Sure, Ikea’s Swedish meatballs are tasty, but nothing beats this savory recipe for homemade Swedish meatballs complete with a rich, creamy sauce!
The Best Swedish Meatballs Are Always the Homemade Ones
Part of the fun of taking a trip to our local Ikea (the largest one in the country, incidentally!) was always to stop in at their cafe and make a little meal out of their famous Swedish meatballs.
Truth be told, we haven’t gotten those meatballs in quite some time now. But when our son was a little guy, he absolutely loved them, so we would buy a big bag of the ones they had in their frozen food section, along with a jar of their famous lingonberry sauce to go alongside.
Sometimes I would serve these Swedish meatballs with a side of traditional boiled potatoes, or I would make creamy mashed potatoes and pile the meatballs right on top.
This was a soothing, comforting meal, one that could easily be whipped up to quickly replicate that Ikea “cafe” experience without having to actually go there.
And while I thought those meatballs were pretty good, it’s the texture of pre-packaged or frozen meatballs that I’ve always found lacking, and have never been the biggest fan of.
They can come across a bit “spongy” to me, and I have the feeling that it’s the quality of the meat itself (which if I were to hazard a guess, is not of the highest kind…?).
And since I’ve been craving Swedish meatballs lately, I figured that now would be as good a time as any to come up with my own homemade Swedish meatballs recipe, one that comes complete with a delicious and comforting creamy sauce!
An Easy Sauce for Swedish Meatballs
The good news is that the creamy, savory, and slightly tangy sauce (or gravy) that Swedish meatballs are deliciously enveloped in is quite simple to whip up, and really only has a few key ingredients.
It’s a basic sauce that starts with a “roux”, a thickener made with equal parts butter and flour—to which stock or broth (typically beef, in this case) is added, along with a touch of sour cream and fresh herbs as finishers.
But because I like as much depth in my sauce as possible, I sprinkle in a little extra magic.
I like to saute a bit of garlic with the butter before adding in the flour for the roux. Then, I whisk in my beef stock and stir until thickened, sprinkle in some black and white pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and allspice, and finish the sauce with the sour cream and a tiny hint of Dijon mustard.
And because I allow the browned meatballs to simmer in the sauce to finish cooking, that just adds even more savory flavor to this already velvety and creamy sauce!
How to Make Swedish Meatballs, a Few Basic Steps
- Soak some breadcrumbs with some milk or cream, then add those to your ground meat (beef, pork, or combination of the two) along with some minced onion, salt, pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and allspice, eggs, and herbs, and gently mix by hand.
- Scoop equal portions of the meat mixture and shape into meatballs.
- Heat a large skillet (I love my cast iron for this!) with a bit of butter and oil, and brown the meatballs (in batches) on all sides for a few moments (they won’t be cooked through, and that is fine).
- Remove the meatballs from the skillet, and add in a bit more butter; once melted, add in your garlic, and then whisk in your flour to blend.
- Whisk in your stock until smooth and thickened, and add in the spices, the sour cream and the touch of Dijon. Then, add the browned meatballs back into the pan and allow them to gently simmer until cooked through for a few minutes.
- Finish with fresh chopped parsley and/or dill, and serve with boiled or mashed potatoes—perhaps even wide egg noodles.
Tips & Tidbits for Swedish Meatballs:
- Good quality ground meat: While I prefer to use all ground beef for this recipe, you can also use a combo of pork and beef. Choose a lean to fat ratio of 85/15 for the beef, as a leaner meat will yield slightly tougher meatballs.
- Fresh breadcrumbs are best: If it’s possible for you to process a roll into fresh breadcrumbs (it’s super quick and easy!) it will yield a more tender meatball; otherwise, you can use regular breadcrumbs, or even panko.
- A sprinkle of spice: A little hint of nutmeg and allspice adds a lot of depth and flavor to Swedish meatballs, so add a little sprinkle into the meat mixture and the sauce!
- Prepare ahead: If you’d like to get a head start on the recipe, you can prepare your meatball mixture and form it into meatballs, place the meatballs onto a plate, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge, then brown them when ready. You can also prepare the sauce separately, simply reheating it in the pan when you plan on serving the dish.
Feast your eyes on this, or just jump to the recipe:
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
• Olive oil, about 3 tablespoons, divided use
• 1 small onion, finely minced
• 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from a small 2 ½ ounce French roll finely processed)
• 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk or half & half
• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (85/15 ratio)
• 1 egg, whisked
• 1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
• 2 ounces unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
• 1 large clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 6 1/2 tablespoons)
• 4 cups beef stock
• 1 1/2 tablespoons sour cream
• 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
• Pinch ground nutmeg
• Pinch ground allspice
• Pinch white pepper
• 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or dill, or a combo of both
–Begin by preparing your meatball mixture: place a large heavy-bottom non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; once hot, add in the minced onion, and saute for about 3 minutes until softened and slightly golden; remove the onion from the pan and allow it to cool on a plate, and wipe the skillet clean.
–In a bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs with the milk or half & half, and allow those to soak for a just a moment.
–To a large bowl, add the ground beef, the cooled onion, the soaked breadcrumbs, the whisked egg, the garlic, the salt, black pepper, nutmeg and allspice, and using your hands, combine the mixture well.
–To make the meatballs, take roughly a heaping ounce of the mixture, and roll it into a ball (you should have 24 meatballs total), and hold on a plate.
–Place the same skillet you used for the onion back on a medium-high heat, and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil; once hot, add about half of your meatballs in (work in batches) and allow them to brown and sear on all sides, for about 5-6 minutes (they will be only partly cooked through, but will finish in the sauce); spoon the browned meatballs onto a plate to hold while you repeat with the remaining meatballs; wipe out the skillet once again to clean it.
–To prepare your sauce, place that same skillet over medium heat, and add in the butter; once melted, add in the garlic and whisk just until aromatic; then, whisk in the flour to form your roux (it will be paste-like), and after about 30 seconds, pour in your beef stock, whisking the whole time to avoid lumps and to create a smooth sauce.
–Allow the sauce to come to a gentle simmer over low heat and to “tighten up” a little, about 2-3 minutes; then, whisk in the sour cream, the Dijon (if using), the pinch of nutmeg, allspice and white pepper, and add the meatballs back into the pan with the sauce.
–Simmer the meatballs gently in the sauce for about 10-12 minutes (you can cover the pan, if desired), or until cooked through; then, turn off the heat, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and/or dill, and serve with potatoes or egg noodles.