Crave-Worthy Swedish Meatballs
How to make the best Swedish meatballs at home plus how to make the creamiest, most delicious sauce to serve them with. This recipe makes juicy and flavorful meatballs with a creamy, rich, and crave-worthy sauce. Jump to the Swedish Meatballs Recipe or read on to see our tips for making them.
How to Make Juicy and Tender Swedish Meatballs
Growing up, we were both used to Italian-style meatballs served in marinara sauce. The moment we had our first taste of savory Swedish meatballs, we were hooked!
Our recipe makes juicy, tender, and ultra flavorful meatballs. If you’ve ever had Ikea’s meatballs, these are similar (although, I’d wager they are much better).
These are so good; you will want a batch in the freezer at all times. Here are a few reasons we’ve fallen in love with this recipe:
- They are extra tender and juicy inside. No dense or dry meatballs here! To achieve this, we use a combination of ground beef and ground pork. Both types of meat add flavor, but the pork adds a little extra fat, which does wonders for texture and tenderness. If you don’t want to use pork, that’s okay. The texture will be a bit different, but the meatballs will be delicious nonetheless.
- The meatball mixture is quick to make. We pile everything into a stand mixer (or food processor) and beat until well blended. This is a bit different to what we normally suggest when making meatballs. For these meatballs, we’re after a tender, springy texture in the middle and after some research and testing, it’s the extra processing that achieves that. Sweden’s official website even suggests it.
- They taste amazing. A simple combination of spices including allspice, garlic, nutmeg, mustard, and cayenne pepper adds warmth, flavor, and works beautifully with the meat. I especially love how the spiced meatballs taste with the creamy gravy. The blend of spices and how much to use varies among recipes, but the higher spice level was right for us.
- The gravy is pure gold. Made with broth (beef or chicken), butter, flour, and a few secret ingredients, our gravy is creamy and full of flavor.
- You can freeze the meatballs! Our recipe makes about 30 meatballs. To freeze cooked meatballs, let them cool enough so you can handle them, and then add to freezer-safe bags or containers. To reheat them, bake in the oven until heated through. (You can also freeze uncooked meatballs. We shared how below.) We do not recommend freezing the gravy, but you can make that in about 5 minutes.
How to Make the Best Creamy Gravy
Swedish meatballs are delicious alone and often served that way, but we love the combination of the creamy sauce and meatballs. The gravy is simple to make and made with the following ingredients:
- Pan drippings left over from cooking the meatballs, which means superior flavor!
- Flour to thicken the gravy — we use the same procedure to make this everyday gravy.
- Beef or chicken stock
- Heavy cream makes the gravy extra creamy and luxurious. You can leave the cream out if you like or swap it for sour cream.
- Soy sauce, mustard, and a little lemon zest for seasoning. These ingredients aren’t necessarily authentic, but wow do they taste good!
What to Serve With Swedish Meatballs
When it comes to serving the meatballs, it’s common to serve them with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles, but for fewer carbs, you can swap for mashed cauliflower. A spoonful of lingonberry jam on the side is also an excellent idea (if not a requirement).
I also love something crunchy like roasted green beans or a light salad on the side. It cuts through the richness of the meal. (Here’s our go-to balsamic dressing.)
Making Them in a Slow Cooker
You can make this recipe in a slow cooker or crockpot. To do it, follow these steps:
- Make the meatball mixture as directed and roll into balls.
- Brown the meatballs to add some sturdiness and color, and then add to the slow cooker.
- Make the gravy as directed in the recipe below, but leave out the heavy cream. Instead of adding cream at this stage, add it once the meatballs are cooked, which prevents curdling the cream.
- Cook the meatballs on LOW for 4 to 5 hours or on HIGH for 2 hours.
- When cooked, turn the heat setting to WARM. Stir in the cream, taste the gravy, and adjust with additional salt and pepper.
Making Them in a Pressure Cooker (example: Instant Pot)
You can make this recipe in a pressure cooker. To do it, follow these steps:
- Make the meatball mixture as directed and roll into balls.
- Brown the meatballs to add some sturdiness and color, and then add to the pressure cooker. Depending on your pressure cooker, this step can be done by using the SAUTE function.
- Make the gravy as directed in the recipe below, but leave out the heavy cream. Instead of adding cream at this stage, add it once the meatballs are cooked, which prevents the chance of curdling the cream.
- Cook the meatballs on HIGH PRESSURE for 8 minutes, and then let the pressure naturally release.
- When cooked, stir in the cream, taste the gravy, and adjust with additional salt and pepper.
Crave-Worthy Swedish Meatballs
This Swedish meatballs recipe makes juicy and flavorful meatballs with a creamy, rich, and crave-worthy sauce. If you prefer, you can serve the meatballs without the gravy. We love serving these with mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower), buttered noodles, and roasted vegetables are excellent options. We also highly recommend a spoonful of lingonberry jam.
For the gravy, we add a few unconventional ingredients. Soy sauce seasons, mustard adds a little zing, and lemon zest brightens up the flavors of the dish.
You Will NeedFor the Meatballs
1 pound (450 grams) ground beef
8 ounces (225 grams) ground pork
2 ounces (55 grams) fresh bread, crusts removed (about two slices)
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter, plus more as needed
1/2 cup (70 grams) finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or a pinch of dry mustard powder
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea saltFor the Gravy
Butter, as needed
3 tablespoons (24 grams) all-purpose flour
3 cups (710 ml) beef broth or use chicken broth
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or a pinch of dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
- Prepare Meatball Mixture
- Cook Meatballs
- Make the Gravy
In a small bowl, tear or chop the bread into small pieces then cover with the milk. Set aside.
Melt one tablespoon of butter in a wide skillet. Add the onions and cook until soft, but not brown; 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the black pepper, allspice, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and the mustard. Cook, stirring everything around the pan for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl to cool, and then wipe the skillet mostly clean with a paper towel so that it is ready for cooking the meatballs.
Combine the beef, pork, bread and milk mixture, and the egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large food processor). When the onions are warm, not hot, add them to the bowl as well.
Evenly sprinkle the salt over the top of the mixture then beat for about 30 seconds, scrape the sides of the bowl, then beat another 30 seconds to a minute until the mixture looks very well blended. (If you are using a food processor, you may need to stop the processor one more time to move the mixture around a bit.)
Form the mixture into meatballs; we like using a medium cookie scoop that holds about 1 1/2 tablespoons — you should get around 30 meatballs. Move onto cooking or cover and refrigerate up to a day or freeze them (see notes section for our tips).
Heat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. (It’s likely you will cook the meatballs in batches. A warm oven helps to keep cooked meatballs hot while you finish cooking all of the meatballs.)
Melt half a tablespoon of butter in the pan used to cook the onions over medium-low heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning every few minutes, until brown on all sides and cooked through; 8 to 10 minutes. It’s unlikely all of the meatballs will fit so you will need to do this in batches (or use two pans). Add more butter to the pan as needed.
Transfer cooked meatballs to the baking sheet and place into the warm oven.
After cooking the meatballs, make the gravy in the same pan. Depending on how much fat is left in the pan after cooking the meatballs, you may need to remove some or add a little bit of butter. You will need about three tablespoons of fat in the pan.
Decrease the heat to low then scatter the flour over the fat in the pan and whisk until medium blonde in color, about 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly add the broth. Continue to whisk until the gravy begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the meatballs, another minute or so.
Whisk in the soy sauce, mustard, and lemon zest. Taste then adjust with salt and pepper, as needed. Remove the meatballs from the oven and add to the gravy. Serve with parsley scattered on top.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Do I need to use pork? We prefer the combination of ground beef and pork in this recipe, but if you do not want to use pork, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef instead.
- Can I use breadcrumbs instead of fresh bread? Fresh bread makes a slightly softer, more juicy meatball, but breadcrumbs are an acceptable substitute. If using breadcrumbs, mix 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs with the milk.
- Do I need to use a stand mixer or food processor? If you do not have a mixer or processor, you can mix the ingredients by hand. Use your hands or a fork to mix until well blended. The texture will be slightly different, but they will still taste great.
- Make-ahead tips: The meatball mixture can be made and refrigerated one to two days in advance.
- Freezing the Meatballs: To freeze cooked meatballs, let them cool enough so you can handle them then add to freezer-safe bags or containers. To reheat them, bake in the oven until heated through. To freeze uncooked meatballs, place the formed balls onto a baking sheet and then into the freezer. Freeze until hard then transfer to freezer-safe containers or bags. To cook them, thaw in the refrigerator overnight then follow the directions for cooking in the recipe above. We do not recommend freezing the gravy, but you can make that in about 5 minutes.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. We assumed lean beef (5% fat).