Swedish meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

This Swedish Meatballs recipe is the same one used by my Swedish grandmother and then by my Swedish mother. Although I was not born in Sweden, I have been privy to the secret family recipe since I was a young child. My mormor (Swedish grandmother) made these delicious meatballs throughout the year. But they were always extra special when she made them for Christmas Eve.

Swedish Meatballs along with a huge smorgasbord on Christmas Eve were a tradition in my house for as long as I can remember. This was the first year we didn’t keep that tradition. My brother was in town before Christmas because my mother passed away. We had our Swedish Meatballs while he was here instead. We’ll resume our traditions next year.

This recipe is sure to boost your Meat-a-ball-ism

My grandfather used to make me laugh when we were having Swedish meatballs as a kid. He would say “we’re having Svedish Meat-a-balls and your brother is going to grow another 6 inches”. My brother is very tall and he could eat more than his fair share of meatballs. My grandfather attributed the meatballs to boosting his metabolism and making him grow. Of course, we know that is not how it works, but it was funny when we were kids. To this day, when I say Swedish meatballs and metabolism, I say it in my head the way he said it. Try saying it with a Swedish accent…Svedish meat-a-balls. Meat-a-ball-ism.

Gravy with cream ??

By no stretch of the imagination am I an expert in Swedish cuisine. However, my Swedish family members never used cream or sour cream in their recipes. I’m not sure if there are regions in Sweden that adds it or not, but my Mormor once told me that she thought someone added the cream to the gravy to Americanize it. She didn’t add cream, my mother didn’t and neither do I.

These meatballs can easily be made the same day for a quick dinner. Just boil the meatballs in the broth while your potatoes are cooking and they’ll be done at the same time. But, the seasonings come out stronger if you make them ahead of time. I like to make them ahead, simmer them in a pot for 4 or 5 hours, then refrigerate or freeze them until I need them. Then transfer them to a crockpot the day I’m serving them and allow them to cook on low for 4 or 5 more hours. The final product will produce a rich broth that is delicious as is, or you can make it into a wonderful gravy, too. Serve them over egg noodles or next to boiled or mashed potatoes with your favorite vegetable and call it dinner, or serve them as an appetizer at your next gathering.

It’s a family tradition.

This is my family’s traditional Swedish Meatball recipe. Don’t let the tablespoon of salt scare you off. You’re going to need quite a bit of salt to flavor three pounds of meat and approximately 7-8 cups of gravy. My mormor never added enough salt and my mother never added enough salt. I’ve been trying to get enough salt in the recipe because it is so much better when cooked into the dish rather than adding it afterwards.

Also, you probably won’t find mustard or ketchup in any other Swedish meatball recipe, but there is a reason for this, so stay with me for another minute. My mother and grandmother immigrated to the United States long before the invention of the internet, so they did not have a translation resource for food stuffs. At the time they didn’t know the translation for muskot and krydpeppar. Which are nutmeg and allspice, respectively. But, they did know those ingredients would be found in brown mustard and ketchup, so they used those instead. At some point, those translations were discovered and reincorporated into this recipe. We’ve enjoyed them for many years. I hope you do, too.

Swedish Meatballs

A traditional Swedish Meatball recipe passed down through generations of Swedish family traditions. These hearty meatballs are paired well over egg noodles or next to boiled or mashed potatoes. They even make a great appetizer. 

Course Dinner
Cuisine Swedish
Keyword Swedish Meatballs
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 100 meatballs
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

For the meatballs

  • 4 slices white bread diced into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 12 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup onion finely diced
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp brown mustard
  • 1/4 cup ketchup

For the gravy

  • 1 cup flour or cornstarch
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

For the meatballs

  1. Dice the slices of bread into small pieces. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over the breadcrumbs. Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs and allow the bread to absorb the milk.

    Swedish meatballs breadcrumbs with seasoning
  2. In a small pan over medium high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onions  and saute until the onions are translucent. Add a pinch of the salt and pepper.

    Swedish meatballs diced onion
  3. Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs and allow the bread to absorb the milk then add the sautéed onions.

    Swedish meatballs breadcrumbs with added onions
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in the rest of the salt, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, garlic powder, brown mustard and ketchup. Stir until well blended. Add the egg mixture to the bread and onions. Add the ground beef. Then, with your hands, thoroughly mix together all the ingredients until well blended.  

    Swedish meatballs egg mixture with seasoning
  5. Using a small spoon, small ince cream scoop, or melon baller, scoop out approximately a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture. Roll the meat mixture between your hands to form a meatball. The meatball should be rolled until it is fairly firm, otherwise they will fall apart during cooking. Repeat until you’ve formed all the meatballs.

    Swedish meatballs prior to cooking
  6. In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt a pat of butter to coat the bottom of the pan then add 10-12 meatballs. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan and leave enough space between the meatballs. Otherwise, the meatballs will be steamed rather than fried. 

    Swedish meatballs fry the meatballs
  7. Fry the meatballs for a couple of minutes on each side. Just until they are browned. Then shake the pan so the meatballs roll around the pan acquiring a slight sear all around to lock in the juices. 

    Swedish meatballs pan frying
  8. Transfer the meatballs to a large pot. Pour approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to deglaze the frying pan. Using a scratch-proof utensil (if you’re using a non-stick pan), scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan.

    Swedish meatballs deglaze the pan
  9. Pour the liquid from the pan over the meatballs in the pot. Don’t worry if the liquid is still somewhat clear. Deglazing the pan will get all the flavor from the pan and the broth will darken and become more flavorful the longer you cook the meatballs in the broth. 

    Swedish meatballs poor liquid over meatballs
  10. Repeat buttering the pan, frying the meatballs, deglazing the pan and adding the broth to the pot with the meatballs until all the meatballs have been fried.

    Swedish meatballs ready to serve or make gravy if desired
  11. If the broth from deglazing the pans doesn’t produce enough liquid to cover the meatballs, add some more water to cover them. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. They are ready at this point, but the longer they simmer, the better they will be. I usually try to let them simmer for at least 4 hours.

For the gravy

  1. Drain the liquid from the meatballs into a smaller pot. Set the meatballs aside.

    Swedish meatballs drain liquid into a pot
  2. Bring the liquid to a boil. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and water. Gradually add the flour and water mixture. The gravy will thicken as it stands.

    Swedish meatballs bring liquid to a boil
  3. Pour the gravy over meatballs and serve.

    Swedish meatballs

Do you have food traditions that were almost lost due to a translation issue? Tell me about it in the comments and don’t forget to like us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Also, if you like this recipe, please consider sharing it with your friends.

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