Swedish Meatballs – Once Upon a Chef

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A cocktail party classic that doubles as an easy weeknight dinner, Swedish meatballs are always a hit.

Growing up, my family spent every Christmas Eve with friends at the home of our neighbors, Pat and Paul Swanson. Although my family is Jewish, we loved being part of this tradition—the white lights, crackling fire, and, best of all, the annual appearance of Santa Claus. Always on the menu were Pat’s Swedish meatballs, rich mini meatballs made from beef and pork in a light cream sauce. The meatballs were standard cocktail party fare back in the 70s, but they’re still a huge hit at any party. They also make a fantastic and kid-friendly weeknight dinner served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

This easy Swedish meatball recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated. To achieve the right springy yet delicate texture, similar to everyone’s favorite store-bought Ikea Swedish meatballs and ideal for spearing with toothpicks, the meatball mixture is made from ground beef, pork and cream, and combined in an electric mixer with the addition of baking powder. I know it sounds odd, but it works. That said, if you don’t have a mixer, it’s perfectly fine to mix the meatballs by hand. The original recipe calls for pan-frying the meatballs, but I prefer to bake them; it’s easier and healthier, both welcome over the holidays.

What you’ll need to make Swedish Meatballs

ingredients for Swedish meatballs

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Meatballs

Begin by making a panade, a mixture of bread and cream that binds the meatballs together and makes them tender. Place the cubes of bread in a small bowl. Whisk together the eggs and cream, and add to the cubed bread.

bread for panadeMash with a fork until the bread is dissolved into the liquid.

panade for meatballs in bowl

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale. Add the egg/cream mixture and beat until smooth, then add the ground beef.

making the Swedish meatball mixture in a mixer

Mix again until just combined.

Swedish meatball mixture in mixing bowlUsing moistened hands, form the mixture into meatballs and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. (The rack is useful because it allows the fat from the meatballs to drip down but if you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to just place the meatballs directly on a greased baking sheet.)

Swedish meatball mixture rolled into balls on baking sheet

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. The rack will leave little marks on the bottoms of the meatballs, but they are not noticeable once the meatballs are covered in sauce.

baked Swedish meatballs

Step 2: Make the Sauce

While the meatballs bake, make the sauce. Begin by melting the butter in a large sauté pan, then whisk in the flour.

butter and flour in saucepan

Whisk constantly until the flour turns golden and fragrant, and then add the chicken broth and brown sugar.

chicken broth and brown sugar added to sauce in skilletCook for about ten minutes, until slightly thickened and reduced, then add the cream, soy sauce, and pepper. I know it seems odd to season this dish with soy sauce — think of it as salt but with a bit more flavor.

adding the cream to the Swedish meatball sauce

Let the cream sauce simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, then add the meatballs and simmer until heated through.

Swedish meatballs in cream sauce in skillet

Spear the meatballs with toothpicks or serve over rice, mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Lingonberry jam on the side is traditional, but it can be hard to find. You can order it online here.

Video tutorial

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Swedish Meatballs

A cocktail party classic that doubles as an easy weeknight dinner, Swedish meatballs are always a hit.

Ingredients

For the Meatballs

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ cups cubed white sandwich bread, crusts removed (you’ll need about 4 slices)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pound ground beef (85% lean)

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice, from one lemon, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, for serving

Instructions

For the Meatballs

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up and place an ovenproof rack over top; spray the rack very generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the eggs and cream together in a medium bowl. Stir in the bread and mash until no large bread chunks remain. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pork, garlic, allspice, pepper, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the bread/cream mixture to the mixing bowl and beat on low speed until combined (so it doesn’t splatter), then increase the speed to high and beat until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping the bowl as necessary. Using wet hands, form the mixture into 1½-inch round meatballs and place on the prepared rack. (The mixture is very sticky and wet hands help; keep wetting your hands as you go). Bake for about 20 minutes, until just done.
  4. Note: You’ll notice that the rack will leave little marks on the bottom of the meatballs, but they won’t be too noticeable once the meatballs are covered with sauce.

For the Sauce

  1. While the meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is golden and fragrant, about 1 minute. (Careful not to burn; it goes from golden to burnt quickly.) Whisk in the chicken broth, getting rid of any lumps. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, whisking and scraping down the sides of the pan occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the cream, soy sauce and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, whisking and scraping down the sides occasionally, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce and simmer, turning occasionally to coat with the sauce, until heated through. Stir in the lemon juice, to taste, then adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The meatballs (without the sauce) can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, prepare the sauce and reheat the meatballs in the sauce until hot in the center.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamame

  • Serving size: 1 meatball
  • Calories: 89
  • Dish: 7g
  • Saturated fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Sodium: 121 mg
  • Cholesterol: 31 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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