To Swedish children, meatballs are what chicken nuggets are to American kids. They are served on celebratory occasions and as warming suppers. Ikea made them even more famous by serving them at their stores. This hearty dish provides plenty of nutrition especially in the colder months.
The Swedes mix ground beef and pork in a half and half ratio. The reason is that although beef is tasty it can be dry, and you want the taste of the beef combined with the tender juiciness of the pork for the best meatballs. The Swedes are also rather partial to pork, it having been part of the Swedish diet since Viking times.
Nutmeg and allspice provide the flavor. Allspice shouldn’t be confused with mixed spice as allspice is made from the dried ground berries of the Pimenta dioica tree which grows in the West Indies and Central America.
The allspice berries have hints of cinnamon and cloves, and are commonly associated with Caribbean cuisine.
You will find allspice in most supermarkets, but if you can’t find it or don’t have it in your pantry, mixed spice will do as it contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger and a number of other spices.
When making meatballs on a regular basis, here’s a shortcut to getting them all the same size…
I use my vintage ice cream scoop to scoop out blobs of the mix, and deposit them straight into the pan without having to fiddle around with rolling them between floured hands, although you can do this after scooping them out. I like them to be round rather than flattened, but that is just an aesthetic thing.
Photo B5 ice cream scoop to make meatball sizes equal
The sauce for Swedish Meatballs is made with milk and butter, the pan drippings from browning the meatballs, and thickened with flour creating a rich meaty flavor for the gravy.
Finally, cream is added to finish off this mouth watering gravy that complements the meatballs perfectly.
Swedish Meatballs are simply incomplete if they are not served with fluffy mashed potatoes. You need the soft mashed potato to mop up every last drop of the incredible gravy.
Yes, you can serve with steamed rice or broccoli, but I’d go for mash every single time for the taste and texture.
The night I made these there were three adults having supper, but I used the ingredients according to the recipe and simply kept some cooked ones over that to be served lunchtime the next day.
My average serving is three meatballs per person, however if you have a hungry mob, they may have four each. As the mix makes about 22 to 24 meatballs, I had plenty over.
You can easily freeze the leftover cooked meatballs to defrost for lunches or as another main meal. You will have to make more gravy as you can’t freeze the gravy – the cream will tend to separate once thawed, so not a good idea.
A tip I was given by my mom was not to handle the meat too much otherwise it gets tough. I’m not sure about any scientific evidence for this but I do tend to mix the meatball ingredients lightly but thoroughly and avoid handling too much by using the ice cream scoop. Even the next day the meatballs are tender and juicy.
Swedish Meatballs Recipe
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 lb. pork
- 1/4 cup oatmeal
- ½ teaspoon pepper or
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon allspice or mixed spice
- 2 eggs
- 1 onion large, chopped fine
- ½ stick of butter 2 ounces or 57 grams for frying
- 1 tablespoon coconut or sunflower oil
- 2 cups milk
- 2 slices bread medium cut, crusts removed, soaked in ½ a cup of milk
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg ground
- 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ stick butter 2 ounces or 57 grams
- 5 tablespoons flour
- 2 ½ cups milk
- Place chopped onion in a large bowl, and add the bread, oats or panko crumbs, and milk. Allow to stand for a couple of minutes so the onion flavor is absorbed into the mix.
- Start by mixing all the ingredients listed for the meatballs together in a large bowl until combined.
- Using your hands or an ice cream scoop form the meat mixture into balls approximately 1 ½ inch in diameter.
- Heat a skillet on medium high and melt the ½ stick of butter with a tablespoon of coconut oil – the coconut oil helps prevent the butter browning too quickly.
- Add in the meatballs a few at a time and brown, turning so they are evenly browned and cooked through – there should be no pink when you cut one open. I did these in an electric fry pan in two batches of 12. I put the lid on once they were browned on the outside to allow them to cook through. You can do the same with a skillet.
- Once cooked through, remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon, and leave in a covered dish to keep warm while you brown the next batch.
- After they are all done and removed from the pan, you are going to start making your sauce. Add the other ½ stick of butter to the pan and allow to melt, then tip in the flour, and stir quickly, incorporating the meaty bits and pan juices into the mix, which will form the basis of the roux.
- Now gradually, stirring all the time add the milk, ensuring the mix does not become lumpy – you have to add the milk a little at a time to get the dough ball to become gradually more and more creamy until the sauce is formed.
- Allow to cook, stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan, until it is bubbly – this should take another 3 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and allow to heat through for a minute or two.
- Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- When you plate the meatballs add the mashed potato first, then arrange the meatballs – three per person should be adequate as these are fairly big, and finally add the creamy gravy.
- Thin slices of roasted red pepper
- A handful of finely sliced red cabbage
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- Fluffy mashed potato
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Glazed carrots
- Garden peas
- Steamed broccoli
- Pureed parsnips
- Lingonberry sauce
- Cranberry sauce
Serve meatballs and gravy over a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes, adding the mashed potato first, then arranging the meatballs Three per person should be adequate as these are fairly big, then finally add the creamy gravy.
To give the dish some added color lay a few thin strip of roasted red pepper over the top, a few very thin slices of red cabbage on the side and finish with a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley.
The Swedes are partial to lingonberry sauce, but cranberry sauce is fine. Besides the mashed potatoes (which just about everyone loves), the side vegetables are the choice of the family. Some kids won’t eat peas, others won’t touch carrots, and parsnip puree may be an adult only choice.
The meatballs and gravy can be served with rice, pasta, or even fresh crusty bread, the side doesn’t have to be mashed potato.
Many Swedes eat their meatballs with freshly boiled potatoes, and if you are trying to cut carbs, then a creamy cauliflower mash may be substituted.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.