Swedish Meatballs

Long before there was an IKEA anywhere near where I lived, there was my friend Sonja who introduced me to Swedish Meatballs.

Prior to meeting Sonja and being invited to her amazing Swedish Holiday Dinners, I was not a fan of meatballs.

When you grow up in the midwest, what passes for meatballs are often those sticky sweet crockpot concoctions with lots of red ketchup-y sauce. Every single church dinner or potluck I attended featured those sweet meatballs in heavy rotation.

It wasn’t until I moved to Minnesota that I experienced a real Swedish meatball in all its brown sauce glory.

Now that we all have IKEA, where meatballs are a daily feature, this doesn’t seem like such a big deal. However, once you are Gluten Free and can no longer eat the IKEA meatballs when you are buying too many candle holders, cute juice glasses with flamingos, and white serving dishes you don’t have room for in your kitchen cabinets, you might feel cheated out of the full Swedish shopping experience.

Enter the Gluten Free Swedish Meatball! Almost as good as Sonja’s (I need to get that recipe), but I think better than IKEA’s. Especially since I can eat them!

And obviously if you’re not Gluten Free, just use regular bread and flour but MAKE THESE MEATBALLS!

Here’s what you need:

Swedish Meatball Ingredients

Ground Beef, Ground Pork, Onion, Eggs, Bread (I used Udi’s GF), Butter, Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil, Flour (GF for me), Beef Broth, Milk, Sour Cream, Nutmeg, Allspice, Parsley, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Swedish Meatballs Shopping List

Lulu says hi!

While you’re putting together your shopping list, consider that you might want some mashed potatoes to eat with all the awesome gravy you are going to have. I also require Lingonberries which I buy at IKEA. Tart and delicious!

As I mentioned, I used Gluten Free bread but regular old sandwich bread is fine for everyone else.

If the crusts are especially firm, cut them off and cut or tear the bread into little pieces. Place it in a bowl and pour ¼ cup of milk over the bread bits.

Let it sit and get good and soggy.


Finely chop 1 medium onion, about 1 cup.


Pick a skillet big enough to hold a bunch of meatballs, add 2 Tablespoons of butter, and melt over medium high heat.

Add the onions and sauté until golden but not too browned.


In a large bowl, combine 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork.

For some annoying reason, my store does not package their ground meats in a 1 pound package so I have more like 1 1/3 pounds of each.

I suspect that part of what made Sonja’s meatballs so good is the fact that in Minnesota they have Ingebretsen’s, an amazing Swedish Market. If you have the option of going there, get their ground meatball mixture. I’m not sure what ratios of meat they use, but it makes the best meatballs I’ve ever had. They also have a store full of ridiculously cute Scandinavian items you didn’t know you needed, but you DO!

Back to the meatballs! Separate 2 eggs and add the yolks ONLY to the meat mixture.


Give this a quick mix with clean hands to incorporate the egg slightly into the meat. (That way when we add the warm onions, we don’t have scrambled eggs.)

While you’re mushing things together, use your hands to mush up the bread that has been soaking in the milk then add it to the bowl of meat.


Add your golden, sautéed onions and season with ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon salt, & 1 teaspoon pepper.

Mix the meat together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Try not to go crazy with stirring or mixing. Just get it all together. Over-mixed meatballs tend to be tough.


Scoop out a little of the meat mixture and roll it into balls about 1½ inches in diameter. Think ping pong ball sized.

My extra meat gave me 40 small meatballs.


Add a few Tablespoons of olive oil or vegetable oil to your pan.

Working in small batches, fry the meatballs until nicely browned on all sides.

The meatballs will finish cooking in the gravy so don’t worry if they are still a bit pink inside.

After each batch, transfer the meatballs to a plate or tray and continue frying, adding oil as needed, until all of the meatballs have been browned.


After your last batch of meatballs is done, add 1-2 Tablespoons of butter to the skillet.

Note:  if your meat was fairy fatty, you might have enough grease already in the pan to skip the butter. You want at least 2 Tablespoons of grease in your pan for the gravy.

Add 1/3 cup of flour and whisk to make a roux.


Cook the flour into the butter and pan drippings for about 1 minute then slowly add 4 cups of beef broth.

Whisk until smooth.


At this point, if you are me, you will realize that your pan is WAY too small to accommodate all of the gravy plus all of the meatballs.

If so, transfer the gravy to a large soup pot or dutch oven.

It is important to go ahead an make the gravy IN the pan you used to brown the meat to get all those good bits of flavor THEN transfer it to a bigger pot or pan.

When the gravy starts to thicken, add ¾ cup sour cream and stir to combine.


Be sure to use full fat sour cream or your gravy will separate and curdle.

Plop those meatballs back into the gravy, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Give them a gentle stir occasionally just to be sure they don’t stick to the pan.

Swedish Meatballs

Taste the gravy and adjust the seasonings. I added a bit more nutmeg, allspice, salt & pepper.

Make a plate with meatballs, mashed potatoes,  and broccoli or something green so you don’t feel guilty about your second helping of meatballs.

Don’t forget the lingonberries! (Because you need to experience a bite of meatball and a bite of lingonberry together…so good!)

Swedish Meatballs

Like most things meaty and saucy, these were even better on day 2.

If 40 meatballs is a little off putting to you, keep in mind that you can always freeze half of these already cooked in the gravy for a quick meal some night when you are too crazed to cook.

What I lack in advance meal planning, I more than make up for with big hearty pots of good food available for meals throughout the week.

Here’s the recipe:  Adapted from a bunch of recipes on the internet but mostly Alton Brown and jocooks.com

Swedish Meatballs

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9 Responses

  1. Smalltown Me, IKEA is a Mammouth Swedish World Wide Furniture Chain which sells reasonable priced very modern furniture, fantastic for young people starting their own apartments or homes. Also they sell inexpensive very nice household items. They do have a selection of some Swedish Imported Food Items (especially great Herrings in Jars which you cannot get in most grocery stores). But most Americans would not eat the herrings nor the smoked salmon nor the other good foods.

  2. This is my daughter’s favorite meal. We have a favorite Swedish meatball recipe but I think I want to try this one – it’s a bit different from ours. Swedish meatball recipes always make a huge amount (to feed Vikings, I guess?) and we definitely freeze them – they freeze beautifully and do make a great fast meal for a busy night. Nothing like all-day food on a busy day!

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