How To: Making Authentic Swedish Meatballs

I originally published this four years ago. (!)  And it remains one of the most popular posts on this site.  Also, it’s still one of my family’s favorite recipes.  I still make the meatballs the same way.  The kids eat them as fast I put them on their plates.  Love all around.

I’ve kept the original post with pictures and directions, you can see it below.  It’s fun to look back and see what we were making.

This winter has been truly lovely.  Very little snow and warmer-than-normal days.  The kids have been playing outside on their scooter and bikes.  Our sunsets and sunrises have been beautiful and inspiring.

Since attending Alt Summit a few weeks ago, I’ve felt a renewed sense of creativity and productivity.  I put this blog on the shelf thinking I was spending too much time on it and not enough time on other things.  Well, I spent time on the other things and now I’m ready to get back to it.

So for days I’ve been working like mad to create recipes and photograph the results.  I’ve felt so fulfilled and so exhausted at the same time.  My family had been benefitting from these labors and has very much enjoyed having a mother who cooks dinner for them again.

I take such joy out of cooking for my family.  I love when they love something I’ve worked hard on.  There is no greater praise, as far as I’m concerned, than my children and husband licking their plates clean.

Swedish Meatballs are comforting.  As they cooked, I felt nostalgic for the days when my kids were little babies and I was cooking my tiny NY kitchen.  Now they’re big and I’m cooking in my tiny Utah kitchen. :)

I served these with a delicious Rutabaga Puree and Braised Kale with Gluten-Free Breadcrumbs.  If you’ve never tried rutabaga, you must!

Original recipe and pictures:
Have you ever had real Swedish Meatballs? If you have, you’d remember.

Every time I head to IKEA, I pick up a couple of bags of their meatballs to keep on hand. My kids love meatballs. (And don’t forget extra packet of the gravy!)

But, when I’m really in the mood for some amazing, out-of-this-world meatballs, I pull out The Joy of Cooking and get to work.

Swedish Meatballs
from The Joy of Cooking


1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. onions, finely minced
3/4 lb. ground pork
3/4 lb. ground beef
2/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup water (I sometimes use milk instead)
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each: nutmeg, allspice, ground pepper
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups beef stock

Melt butter in a small, heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onions until soft, about 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the bread crumbs and water. Let stand 2 minutes.

(after–the crumbs have soaked up some of the water)

To the bread and water, add the remaining ingredients and the reserved onions.

(Don’t be tempted to leave out the nutmeg and allspice–the meatballs are so much better with.)

Beat on low speed until smooth. **(see note below)

Turn the mixer to high and beat until the mixture becomes light in color and fluffy, about 10 minutes.

(halfway through mixing)

(after 10 minutes)

Use two spoons dipped in water to shape the meat into 1″ balls. (I use a small ice cream scoop.)

Note: If you want prettier meatballs, use the two spoons. I am usually in a hurry to get dinner on the table, so an ice cream scoop and misshaped meatballs suits me just fine.

Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. (I do this in a non-stick skillet.) Cook the meatballs in batches of 15 -20, making sure to brown them evenly on all sides. (I also divide the butter in half and use 2 Tbsp. per batch of cooked meatballs instead of all 4 tbsp at once.)

Remove the browned meatballs and drain them briefly on a plate lined with paper towels. (I don’t put them on paper towels, usually there isn’t that much grease. Also, I don’t cook the meatballs all the way at this point in the recipe.)

(They are browned, but still a little pink in the middle–no worries, they’ll have their chance to cook all the way.)

After all the meatballs have been cooked, add the flour to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Slowly add the beef stock. Cook while whisking until the gravy is thick and smooth.

Note: If I don’t have homemade or canned beef stock on hand, I use powdered boullion and water.

To add extra flavor, I add a little bit of either Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet. This also helps make the gravy a little darker. Now, I’m not sure if they’ll let me into cooking school after admitting that I use this stuff all the time in my gravy. But, really, I think it imparts a good flavor when you find that your dish is lacking some.

Okay, back to the recipe–

Strain the gravy if desired. Pour the gravy over the meatballs and serve hot.

I add the partially cooked meatballs back to the gravy and let them simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

Serving suggestion–

Mashed or boiled potatoes
Cranberry sauce or Lignonberry jam (I buy mine at IKEA)

**Now, a word on why you need to beat the meat in a mixer. This does sound strange, am I right?

Well, what this does is break down the meat further to create the most delectable texture that practically melts in your mouth. They are light, not dense like most meatballs can be. And together with the spices, they have an flavor reminiscent of sausage. There are many recipes out there, but this one is the best I’ve found.

(This is what they look like inside. Looks tasty, no?)

23 Responses to “How To: Making Authentic Swedish Meatballs”

  1. Jessica March 27, 2008 at 12:26 pm #

    This is blowing my mind. It seems like overmixing the meat would result in tough meatballs. But you are telling me that’s not the case. I wonder if cooking it in the gravy helps counteract that.

  2. Nancy March 27, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    I have a huge crush on your blog!

    As a Minnesotan, I have very fond memories of church festivals and oodles of Swedish meatballs. I’m a vegetarian now, but those DO look tempting.

  3. Jenn March 27, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    Those look so yummy! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. Shauna March 27, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    My Swedish mom’s homemade Swedish Meatballs are the ulitmate comfort food!

  5. chyayn March 27, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

    ARE YOU SERIOUS? I think Ive said this before… I WANT TO LIVE AT YOUR HOUSE!!:)

  6. Erin March 28, 2008 at 12:34 am #

    just today, this very day i was thinking, “i wish i had a good recipe for swedish meatballs.” i love them with ligonberries. yum. thanks for the tutorial and pics. your blog blows my mind. you are up to some pretty amazing stuff over there.

  7. Cafe Johnsonia March 28, 2008 at 1:47 am #

    Glad to see so many fans of Swedish meatballs!

    Jess–I wonder if it has to do with the liquid and the beating? I wish I were a scientist so I could tell you for sure. All I know it they are seriously light and melt in your mouth.

    Nancy–I think it’s my own Scandinavian heritage that makes me love them so much!

    Shauna–I forgot about your Swedish mom.

    Chy Ayn–move in–do you mind sleeping on an air mattress?

    Erin–I wish I had some to give you, but we ate every last one!

  8. lainakay March 29, 2008 at 2:42 pm #

    We loooooooove Swedish meatballs and now I’m actually tempted to make some from scratch. What are you doing to me?

  9. Anonymous September 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    @ Jessica: Overmixing flour-based doughs will result in a tough, dense product, because it encourages gluten development. This is not the case with meat.

  10. Memória May 24, 2010 at 5:56 am #

    I just made this dish for dinner tonight, and it was fabulous. I put it on top of homemade, black pepper noodles.

    Thank you!

  11. Memória May 26, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    I just blogged about this dish. Thank you again.

  12. The Shrone September 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Thank you for this post! The batch I made last night was the best ever! The 10 minute mixing makes a big difference!

    I believe I can answer the science to the mixing. I found an explanation on Wikipedia about emulsified forcemeats. Basically, the fat is emulsified into the meat, giving it the sausage like texture and making them taste sublime.

  13. Anonymous October 22, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    I cant believe i never read this recipe in my Joy of Cooking!(making swedish meatballs right now) Who knew about mixing the meat. I think you cracked the code for me :). Been trying to duplicate a meatball dish at Hallo Berin in NYC…maybe it is the “mixing”.
    Cant wait to try it.
    Thank you.

  14. Kalyn February 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Yum! They look perfect. (And I did not know you were from New York!)

  15. Damaris @Kitchen Corners February 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    This looks so good. I bet my kids would love it. Must make.

  16. Deborah February 4, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    I totally have Swedish meatballs in my freezer from IKEA all of the time. But these look even better!! (and I’m impressed – I would be too embarassed to put up pictures from 4 years ago, but yours are great!)

  17. Lindsey Johnson February 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Deborah–it’s pretty scary actually. I guess it’s time to do some updating. :)

  18. Cookin' Canuck February 5, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    Oh yes, these look absolutely awesome! I know my family would adore them. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have coming up on your blog!

  19. gleasoas August 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    your blog is excellent! i’ve just bought everything for these yummy looking meatballs, and i’ll be letting you know how my love muffin and i like them! happy eatings!

  20. laurie December 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    I am thankful for your post. Am cooking for two wonderful Swedish men who will appreciate these meatballs. They look pretty good to me, too. I wish you well.

  21. Anonymous January 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    It’s bizarre, My grandmother came straight from (Vanersborg),Sweden, and her swedish meatballs never had gravy over them, but they were never dry.

  22. Anonymous February 3, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    I made these meatballs for dinner tonight; double batch enough to freeze. I got a pretty new stand mixer for Christmas, and these meatballs were the christening recipe. My husband who is Swedish decent (from Bishop Hill in rural Illinois) loved them. But I have to say I also made the rutabaga purée and it won my heart. I will definitely be making this for family gatherings and Thanksgiving next year. what a comfort food!!!

  23. Kelly Bansidhar October 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Also, chilling the whipped meat will result in more uniform cooking and eye appeal. Great recipe!! (think about lightly toasted caraway seed that has best ground fresh, it is a spice from that region to)

    Don’t waste those egg whites! they can help the texture profile.

    Sorry, that’s the Chef in me,

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