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Swedish Meatballs

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A cocktail party classic that doubles as an easy weeknight dinner, Swedish meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser.

Plate of Swedish meatballs on small skewers.

Swedish meatballs are rich mini meatballs made from a mix of beef and pork, simmered in a light yet flavorful cream sauce. They were quintessential cocktail party fare back in the 1970s, but they’re still a huge hit at gatherings today. What’s more, they double as a fantastic and kid-friendly dinner when served over mashed potatoes, rice, or egg noodles. This recipe takes inspiration from Cooks Illustrated and is reminiscent of the famous Swedish meatballs from Ikea, known for their springy yet delicate texture.

Achieving this texture involves blending the ground beef, pork, and cream mixture in an electric mixer with a surprising ingredient: baking powder. While unconventional, this approach results in a truly delicious texture. If you don’t have a mixer or just prefer a simpler method, hand-mixing still yields an excellent outcome.

“Absolutely delicious! Made these on Christmas Eve and I can say they have instantly become a new tradition.”

Danette

What You’ll Need To Make Swedish Meatballs

ingredients for swedish meatballs
  • Eggs: Act as a binder to help hold the meatballs together.
  • Heavy Cream: Adds moisture and richness to the meatball mixture, making them tender. Also used to thicken and add creaminess to the sauce.
  • White Sandwich Bread: Soaked in heavy cream, it works as a panade to keep the meatballs moist and tender.
  • Ground Pork and Ground Beef: Provide the base of the meatball mixture, offering a mix of flavors and fats for a juicy texture.
  • Garlic: Adds depth and flavor to the meatballs.
  • Allspice: A key spice in Swedish meatballs, giving them their distinctive taste.
  • Baking Powder: Helps to lighten the texture of the meatballs, making them more tender.
  • Butter: Used as the base for the sauce.
  • All-purpose Flour: Thickens the sauce, giving it a smooth consistency.
  • Chicken Broth: Provides the liquid base for the sauce, adding depth and savory notes.
  • Light Brown Sugar: Adds a slight sweetness to the sauce.
  • Soy Sauce: Contributes depth and umami to the sauce.
  • Lemon Juice: Adds a touch of acidity to the sauce, brightening the flavors and providing balance.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Meatballs

Begin by making a panade, a mixture of bread and cream that binds the meatballs together and makes them tender. Place the cubes of bread in a small bowl. Whisk together the eggs and cream, and add to the cubed bread.

bread for panade

Mash with a fork until the bread is dissolved into the liquid.

panade for meatballs in bowl

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale. Add the egg/cream mixture and beat until smooth, then add the ground beef.

making the Swedish meatball mixture in a mixer

Mix again until just combined.

Swedish meatball mixture in mixing bowl

Using moistened hands, form the mixture into meatballs and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. (The rack is useful because it allows the fat from the meatballs to drip down but if you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to just place the meatballs directly on a greased baking sheet.)

Swedish meatball mixture rolled into balls on baking sheet

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. The rack will leave little marks on the bottoms of the meatballs, but they are not noticeable once the meatballs are covered in sauce.

baked Swedish meatballs

Step 2: Make the Sauce

While the meatballs bake, make the sauce. Begin by melting the butter in a large sauté pan, then whisk in the flour.

butter and flour in saucepan

Whisk constantly until the flour turns golden and fragrant, and then add the chicken broth and brown sugar.

chicken broth and brown sugar added to sauce in skillet

Cook for about ten minutes, until slightly thickened and reduced, then add the cream, soy sauce, and pepper. I know it seems odd to season this dish with soy sauce — think of it as salt but with a bit more flavor.

adding the cream to the Swedish meatball sauce

Let the cream sauce simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, then add the lemon juice and meatballs and simmer until heated through.

Swedish meatballs in cream sauce in skillet

Spear the meatballs with toothpicks or serve over rice, mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Lingonberry jam on the side is traditional, but it can be hard to find. You can order it online here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Swedish meatballs be made ahead of time?

Yes, Swedish meatballs can be made ahead of time. You can prepare and cook the meatballs up to a day in advance. Store them in the refrigerator, covered, until you’re ready to reheat and serve. If you’re preparing the sauce ahead as well, keep it in a separate container in the refrigerator and gently reheat everything together before serving.

Can Swedish meatballs be frozen?

Yes, once cooked and cooled, Swedish meatballs can be frozen without the sauce for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy them, defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Make the sauce and add the meatballs, heating on the stovetop until warmed through.

Can I use only ground beef or only ground pork instead of a mix?

While traditional Swedish meatballs are made with a mix of ground pork and beef for depth of flavor and juiciness, you can opt to use only one type of meat if you prefer. Using only ground beef will result in a firmer meatball, while using only ground pork will make them a bit softer and richer.

Where can I find those bamboo forks?

You can find the mini bamboo forks shown below on Amazon

Plate of Swedish meatballs on small skewers.

Video Tutorial

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Swedish Meatballs

A cocktail party classic that doubles as an easy weeknight dinner, Swedish meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser.

Servings: About 50 mini meatballs (serves 4-6 for a main course, 10-12 as an appetizer)

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ cups cubed white sandwich bread, crusts removed (you'll need about 4 slices)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pound 85% lean ground beef

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice, from one lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Instructions

For the Meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up and place an ovenproof rack over top; spray the rack very generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the eggs and cream together in a medium bowl. Stir in the bread and mash until no large bread chunks remain. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pork, garlic, allspice, pepper, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the bread/cream mixture to the mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined (so it doesn't splatter), then increase the speed to high and beat until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping the bowl as necessary. Using wet hands, form the mixture into 1½-inch round meatballs and place on the prepared rack. (The mixture is very sticky and wet hands help; keep wetting your hands as you go). Bake for about 25 minutes, until just done.
  4. Note: You'll notice that the rack will leave little marks on the bottom of the meatballs but they will not be too noticeable once the meatballs are covered with sauce.

For the Sauce

  1. While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. (Careful not to burn; it goes from golden to burnt quickly.) Whisk in the chicken broth, getting rid of any lumps. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, whisking and scraping down the sides of the pan occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the cream, soy sauce and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer, turning occasionally to coat with the sauce, until heated through. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
  2. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meatballs/sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated separately. Additionally, the meatballs (without the sauce) can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, prepare the sauce and reheat the meatballs in the sauce until hot in the center.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 meatball
  • Calories: 89
  • Fat: 7g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Sodium: 121mg
  • Cholesterol: 31mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • This was simple to make and absolutely delicious. My grocery store was out of ground pork so I substituted with meatloaf mix. Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly as it was written. My family devoured it!

    • — Marsha on April 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • These are incredible, so much flavor. I don’t have a mixer so just added the spices, garlic, and baking powder to the bread mixture then added the pork and beef and mixed with my hands. This is now my favorite Swedish meatball recipe, thank you!

    • — K on February 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • Another winner, Jenn! I have made several Swedish meatball recipes and this is my new favorite. Delicious and worth the effort to get the mixer out.

    I might add a little Dijon to the sauce next time, but wanted to make it as written for the first attempt.

    • — Jay Em on January 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I love your recipes and have learned so much! For these meatballs, I halved the recipe and used the meatball mix (beef, pork, veal) that I had in the fridge. I made the meatballs a couple hours ahead and just put them in the fridge right on the rack until I was ready with the sauce. Everything was very easy to make and delicious. The only thing I would say is that the sauce seemed a bit bland – I’m thinking some type of mustard added might be good. I also served the roasted carrots & thyme. Happy New Year!

    • — Liz Mikoda on January 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • Made this meal for a Boxing Day Dinner! It was a hit!
    Delicious!
    Served it with multigrain rice and creamy Brussel sprouts. Followed with “Aunty Anne’s Cheesecake”recipe and cherry sauce.
    A really nice evening had by all !

    • — Danielle from Calgary, Canada on December 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! Made these on Christmas Eve and I can say they have instantly become a new tradition 🙂 Thank you Jenn, I would change nothing! Merry Christmas!

    • — Danette on December 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Guess I can’t make these; I don’t have the required stand mixer with paddle attachment.

    • — Hannah Lee on December 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Hannah, It’s fine to use a hand mixer or mix by hand.

      • — Jenn on December 18, 2023
      • Reply
  • Although I love this type of Swedish meatball, I did live in Sweden for 5 years. The Swedes I knew never ate meatballs this way. In fact, I used to cook frozen meatballs in broth and was told by a friend that he had never seen them cooked that way. They just put them in the oven and heated them up.

    • — Elizabeth on December 17, 2023
    • Reply

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