch with an easy homemade gravy. Freezer friendly!

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19 comments

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

    • 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

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

    • 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!

  5. Can you make this ahead of time and freeze it?

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

    • 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!

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

    • 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!

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

    • 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!

  9. 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.

    • 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….!

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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