There is perhaps no Swedish dish more well known and beloved worldwide than Swedish Meatballs with Gravy (Köttbullar). Tiny spiced meatballs blanketed in a creamy gravy and served with lingonberry jam or lingonberry sauce and pickled cucumbers alongside, this unique dish satisfies on so many levels.
And the good news is that you don't need to run down to the local IKEA to get your meatball fix. This recipe is easy enough to whip up for a cozy dinner any night of the week.
You are going to love my simple and streamlined take on traditional Swedish Meatballs with Gravy. Ready to get started? Keep reading for step-by-step instructions!
Why This Recipe Works
- The meatball mix is perfectly spiced and easy to mix together.
- The meatballs are baked rather than fried which creates a more round, nicely shaped cooked meatball. Baking is also a hands-off cooking process (which leaves you free to do other things) and it is much less messy than frying.
- The baked meatballs are blanketed in a delicious, creamy gravy to finish things off perfectly.
For the Meatballs:
- An equal combination of ground beef and pork is traditional in this recipe. I like my ground beef to be 80-85% lean for the juiciest meatballs.
- Grated onion (simply use the large holes on a box grater) serves as our aromatic ingredient.
- Allspice, nutmeg and brown sugar add that quintessential Swedish meatball flavor.
- Panko or fresh white bread crumbs help soften and bind the mixture.
- Cream and an egg yolk help bring all of the ingredients together.
For the Gravy:
- A combination of chicken and beef broth creates a nice base for this gravy.
- Just a touch of soy sauce adds a welcome savory note.
- Flour is our thickener, and a touch of cream brings everything together.
- A shower of fresh parsley (chives are good, too) adds a bright herbal note and welcome color to the final dish.
For the full Swedish Meatballs with Gravy experience, serve them with store bought lingonberry jam or homemade lingonberry sauce and Quick Swedish Pickled Cucumbers. This trio of savory, sweet and tangy is an unforgettable combination and is the traditional way to serve this dish.
How to Make This Recipe
- Begin by preheating the oven to 475 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium low until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and whip until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl from time to time. If you don't have a mixer, simply mix the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands until they are thoroughly combined.
- Using a tablespoon measure, transfer tablespoonfuls of the mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. With damp hands, roll into balls. Chill (up to 24 hours) until you are ready to bake them.
- Transfer the sheet pan to the oven and bake until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the meatballs to a plate. Pour ⅓ cup hot water onto the baking sheet and scrape up the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom using a metal spatula. Pour the liquid and any brown bits into a measuring cup and set aside.
- Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Slowly add the reserved drippings from the meatballs, chicken broth, beef broth and soy sauce, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Add cream and return to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the meatballs to the gravy and cook briefly to reheat. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or chives if desired. Serve with lingonberry jam or lingonberry sauce and fresh pickled cucumbers.
What Makes Swedish Meatballs Different?
Many food cultures have their own variation of the meatball. What's so special about Swedish meatballs?
- A combination of beef and pork. Most recipes for Swedish meatballs contain equal amounts of both ground pork and ground beef (usually ground chuck, about 85% lean).
- A blend of warm spices, usually allspice and nutmeg (and sometimes ground ginger). This is what gives Swedish meatballs their unmistakeable flavor.
- The meatball mixture is whipped in a stand mixer. You can certainly mix these meatballs by hand, but whipping the meatball mixture gives the final product a fine texture that is unique to Swedish meatballs.
- Swedish meatballs are quite small, at most about an inch in diameter.
- They are usually served in a creamy gravy with lingonberry jam or Lingonberry Sauce and Fresh Pickled Cucumbers alongside. This trio of savory, sweet and tangy is an unforgettable combination that hits all the right flavor notes.
- Swedish meatballs are usually served on top of mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles. Both are delicious!
- Use a combination of high-quality ground pork and ground beef, preferably 80-85% lean. You don't want your ground beef to be too lean; that can lead to dry meatballs.
- Whip the meatball mixture in a stand mixer if you have one. This step gives the meatballs a fine texture.
- Portion out the meatball mixture with the help of a spring-loaded scoop, such as this tablespoon size cookie scoop. It can be difficult to get your meatballs the same size, especially when you're trying to make them on the smaller side. I know that my inclination is to start small, but then my meatballs get gradually larger as I go. Portioning out the mixture keeps me honest and ensures the meatballs that are the same size every time.
- Roll the mixture with damp hands. This meatball mixture is sticky, and it can be difficult to achieve round balls when rolling it between your palms. But if you wet your palms just slightly every 4 or 5 meatballs, the mixture won't stick to your hands. I leave the faucet at a trickle next to me while I make the meatballs which is an easy way to do it.
- Bake the meatballs rather than fry them. I've tried MANY different ways of making Swedish meatballs, and I believe that the baking method has many things going for it: no frying, less mess, more even cooking, a rounder final product, and it's a hands off process leaving you free to attend to other things while they cook in the oven. If you would rather fry the meatballs, see the FAQ section below for instructions.
- Save the browned bits from the baking sheet for your gravy. Do NOT clean off that baking sheet! We are going to use those beautiful browned bits that are stuck to the pan to make our gravy all the more flavorful.
- Do not forget the lingonberry jam or Lingonberry Sauce and Quick Swedish Pickled Cucumbers! It's the combination of all of these things together that make this dish extraordinary.
No, if you don't have a stand mixer, simply mix the meatball ingredients in a large bowl with your hands until thoroughly combined. They won't have quite the same fine texture as those mixed in a mixer but they will still be absolutely delicious!
You certainly can. Simply heat a half cup of vegetable, canola or peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally until cook through. Adjust the heat as necessary to make sure the meatballs don't brown too quickly. Remove the meatballs from the skillet using a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off any remaining fat and oil in the skillet. Proceed with the recipe adding the butter directly to any brown bits that remain in the skillet.
Absolutely! You have a few options here. You can roll out the meatballs, transfer them to the baking sheet, cover them with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for 24 hours prior to baking. OR you can make the full recipe and store it in the refrigerator, tightly covered, once it has cooled down for up to two days. Simply reheat the meatballs and gravy over low heat on the stove when you are ready to serve. If you choose the second option, you may need to add a little water to loosen the gravy as you reheat the mixture.
YES! You can bake the meatballs (omitting the gravy for now), allow them to cool completely and transfer them to a freezer bag or other freezer safe container before tightly sealing them and storing in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to serve, simply take out the number of meatballs you need, make a batch of the gravy (omitting the brown bits and maybe adding a little extra beef broth or water to make up for the difference in liquid) and add the meatballs to it. Simmer until they are heated through. There is no need to thaw the meatballs prior to adding them to the gravy, but they will take a little extra time to heat through from the frozen state.
There are so many delicious options! You will definitely want to serve lingonberry jam or lingonberry sauce and Quick Swedish Pickled Cucumbers alongside for a traditional Swedish meatball experience. Mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles are typically served as a bed for the meatballs and gravy. Both are delicious, but the egg noodles are a little less work. Need some more ideas for side dishes and go-withs? Check out this post for an extensive list of dishes that go with Swedish Meatballs!
They reheat beautifully so you can simply warm them and serve them the same way again. OR make this gorgeous and tasty Swedish Meatball Open Faced Sandwich with cold leftover meatballs! This is a traditional way to serve leftover meatballs in Sweden and it is not to be missed.
Yes! And they are absolutely delicious. Check out my recipe for Really Good Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs here.
Looking for more classic Swedish recipes? Give these a try:
Easy Swedish Meatballs with Gravy (Köttbullar)
For the Meatballs:
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs fresh white bread crumbs are also fine
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground beef 80-85% lean
- ¼ cup grated onion
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon packed brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
For the Gravy:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ cup beef broth
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- ½ cup cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley or chives for garnish
- Lingonberry jam or No Cook Lingonberry Sauce and Quick Swedish Pickled Cucumbers for serving
- Make the Meatballs: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Combine all ingredients in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and whip until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl from time to time. If you don't have a mixer, simply mix the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands until they come together.
- Using a tablespoon measure, transfer tablespoonfuls of the mixture to a sheet pan. With damp hands, roll into balls. Chill (up to 24 hours) until ready to bake.
- Transfer sheet pan to oven and bake until meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer meatballs to a plate. Pour ⅓ cup hot water onto the baking sheet and scrape up the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom using a metal spatula. Poor liquid and any bits into a measuring cup and set aside.
- Make the Gravy: Melt butter in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Slowly add reserved drippings from meatballs, chicken broth, beef broth and soy sauce, whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Add cream and return to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If you loved this recipe, give it a star review! Also, snap a picture of your Easy Swedish Meatballs with Gravy and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #truenorthkitchen and tagging me @true_north_kitchen.