Swedish Meatballs

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Swedish meatballs in a light cream sauce are delicious on their own or served over noodles.

swedish meatballs

Growing up, my family celebrated every Christmas Eve with friends at the home of our neighbors, Pat and Paul Swanson. Though my family is Jewish, we loved being part of this tradition. Their was house decorated with white lights and nutcrackers, the fire crackling, the smell of mulled wine and, best of all, the annual appearance of my best friend Bridget’s dad dressed as Santa Claus.

Always on the menu were Pat’s Swedish Meatballs — mini meatballs made from beef and pork in a light cream sauce. I always loved them, and have made my own version many times over the years — both speared with toothpicks for parties and served over egg noodles for family dinners. They always make me think of the holidays.

What you’ll need to make Swedish Meatballs

ingredients

So, let’s get to the recipe. My starting point was this Swedish Meatball recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, however, I have changed it up quite a bit over the years. The recipe is unique for a few reasons:

First, the meatball mixture is made in an electric mixerwhich makes tender meatballs with a nice “snap” to them — so they won’t fall apart when you spear them with toothpicks. Second, the meatballs are baked, not fried. I have tried cooking them both ways and honestly don’t think much is gained from frying, other than nicer color, and once the meatballs are covered in sauce, who cares?

How to make Swedish Meatballs

Begin by making a panade, which is a mixture of bread and cream that binds the meatballs together and makes them tender. Simply whisk together the eggs and cream in a small bowl, then add the cubed bread.

cream-eggs-and-bread

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

mashed-bread

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale.

mixing-pork-and-seasoning

Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth.

mixing-with-egg-mixture

Add the ground beef.

adding-ground-beef

And mix again until just combined.

mixing-in-ground-beef

Using moistened hands, form the meat mixture into meatballs and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet.

ready-to-bake

The rack is useful because any fat from the meatballs drips 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.

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-meatballs

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Begin by melting the butter in a large sauté pan.

melting-butter

Add the flour.

adding-flour

And whisk constantly until the flour turns golden and fragrant.

golden-flour

Whisk in the chicken broth.

adding-broth

Add the brown sugar and 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 but it works — think of it as salt but with a bit more flavor.

adding-cream

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

meatballs-in-sauce

Transfer the meatballs to a platter and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Swedish-Cocktail-Meatballs

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Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs in a light cream sauce are delicious on their own or served over noodles.

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

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

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

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (see note below recipe)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, from one lemon
  • Finely chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

For the Meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up and place an ovenproof baking/cooling 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 bowl as necessary. Add the bread 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 meat mixture into 1-1/2-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 20 minutes, until just done.
  4. Note: You'll notice that the rack will leave little marks on 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 sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until 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 brown sugar and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking and scraping down the sides of the pan occasionally, until 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, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer, turning occasionally to coat with the sauce, until heated through. Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve.
  2. Note: The cream sauce is a touch sweet. For a less sweet sauce, you can reduce or omit the brown sugar.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: 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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Reviews & Comments

  • Made this EXACTLY as noted and it turned out to be DELICIOUS. If anyone is thinking that the sauce is too thin, they are not following the instructions completely, and being patient with their dish – just give it a little more time, each time 10 minutes is asked, and the sauce is perfect. The taste of the meatballs is fantastic! I used a scooper to size out the meatballs (like I do my cookies) and ended up with about 43 of them – PERFECT! Only thing I will do differently next time is NOT start the meatballs prior to the sauce. I would get them ready for the oven, but wait until I am about 1/2 way through making the sauce, so I do not have to simply keep them hot before adding to the dish. Served this over noodles with rolls and it was DEFINITELY a hit! I always use brown sugar in recipes such as these, especially if they include tomato (unlike here) to cut a bit of the bite, so the sauce did not seem a bit too sweet – it was “right on”.

    • — Cynthia on April 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I loved the flavor of the sauce but I thought it was too thin I would use more thickening.
    I made the meatballs initially as an appetizer, then I used the remaining leftovers the next day over noodles.

    • — Diane R on April 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • I use this recipe all the time, it has become a staple in my house. Both my kids, who are hard to satisfy, love this and it works with the fact that my son loves the meatballs and my daughter is a vegetarian, because I can replace the meatballs in her dish. I find all the recipes I have used by Once upon a chef come out excellent and I usually don’t have to buy an exorbitant amount of ingredients that I don’t stock, which I really appreciate. I highly recommend this extremely tasty dish for you and your family.

    • — Libby on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m not going to argue how “Swedish” these meatballs are. I’m just going to say that they were absolutely delicious. They were so tender and moist, and the flavor was amazing. After reading the reviews, I debated about whether or not to add the brown sugar to the sauce, but I hated not to taste the recipe as originally intended. I compromised and added half the amount required. It was perfect. Because I wanted to serve this recipe on Christmas Day (without a lot of fuss in the kitchen), I made my meatballs ahead of time and froze them (placed them on a sheet pan and froze them individually before placing them in a freezer bag). I made the sauce about an hour before my family arrived and kept them warm in a crockpot. I would definitely make these again – as appetizers or again as part of a meal.

    • — Denise on December 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made these the other day over egg noodles. Absolutely delicious. I was surprised at how great they were. This dish will be added to the keeper recipe list.

    • — Nick on July 11, 2020
    • Reply
  • Another outstanding winner that made me feel like a pro chef. I halved the recipe and only used beef because I had no pork on hand. I didn’t have cream and used milk and an extra tablespoon of butter in the sauce. It was divine!!!

    • — Alexia on April 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Loved the meatballs. Sauce was great too but a little soupy for my taste. How can I fix this?

    • — Lois on February 4, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lois, glad you liked the meatballs! Sounds like you just need to simmer the sauce a bit longer – until it thickens to the texture you want.

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • The sauce is divine! I did, however, omit the brown sugar, as you suggest. I did not note any taste of allspice, which was good because I was not sure if I would like. My daughter and husband loved them–no leftovers!

    • — Gail on January 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • No, No, No…Jenn!! I´m sorry but who ever taught you to make those “Swedish” Meatballs should have his meatballs crushed in a vice! And The sauce to go with it….. *shaking my head*
    Ask ME next time!! I´m a real Swede. I´m a real chef classically trained in the culinary arts with a university degree and been taught by the best including members from the Swedish national culinary team…….

    • — Uwish on November 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Oops…..I DO sound like a Mr. know-it-all Troll. Don´t I? Sorry ´bout that.Not my Intention. This was the second recipe I saw on your website…and the Vichyssoise I saw previous to the metballs looked excellent though! I´m sure I´ll Find many more exquisite recipe´s on here too!
      🙂 🙂

      • — Uwish on November 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • I only used 1tsp. of brown sugar. I’m glad I didn’t add any more because I think that would have tasted really weird! :/
    I think it would have been better if I hadn’t added any sugar at all.
    This is a very mild/bland dish. It’s pretty good. The allspice in it is a little strange, but not bad…
    If you already know you like Swedish meatballs, you will probably really like this recipe.
    This was my first time trying Swedish meatballs. I put them on top of rice. Overall, it was pretty good. Not sure if I’d make it again, though.

    • — Jennifer on July 2, 2019
    • Reply
  • Just a question — did your directions used to say to brown the meatballs before putting them in the oven? I could’ve sworn I remembered that 🙂

    • — Tamara on June 5, 2019
    • Reply
    • No, Tamara, I haven’t made any changes to this recipe! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made these to bring to a Super Bowl party yesterday and they were a huge hit!
    Everyone loved them despite having way too many other appetizers on the table.
    I seem to recommend Jenn’s recipes to more and more people and have tried so many wonderful things on the site & in her cookbook: “Crack”
    pecans, Spinach & Gruyere quiche, Chicken Pot Pies, Shortbread Cookies, and on and on and on. I have a kitchen full of cookbooks that are pretty neglected now that I’ve found you Jenn. Cheers and keep up the great recipes!

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