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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 hit.

Growing up, my family spent 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—the white lights, a crackling fire, the scent of mulled wine and, best of all, the annual appearance of Santa Claus. Always on the menu were Pat’s Swedish meatballs, rich mini meatballs made from beef and pork in a light cream sauce. The meatballs were standard cocktail party fare back in the 70s, but they’re still a huge hit today at any gathering. What’s more, they make a fantastic and kid-friendly dinner served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

This recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated. The meatballs have a springy yet delicate texture, ideal for spearing with toothpicks and similar to Ikea’s popular Swedish meatballs. To achieve this, the meatball mixture is made from ground beef, pork and cream, and combined in an electric mixer with the addition of baking powder. I know it sounds odd, but it works. That said, if you don’t have a mixer or don’t want to bother, the meatballs are still perfectly delicious mixed by hand. The original recipe calls for pan-frying the meatballs in oil, but I prefer to bake them; it’s easier and healthier, both welcome over the holidays.

What you’ll need to make Swedish Meatballs

ingredients for swedish meatballs

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 panadeMash 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 bowlUsing 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 skilletCook 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.

Video Tutorial

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Swedish Meatballs

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

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. 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

  • I really loved this recipe and I froze some of the meatballs. Now I’m ready to serve this meal again but I have a question. It says in your notes to heat the meatballs up in the sauce. Should I heat them straight from the freezer or should I defrost the meatballs in the fridge overnight first? Thanks, and I love your recipes!

    • — Jane on January 28, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Jane, I’d defrost them first if possible.

      • — Jenn on January 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • Excellent dish over noodles for a cold, rainy night. Substituted ground turkey for the pork, could not tell the difference from when I made the normal version. Mild, delicate sauce that carries the spice and cream flavor nicely. Thank you.

    • — Docmike on January 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I’m making the Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve dinner. If I make up the meat mixture a day ahead, can I just store the mixture overnight and form the meatballs the next day?
    Thanks so much,
    Maura

    • — Maura Visconsi on December 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Yep that’s fine 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can you make this dish ahead of time? Like the day before serving?
    Thanks,
    Anne

    • — Anne Green on December 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Anne, that’s fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 23, 2022
      • Reply
  • Amazing flavour, best Swedish meatballs I have ever tasted! I took your suggestion and served them with your roasted carrots with thyme and added your creamy cucumber salad. What a delicious meal. Thank you.

    • — Elizabeth Prest on December 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn, your recipes do not disappoint! I had to bring a hearty appetizer to a Holiday Party the other night. My first time making Swedish meatballs and everyone loved them. I used my own chicken bone broth which I think helped add flavor to the gravy. The gravy was a little bland and thin but I added a little bit of Lea & Perrins, grated nutmeg, white pepper and salt. Next time, a little more flour. I would absolutely make these again!

    • — Donna L Bajek on December 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • Another winner. Lick the plate good. Will make again soon.

    • — Michelle M. on December 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Fabulous! I thought it will not turn out well, when i used vegetable broth instead of chicken by accident. But my family loved it and asked for seconds. Wonderful comfort food.

    • — Galina on December 14, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jen, this recipe is magic!
    I have used so many of your recipes in the past few years and every single one is reliable and excellent.
    Thank you for all you do!
    Merry Christmas…

    • — Tracie on December 14, 2022
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on December 14, 2022
      • Reply
  • Can turkey be sustituted, the same amount of the pork/beef? Do the other ingredients need to be adjusted?

    • — Michelle Collins on December 8, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Michelle, I haven’t made these with ground turkey, but a few other readers have commented that they have and have been happy with the results (and you don’t need to make any other modifications). Just make sure to buy 93/7 turkey. If you go any leaner than that, the meatballs will be dry.

      • — Jenn on December 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made these exactly as directed and was not disappointed. I served them over egg noodles as a meal with a side salad. A big hit. I will definitely add these to our winter rotation. The fresh lemon juice really added a nice pop. Thanks Jenn. I truly love making your recipes!!! They are so family friendly.

    • — Lori Rozmus on December 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thank you Jenn, for another fabulous recipe. I would love to make and serve the original recipe but that is not possible.
    Thanks to the reviewer, that mentioned using coconut cream (we have milk sensitivities too). I made this recipe dairy-free. I did double lemon juice, and used 1 tsp. season salt, to suit my tastes. I also added cornstarch to make the sauce thicker. I reheated the meatballs and sauce for 3 hours in my slow cooker, then served over egg noodles. Served with your roast carrots and your lemon bars for dessert. A delicious 3-Jenn meal!

    • — Ty on December 6, 2022
    • Reply
  • First things first, I’m a huge fan of your recipes and have both of your cookbooks. This recipe was good-ish, but not great enough for me to make it again. I followed the recipe to a tee and the sauce was too thin so I ended up adding cornstarch to thicken it, the flavor was lacking so I ended up adding worcestershire.

    • — Michelle on December 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jen,
    The meatballs are a new holiday party favorite!

    I love your personal stories that go along with the recipes. From your trips to Israel to the names of your neighbors, and childhood memories make your website so special. I always smile when I read the story behind the recipes. Thanks for sharing!

    • — Fran Huizenga on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on December 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made this yesterday and it was excellent. I also like the texture of the meatballs. For the gravy, I didn’t have anymore cream, so I used half & half + sour cream. It was delicious but curdled when I added it to the broth. Any idea why?

    • — CG on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi CG, I know in my area there has been a shortage of heavy cream ever since Thanksgiving. Sour cream will generally curdle when boiled, and half & half is not quite thick enough to make a creamy sauce with the recipe as is. If you can’t find cream next time, I would double the flour and use half & half in place of the cream. A bit of sour cream can be stirred in off the heat before serving, if you like. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 2, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks 👍🏼 I didn’t know sour cream would curdle like that.

        • — CG on December 2, 2022
        • Reply
  • I will give these a try! My Swedish grandmother said that nutmeg is the secret ingredient to the best Swedish meatballs, so I might add that.

    • — H James on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Excellent recipe! My mother is Norwegian and father Swedish. Allspice, along with nutmeg and a pinch of ginger a must in their meatball mix. My only tweak! (Norwegian meatballs, an entree, are much larger with brown onion gravy, no cream.)

      • — Sandra on December 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made these for dinner last night with egg noodles as you suggested and they were delish. Kids gave them a 5 out of 5! Can’t wait to serve these again over the holidays.

    • — Suzanne on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Seems strange that a Jewish family would eat pork and mix meat and dairy in a meal!

    I shall try this recipe but perhaps use something other than pork in the recipe, perhaps lamb which might be as fatty as pork. Is pork used because of the fat content?

    The recipe itself seems like a different take on meatballs. Will review again after trialling it.

    • — Sharon on December 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, pork is used for both fat and flavor. Hope you enjoy them with lamb!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • My mother’s recipe had pork and veal in equal portions and beef double that. We cooked them directly on the sheet pan and used the drippings and fond as the base for the gravy. Beef broth and sour cream at the end. But, we are Norwegian. Ha! No Christmas without them.

    • — Mary Taylor on December 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • can I use all meat not pork?

    • — ann walker on December 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Ann, I would recommend replacing the pork with veal, but if that doesn’t work for you, it’s fine to use all beef. They will still be delicious.

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hmm, I’m calorie counting and I see the nutritional info says 89 calories per meatball(!) With a yield of mini meatballs that sounds like it is a different size. Any clues on real calories of these guys (that sound delicious)

    • — rfour on December 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi, I’m not sure I understand your question — the nutritional info is per meatball and if you’re eating 4 to 6 (for a main course) you can multiply that info by 4 or 6 and if they’re for an app, just multiply the numbers by the number of meatballs you end up eating. Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood or can help in any other way. 🙂

      • — Jenn on December 2, 2022
      • Reply
  • Very good except for the meatballs could use a bit more flavor and the sauce didn’t work, had to throw it away, it never thickened and I followed the recipe exactly as written.

    • — Gentry on November 10, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn you have done it again. This recipe is fabulous and evokes memories of my childhood in NYC. I love the way you shave calories by baking the meatballs. I got rave reviews from the family. Thanks

    • — Sheryl Hill on May 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • This was absolutely fantastic. I baked all of the meatballs but froze half for another day. Wonderful! Thank you for posting this recipe!

    • — Melissa on February 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while now and decided to try it out tonight. Delicious! I subbed ground turkey for the pork because I had it on hand, grated up some leftover sourdough rolls for the breadcrumbs, and left out the brown sugar. The selection of ingredients and using the mixer to combine everything really did make for a tender, moist meatball. I used a 1/8 cup measure to portion out the meatballs so they would be uniform and pretty. I served the meatballs and sauce over your cauliflower purée along with a southern pear salad. I’m saving this recipe to my box and plan to make it again soon!

    • — Donna on January 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • First time making Swedish Meatballs & it turned out wonderful! Brought it to a holiday party – it was a hit with all the guests. The gravy held up even though I had it in a crockpot on low for 2 + hours! I just gave it a stir every so often. I have your new cookbook which I also love! The recipes are very easy to follow along & turn out fantastic!

      • — Celeste Timberlake on December 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • What other meat do you suggest instead of pork?

    • — Franki Lavallee on October 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Franki, You could use beef or a combination of beef and veal. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • Absolutely amazing! We could not stop eating these meatballs. They hit every taste bud.
    I added a little more pepper and a little salt to the sauce.

    • — Kelly G on September 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I only have a handheld mixer. No paddle attachment, but it has a couple of spiral dough hooks. I think that will work. Any suggestions or comments? Is it really necessary, or can they be mixed by hand? Also, don’t have racks to use over sheet pan. Are they necessary, as well?

    • — Liz on May 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, You can mix by hand, and it’s fine to bake directly on the sheet pan — you’ll just have to scrape away any fat that congeals on the meatballs as they bake.

      • — Jenn on May 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

  • Loved the meatballs. Sauce was great too but a little soupy for my taste. How can I fix this?

    • 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.

  • The sauce is divine! I did, however, omit the brown sugar. 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!

  • 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…….

    • 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!
      🙂 🙂

      • You might want to try making this. It’s really delicious.

        • — CG on December 2, 2022
        • Reply
  • 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.

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